Tuesday, May 23, 2017

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

ABT Spring Gala 2017 Debuts the Delicious "Whipped Cream"

The ballet
All photos: Lieba Nesis
Click images for full size views

The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) held its annual gala on Monday May 22, 2017 with its performance of "Whipped Cream" beginning at 6:30 PM at the Metropolitan Opera House. Tonight was all about joy, with Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky revisiting this work of art which was entitled "Schlagobers" in 1924 when choreography by Heinrich Kröller and a score by Richard Strauss was devised to bring merriment to Vienna after it was left recovering from the devastation of the first World War.

Ballet benefactors left to right: Amie and Tony James-President of Blackstone
and Lisa and Dick Cashin

This evening, Ratmansky chose as his creative collaborator masterful visual artist Mark Ryden who produced a feast for the eyes that was nothing short of spectacular. The production was lavish beyond belief, with over 150 costumes, numerous props and elaborately designed scenes embellished with Swarovski crystals. Swarovski was the sponsor of the evening and they impressed.

Junior Chairs Toby and Larry Milstein with Alexandra Lebenthal

Fantasy and humor abounded in this production where adult dancers played children with Ryden outfitting the adult characters with giant outsized heads. The first act contained Principal Stella Abrera as Princess Tea Flower dancing with a syrupy lightness-accompanied by David Hallberg as Prince Coffee, Blaine Hoven as Don Zucchero and Daniil Simkin as "the boy". Simkin is a favorite with spellbinding jumps and pirouettes wowing the audience time and time again.

Designer Malan Breton, Christian Zimmermann, Richard Kielar, Ballet Star Gina Pazcoguin wearing Malan Breton and Dancer Savannah Lowery

The night's repertoire was a bit risky as in prior years Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director, chose vignettes from signature ballets such as "Romeo and Juliet" and "Swan Lake" for the pivotal gala. However, the audience enjoyed the playfulness of this evening with a cohesive storyline and a child -friendly vibe that will ensure a similar audience to "The Nutcracker." In fact, much of the costumes, music and plot reminded me of "The Nutcracker" with candy and condiments replacing the ornamentation of Christmas.

Ken and Jill Iscol, dancer Wendy Whelan and Tommy Tune

Misty Copeland and Marcelo Gomes emceed the evening, introducing the 77th season by noting the 63 performances that will take place over the next 8 weeks. Gomes who is celebrating his 20th year with ABT, remains one of the best dancers in the world and welcomed Caroline Kennedy. Looking svelte in a black and white floral gown, Kennedy said she was glad to be back from Japan to enjoy this gala.

Dancer Blaine Hoven in Gucci

Tonight's honoree was Hamilton James, President and COO of Blackstone, who committed more than $3 million to the company making it the most successful gala ever by more than double the highest amount-raising a total of $3.4 million.

Dani Behr and Sutton Stracke

Additional contributors and guests included: Christine Schwarzman, Elizabeth Segerstrom, Janna Bullock, Ken and Jill Iscol, Alexandra Lebenthal and Jay Diamond, Ali and Monica Wambold, Dick and Lisa Cashin, Jeff and Liz Peek, Sutton Stracke and Emily and Len Blavatnik.

Katie Holmes in Zac Posen

There were also a smattering of celebrities with Katie Holmes, Blake Lively, Maggie Gyllenhaal and fashion influencers Hamish Bowles, Anh Duong, Amy Astley, Nicky Hilton, Malan Breton and artist Rachel Feinstein gracing the gala. There was so much eye candy between the fantastical ballet costumes and the beautifully clad audience members it was hard to absorb.

Craig Dix, Anka Palitz in Tony Ward and Conductor Ormsby Wilkins

Speaking of beauty and colors, Anka Palitz, was both elegant and dazzling in a turquoise and silver Tony Ward gown with a blinding diamond necklace. Anka is a staple in the New York and Palm Beach social scene having served on the American Ballet Theatre board for 28 years when Jackie Kennedy was a fellow member.

