Thursday, June 30, 2016

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

A Wardrobe Malfunction By Any Other Name

Moments before the "Reveal"
.Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake

If I could get a nickel for each time someone used a modern day phrase of my choice, my phrase would undoubtedly be the dreaded "wardrobe malfunction." I suppose we should blame Justin Timberlake (who's currently in hot water for tweeting while being white due to perceived cultural appropriation about Jesse Williams's speech during Sunday night's BET Awards) -- and possibly the WMS (wardrobe malfunction sufferer), Janet Jackson, for the term's post 2004 Super Bowl Halftime show coinage. Since then, wardrobe malfunction has been used to indicate any occasion in which good clothing goes bad or embarrassingly fails to contain the wearer's naughty bits.

Kim's Butt Padding is Showing under her Tight Skirt

So, just how pervasive is this euphemism? It has not only been translated into several languages, but also was named the 2004 US Global Language Monitor as 'Hollywood's Top Word or Phrase for Impact on the English Language'. (Who knew that there was such a distinction?) Moreover, you will find this phrase used by the print, digital and broadcast media with alarming frequency to describe any near "nip-slip" (another egregious term) or potential panty (or derriere) flashing episode. Unfortunately, these seem to occur with disastrous regularity among the celebutards these days, thereby making the ubiquity of the phrase self-perpetuating.

Lindsey Vonn

Just in the last week or so we have seen Lindsey Vonn's how-low-can-you-go top, Jennifer Lopez's up-to-there skirt slit, not to mention actress Sara Barrett's intentional auto-alight-wide-open-legged-paparazzi-pose captured by InTouch (thereby exposing her "kitty" er... cat-printed panties) which she herself then posted to twitter. Meow!

Eugenie Bouchard at Wimbledon in the NikeCourt Premier Slam Dress
which flies up in a wardrobe malfunction

Even the courts and stands of Wimbledon proved not to be immune to the wardrobe malfunction. Players were supplied with the NikeCourt Premier Slam Dress, a lightweight baby doll style frock which tended to fly up exposing stomachs and spandex tennis pants. On the spectator front, Pippa Middleton's floral mini posed a potential problem as she tried to sit without revealing anything.

Sara Barrett

I tend to think in terms of WMD (Wardrobe Malfunction Demerits) in more general terms. In my own personal definition, any time that an element of what I'm wearing lets me down, whether it's in terms of fit, quality, durability, or even susceptibility to atmospheric conditions such as a sudden gust of wind, I will term it as such.

Jennifer Lopez 

Therefore, while I haven't necessarily exposed anything untoward, I consider myself to be a long-time WMD veteran. Infractions include: donning a skirt whose lining is all bunched up; wearing that dreaded combo of pants that induce muffin-top with shirts that ride up; and failing to sufficiently hide the little "paper clip" plastic gizmo which is supposed to convert regular bra straps into a racer back. I once believed a sales person at an upscale boutique who swore that a heavy brocade evening gown was meant to be worn off-the-shoulder. Trust me -- it was clearly not designed to do so--and I have the cringe worthy photos from the important milestone event to prove it.

Pippa Middleton's Near Wardrobe Malfunction at Wimbledon

I recently asked a group of womenfolk to recount their worst wardrobe malfunctions. Tales ranged from suddenly realizing that a garment is totally sheer in daylight (a la Princess Diana's infamous preschool teacher photo), to an actual grade school occurrence which obviously still haunts its sufferer over four decades later. "I took a shirt out of the dryer not noticing that there was a pair of underwear stuck to the back," she explained. "When I got to school the underwear must have fallen off onto the floor. Everyone asked whose it was but I said nothing." I'm betting fabric softener and a can of Static Guard became her new best friends.

A lawyer friend recounted a more recent debacle in which she attempted to remove her jacket at work only to realize that it had become caught in the label of her top. She had to run through her law firm with her jacket dangling around her neck, not quite superwoman style, until she found someone to save her from near strangulation.

Mercedes Bass in Sunday Styles

After spending the last few days reading the many tributes celebrating the life of Bill Cunningham, I ended up on Hulu re-watching the 2010 documentary "Bill Cunningham New York." I was surprised to see a part that I hadn't paid much attention to in my initial viewing. A scene where Bill is laying out the Sunday Styles page with his assistant and discussing a photo of Mrs. (Mercedes) Bass who he calls "one of the most elegant women in New York" has an interesting twist to it. "She looks like a John Singer Sargent portrait...except" he whispers conspiratorially and points, " she's got a modesty bib filling in the v-neckline. What a crime! I'm sure the dressmaker got timid. What a shame! That should have been left open."

