Thursday, April 27, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

Fashion Transformers

Pharrell Williams
Click images for full size views

Does it seem like the world is in a constant state of transfiguration lately? It staggers the mind to think that Bill Nye is NOT the Science Guy (he's a mechanical engineer) while Grammy Award Winner Pharrell Williams IS the new face of Chanel's Gabrielle handbag and the first man featured in this advertising. Shall we call it the "murse?"

Conversion is happening on all fronts: gender, religion, geopolitics, and in the court of public opinion, so why shouldn't fashion join in? Here are a few wearable items that pull double duty, metamorphosing right before your very eyes. And while I'm not claiming they'll change water into wine, some have the power to lift you to new heights (don't worry they'll let you down gently) while others are known to have a few tricks hidden up their sleeves.

Click image for expanded views of all shoes
  More info/purchase

Beginning with our best foot forward, I'm fascinated with this shoe within a shoe: the ballet flat is given a boost by a separate 3" platform. The Gucci website describes them thusly: "Inspired by the shoes worn by Venetian courtesans, these multifunctional shoes were introduced for Spring/Summer 2017. The platform in patterns are a defining feature from the runway. Heavily influenced by cultural prints, Alessandro Michele uses this floral jacquard across the collection. The snake - one of Gucci’s most important new animal motifs-is embroidered from crystal beads and contrasts the plush velvet base. This style can be worn as a platform shoe or the platform can be removed and the slipper can be worn alone." They are available for $1,190 in yellow floral jacquard with a dusty pink slipper, red floral jacquard with a red slipper or black patent with a gold slipper. Wear them with your royal athleisure wear and start your own renaissance revival.

Foldable loafer
More info/purchase

Also from Gucci and just a bit more down to earth are the Brixton foldable loafers available in hot pink, yellow and black for $630 at Saks. What's so special about these updated horsebit detailed beauties is that they are made of the softest leather allowing them to be worn the traditional way or folded down as a slide.

Convertible Drawstring Coverup
  More info/purchase

Camilla is an Australian designer that I am a huge fan of -- I own one of her colorful jackets with a detachable scarf. This dress ($600) can be worn as a beach cover up or for an evening out -- it has the added surprise of being a convertible mullet if you want to show off those summer-sun kissed legs.

All-in-One Convertible Gown
More info/purchase

Norma Kamali is basically the pioneer for anything convertible without wheels. Her All-in-One Convertible solid gowns and jumpsuits have become classics. Why not go a step further with a striped black and ivory version? It can be worn strapless, as a halter neck, a round neck, in a one-shoulder style, even as a sarong skirt. Next time you're out on the town try changing your look up each time you return from the rest room just to see who's paying attention.

Tweed Convertible jacket
More info/purchase

Here's a case where "sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't". In this Proenza Schouler nubby tweed convertible jacket you can wear it asymmetrically with flags (panels) flying for the art gallery opening or tie the flaps in the back and you have a blazer suitable for the board meeting.

1-2-3 Asymmetric Convertible Coat
More info/purchase

This DVF coat reminds me of a trench coat that I just had to have when I was a teen. Mine was powder blue and zipped off to Mini, Midi, and Maxi lengths (remember those days?). This one is navy and will transition from bolero, to hip length or left long (3/4 length).

Convertible leather-trimmed coat
More info/purchase
The Belstaff Convertible Leather-Trimmed trench is perfect for springtime. When the sleeves are removed it becomes a super cool mesh-fisherman-inspired chic cinched in vest.

Trench convertible coat
More info/purchase 

If you think a trench that only converts to a vest is slacking on the job, then check out this Martin Margiela coat-- it morphs into a jumper dress. It's completely on trend with the interesting Japanese style which is certain to be in-demand due to a certain little exhibition (with the initials CDG), opens at The Met next week.