Nicky Hilton in Oscar de la Renta

Anka recalled Jackie's great sense of style and remembered her wide set eyes making her extremely photogenic. Tonight Anka bought box seats and a table for a price tag of more than $30,000 - I hope she's not reading this. Moreover, I learned that while most tickets for the dinner went for a paltry $2,500 (just joking) there were box seats of ten that cost $150,000 - more than the salary of 99.9% of the population.

Christine Schwarzman in Jenny Packham

Some of my favorite dresses of the evening on these well-heeled guests included Christine Schwarzman in a sequined Jenny Packham gown and dancer Gina Pazcoguin who wore a show-stopping couture Malan Breton design whose train went on for miles. Actress Katie Holmes was also dynamite in a red Zac Posen gown and Nicky Hilton looked smashing in a sequined Oscar dress.

Jeff Peek, Liz Peek wearing Oscar, Artist Anh Duong in Dolce
and Gabbana and Hamish Bowles in Dries Van Noten

Others who always bring their fashion A game included Anh Duong who stunned in Dolce Gabbana alta moda and Hamish Bowles who was dapper as ever in a Dries Van Noten tuxedo. Hamish was still talking about the great fashion at the Costume Gala on Rihanna, Amanda Harlech, and Cara Delevingne especially considering the difficulty of this year's Rei Kawakubo theme. Even dancer Blaine Hoven stepped up his fashion this evening in a floral Gucci tuxedo - which was on loan.

Elizabeth Segerstrom and Alvaro de Marichalar

The dinner which was held on the second floor of the David H. Koch Theater contained polka-dotted and striped pink-and-white tables with pink ceiling ornaments and pink flowers. Guests fraternized and danced while a delicious meal of steak and salad was served.

Dancer James Whiteside, dancer Gillian Murphy and Milk

Kevin McKenzie announced they had raised a total of $10 million toward their campaign of $50 million; with more nights like these it is safe to say their ambitious goals might come to fruition imminently.


 - Lieba Nesis

Friday, May 19, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

The High School of Fashion Industries Honors Gary Wassner

Gary Wassner
Photos: Laurel Marcus
Click images for full size views

"Fashion is not frivolous, fashion is not trivial. It allows people to tell their own story every day of their lives. I am honored to be here to receive this award tonight," said Gary Wassner, Co-CEO of Hilldun Corporation, a company which provides financing and factoring to many of Seventh Avenue and the world's most prestigious fashion companies. Wassner is also a CFDA Fashion Incubator Advisory Board member.


I spent my Thursday evening learning about The High School of Fashion Industries by attending their Advisory Board Honors and student fashion show at the school on West 24th St. The event was hosted by the always entertaining Robert Verdi with appearances by Yeohlee and a video presentation from Jason Wu who was scheduled to present the Visionary Award in person but somehow ended up greeting us from Taiwan. Wassner was Wu's mentor and he spoke glowingly of how Wassner is always a calming influence. "When he asked me if I wanted to invest with his company, it was a no-brainer," Wu said.

"We would not have a fashion industry without Gary," said Verdi. "He is kind, generous with his time and he sets your sails in the right direction." About HSFI he said "this is the eighth consecutive year that over 91% of the students have graduated." The school raised $95,000 this year but would like to make it an even $100k if anyone would still like to donate. Other ways to get involved include offering industry internships, donating fabric or other goods or giving of your time and expertise.

The High School of Fashion Industries is the only school of its kind in the eastern U.S. with an occupational curriculum devoted entirely to the world of fashion, styling, design and their business and marketing. HSFI Advisory Board Member Robert diMauro dedicated his presentation to the memory of his father who had attended when it was known as Central Needle Trades High School. "FIT is born out of this school," he added. DiMauro also spotlighted a large mural on the auditorium wall documenting the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and "the message it sends about immigration."

Robert diMauro interviewing students

Later he had what he called his "Art Linkletter moment" where he individually interviewed a selected group of seniors about their Student Industry Partnerships with companies including Adidas, Barneys New York, Mary Alice Stephenson's Glam4Good, Kleinfeld, Swarovski, The International Center of Photography and The Underfashion Club (who later gave out scholarships). Simon Doonan also sponsored some students who picked up some tips on window merchandising or display from the master. Examples of his tutelage are currently visible in the school's picture windows.

