Saturday, October 29, 2016

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Go To Gala

Works & Process Rotunda Project Gala at the Guggenheim Museum

While the fabric of our government continues to get exposed as more frayed by the day, it's at least comforting to know that there are those who still support the arts, put on a pretty dress, a suit or a tux and go out bravely to the galas no matter how tattered and ripped at the seams the political landscape presents itself.

Isaac Mizrahi
Photos: Laurel Marcus
Click images for full size views

On the rainy Thursday night before the ticking email explosive went off, I attended the cocktail hour and performance for the second annual Works & Process Rotunda Project Gala at the Guggenheim Museum. Described thusly: Works & Process is establishing a new residency and commissioning program that invites artists to create site-specific performances for the iconic Guggenheim rotunda. This event was chaired by Isaac Mizrahi who will narrate his famed performances of the children's classic "Peter & The Wolf" here in December.

Cocktails were held in the Peter B. Lewis Theater followed by a dance performance entitled "Dorrance Dance -- New Work" by 2015 MacArthur Fellow and tap dancer extraordinaire Michelle Dorrance and "Les Bourgeois" performed by American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer Daniil Simkin.

Guggenheim auditorium

"The New Yorker" described Dorrance as "one of the most imaginative tap choreographers working today" who will lead a large cast of dancers and musicians on February 16. Simkin will be using the latest technology as he and three dancers will perform while their movements are captured by infrared sensors and 3-D mapped visuals projected onto the surface of the rotunda. The Rotunda offers some acoustic challenges according to Dorrance who mentioned in her introduction how every little sound reverberates and echoes off of the circular space.

Jean-Paul & Sophie Agon, Jeff Koons

On Friday night I swung on over to The Plaza for a little French culture courtesy of the French Institute Alliance Francaise (FI:AF) for their annual Trophee Des Arts Gala. This year the honorees were Artist Jeff Koons who was given the Trophee des Arts for his longtime contribution to cultural life in France; Chairman and CEO of L'Oreal Jean-Paul Agon received the Pilier d'Or reserved for leading business figures, diplomats or philanthropists who have made an outstanding contribution to the French-American community. Fashion note: Marc Jacobs was a previous Trophee Des Arts winner in 2010.

James Brooks Jr., Anne Fontaine, Ari Zlotkin

Last night's sold out dinner featured a live auction of a large variety of items such as French themed trips to the Riviera, a Queen Mary cruise as well as a walk on the Red Carpet at The Cannes Film Festival, and, bien sur, l'art de Koons.

The silent auction during the cocktail hour included many display tables of items/packages from categories such as Travel And Leisure, Art, Fashion, For The Home, Beauty & Wellness, Fine Food & Dining, Wine & Spirits as well as those For Men and For Kids.

Harley Davidson XL883N Sportster

On the dinner stage and part of the auction was Jeff Koons' Monkey Train (Dots) Lithograph (2007) which had been sold at Sotheby's in November of last year for $52,000; Jeff Koons Balloon Dog (Yellow), limited edition of 2,300 and his Porcelain Split-Rocker Vase, limited edition of 3,500 and valued together at $14,000 for the Bernardaud Exclusive Collection. A one-of-a-kind 2014 Harley Davidson XL883N Sportster Iron 883 Motorcycle from the Kiehl's Since 1851 Collection was on display in the hallway; its value set as "Priceless," however it is noted in the program that it will be sent to the winner free of charge. What if they want to ride it right out of The Plaza?

As is often the case at these black tie affairs in New York, women's attire ran the gamut from chic gowns to cocktail dresses; white tuxedo suits and jumpsuits also seemed to be a popular choice. The style and flair that the French are known for coupled with predominantly French being spoken, lent the evening a welcoming aura of escape where one could attempt to put the current election denouement aside.

- Laurel Marcus

Friday, October 28, 2016

In the Market Report

Fashion Group International’s Annual Night of Stars - The Non-Conformists

Riccardo Tisci and Nicki Minaj
Photo: Randy Brooke for
Click images for full size views

It was cold, damp, and overcast last night and the stars were not visible in the sky up above. But the stars (from the worlds of fashion, beauty, entertainment, interior design, and business communities) were certainly out in force at Cipriani Wall Street in celebration of Fashion Group International’s 33rd Annual "Night of Stars".