I marveled anew at Bill's astute eye for detail, wondering how he could be so sure that it was the dressmaker's decision to close up the neckline. Perhaps it was the elegant Mrs. Bass who feared the inelegance of the dreaded wardrobe malfunction. The New York Times has teased a tribute in this week's Sunday Styles dedicated to the original street style photographer. Although he chronicled and cycled onto one of the busiest intersections in the world, Bill took the road less traveled -- the high road.

- Laurel Marcus

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

In the Market Report

The Great Equalizer: My Final Thoughts On Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham

In the days since Bill’s passing, I’ve had some time to think and reflect on the man I knew for over 40 years. While I have already weighed in, as has everyone else, I wanted to add a few more thoughts.

Bill Cunningham was the great equalizer; the common denominator who brought us all together. He could be in a room filled with people, most of whom wouldn’t talk to one another. But everyone talked to Bill. And who else could get the worlds’ most renowned grouches and sourpusses to smile and mug for a camera? He captured and celebrated diversity, and in an industry known for exclusivity, his columns were the epitome of inclusivity. In his eyes and through his lens, everyone (animals, humans of all sizes, all shapes, all classes), was equal and worthy. In half an hour, he could photograph celebrated bold faced names (titans of industry, fashion, art, music, real estate, entertainment, publishing, society) along with virtual unknowns. And it was not necessarily the former who were given the larger picture in his columns. It all depended upon how he saw it. It was all about his eye.

He was the original ‘high low’ guy. He really knew, understood, and appreciated fashion at every level from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low. And while there was no one who appreciated over the top flights of fancy and individual creativity as much as Bill, he was seasoned and wise enough to understand that this is not where it was at; nor was is it relevant for most women's daily needs. He was always focused on reality. As he once put it: "Of course, there is room for the glorious kaleidoscopic diversity of designer visions shown last week on the runways. But then again, I can't tell you how many women pulled me aside during Fashion Week and said, 'Beautiful clothes, Bill, but nothing to wear'".

Despite an elitist’s eye, he was thoroughly democratic in his fashion point of view. For him, style had nothing whatsoever to do with money or labels. In fact, because he was so pragmatic and thrifty, whenever I told him of something I had was scored at a very low price, he took special delight in that because it was though I had ‘beaten’ the system.

And as for celebrity, well, quite frankly, he could care less. One incident that always sticks out in my mind as the definitive 'Bill' moment happened many years ago, during New York Fashion Week. There was a show held at Bryant Park (I can't remember what designer it was) and throngs of photographers were descending upon someone in the front row. Bill spotted me and asked who it was. I couldn't see, so I got up and walked over and saw the young woman (she was a B lister who was starring in a TV show at the time and shall remain nameless). When I took my seat, Bill came back and I told him. But he had apparently already gotten a better look and waved his hand, summarily exclaiming, "Oh, it doesn't matter. She doesn't have any style!"

While he became a champion of the elite, he himself was a simple, humble man; a champion of the everyman. He got ‘it’. He was prescient, way ahead of his times, and a trailblazer. His love for what he did and his enthusiasm for fashion was infection and contagious. That smile…he lit up whenever something tickled his fancy.

He had a great understanding of the idea of appropriateness. On the Sunday following the 9/11 attacks, he devoted his entire column to the volunteers lined up downtown on West Street, near Ground Zero. He had enormous respect for the past but was not mired in it and was the essence of ‘modern’: a word that is bantered around ad nauseum. He was the consummate gentleman and had the most impeccable manners. He was always thoughtful and courteous and never wanted to intrude or take you out of your way; and he quickly apologized if he thought he was doing so. I was always touched that he took the time to send me handwritten postcards complimenting me on something I had worn, or photographs (some published, some unpublished) with hand written notes scribbled on the side.

In this crazy topsy turvy world of ours, one in which in which you can’t be sure of (or rely on) anything, he was the one constant. He was certainly a constant in my life. Through his pictures, (which he took of me through 4 decades), I can trace the way fashion has evolved, and I can see how my own personal style has evolved. Of course, I can also see how I’ve aged lol.

He was as dependable as the mailman: “come rain, come sleet, come hail, come shine”. In fact, the more rain, the more sleet, the more hail, the more shine, the better it was for him because the extremes in weather made for some marvelous photo ops. We knew we could always count on him to eventually show up in our lives somewhere. He would attend events that were small and obscure, and high profile and fabulously over the top. He put many charitable organizations on the map and turned their fund raising galas into must go- tos. He went wherever there was the promise of a “happening” and conversely, wherever he was, it became a “happening”!