In his speech, Wassner praised the graduates as the "next creators" -- "I had no idea what I wanted to do at 15 -- you guys knew."  He spoke of how he ended up in the fashion biz "by accident" because finance was "so boring" that he couldn't imagine doing it for the rest of his life.  It all changed when he met a young Betsey Johnson who had $15k from Bloomingdale's and didn't know what to do to produce her line. "She was my first fashion finance client," he added.

Next came the greatly anticipated student fashion show entitled "Minimalist With A Twist" featuring "Faux Leather Evening Wear," "Androgynous Menswear Business," "Black & White Prints Sportswear," "Theatrical Avant Garde," "Resort Cover-up," and "Chic Winter Outerwear."

There were also some bridal fashions thrown into the mix. "This year's Fashion Showcase explores Minimalism merged with vibrant hues, defined silhouettes, and vivacious prints" and "This unconventional approach to modern day minimalism represents the various ways in which minimalism can be interpreted, exaggerated and transformed," according to the program.

I always enjoy student fashion shows because I want to see how young people are interpreting and processing all the disparate design influences today. This show featured a few outstanding looks, particularly in the outerwear section some of which channeled Rei Kawakubo, as well as a Swarovski crystal-encrusted-up-one sleeve sweatshirt top that I could definitely picture Rihanna rocking.

The students in the audience enthusiastically hooted and hollered encouragement to those modeling on stage, much as they had throughout the evening for faculty and other presenters Congratulations to this fresh crop of future fashion designers!

- Laurel Marcus

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

"Collaborating For A Cure" 4th Annual Luncheon

Carolina Herrera pre-fall 2017 fashion
Photos Laurel Marcus - click images for full size views

The world of the lady who lunches elegantly and for a cause was on full display yesterday at the private Upper East Side duplex penthouse of Andrea Stark. "Collaborating For A Cure" which benefits the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation celebrated its fourth annual luncheon and fashion show -- this year featuring Carolina Herrera pre-fall 2017 fashions. The event was chaired by Lauren Lawrence, Pamela Morgan, Andrea Stark, Marion Waxman and co-chaired by Erica Linden-Fineberg. Special kudos goes to Lauren Lawrence for bringing in Carolina Herrera this year and who also sold the most tickets.

Marion Waxman

The committee included Sharon Bush, Maria Elena Christiansen, Denise DeLuca, Boo Grace, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Susan Gutfreund, Mai Hallingby Harrison, Michelle-Marie Heinemann, Yaz Hernandez, Michelle Gerber Klein, Patricia Kluge, Jeanne Lawrence, Valerie Lettan, Lauren Day Roberts, Barbara Tober Karen Amster-Young. There were close to 100 women in attendance and less than a handful of men.

From left Chair Pamela Morgan, Chair Lauren Lawrence, committee member
Jeanne Lawrence and Anka Palitz

"Every year, this by-invitation-only and sold-out event has grown in support, doubling in attendance since it debuted in 2014," said Dr. Samuel Waxman, Founder and CEO of SWCRF. "The Waxman Foundation was founded as a result of the generosity of the fashion industry and it continues to support us with the likes of industry leaders such as Carolina Herrera. We are most grateful to Carolina Herrera for their participation this year."

Part of the evening wear collection

I kept seeing women descending the central spiral staircase so I decided to explore for myself. Bedrooms were off limits however the main attraction was the fabulous wrap around deck with views for miles and sun for days. Interesting how within the span of one week the weather went from blustery day in March to blazing July heat. Lunch was a wonderful buffet of salads and fish catered by David Burke at Bloomingdale's.

Believe it or not, the women actually filled their plates and enjoyed. Only clear beverages were allowed (makes sense -- Stark Carpets!) -- the white wine and Prosecco was donated by Palm Bay International -- which I found out when someone asked for coffee. On the bar were pouches of HFactor hydrogenated water however those were thankfully poured into a glass for those who wanted extra H in their H20.