Convertible wedding dress
More info/purchase

Wedding season is right around the corner and the bridal fashion shows just wrapped -- here's something unique for the fashion conscious bride. This Stella York gown is both shocking and practical -- perfect for a bit of a traditionalist who also likes to cut loose and have fun on her wedding day. She can walk down the aisle in a gorgeous floor length tulle gown but come the reception Voila! It's an elegant lace mini dress complete with a practical hidden back zipper under those tiny little pearl buttons which no one wants to have to do (or undo) in order to say "I do."

 Please note: No commercial involvement of any kind has been solicited or accepted in the development of the content for this article. The choice of content is purely up to the author of the article and he/she receives no compensation from any of the companies or advertising agencies that own, represent or promote said products or samples selected.

- Laurel Marcus

Monday, April 24, 2017

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

"Pom Pom" & Circumstance

Figue ‘Iris’ slides in multicolored buffalo leather and goatskin with pom-poms, $295 More info/Purchase

The word “pom-pom” dates back to the 18th century and is derived from the French word “pompon”. Soldiers from different regiments of Napoleon’s army wore tall structured caps and personalized them by adding their own trademark pom-poms in varying colors and shapes.

In South America, traditional garments (for both men and women) were decorated with differently colored pom-poms to signify their marital status. In Rome, clergymen wore squared caps with pom-poms in different colors to mark the wearer’s order. In Scotland, men’s traditional Balmoral bonnets (berets) were adorned on top with a bright red pom-pom called a toorie.

It was not until the Great Depression of the 1930’s, that pom-poms enjoyed their biggest popularity due to their accessible DIY properties and their affordability: they were easily scrapped together using leftover yarn and became an easy way to embellish and decorate. To this day, they continue to be popular forms of embellishment and as it turns out, they are right in step with the rather exotic and global vibe that is winding its way through the fashion universe.

Almost nothing puts a smile on my face as quickly as seeing something otherwise serious and straight-laced, playfully embellished with pom- poms and because of my embrace of the fun, amusing, and quirky side of fashion, I have long gravitated to them. Admittedly, they can tend to look a bit too puerile if not done in a sophisticated way but luckily, there are some really good pieces (accessories and ready-to-wear) that fit that bill; some, unapologetically more colorful, eccentric and ‘out there’ than others.

 Among my favorites:

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons black jacket with scarf overlay and pom-pom details, $550. More info/Purchase

Joshua Sanders pom-pom embellished slip on sneakers, $152.  More info/Purchase

Joshua Sanders grey leather and wool pom-pom sneakers, $156.  More info/Purchase

Figue Tuk Tuk tote with colorful pom poms, $495. More info/Purchase

Figue Tuk Tuk medium tote in black & told toned cotton and leather with black pom-poms, $795. More info/Purchase

Figue onyx silk ‘Maja’ shorts with pom-poms, $250. More info/Purchase

J.Crew Lily pom-pom trimmed ankle-wrap black & white gingham flats, $228. More info/Purchase

Gaia for J.Crew pom-pom trimmed black and white gingham bag, $128. (FYI, Gaia refers to goddess of the Earth in Greek mythology and the company, founded in 2009 creates handcrafted accessories by female refugee artisans. Based in Dallas, Texas, Gaia provides a living wage and dignified, sustainable employment that expands women's skill sets. This exclusive bag was inspired by Moroccan pouches and comes with a hangtag signed by the artisans who lovingly made it. More info/Purchase

Nannacay Baby Roge pom-pom embellished woven raffia tote, $170. (FYI, Nannacay, an exclusive at, is known for its fashion project ‘Creative Hands Transforming Lives’. Its mission is “to provide artful opportunities around the globe”). More info/Purchase

Sanayi313 pom-pom embellished striped canvas slippers, $860. More info/Purchase

Les Petits Joueurs Alex mini leather fur-pom bag in black and red, $1050. More info/Purchase

- Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

Fashion Group International Presents "The Influencer Factor"

Anne Fulenwider, Toto Haba, Conor Begley, Brittany Hennessy, Kyle Anderson
Photo Laurel Marcus
Click image for full size view

What becomes an influencer, or the brand they're promoting, most? I've appropriated the old Blackglama mink tag line to represent the subject of last night's FGI panel discussion, "The Influencer Factor" held at the Hearst Tower auditorium and led by EIC of Marie Claire USA Anne Fulenwider. Panelists included Toto Haba, VP of Global Digital Marketing, Benefit Cosmetics; Conor Begley, Co-Founder and President, Tribe Dynamics; Brittany Hennessy, Director, Influencer Talent, Hearst Digital Media and Kyle Anderson, Market and Accessories Director, Marie Claire.