He was omnipresent, all knowing all seeing. I often thought that he had eyes in the back of his head. If there was one spectacularly dressed person somewhere in the room (or within a 100 mile radius), he would undoubtedly find him or her. He had an eagle’s eye and was able to zero in on things that would go completely unnoticed by mere mortals. While he appreciated grand statements, he also appreciated the small gesture. Very often, what caught his eye was simply the way a person tied a bow or the flash of red scarf against an all-black outfit. Or it could be some wonderfully whimsical buttons on a jacket, or just an interesting proportion or silhouette.

He took something that could be viewed as merely frivolous, shallow and superficial, elevated it, and gave it real meaning. And he devoted his life to it. There’s a lesson in this. He taught us more than just simply fashion.

RIP Bill

- Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Hamptons Heart Ball 2016 Kick Off of the Summer Social Season Was a Resounding Success

Lonnie Quinn, Jean Shafiroff & Kristine Johnson
All photos: Patrick McMullan

The American Heart Association (AHA) held its annual Hamptons Heart Ball on Saturday, June 25 celebrating its 20th anniversary for an "Evening Under the Stars." The AHA is a non-profit voluntary organization with a $900 million annual budget devoted to fostering appropriate cardiac care. The event took place at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton and began at 6 PM with passed hors d'oeuvres and libations.

Barbara Pollwater, Dr. Frank Spencer

As the throngs of Hamptonites, such as Jean Shafiroff, the Catsimatidis', Dottie Herman, Wendy and Bob Federman, entered the huge tent there were numerous photographers waiting on the red carpet snapping away feverishly. There was a palpable excitement, as this was the start of the Hamptons social season and people were getting reacquainted after a long winter. More than 500 guests arrived in the blue-hued tent for dinner, it was time for business, with hosts and Channel 2 News Anchors Lonny Quinn and Kristine Johnson, clad in a blush Alice and Olivia plunging gown, emceeing the dinner.

Meredith Cohen, Tracy Stern, Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin,
 Nicole Noonan, Randi Schatz

The room's decor of blue and red stars was resplendent and it was difficult to keep the summer crowd quiet. Tonight's honorees were iconic cardiologist Dr. Frank Spencer and philanthropic powerhouse Jean Shafiroff accompanied by glamorous co-chairs Randi Schatz, Consuelo Vanderbilt, Tracy Stern and Nicole Noonan.  Jean looked resplendent in a red Oscar de la Renta gown and she handled herself with poise and grace as she asked the crowd for a moment of silence in honor of photographer Bill Cunningham.

Jean Shafiroff in Oscar de la Renta

Jean spoke movingly of her deceased father's battle with heart disease and highlighted the importance of The American Heart Association having herself contributed and raised over $100,000 for this great cause. We were then treated to a spellbinding videotape of the Burckhard's, a heroic family whose 5-year-old son endured numerous strokes and heart surgeries after being born with a congenital defect. Mederick, a magnificent young boy, had the crowd in tears as he danced on stage with the energy of an athlete. His parents acknowledged that he would not be alive if not for the lifesaving treatments developed by the American Heart Association.

After this moving tribute, emcees Quinn and Johnson tried to raise $150,000 to little avail - the crowd was not budging which they attributed to Brexit and a slowed economy. Star Jones, a heart disease survivor, got up to the podium exhorting the audience to contribute to a disease which kills 1 out of 3 women - she was even so bold as to comment, "I know the way you people spend money please open up your purses."

Eventually $600,000 was raised and a more comfortable part of the event, the entertainment chapter, which featured acrobats and stilt walkers, ensued to great audience enthusiasm. The live music of Alex Donner was impeccable as usual, and co-chair Consuelo Vanderbilt joined him in belting out some wonderful tunes. At the conclusion of the evening we were handed a goody bag with books, lotions and other treats with guests rushing home to continue engaging in what will hopefully be a summer full of similarly spectacular events.

- Lieba Nesis

Monday, June 27, 2016

In the Market Report

The Haves & Have Nots of Fashion

There’s nothing new about maximalism. But certainly, it’s been getting its fair share of attention as of late, and seems to be more in favor with the fashion world, thanks to Alessandro Michele's revival of Gucci and his eclectic more is more aesthetic.

It’s been hard not to notice that fashion designers appear to be divided into two distinct camps these days: the haves and the have nots. And by that I mean, they have either embraced maximalism, or they have not. But even if, like Miuccia Prada, they are not die hard minimalists, and may schizophrenically go back and forth between the two (sometimes within the same collection), in general, the ‘battle lines’ are drawn and continue to be more pronounced.