Carine Roitfeld
Photo: Lieba Nesis for

Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci was this year’s Superstar; he arrived with Nicki Minaj who would later give him his award. In addition to Nicki, there were a number of other women who were dressed in Givenchy including Carine Roitfeld and gorgeous models Joan Smalls and Mariacarla Boscono. Fashion Stars Tory Burch and Erdem Moralioglu received their awards from Stefano Tonchi and Ruth Wilson respectively.

Thom Browne and Catherine Martin
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Tommy and Dee Hilfiger received the Humanitarian Award from model Hailey Baldwin; The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s Andrew Bolton picked up the Lord & Taylor Fashion Oracle Award (famed Australian film director, screenwriter, producer Baz Luhrmann and wife Catherine Martin were there on his behalf); the ageless Iris Apfel was given the Auteur of style Award by former editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest Margaret Russell;  the forever fabulous Pat Cleveland was crowned Fashion Provocateur by Stephen Burrows and Constance White; Joe Zee’s Media Award was handed to him by Polly Mellen, the legendary 92 year old former Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue editor who Richard Avedon once hailed as “one of the most creative sittings editors I’ve ever worked with”.

Tory Burch, Suki Wong, Honor Brodie & Gigi Mortimer
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Paper Magazine’s Kim Hastreiter gave the Brand Heritage Award to James Curleigh for Levi Strauss; Pamela Baxter received the Beauty Award from Dayle Haddon; The Real Real’s Julie Wainwright was presented the Innovation in Retail & Commerce Award by Amy Fine Collins (who looked fabulous in a Thom Browne black & white tromp l’oeil dress); Bunny Williams received the Interior Design Award from Architectural Digest’s editor-in-chief Amy Astley; Daniel Kulle for H&M was honored with the Sustainability Award by Dosia Mamet.

Nicky Hilton in Valentino
Photo: Lieba Nesis

The evening’s theme was “The Non-Conformists” which FGI President Margaret Hayes, in her welcoming remarks, defined as those “who create change, dare, and make a difference.” Simon Doonan, the original non-conformist returned as this year’s host. In true non-conformist form, he arrived with husband Jonathan Adler, and as usual, disregarded the dress code (black tie), which is becoming more and more the norm for many, since fashion is increasingly about individuality, self-expression, breaking the rules, and not conforming to mandates and dictums.

Andrew Boulton, Wendi Murdoch and Baz Luhrmann

After a delicious three course dinner (prosciutto and melon, filet of beef or Chilean Sea Bass and risotto, dessert) was served, he took to the podium and wasted no time in remembering the late Bill Cunningham who was after all, a non-conformist in the truest sense. “Let’s start with a show of hands” he said. “Who here tonight has been photographed by Bill?” (There were a number of people who raised their hands).

Simon Doonan & Jonathan Adler
Photo: Randy Brooke

While Bill did not receive a posthumous award, he was lovingly remembered in the program, with a tribute written by Fashion Group International Creative Director Marylou Luther, “Bill Cunningham Was One In a Billion”. Simon referred to Bill as a “punk rock taxidermist” and quipped, “We’ll never know what it would be like to be Bill”. He spoke about the bond between the late great Diana Vreeland and Bill (the iconic editor saw him as a” good luck charm” and she always wanted to include one of his hats in her Costume Institute exhibitions). He ended by observing, “Fashion is about obliterating rules; it’s about transformation”.

The best speeches were short and to the point. The most memorable moments and the best lines:

Kim Hastreiter referred to Levi Strauss as “the original gangster of American style; and if that’s not heritage, I don’t know what is".

James Curleigh
Photos: Randy Brooke

James Curleigh took the stage and immediately began to sing Bob Dylan’s “The Times they are a changin”. “It’s all about relevancy” he said. “Levi’s stays relevant. Heritage does match Levi’s which invented blue jeans and the 501. The times are a changing and we need to change with them. I can’t wait to see what the next 100 years holds.”

(Editor's note: By the way, he looked so rad in his customized Levi denim suit that when Bunny Williams got up to receive her award a little later, she said, “I used to have the hots for Blake Shelton but James Curleigh, you’re looking pretty good.”)