First off the bat, "What is an influencer?" short definition version. Anderson -- "An 'influencer' is someone who would influence someone's decision to buy something." Hennessy -- "People who create great content". Conor Begley -- "I think of them as publishers rather than influencers. Those who build an audience and try to monetize it. This is the new wave of non-traditional publishers." Haba -- "The cream is rising to the top. There are really two kinds of content -- How-to-use vs. aspirational."

How does one track ROI (Return On Investment) when using influencers? Begley mentions that his company tracks the top 50 lifestyle influencers and sets about figuring out the correlation in revenue growth or value generated, which is not an easy proposition. In a case such as Gucci which has gained a large market share since designer Alessandro Michele came on board as Design Director (try 300% year-over-year), how do you measure the improvement in product against the large investment in influencer development? It is suggested that one needs to read the tea leaves on the relationship between the two variables. Later on, Haba mentions that there are algorithms to measure how influencers do in certain instances.

Fulenwider asks about paid vs. organic influencers -- how do you create a spark for a brand? Haba mentions an incentive trip where 25 of their top influencers were sent to Necker Island to help launch a product.  The product became the top seller at Sephora that week. Anderson breaks down the difference between fashion and beauty influencers remarking that you often see "people dressed by a brand or carrying a brand's bag at fashion week" and you don't know if they were gifted that bag or they bought it themselves.

As far as selecting an organic choice of influencer, everyone agreed that it's important to have someone who's a fan of the brand or somehow identified with it such as Gucci Ghost with Gucci over an Instagram fave like Kendall Jenner. "We are thinking of these people as editors," he said adding that they like to "bring the influencer into the creative process when possible" so that they'll have "genuine enthusiasm for a brand giving it authenticity."

Hennessy adds that they look for scale and engagement with a brand, "Does an influencer actually like the brand? I look for someone who has bought the brand herself."  She cautioned against what they call "Thirst Traps" with Instagram followers. For instance, take Karlie Kloss, please. "Seventy-five percent of her followers are men, so we can use her for beer, sports or cars," she said. If a man said that, it would be considered sexist, right?

Haba avoids falling into this situation: "We make influencers give up their follower data, audience demographics, and growth. That way we can narrow it for a product launch and target to a specific audience."

A brief summary of earned media (editorial coverage) vs. paid media ensues and who is budgeting for what. It is mentioned that 40% of the marketing budget goes to influencers in the beauty biz. To get editorial coverage you need a really great product. If you don't have a good product and people talk about it you will get creamed. Believe it or not, Kylie Jenner Beauty is one of the top 10 brands right now.

"The tipping point is, is it believable?" said Hennessy. "The top influencers are very protective about their brand and don't want to sign on unless they believe in the product or they will lose followers. Some brands don't get it -- they want to instruct the influencer how to promote the product which is not authentic. If the content is good, people don't care if the influencer was paid, or if there's a #Ad."

A few quick stats according to Begley -- the top growing cosmetics companies NYX ("I thought it was a New York airport at first,") Too Faced, and Anastasia Beverly Hills, all worked directly with smaller influencers -- NYX with about 700-800 and Too Faced with about 1,500. Haba gets his plug in by adding that Benefit (founded in SF in 1976) has over 10,000 influencers worldwide and is now a $1.5 billion company.

Lastly, when working with influencers there's often a "if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" approach. Begley believes that there should be a "very genuine relationship" between the influencers and the brand. There should be a consistent approach to "finding the people who really love your brand and helping them to grow."