To best illustrate this ongoing polarity, I thought I would take some of fashion’s most popular items and show two versions. One that is stripped down, streamlined to its purist form; the other: more fanciful, embellished, and decorative.

Be sure to click on images for full size views!

The Baseball Jacket

Rag & Bone Resort 2017 & Gucci Resort 2017
(All photos


Valentino Resort 2017 & Thom Browne Resort 2017


Helmut Lang Resort 2017 & Dsquared2 Fall 2016 rtw

The Bustier Gown

Thom Browne Evening & Undercover Fall 2016 rtw

The Tuxedo

Saint Laurent Fall Winter 2016 rtw & Gucci Fall 2016 rtw


Valentino Resort Alexander & McQueen Resort 2017

Mixed Prints

Tibi Resort 2017 mixed prints & Moschino Resort 2017


Tibi Resort 2017 & Moschino Resort 2017

The Houndstooth Coat

Salvatore Ferragamo Fall 2016 rtw &  Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2016 rtw

 The Black Sheer Lingerie Inspired Dress

Norma Kamali Resort 2017 Black Slip Dress & Alexander McQueen Resort 2017

The Ivory Wool Pollover

Jil Sander Navy Fall 2016 rtw & Delpozo Fall 2016 rtw

The Long Leather Glove

Delpozo Fall 2016 rtw & Delpozo Fall 2016 rtw

And finally, with the passing of Bill Cunningham fresh on on my mind, I would feel remiss if I didn’t make the observation that he was a man blessed not only with a maximum talent, but with a minimum ego.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, June 25, 2016

In the Market Report: The Passing of Bill Cunningham

They Say a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…

It’s virtually impossible to imagine life in New York without Bill Cunningham who passed away on Saturday. He was a one of a kind, unique, iconic fixture, who had his finger (and his camera) on the pulse of New York. Actually, at 87 years young, he WAS the pulse of New York. And I say young because he had the energy, stamina, curiosity, and unbridled enthusiasm of someone at least 80 years his junior.

Certainly, it’s almost impossible to imagine the corner of 57th and 5th, especially during the holidays, without seeing Bill standing there, taking it all in and reveling in every minute of the joy of the season, and recording it for all the world to see. Jeffrey Banks suggested they erect a statue of him at that spot and I could not agree more. And it’s virtually impossible to think of New York Fashion Week without spotting him seated front row, jumping up to photograph the crowd, and then quickly exiting in order to capture the interestingly dressed attendees on their way out. And then there’s his favorite: the annual FLO Awards Luncheon. It was a sight to behold, to see him, camera in tow, delighting in being surrounded by hundreds of women dressed to the nines with their fantastical hats. His face would literally light up.

I dare say that in a room filled with scores of fabulously bedecked and bejeweled revelers, the party only truly begun when the small man, dressed in a blue Chinese worker’s jacket (or non-descript blue puffer), with a camera around his neck arrived! Mark my words: attendance will drop at many high profile charity events because for many women, the main draw was getting dressed up and perhaps being photographed by Bill. He was a rarity in the fashion business: a major talent, highly influential, widely respected, liked by all, and yet he was always modest, honest, and outspoken. He received many awards and words of praise but was fond of downplaying all of it saying "you just go out and do your job". He preferred to credit his success to his wonderful "subjects''.

They say you always remember your first time. And I certainly remember the first time Bill Cunningham took my picture. I was a young assistant fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and was walking into Henri Bendel on West 57th street. A small man in a worker’s jacket pointed his camera at me and I had no idea who he was or why he was photographing me. Shortly thereafter, on Thursday, February 17th, 1972, my picture appeared in WWD. The caption read, “On the Streets of America” and there were images of women in Denver, Miami, Dallas, and New York. I was among 8 women photographed in New York by Bill wearing fur trimmed and fur coats

I especially remember the time he devoted an entire The New York Times on Sunday February 11, 2001, there I was. The column was called, “The Color of Money (In the Bank)” and there were 18 pictures of me, all in color.

He had been taking my picture religiously for quite a while and always stopped to talk. At one point, he called me on the phone and said he had some pictures in front of him and proceeded to ask me specific questions about 18 different ensembles I had worn previously. He was vague about what he was doing with them but about two weeks later, when I opened the Styles section of The New York Times there was 18 color photos of me!