Andrea Stark, Vicky Tiel and Lauren Lawrence
Photo courtesy of Vicky Tiel

After lunch and speeches by Andrea Stark, Lauren Lawrence, and Marion Waxman, as well as a few words from representatives of Carolina Herrera, the models began to descend the dramatic staircase. The fashions ranged from day dresses in a sunny butterfly print (which one guest sported to the event) to evening gowns including a shimmery black and white polka dot creation -- Ms. Herrera wore that one herself last December to "An Evening Honoring Carolina Herrera" at Lincoln Center where she accepted the Women's Leadership Award.

Model on the far right wearing evening gown Ms. Herrera wore accepting
her Women's Leadership Award

Herrera recently celebrated her 35th anniversary in the fashion business -- we were reminded that none other than the legendary Diana Vreeland was at least partially responsible for it. In 1980, when Herrera expressed an interest in designing textiles, Vreeland redirected her towards becoming a fashion designer because textile design is "boring."

Lauren Lawrence and Judith Miller

Among the notable attendees were a few newswomen including Judith Miller, former New York Times foreign correspondent, Pulitzer Prize winning author of "The Story" (a book about her time covering the supposed WMD in Iraq and being imprisoned for not divulging her sources), as well as Judge Jeanine Pirro of Fox News. The diminutive powerhouse was accompanied by Gwen Marder, an even more compact Gwen Marder, Fox News's "wardrobe whisperer" who is responsible for dressing over 200 newsmen and women for the cable news network.

Michael Musto

When I told her that I love how Judge Jeanine dresses she said that she "has her own style" which I guess is somewhat similar to mine. When a model wearing a fit and flare burgundy leather dress walked out, the always outspoken Piro emitted an audible indication that this was for her! Designer Vicky Tiel was also in attendance in her trademark gold necklaces and a long, black and white tweed, crystal embellished jacket. I briefly glimpsed journalist Michael Musto grabbing a bite to eat and then he was gone.

After the fashion show concluded and the raffle (donations included Alice & Olivia sunnies, an Eric Javits straw visor and matching bag, Oscar de la Renta earrings, a Arlotta Cashmere set and a floral needlepoint rug from --you guessed it -- Stark Carpet) guests were invited to linger with dessert (little cakes and really rich chocolate cake lollipops) and even catch a few rays on the upstairs sundeck.

Randi Schatz and Maria Fischl

Many departed at this point (me included) with a goody bag which held a Carolina Herrera Figuier Garden scented candle and a coupon for 10% off of all full-price items in the store, and the aforementioned container of HFactor water for the trek home. Shhh don't tell! While most of the elegant lunching ladies waited in the circular driveway for their chauffeurs or their Ubers, I snuck across the street to catch the M31 bus.

- Laurel Marcus

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Special Fashion Report

The "New" Best Dressed List For 2017: One For the "Ages"

The notion of ‘Best Dressed’ is elusive and highly subjective. It means different things to different people. It means different things to me at different times and depending on the context it’s put in. Best Dressed, like beauty, is indeed, in the ‘Eyes of the Beholder’! I’ve sometimes been tempted to do a Most Beautiful List, but beauty, which is both inside and out, is not just about possessing certain God given assets (which certainly doesn’t hurt). It’s about the entire package: your soul, your essence, your humanity, your grooming, and how you present yourself to the world (in other words, what you wear). You can’t separate these elements. So you could say that my Best Dressed List is also my Most Beautiful List. I could not agree more with Iris Apfel, who said it’s far more important to possess great personal style than physical beauty. After all, beauty fades, but style is forever.