- Laurel Marcus

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

Amanda Lepore Showcases her "Doll Parts"

Amanda Lepore with her book "Doll Parts"
All photos: Laurel Marcus
(Click images for full size views)

Amanda Lepore at 49, is a woman born both before and after her time. Entertainer, model, muse, blonde bombshell and now author with her just released book, a memoir titled "Doll Parts," she shares dual roles as a pioneering member of the OG transsexual world, yet she pays homage to a throwback in the pinup queen era.

Book signing

One of the early 1990's Club Kids and nightlife figures, she made her way to NYC after escaping life as an abused child bride in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, (her father-in-law paid for her transition), working as a manicurist in a nail salon, a stint as a dominatrix, and as a cosmetic salesgirl for Patricia Field.

Her quest for fame was realized when she became an international legend after meeting photographer David LaChappelle one night while hosting at Bowery Bar. She has appeared in ads for Armani Jeans (in Italy they call her La Silicone),MAC Cosmetics, Smart Car and others. In 1999 Swatch used a LaChappelle likeness of her on their Time Tranny watch. In 2011 she released an album (I...Amanda Lepore) and has since released three EP's.

Far right Patrick McDonald

If you want more details, it's all in the book, which oddly shares a name with a Courtney Love/Hole song which Lepore may or may not have collaborated on. A few snippets (ooh, maybe a poor choice of words lol): She was born Armand Lepore to a schizophrenic mother who was in and out of mental institutions; her father would buy her dolls while her mom was institutionalized and take them away when she returned.

Left: Artist Scooter LaForge aka "Bluebeard"

She claims she always knew she was a girl and couldn't understand why her parents were dressing her in boys clothing. In her early teens while attending hairdressing school as well as high school she met a transsexual who paid her for the costumes she made with hormones. She dated her boyfriend, (now former husband), for three months before he had any idea she was really a he -- due to her feminine features and "Mia Farrow look."


She's endured countless surgeries hence the title "the most expensive body on earth," including an operation in Mexico (it's illegal in the U.S.), in which her two bottom ribs were cracked and moved in order to make her waist smaller (rumor has it that Cher and Raquel Welch, among others, have also had this surgery.) Her press materials describe her as "a woozy, inflatable doll" and "like a Jeff Koons statue of Marilyn Monroe." It takes her a minimum of three hours to get ready to go out but she doesn't do the whole look for errands or to go to the gym -- "I'm a woman in the world" she says.


Last night I attended a book signing at Bookmarc followed by a launch party at The Standard High Line. Both were absolutely mobbed by a feeding frenzy of what I'll call "civilians" and those of her peers/friends/fellow club denizens/members of the trans community. At Bookmarc, the crowd spilled out into the street, while a long line formed inside as the Jessica Rabbit lookalike signed, and smiled for endless photos.

Susanne Bartsch

Amanda was dressed in a sheer black get-up to which she occasionally added a white fur boa. Her wig basically obscured her right eye making me think that she could have saved time by not making up that side of her face. Her lips are exactly like those fake red wax lips only incredibly glossy although I think I see the faint shadow of a mustache. Her decolletage and overall skin tone is alabaster with no signs of aging whatsoever. It's a lot to take in.

Boom Boom Room

It was actually my first time at this legendary lounge space. The party at the top of the Standard's Boom Boom Room, is known for its amazing views however the view had some competition this evening as the people at this event were something to drop your jaw at as well. I saw relatively few familiar faces including Dandy Patrick McDonald, another queen of the nightclub scene Susanne Bartsch, Photographer Roxanne Lowit and Artist Scooter LaForge aka "Bluebeard" -- his beard was actually dyed a bright blue!


When the room was a sea of people, a little over an hour into the party, a minimally clad Amanda wearing your basic ensemble of nipple pasties, garter belt, thong, nude fishnets, and over-the-elbow crystal embellished gloves made her grand entrance, riding in on the shoulders of two bare-chested men. She was taken to one of the platform seating areas where she performed a little pinup posing routine.