11 years before Fern Mallis interviewed him for her 92 Y Street series (September 2014), he agreed to sit down with me in for what would be a highly personal video streamed interview for our "Masters of Fashion" series: see video interview and summary (he was always very private and was notorious for not granting interviews).He revealed that he designed hats ("they were less costly than clothing to create") and explained that he worked as a fashion consultant for Chez Ninon in the 50's, then became a writer for WWD with John Fairchild's encouragement in the 1960's, and was the New York and Paris fashion correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He has been a photographer / chronicler for The New York Times - both his 'Evening Hours' and 'On the Street' columns which are must reads - for the past 40 years. Although he couldn’t remember what triggered his love of fashion, he did recall buying dresses for his mother whose clothes he didn't like. When talking about Doyle’s recent couture and Textile Auction, he said, “if you’re going to buy clothing and invest money, that’s the place to go. Saks and Bergdorf Bergdorf missed the boat completely … this is what should be filling up a department there".

 And what did he think about the spectacle the runway shows have become? As he puts it: "we should stop going to them and just go to the pre-show collections". He felt very strongly about designers returning to small presentations. On the subject of newspapers, and especially fashion magazines, he felt the greatest change in recent years is how the "advertising departments are taking over editorial content". While Bill admitted to reading as many fashion magazines as he can each month, he singled out French Vogue ("dazzling") under then editor in chief Carine Roitfeld, who he had been photographing for about ten years ("she has her finger on the raw nerve of fashion….just like Anna Wintour did in the late 80's and 90's").

He strongly believed that "fashion is the most personal thing you do …you get up in the morning and you get dressed ... no matter what you have on - good or bad - it reflects your feeling about yourself; there's no two ways about it!" And he chided, "of course, I Iook like hell. I'm just a worker in the factory …but I'm crazy to see it on people like yourself.”

His relationship with the street was a very special one - he admitted to hitting the streets with his camera, as an "Rx" for the blues, and says he "lets the street speak to me" for the ideas that turn up in his 'On the Street' column each Sunday. This perfectionist painstakingly works on stories for months, often dropping ideas if they don't hold up, or redoing them a year later if the trend is still there ("it can't be faked, it can't be hype".) He told me that he showed up at The New York Times, each morning at 7:30 for their oatmeal ("the best in New York"), and praised the company where he had worked for about 30 years (at that time) for their "honesty and integrity". He certainly seemed like a very content, happy man ("I just enjoy life and enjoy what I do"), and admitted to a very simple life…boasting he doesn't even own credit cards.

He laughed off a question about retirement, saying he "doesn't look at what he does as work", and it's obvious that he would be doing what he does without the paycheck. What about a 'successor'? "Who would be crazy enough to stand out in the street for three weeks just to find the perfect woman?"

The three most 'memorable' moments of his career? 1 - Dior's New Look in 1947 "feminine romance" 2 - The "totally pure designs" of Andre Courreges ("something you never saw before…he invented the third sex") 3 - The birth of French ready to wear.

When our paths first crossed, he would always call me “child” (as he was known to do). I was in my 20’s so that was not a stretch. But he continued to refer to me that way decades later, even though he knew my name. At some point, when I realized he stopped calling me “child”, I laughed to myself, “Boy, I must REALLY be getting old!” Well, he was forever young and there will never be another like him.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Friday, June 24, 2016

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

FGI's Early Retail Bird Gets the Worm with Annual Robin Report

Robin Lewis
Photo Laurel Marcus

Bright and early yesterday morning Robin Lewis, CEO of The Robin Report and speaker and consultant to the retail and consumer products industries, gave an introduction for Fashion Group International's annual retail report entitled "Tick Tock Retailers: It's Wake Up Time." The event was a breakfast at the New York Hilton sponsored by Hearst Magazines. Lewis presented his "Back to the Future moment" which went something like this: way back in 1908 all 1,140 pages (8 pounds!) of the Sears Roebuck catalog would be delivered to your door. "In this catalog you could find everything from the cradle you were born in, to the coffin you'd be buried in," he said.

Matt Wood, Nadia Shouraboura, Robert Harrison
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Inventions such as the automobile gave people increased mobility; by the 1960's the "big box" chain stores such as Walmart and Target were born and consumers began going to the stores. Flash forward to the '90s when Jeff Bezos founded Amazon which "sparked the explosion of e-commerce back into the living rooms of consumers." In 2000, Steve Jobs' iPhone "truly did change the world" and "flipped traditional retailing on its head with retailers going to the consumer once again." Lewis forecasts that the next big thing is "personalization" and "predictive analytics." To illustrate this he told a story of a guy coming home to an Amazon package on his doorstep which contained a light bulb. He is confused because he did not order the bulb -- later that night, one of his existing bulbs burns out. Creepy, isn't it?