I prefer to vary my categories from year to year. See our past 2016 "New" Best Dressed List ; 2015 "New" Best Dressed List; 2014 "New" Best Dress List; and our first 2013 "New" Best Dressed List This time around, I decided to focus on women between the ages of 55 – 95. If ever there was a year to do a best dressed list devoted to strong women with their own personal styles, all over the age of 55, it is 2017, the undisputed "Year of the Woman"; a time when women, age, uniqueness and individuality are all being celebrated. My aim was to represent a range of looks, styles, and approaches. Some of the women are classic, some are unconventional if not completely rule breaking; some are minimalists, some believe more is more, and there is everything in between. Some on the list live in black or black & white, while others joyfully embrace color; some may seem to be dressed up almost all the time, while others are unapologetically dressed down

If there is a thread that holds them together, it is that they each have an identifiable ‘look’ and a specific point of view. They know who they are and how they want to portray themselves to the world. They are in step with the current zeitgeist without following trends; they look modern and relevant without looking inappropriate; and they have consistently stayed true to themselves without looking as though they are stuck in a time warp. This is not an easy feat. In searching for the pictures I used (all taken in the past year or so), what hit me most is how much better and more confident they all look at this point in their lives. They are not getting older -- they are truly getting better.

(Editor's Note: Be sure to click images if you wish to see full size versions)

Queen Elizabeth II

What sets her apart: Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in 1926, Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. (Just a note, while this list is in random order, I figured, but what better way to begin?) She has persisted through a number of personal ups and downs and as former Prime Minister David Cameron once noted, she has remained a “rock of stability in a world of constant change.” Indeed, one can always count on her royal highness to stay above the fray and “Keep Calm and Carry On”. And she can always be counted upon to carry one of her small structured black patent leather bags. Along with her sensible black shoes, they accessorize her wardrobe of proper and mostly colorful skirt suits and coats. Flowers are optional; a matching hat is not.

Lynn Slater

What sets her apart: Known for her cool minimalist aesthetic, sleek silver bob, and show-stopping sunglasses, this professor of social studies at Fordham University is the founder of the Accidental Icon blog where she writes academically about creativity and style while putting the spotlight on her fabulous outfits. But there’s nothing at all ‘accidental’ about her rigorously curated wardrobe based predominantly on black and white and filled with vintage 80’s Japanese designer clothes. The definition of subversive glamour, she describes her look and her blog, as geared for “the real woman who operates in a professional world who has to have credibility but, at the same time, doesn’t want to look boring”. While she never talks about age, through her blog, she speaks out against age discrimination in the fashion industry and elsewhere and shares ideas on the best ways to disrupt these notions through fashion (namely, she ignores those who say one should ‘dress one’s age’). Her unerring sense of style and exceptional social media status have resulted in appearances in a recent Valentino ad campaign, being chosen as one of Barney’s ‘personalities’, become a thread in Mango’s ‘story of uniqueness’. Earlier this year she was signed up by ELITE Models Special Booking, London. You go girl!

Amy Fine Collins

What sets her apart: With her severely black short hair and long lean frame, the Vanity Fair Special Correspondent and keeper of Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed List, along with Reinaldo Herrera, resembles a tall, elegant and chic pixie. But there is nothing at all pixyish about her serious, museum-worthy wardrobe, accessorized with a never-ending cache of fabulous handbags and Manolo Blahniks. Her sophisticated, yet playful, sense of style favors strong lines rather than surface ornamentation and is the perfect combination of owning “the well trained eye of an art historian” and a formidable insider’s knowledge of fashion and fashion history. She understands the notion of appropriate and always dresses the part but that is the only common thread in her many visages. Her wardrobe and her looks are varied, and there is always an element of surprise. Whether she is wearing one of Thom Browne’s extraordinary ensembles (she is the designer’s muse), or something more classic, it is hard not to notice her in a room filled with well-dressed people. Her extraordinary uniqueness prompted Isaac Mizrahi to note, “She is this kind of invention — she made this look up and it burned itself into our psyche from the moment it appeared and it will never leave — it is indelible.”