Joe Zee & Polly Mellon
Photo: Randy Brooke

Joe Zee: He explained how intent he was on getting that first interview with Polly Mellen, who was Creative Director of Allure at the time (she was his idol). He wanted to impress her so he went to Century 21 and bought a faux leopard vest which he hoped would impress her. It did- she complimented him on it and he got the job. “Polly taught me I could use fashion to tell a story. It’s about storytelling. I am who I am because of all the people I worked for. Polly, Marissa Mayer, Martha Nelson, Robbie Myers. Incredible mentors in my life. This award is for all of them.”

Erdem Moralioglu & Ruth Wilson
Photo: Randy Brooke

Ruth Wilson: “Erdem is a non-conformist in many ways. He’s grown his label completely independently. He’s an inspiration. His designs are truly captivating. He is a storyteller who brings his stories to life. When I wear him I feel powerful and feminine which is vital and necessary. Go Hillary.

Erdem: “My mother believed in beauty in all its forms. The pursuit of beauty in all its forms is more important than ever.”

Baz Luhrmann & Catherine Martin
Photo: Randy Brooke

Baz Luhrmann: “We have worked with many talented people but we have never worked with anyone like Andrew Bolton. He invented a genre of his own. He has such emotion. He is a fashion oracle himself.”

Margaret Russell: “Personal style is something you care deeply about but don’t give a damn”. “Iris stands as an uncommon beacon for our later years.”

Stefano Tonchi
Photo: Randy Brooke

Stefano Tonchi: “The elephant in the room is that one does not think of Tory Burch as a non- conformist. Let’s address the elephant in the room. Non-conformist she’s not. She’s not flamboyant. She is elegant, discreet, genius, a perfectionist. With Tory, it’s all about friendship, trust, taste, conversation, doing good and empowering women to build independence through her Tory Burch Foundation, founded in 2009. But it is a non-conformist act to do great things and not talk about them. Tory has always taken inspiration from her passions. She’s an anti-conformist with her commitment to stay true to who she is. She is a real life role model. The most reluctant non-conformist I ever met.”

Tory Burch
Photo: Randy Brooke

Tory Burch: “I might not be a non-conformist in a traditional sense but I believe in exploring new ideas and seeing things in a new way. I am proud to be a non-conformist.”

Amy Fine Collins

Amy Fine Collins: “I never saw anything take off like the RealReal. It’s changed the way consumers shop. It’s a green, sustainable economy. It’s a win-win for everybody”

Constance White
Photo: Randy Brooke

Constance White: “Pat Cleveland put the “super” in supermodel and “super” personality both on and off the runway.”

Stephen Burrows
Photo: Randy Brooke

Stephen Burrows: “I met Pat in 1970. She came to me as a mistake and we became lifelong friends.”

Pat Cleveland
Photo: Randy Brooke

Pat Cleveland: “Thank you everybody. You made my life like a flying carpet. Without fashion no peacock would ever be jealous.”.

Dee Hilfiger: “Tommy and I are like the kids at school getting the participation trophy. Call me crazy but isn’t caring for other human beings what we’re supposed to do?”

Andrew Bolton
Photo: Randy Brooke

Andrew Bolton: “Two things I have learned from Anna Wintour: “Less is More” and “No is a very effective word.” “I’m British so I am not generally comfortable with showing my emotions, but Thom (Browne) makes me happier than I ever thought possible”.

Nicki Minaj: “This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life so I want to get it right.” “Riccardo is a talented visionary who has made countless contributions to fashion. And he’s a sexy ass piece of meat! Last but not least, it’s the brand everyone wants to be able to afford.”

Riccardo Tisci: “I know what it’s like to be an outsider. I was a black sheep of the village and now I’m the black sheep of fashion business. Don’t be afraid to be a black sheep.

Iris Apfel
Photo: Randy Brooke

Iris Apfel: “I’m so overwhelmed I almost forgot what I was going to say. All the better for you” she quipped. “I’m living a life I never thought. There, I’m speechless. I can’t believe I’m 95 and a cover girl. How many 95 year old cover girls do you know?Iris went on to say: "“You have only one life. Live every day as if it will be your last because one day, you will be right!”

- Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, October 27, 2016

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ®

Trompe L'Oeil Tricks, Treats and Gets Tacky

Jean-Charles de Castelbajac
The Arts Decoratifs Museum in Paris exhibition 'Trompe L'Oeil"
held in 2012

With less than two weeks until the election and only a few days until Halloween, now is as good a time as any to let you in on my little secret: I am a trompe l'oeil supporter. Whether it's luxe (Gucci and Thom Browne in their Spring 2017 collections); quirky (Mary Katrantzou with her digital prints); fun and trendy (Moschino "necklace" dresses, Sonia Rykiel sweater dresses);

Isaac Mizrahi Trench

or (Isaac Mizrahi designed a trompe l'oeil "trench" that gave the impression of creases through relief rubbing); provocative (Jean-Paul Gaultier); or vintage (Roberta Di Camerino with her "neckties" and "pleating"), I've never met a "fool the eye" garment that didn't make me smile and want to wear it.

Venera Arapu in her Showroom
(photo by Claudiu Enescu)

A few years ago while browsing on the website, I discovered a Roumanian designer named Venera Arapu. Her dresses, tops and jackets feature digitally printed "outfits" lending the look of inspired layering onto a single garment. I was hooked immediately and ordered a dress which appears to have a denim jacket, sequined skirt, a fur stole, crocheted gloves and a wide bronze buckled belt accessorizing its front and back. I loved the freedom and feeling of lightness from not actually having to wear the many (suggested) layers as well as from not having to encumber my brain to plot them all out.

Venera Arapu Trompe L'oeil dress

Once I got hooked I also purchased a jacket and t-shirt from various sites that carried her line. The pieces were often one or two of a kind in very limited sizing -- I decided that in the dresses at least, "size matters not" as they are not intended to be fitted but rather to skim the body. I remember remarking that some of her designs were decidedly on that border between tacky, "boudoir-ish" and overly provocative as they suggested bare skin, lingerie and um, well endowed decolletage -- a bit trashy for my taste.

Siouxsie Sioux wearing Trompe L'oeil Vivienne Westwood in 70s

Fast forward to a few weeks ago -- I was running errands around the UES one morning when I spied a woman flashing what, at first glance appeared to be quite a bit of cleavage bursting out of a top for so early in the day. "Walk of shame, perhaps?" I asked myself. As I approached and got a closer look -- averting my eyes was impossible -- I realized that she was not actually baring her "large tracts of land" (Monty Python reference).

Willow Smith in Vintage Jean Paul Gaultier circa 2015

Instead, her "girls" were completely covered in a tacky trompe l'oeil t-shirt bringing to mind a raunchier, novelty version of the Arapu ones. I wondered how many men had done a double take as she pranced along her merry way and how gutsy (or damn near insane) she was to have done so.

Faux Real Trench Coat

Now that Halloween is nigh, I have pieced together the fact that this fearless woman's tee must have come from Faux Real ( featuring "photorealistic apparel," after seeing a similar polyester item, albeit in a PG version displayed in a candy/novelty store window . These shirts are the perfect lazy person's Halloween costume...boom, throw one of these tops on with a pair of shorts, jeans, leggings or a skirt; maybe customize your hair in a braided updo if you're gonna wear the Bavarian Beer Wench version, and you're done.

Faux Real Britney

From a "Catholic School Girl" dress in which you could channel Britney Spears singing "Hit Me Baby One More Time," to a tatted-up biker chick; from a crazy cat lady to a woman in a B-movie clutching her trench coat to her otherwise naked body; not to mention the de rigueur sexy nurse, hula girl (cultural appropriation?) or "bikini" babe -- tasteless (but humorous) options reign aplenty.

Faux Real party suit

For men, the selection is no less stellar including a purple colored pimp suit, an armored barechested gladiator, or how about a candy corn "suit"? Want to match your SO? Couples options include sexy tuxedos, sailor "suits," a male counterpart to the female biker, the ever popular "ugly" Christmas and Hanukkah "sweaters" (even one that does double duty), as well as the male and female version of sexy Santa. Looking a little farther ahead, you won't need to have the luck of the Irish to find your couples St. Patty's Day outfits here.

Shiny legs

One last "trick (or treat)for the eye"-- here's a photo that's recently gone viral: do you see shiny legs? Or just strategically placed white paint? Discuss amongst yourselves, but try not to argue. We have the election for that.