Left to right -- Robert B. Harrison, Dr. Nadia Shouraboura, Robin Lewis, Nancy Cardone of Marie Claire who gave the welcome, Dr. Matt Wood, & Paul R. Charron
Photo: Bruce Borner

Paul R. Charron, chairman of American Apparel served as moderator for the panel of three including Dr. Matt Wood, GM, Product Strategist at Amazon, Dr. Nadia Shouraboura, CEO of Hointer, a new type of in-store automated retail experience which sells jeans in Seattle, and Robert B. Harrison, Chief Omnichannel Officer of Macy's Inc. Charron recounts how, in his past life in the late '90s when he was CEO at Liz Claiborne, "everything was product, product, product" as opposed to now when things like logistics and supply chain are taking center stage. "We thought we controlled our own destiny and if we just made a better product everything else would fall in line," he said. By 2010, the buzzword was "technology" and making it "faster, smarter, better. Take the complex and make it relatively simple" and of course, direct to the consumer, he said.

The first topic that the panel discussed -- organizational capabilities. Harrison remarked on how the retail "environment is changing dramatically. We have to demonstrate a much greater agility" in order to keep up. "If you cannot provide something that isn't available somewhere else, you will not be relevant," he added while stressing the importance of a format that blends and merges retail stores and devices.

Dr. Wood spoke of his "data fly wheel" which would create a better experience for customers. "The faster you can spin it, the better for customers." He spoke of mobile devices that scan things in the kitchen that need to be repurchased and even a washing machine that somehow becomes sentient (like the light bulb story) and knows when to order more fabric softener.

Dr. Shouraboura, the comedienne of the panel, told a hysterical story about overhearing her husband conversing with a "woman" which she thought was possible, "I travel a lot," she explained. It turns out that he was cooking with Alexa, from what I gather she's the Siri of the kitchen. She also spoke of a $7 device which converts your mobile phone into a magic wand so that you can "feel like a princess." She predicts a future full of even more "different devices that will take our husbands away and make us feel like princesses."

In answer to the question of what managerial capabilities or skills will become important with technology, Harrison mentioned the ability to "thrive in an environment of change" and to work in teams. Once again Shouraboura launched into a story about the day that a well-known European designer walked into her Seattle store ("He was very well dressed and in Seattle you know that means something is up"). After he tried on about 50 pair of jeans he remarked that he didn't feel anything and had no emotional connection to the experience. Shouraboura joked that as a scientist she didn't get the idea of emotion tied to shopping. Thinking of something that she felt passionate about she got the idea to substitute the word "sex" for "shopping" which worked well (example: "you don't want the customer in and out in a flash").

More talk ensued about conversion rates of the online experience versus a physical store (some things do better online and others such as clothing are better in a physical store), cosmetics (some customers may want help IRL with makeup not just watching an online video), as well as the fact that there's still a community of consumers who go to a store for entertainment, connection, theatre, experience, comradery and a human touch. (That last one's starting to sound a lot like Dr. Shouraboura...)

Data sharing was another hot topic; some people feel comfortable doing so online while others do not.  Of course, the more information that a store can get from the customer the more they can curate the images they show you, so that one is not faced with having to scroll through thousands of things to find what they want. Ways to streamline fulfillment, such as a machine which scans the inside of a package to confirm its contents, saves on having to actually open, "count widgets" and seal up a box.

Other changes in today's retail climate: new products must resonate quickly and anything that erodes the customer's trust is taken very seriously. Dr. Wood mentions Amazon's ability to, with the press of one button, quickly take down any item that is perhaps defective or getting bad reviews. Building the customer's trust and creating good will (Macy's does so with its Thanksgiving Day parade) is also tantamount.

Lastly, in response to the question regarding whether Millennials are really game changers to retailers, all panel members agreed that rather than use the term as an artificial grouping, they are really just a bunch of individuals; a segmented part of the broad ecosystem, like anyone else of any other age category. Apparently there are Millennials who shop like 70-year-olds as well as 70-year-olds who shop like Millennials, which hopefully debunks this overblown retailing myth.

- Laurel Marcus

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

Book Review: "Focus: The Sexy, Secret, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers"

Eleven years, seven books, three-decades of research, and the advent of a little game changing app called Instagram come between Author Michael Gross's "Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women," and its sequel, Gross's latest epistle "Focus: The Sexy, Secret, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers" which represents the flip side of the business. Even the current book's cover art is reversed from its predecessor. On the cover of "Model" is a Bert Stern photo of Veruschka posing over photographer David Bailey; this photo produced the image seen in the movie "Blow-up" of David Bailey standing over Veruschka -- and is the cover of "Focus."