Norma Kamali

What sets her apart: The multi-talented award winning designer is the definition of modern and has been one step ahead of everyone else since the beginning of her prolific career (a career that began in 1968 and is still going strong). It’s seen many firsts and included many highlights. She has always understood the connection between beauty, wellness, and fashion; has been on a mission to promote fitness and health and to empower strong women; and has been a champion of innovative style and technological innovation for which she credits Steve Jobs (3D films literally enable her products to pop off the screen on her website). As for her sartorial choices, she never looks like she’s trying too hard, and has wisely affected a uniform of sorts. She looks casual, comfortable, and sporty and dresses almost entirely in monotone black and white (with a touch of silver). She eschews fussy patterns in favor of stripes or graphic art inspired patterns. She opts for the simple and classic (trench coats, tailored blazers, turtlenecks, sweatshirts, jeans and jean jackets, t- shirts, leather biker jackets, and the occasional fanciful touch by way of fringe or embroidery). Other than footwear (pumps and boots), her oversized statement-making tinted glasses are her only accessory (along with her trademark blunt cut bangs).

Anna Wintour

What sets her apart: The British-born New York-based editor-in-chief of Vogue and Conde Nast artistic director is arguably the most influential person in the fashion universe and while she can have her pick of designs, she wisely stays true to her vision of herself. One of the most recognizable women on the planet she has affected and perfected what has become a quintessential Wintour look: the face framing bob, oversized Chanel sunglasses, Georgian necklaces, tall boots or Manolo Blahnik’s nude sandals or pumps, and a wardrobe filled with statement-making coats and jackets (many of them fur or fur trimmed), skirt suits, and dresses that hit at the knee or below. You will never see her in head-to-toe black, sneakers, or jeans or trousers for that matter. While she wears a variety of labels including Miuccia Prada, a personal friend and favorite of hers, you can bet she will rely on Chanel for the biggest moments of her life. So it was hardly surprising that she ignored her own dress code for the Met Gala (it was ‘avant-garde’ in celebration of Rei Kawakubo), and instead opted for an elegantly beautiful feather trimmed Chanel Haute couture gown. And when she traveled to London’s Buckingham Palace to receive her DBE or Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth ll, she wore a belted pink coat from Chanel accessorized with nude Manolo Blahnik Umice heels.

 Ines de la Fressange:

What sets her apart: A bona fide French aristocrat and the first model to ever sign an exclusive contract with Chanel in the 1980’s, Ines is a living legend in France and has more than earned her label as a legendary style icon having received the Legion d’Honneur in 2008. Unapologetically non- trendy, she ignores fashion and does her own thing, resulting in a look that telegraphs simplicity, chic, and originality. With her rangy boyish frame and short dark tousled hair, she not only epitomizes "Parisian Chic", but wrote and illustrated the book. She effortlessly accessorizes her classic wardrobe staples (nobody can make a Lacoste polo look as divine) with an enviable and seemingly never-ending selection of Roger Vivier shoes and bags and she could not be a more fitting style icon. Nobody looks as good in Roger Vivier as Ines, and it doesn't hurt that at approximately 6 feet tall, there is nobody who looks as good in their distinctive flats, which she favors for both day AND night. The one-time muse of Karl Lagerfeld has a democratic approach to fashion and is the ultimate mixer of high street and high fashion so, it makes perfect sense that in addition to being the style ambassador for what is arguably the chicest label on the planet, she also designs a line for the popular priced company Uniqlo.

Iris Apfel

What sets her apart: What doesn't set her apart? What more can be said about this inspiring, ageless nonagenarian who shows no signs of slowing down that has not been already said? The oldest on this list at the age of 95, she still remains the coolest cat in any room and always stands out owing to her signature look: close cropped white hair, black framed owl shaped eyeglasses, bold use of color and pattern, magnificent, statement making over-the-top accessories personalize even the most simple, classic pieces forming the basis of her wardrobe. How many women can say they have had an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art solely dedicated to their amazing sense of style and extensive wardrobe? “Rara Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel”, 2005, was a game changer for women of all ages, and especially for women of a certain age, opening their eyes to the realization that they don’t have to become invisible, fade into the woodwork or into a boring beige wardrobe.