In a cage of her making against the upholstered wall, alternately sitting and standing on the banquette, she was stalked like an animal in the wild; camera light flashes constantly strobing the small area. I worked my way to the front of the pack for as long as I could handle it however soon the jostling for position got too intense and I struggled to come out for air.

Female Impersonator

An Amanda Lepore female impersonator, also minimally clad in fishnets and nipple pasties accessorized with the ne plus ultra of drag striptease: a red feather boa -- performed Amanda's club hit "I Don't Know Much About Clothes But My Hair Looks Fierce," while prancing and pirouetting expertly along the narrow bar top in high heels. I can't so much as stand for one more minute in mine. Even though he's probably got an appendage tucked under, I'm secure enough to admit that he's the better woman.

- Laurel Marcus

Monday, April 17, 2017

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

Irving Penn: Centennial Exhibition

Rochas Mermaid Dress (Lisa  Fonssagrives-Penn) Paris 1950
Click images for full size views

Irving Penn (1917 – 2009) had a career that spanned more than 60 years and is arguably one of the most important and prolific fashion photographers of all time. While he might have been best known for his photographs of some of the most beautiful women in the world (including his wife: iconic fashion model Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), wearing some of the most beautiful fashions in the world, that alone did not define who he was, and beauty, for him, came in all forms.

"To me personally, photography is a way to overcome mortality." - Irving Penn

Maybe most people don’t know that still lifes were his favorite subjects (they began and ended his long career). And while he personally hated cigarettes (in fact, his mentor and father figure Alexey Brodovitch, who was Harper’s Bazaar’s legendary art director, was never without a cigarette and he died of lung cancer), they too became favored subjects in the tumultuous 70’s, he did not glorify them. Penn was light-years ahead of his time, thoroughly inclusive and democratic, and this was exemplified by the diversity of his subjects.

Irving Penn at work

He photographed people of all shapes, sizes, classes, ages, body types, genders, races and ethnicities. With the current emphasis on diversity and inclusion in fashion, this could not be timelier. It’s also one of the many reasons why The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new exhibition, “Irving Penn Centennial”, in celebration of the 100th year of Penn’s birth is so exceptional and a must-see. The show is made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the enterprise Holdings Endowment and The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation.

Jeff L. Rosenheim, Thomas P. Campbell, & Maria Hambourg 

I attended the press preview on Monday morning during which time Thomas P. Campbell, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the two curators of the exhibition, Maria Hambourg, (founding curator of the Department of Photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and now an independent curator), and Jeff. L Rosenheim, Curator in Charge, Photographs, were on hand to make their remarks and answer questions.
Mouth for L'Oreal NY 1986 

Mr. Campbell talked about Penn’s “astonishing still lifes, insightful portraiture, superb nude studies, and of course, his unparalleled work in the field of fashion”. He noted that the Met’s first solo show was in 1977 followed 25 years later in 2002, with Penn’s nude studies. This third show marks the centennial and features approximately 187 of the artist’s “finest work”. “It represents all the genres with which Penn worked and is a stunning reminder about what is so great about the medium of photography. “In short, it reveals how the true master, who knew what he wanted from his art, could use a camera and photographic materials, regardless of the circumstances, to transform this world into a far more challenging, more beautiful place”.

Jeff Rosenheim, who explained that he was fortunate to have been hired by Maria Hambourg 29 years ago, described the 180 or so “masterpieces” as a “stunning treasure trove of photographs”; “the finest surviving prints of Penn’s master body of works”. “It is truly the life work of an artist”, which will then travel to Paris in late September, go on to Germany next Spring, and to Sao Paolo in 2018.

Woman in Chicken Hat (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn) 1949

He went on to say, “Penn had been long admired by curators and the press, but we were never able to honor the full achievement, and that is what this show is aiming to do”. “We know him as a great image maker; this shows what a great object maker he was”. “In this time of digital imagery, this is photography in its final form”. He went on to say, “Penn believed every print could and should be different. He made his own prints and made them all different scales. They are extraordinarily tactile and that sensitivity to the object is a story expressed in the exhibition. We focused on certain bodies of work. There are approximately 10 sections or campaigns: still lifes, fashion, portraiture, cigarettes, nudes, photographs of remote people of the world, advertisements, etc. and is loosely organized in chronological order from room to room. There is a distilled genius in all those pictures and I think you felt it. We have done two previous monographic shows and it’s an honor to present this third, most comprehensive one”.