As I was previously unfamiliar with Gross's bombastic writing style, I looked forward to reading an advance copy of the book, thinking it would be light mindless reading ie. beach fare. I could not have been more wrong in that there are millions of names, connections and facts to remember -- a Venn diagram and possibly a Flow chart would have been helpful. Likewise, I kept wishing that photographs which are referred to would have been included (the book has no photos at all). Gross mentions that he avoided doing so as it is a legal gray area, in many cases, due to copyright laws on reproducing the original photos. Often, Gross supplies enough detail that I was actually able to summon the photo via a Google search.

In this group biography (past books bio not only people but also buildings) Gross chronicles the journey of the golden age of advertising and editorial fashion photography from 1947 to 1997 with stops at most major ports from Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Melvin Sokolsky, Bert Stern, David Bailey, Bill King, Gilles Bensimon, Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel, Corinne Day, Bob and Terry Richardson, and more. He also expounds at length on the 95-year-long conflict between Conde Nast and Hearst and their legendary editors from Carmel Snow to Diana Vreeland to Anna Wintour and Liz Tilberis, as well as on the rivalry between art directors Alexey Brodovitch at Hearst and Alexander Liberman at Conde Nast.

For me the highlights of the book included little snippets of gleaned information. For instance, reading that Richard Avedon got the idea to photograph Natassja Kinski with a snake by seeing Salvador Dali's wife answer the door wrapped in one as her husband was in the process of painting her; remembering Guy Bourdin's surreal and disembodied legs and feet in the Charles Jourdan ads and learning that one particular such ad was said to be a recreation of his wife Sybille Danner's suicide death scene.

One of the most fascinating "mini-books" included here involves the chapters on Bill King, whose models were often photographed smiling and jumping.  King  lived a particularly disturbing drug-and-sex-fueled double life in which white lab coats were worn in his studio by day, while photographic and video-graphic proof of coked-out orgies prevailed at night.. (I'm dying to know who the unnamed "one of the era's top faces, a blond poster girl for wholesome California pulchritude" caught in "rude" and compromising positions while stoned out of her mind, could be). Unfortunately, after King died of AIDS in November, 1987, much of his work became unavailable due to the aforementioned copyright issues.

The book's lowlights: I could have done without knowing which photographer is exceedingly well-endowed (Gilles Bensimon) versus who had received short-shrift, so to speak (Pierre Houles).  At one point the book devolves into a circumlocutory essay on "swordsmanship" and "modelizing" reminding me of the 1975 movie "Shampoo" starring Warren Beatty, in this case centered around fashion photographers rather than hairdressers. Likewise, the chapter on Terry Richardson and his "tampon tea" was particularly unpleasant.

Towards the end of the book, Gross chronicles how the digital world intrudes and changes everything. No matter -- Bruce Weber still shoots film while Steven Meisel has mastered the digital breakdown between advertising and editorial by shooting them at the same time. Carine Roitfeld summed it up "It's all about money, results, and big business...Today's fashions don't let people dream as much as they used to...If you look at advertisements these days all you see are handbags."And forget the fashion shows which have become "celebrity petting zoos," according to Gross, in one of the book's truest moments.

For those "of a certain age" in the fashion industry who remember some of the players detailed here, this book may well find a place in your permanent library. IMO, this is one of those books that may well become more comprehensible upon a second read.

( Correction: In the final bound copies of the book, there was a 16 page photo insert, with pix by Schatzberg, Sokolsky, Blumenfeld, and Penn, among others.)

- Laurel Marcus

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

All Along the Water Tower to Fete Michael Gross's "Focus"

Michael Gross signing his book
All photos Laurel Marcus

Last evening was one of those rare New York nights where the weather was perfect for a rooftop party. The soiree was to celebrate the iconic author Michael Gross and his new book " Focus: The Sexy, Secret, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers," due out on July 5.

And this was not just any rooftop -- the 6th and 7th floor Penthouse A of The Schumacher, 36 Bleecker in NoHo, featured a huge wrap-around roof deck plus another separate deck, all of which were used for the event to showcase this $20M jewel -- the last apartment available in this converted factory building.  In real estate parlance, these lower floor roof decks are said to have an "open city" view but TBH what we were indeed "focus-"ed on were the water towers.

Patrick McDonald, Lauren Ezersky & Barry Kieselstein-Cord

John Gomes of Douglas Elliman announced that the party space/apartment was available to anyone with a $20M check after joking with guests to hold onto their tickets for a raffled giveaway. He mentioned moving to New York years ago and reading Michael Gross's previous book on the subject of the fashion photography world "Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women." He then introduced "the man of the hour" (who of course, needed no introduction) to his gathered friends and well-wishers.

"Every time you finish a book you feel like an old man who's been made new again," Gross began. He mentioned that his wife had encouraged him to write a sequel to "Model," a book which he had assumed had no sequel, until he realized that "all I had to do was turn the camera around."