Lauren Hutton

What sets her apart: When the trailblazing Southern California born model signed a contract with Revlon cosmetics back in 1973 for $250,000 a year for 20 days’ work, it was the biggest contract in the history of the modeling industry. She also appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine a record 26 times. Ever since, the iconic model and actress famous for her All-American natural good looks and gap tooth smile, has inspired generations of modern women thanks to her easy, effortless but polished, style; the perfect mix of masculine and feminine (as exemplified by her love of the tailored suit); spontaneity and authenticity; blending the trendy and the traditional. Her mantra says it all: “Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers and style is what you choose.” Unsurprisingly, she continues to be much in demand as a model, as exemplified by her appearances in advertising campaigns for H&M, Lord and Taylor, Alexander Wang, and stints on the runways of Tom Ford and Bottega Veneta.

Betty Catroux

What sets her apart: Is it any wonder that with her cool laid back rock 'n' roll style, long white blond hair, lanky body, gaunt features and androgynous appearance, she was Yves Saint Laurent’s model and muse in the 60’s and 70’s? In fact, Yves described her as his “twin” and referred to her as his “female incarnation”. Tom Ford was so inspired by her that he dedicated his debut YSL Rive Gauche collection to her. When asked about her fashion sense, Betty, who is married to legendary decorator Francois Catroux  has said, “I have dressed the same way practically since I was born. I don’t dress as a woman. I’m not interested in fashion at all." And to her credit, she has stuck with her signature look through the decades. You never see her in anything but a variation on a theme and she is still a vision in head-to-toe black (lots of leather and touches of fringe), her long legs encased in skintight pants and her ever present boots.

Linda Fargo

What sets her apart: Linda is not only Bergdorf Goodman’s Senior Vice President, Women’s Fashion Director and Store Presentation but the face of this luxury retailer. A major style influencer with an infectious love of fashion and natural exuberance, she could not be a more fitting ambassador. With her silvery white bob, bright red Chanel lipstick, perfectly manicured red nails, she always makes a powerful statement and regardless of what she wears (whether it’s strict tailleur or something more lighthearted and free flowing), she is always true to herself and authentic. Her meticulous attention to detail and her POW accessories never go unnoticed. She wants to put the joy back in fashion and in shopping and was just given the perfect platform with which to do that:  her own 600 square foot shop on the 4th floor, which she has curated with a fabulous mix of items. As she enthused, “I'm already a customer in my own shop. "Linda's at Bergdorf Goodman" is really my fantasy closet and home.”

Donna Karan

What sets her apart: From the very beginning, Donna has sought to empower women, make their lives easier, more comfortable, and more beautiful. In 1984 she launched her eponymous collection predicated on a dynamic system of modern dressing and now the award winning iconic designer, world traveler, and humanitarian is focused on her Urban Zen Foundation; a realization of her dream to not just dress people, but to address them. She continues to find inspiration in the people, art and culture around her and through her world travels, and she continues to embody the label she founded. The creator of the 7 easy pieces knows a thing or two about the importance of affecting a monochromatic uniform based on signature wardrobe staples. Regardless of whether she is in a strong shouldered jacket or something more sensual that envelops and wraps her body, her personal ‘signifiers’ are a black cashmere scarf and a bold artisan necklace made of wood or stone. “The scarf is a way of life for me; it’s a security blanket, a luxurious piece to throw on my shoulder or wrap around myself if I get cold. The necklace - often something I pick up in Haiti from craftswoman Pascale Theard - adds that element of soul and individuality.”

Carmen Dell’Orefice

What sets her apart: The world’s oldest working supermodel defines longevity with a modeling career that has spanned more than 70 years. She posed for Salvador Dali at 13 and had her first Vogue cover at 15 and after seven decades in the fashion industry, this age defying woman is still going strong. In fact, she continues to thrive in an age phobic industry and has actually admitted that she’s worked more in the last 25 or so years, than ever before. “Today I am in a territory that business considers unmarketable: age and white hair. Slowly, however, I started to own that territory little by little because I stood up for age.” Because of her patrician looks, regal bearing, striking cheekbones, and lanky 5’9” frame, she can literally wear anything. And while she tends to favor the classics (always perfect accessorized with the right jewelry), she can just as easily pull off the highly dramatic better than almost anyone else.