Maria Hambourg: “If Penn were alive today he would not be here now and he would not be here tonight at the reception. He was very private, he was singularly disinterested in being in the limelight. He could have been friends with any of the celebrities he photographed, but he preferred to stay out of the picture and immerse himself in his work”.

Still Life 1948

“He was consumed by his art. He was always searching for evidence that there was something deeper than the surface. And though he worked in the fashion medium, he was never merely stylish. His pictures never stooped to the merely sensational. They are seriously arresting. They get under your skin. He was intense, he listened with an exquisite intent, and his blue eyes sparkled with intelligence. His ego was not oversized. He was modest and unprepossessing. His studio was a collaborative place. When he worked he wore jeans and sneakers like many of us artists. He was unfailingly polite and did not stand on ceremony. He never pulled rank. But his standards were high; he had exacting ways.

Balenciaga Sleeve 1950

When I asked Ms. Hambourg what her favorite sections in the exhibition were, she quickly replied, “The cigarette prints and the nudes”. When I asked Mr. Rosenheim the same question, he answered, “The fashion room with all the fabulous fashions such as the Balenciaga ‘mantle’ coat (he mentioned how you could see the chemistry and connection between Penn and his wife, the model Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn); the cigarette prints; the small trade portraits”. He also marveled at the way he “posed his subjects by touch” and softly moved my arm to illustrate what he meant.

As for me, well I found it all interesting but naturally I’d have to cite the fashion photographs. As soon as I walked into the room filled with the chic, stylized, minimal, mainly black and white photos, the world outside disappeared. I was instantly transported to another time and place: Pre-Internet, Pre-Instagram, Pre-Twitter, Pre-Snapchat, and Pre-Kardashian. It was a time when common, tacky and vulgar were not the norm.

Nude No. 105 NY 1949-50

But what is so great about the exhibit, as I have previously mentioned, is that it isn’t just about photographs of those things that are obviously and superficially beautiful. There is also a reality based, flip side to the coin. This is exemplified by his photographs of the nudes, 1949-1950. Penn disarmingly focused on “real women in real circumstances” with their ample, voluptuous flesh, rather than lithe models with perfect bodies (again, how modern is that?). Needless to say, this was not too popular or understood at the time, and this series did not gain major recognition until 2002, with an exhibition at The Met.

Enga Tribesman, New Guinea, 1970 Gelatin silver print 1984

And then there were Penn’s iconic photographs of the remote people of the world (inhabitants of Cuzco, Africa, Morocco, etc), 1967–71, wearing their indigenous costumes. Penn was not an anthropologist but an artist who traveled the globe, and Vogue’s Diana Vreeland was “delighted by his studies of costume and bodily ornamentation” which perfectly complimented the countercultural fashion trends of the late 60’s. Even Penn’s classic portraits (1948–62) were quite unlike any others; there was a directness, a realness to them. He photographed famous people such as Yves Saint Laurent, Picasso, Audrey Hepburn, Cecil Beaton, Truman Capote, Marlene Dietrich, and made sure that he brought down their guard and defenses  -- he was usually dressed in a simple t shirt and jeans for the occasion.

Sewer Cleaner NY 1957 Platinum-palladium Spring 1976

But I'd have to say that Small Trades, circa 1950, was for me, perhaps the most the poignant and touching. The largest single series of Penn’s career featured skilled tradespeople: window washers, butchers, knife grinders, coal miners, fishmongers, sewer cleaners, mailmen and street vendors with their tools. He effectively used the same elegant neutral backdrop and lighting as he did in his elegant fashion photography. The respect he obviously had for his proud subjects, whereby he elevated them from the common to the glorious, was evident in these photos and quite moving.

- Marilyn Kirschner