Gross thanked his editors ("A book has one author but lots of cooks"), adding that they had "cut 200 pages, making it readable." (This writer's note: Having been graciously given an advance copy by Michael himself,

Duane Gazi-White, Coco Mitchell, Rashgene Gazi-White 

 I can attest to the fact that 200 more pages would have been overkill)! The author thanked everyone for coming out to support him and encouraged all to do the same for the few brick-and-mortar bookstores that still exist, with a shout-out to Barnes & Noble on 46th Street.


Noting how different the times are since the release of his previous books, Gross remarked that "Media doesn't care anymore unless your name is Kardashian." He then took a moment to call attention to the hashtag for this event #FocusYourSelfie -- upon arrival guests were instructed not to help themselves to a hardback copy of the book unless they had first posed on the Step-and-Repeat and had taken (or preferably had handed off their phone to a conveniently staged employee) a "selfie."

Sorry, Michael-- like the GEICO commercials say, "that's not how any of this works."

- Laurel Marcus

Sunday, June 19, 2016

In the Market Report

Upper ‘Crust’aceans: Celebrating Summer and the Astrological Sign of Cancer

Summer arrives on Monday, and on Tuesday, we enter the astrological sign of Cancer (June 21- July 22). I’m especially attuned to this because the fourth sign of the zodiac just happens to be my birth sign.

Cancerians are typically known to be loyal, steadfast, dependable, strong, sensitive, and sympathetic. They put all their emotion into their efforts and are considered to be imaginative and creative visionaries. So it’s no surprise that in addition to some of the biggest stars on the planet (Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Harrison Ford, Mary J. Blige, Deborah Harry, Gina Lollobrigida, Carly Simon), a number of fashion’s biggest names (both designers and models) are fellow moon children. This list includes Giorgio Armani, Vera Wang, Lazaro Hernandez, Paul Smith, Elie Saab, Nicholas Kirkwood, Gisele Bundchen, Caroline Trentini, Pat Cleveland, Joan Smalls, the late Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass. So was the Princess Diana and, for that matter, the United States of America.

The ruling planet of Cancer is the Moon and its mascot is the crab, a nocturnal water creature with a protective shell and massive claws with which to defend itself. In celebration of the season, I thought I would do a roundup of some of my favorite crab themed accessories. They would not only make a perfect gift for someone born under this sign, but for that special person who is, well, just a “crab” (and we all know someone like that, no doubt lol) it would make a perfect gift.

Stephanie Lake Design Gilded Crab Necklace 

Stephanie Lake’s fabulous one of a kind antique gilded crustacean with large faceted crystal has mirror-image tentacle pretzel knots, jeweled emblems, $825. (click here for more info)

Elizabeth Locke’s signature 19k yellow gold ring features an intaglio gemstone in the center with crab design. It’s available by special order at Elizabeth Locke New York, 968 Madison Avenue, 212 744 7878. Price upon request.

1990’s sterling silver paper knife or letter opener made in London, is appliqued with a silver crab on the top of the handle and presented in a red glazed calfskin box. Price upon request. (click here for more info)

Vintage crab brooch with big white opalescent moon glow cabochon center has riveted two body parts and clear rhinestones on each side, and measures approximately 2 3/8 inches by 1 ¾ inches, $79.99. (click here for more info)

Signed 1960’s DeNicola brooch, measures 1 ¾ by 1 ¾, and features the Cancer symbol of the crab. It is made of molded faux coral and has a Lucite center, green and blue enamel and pave set clear rhinestone crystals, $175. (click here for more info)

Vintage rhinestone Maryland blue crab brooch in a gold tone setting has crystal rhinestone claws and body, and red rhinestone eyes, 1 ¾ x 1 ½ inches, $29.99. (click here for more info)

Signed Razza 1970’s bold silver and gold metal crab medallion (3 ¼ inch by 2 5/16 inch) with an 18 inch snake mesh chain features a high relief crab center piece cast in pewter, $80. (click here for more info)

Tiffany & Co. lapis Lazuli and diamond crab brooch, circa 1970, measures approximately 1 1/2" by 1 1/2”. This 18 karat gold clip/brooch, designed as a crab, has a shell made of an incredible vibrant blue lapis stone along with glowing diamond eyes, $3500. (click here for more info)

Kate Spade’s natural wicker straw purse in the shape of a crab is from their Splash Out Collection featuring seasonal witty designs. It measures 10.3X8.6”X3.9”, and has snap flap closure, fabric lining, gold tone hardware, and blue marbleized eyes, $278. (click here for more info)

- Marilyn Kirschner