- Laurel Marcus

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Rita Hayworth Alzheimer's Gala 2016 Draws Illustrious Crowd to Cipriani

Yasmin Aga Khan in Naeem Khan
All photos: Lieba Nesis
(Click images for full size views)

The Alzheimer's Association held its 33rd annual gala on Tuesday October 25, 2016 at Cipriani 42nd Street with cocktails beginning at 6:30 PM. The theme this year was "The Time Is Now" reflecting the urgency for finding a cure and the optimism that one day we will live in an Alzheimer's free world.

Michele Rella and Sarah Ferguson

Since the Rita Hayworth Gala began in 1984 more than $70 million has been raised for research, a remarkable milestone. The dinner, underwritten by Rolex, included socialites and philanthropists: Margo and John Catsimatidis, Jonathan and Somers Farkas, Michele Herbert, Sarah Ferguson,  Zang Toi, Sharon Bush, Nurit Kahane, Robert Verdi, Wendy Williams, Paola and Arnie Rosenshein, Anne Hearst and Jay McInerney, Paula and Tony Peck and so many others.

Oscar Plotkin and Sharon Bush

Alzheimer's is a disease that has touched the lives of so many, including Rita Hayworth who started to deteriorate in her 40's but was not diagnosed until 1981, after suffering for decades before that. Her daughter, Yasmin Aga Khan, the General Chair and Founder, told me she became active in 1981 when there were just a couple of people, currently evolving into a major global organization.

Suzanne Murphy and Michele Herbert

Tonight, emcee and actress Sarah Rafferty, said that Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. with one in six women over the age of 60 developing the disease as opposed to one in eleven who get breast cancer, costing taxpayers $18 million per hour.

Al Trena, Louise Kornfeld, Ethel Gittlin and Suzanne Murphy

Karyn Kornfeld, gala chair, then reiterated the seriousness of the disease, stating that some of the ways to prevent Alzheimer's were eating a heart healthy diet low in saturated fats, engaging in exercise, avoiding smoking, and keeping your mind active.

Jay McInerney and Diandra Douglas

A lady who keeps her mind very active is CEO of HSN Mindy Grossman who has been at HSN for ten years, previously holding stints at Nike and Ralph Lauren. Grossman, whose mother suffered from dementia, loves her job because she "gets to bring brands to life."

Somers Farkas and Mark Simone

She introduced honoree and President of HSN Bill Brand as a co-conspirator and someone she spends more time with than her husband. Grossman presented the Rita Hayworth Award to Brand, who helped HSN raise one million dollars for the disease and said he was hopeful it would be eradicated.

Gary Bruce Bettman Commissioner of the National Hockey League,
and Honoree and Hockey Player Brendan Shanahan

Another award recipient, former NHL player Brendan Shanahan, who is a dead ringer for Kevin Costner, and is the only player in the history of the National Hockey League to score 600 goals and record 2,000 penalty minutes spoke lugubriously about his father's struggle with Alzheimer's.

Nurit Kahane, Karin Reza and Paola Bacchini

When Brendan was just 14 and his mad rush to make it to the NHL so his father would be able to recognize his achievement. Unfortunately, Brendan didn't enter the NHL until the age of 18 when his father's cognitive abilities were long gone. Brendan's father died when Brendan was just 20 and his father was 59.

Margo and John Catsimatidis

After all these sad stories were recounted, a live auction was held where tickets for "Beauty and the Beast" were bid on for $5,000 with two bidders getting the prize for a total of $10,000. Furthermore, a Domingo Zapata painting with a value of $50,000 was auctioned for just $14,000, an unfortunate occurrence when the proceeds go to charity. Thankfully, an Ed Ruscha one-of-a-kind jacket was bought for $26,000, allowing the lucky visitor to schedule a private visit to Ruscha's studio in Los Angeles.

President of HSN and Honoree Bill Brand

After the conclusion of the "business portion" of the evening, guests were treated to a delectable Cipriani vanilla cake and music by "The Elements." Yasmin Aga Khan, in a green Naeem Khan bridal outfit, danced up a storm with fellow socialites Louise Kornfeld and Paola Bacchini. Guest were handed goody bags containing potato chips, perfume and moisturizer-all perfect antidotes to the brisk, inclement weather.

- Lieba Nesis