Vera Wang

What sets her apart: This past March, Vera Wang received the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian distinction from Gerard Araud, France’s ambassador to the U.S. Past awards include the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2005 and their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Although skating and dance initially brought her to Paris, it is her deep connection to Paris and her love of the city, that shaped her life, inspired and nurtured her. But while the award-winning fashion designer grew up going to the couture in Paris with her mother, there’s a duality due to her rebellious streak. She once admitted “Conventional clothing as always looked pretty ridiculous on me” and has stated, "I wasn't ever an uptown girl but I always had an uptown budget, and that made me lethal." Her personal style (like her designs) put an emphasis on sophisticated purity, mixing high and low, and can best be described as unconventional, laid back, slouchy, and idiosyncratic. Vera prizes comfort and ease and is big on layering and her working uniform is black leggings and slouchy knit tops. But regardless of what she wears, the resultant look is always edgy, with plenty of attitude, and a youthful flair.

Carolina Herrera

What sets her apart: The iconic fashion designer who has already been inducted into the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame, is always polished, impeccably turned out, flawlessly groomed, with an old world elegance that remains modern to the core. She is the definition of easy and effortless and never looks forced, uncomfortable or contrived. It's almost impossible to NOT look good - and ageless - in a crisp white shirt, and Carolina knows this better than anyone. They have become part of her uniform and her trusty "security blanket" for both day and evening, not to mention when she takes her bow after a fashion show. Her signature, non-fussy look, is comprised of a skirt (knee length or floor length, either narrow or full), mannish trousers, and a tailored (or not so tailored) shirt, always accessorized with one of her many pairs of Manolo Blahniks. It is a look so finely honed, she has marveled that it takes her only 10 minutes to get ready for even the grandest occasion. Now, that's what I call elegant, chic, modern, and totally ageless!


What sets her apart: The Somali born fashion model, actress, philanthropist and widow of rock musician David Bowie is an entrepreneur and pioneer in the field of ethnic cosmetics (Iman Cosmetics). With her long neck, slender figure, fine features, copper toned skin and exotic bearing, she became an instant success in the fashion world and was a muse to Halston, Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Issey Miyake. She was also a favorite of Yves Saint Laurent who once called her his “dream woman”. It’s no wonder she has such a finely honed sense of style: bold, exotic and predicated on the classics. In addition to her fondness for structured tailoring, she is a self-professed lover of kaftans (she has hundreds in her personal closets, “hasn’t met a kaftan she doesn’t love” and considers them to be must-haves). So it’s not surprising that for her freshman Iman Global Chic line of accessories, fashion, jewelry for HSN, (inspired by her world travels and geared for the average woman  who is not a red carpet fixture), her first design was a kaftan.

Diane Keaton

What sets her apart: Talk about being prescient! At a time of gender fluidity, Diane Keaton, in her iconic role as Annie Hall, was the original “borrowed from the boys” gal and it’s still hard to separate the legendary character from the woman as they are all in one. This true style original made vests, pantsuits, and ties a fashionable choice and she has always refused to adhere to red carpet standards preferring to put her own spin on things. We’re in a moment that prizes being covered up and leaving something to the imagination rather than baring all, and Diane has always preferred to cover up. But she’s wisely shown off her toned body in perfectly fitted coats, waist defining jackets, and through the use of wide cinch belts. She has also made bare necks all wrong, preferring to hide them in taut turtlenecks and high Edwardian collars.

Lynn Wyatt

What sets her apart: This international society icon, philanthropist and third-generation Texan was hailed “The Best Little Socialite in Texas” by Vanity Fair (she is married to self-made millionaire Oscar Wyatt Jr. and her grandfather founded the Sakowitz Department store chain). She once aptly described her style as “class with a bit of dash and never trash”. Indeed, she always looks rich and glamourous regardless of whether she is wearing head-to-toe denim, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, or something far more opulent and couture, which is more the norm. But to her credit, she does her homework, manages to keep it fresh, modern and current, and is never stuck in a time warp. Most importantly, she knows what looks good on her small fine-boned frame and she always selects clothes that flatter, not overpower her. While others her age continue to go bare, strapless, sleeveless (even when they shouldn’t), Lynn is almost always quite covered up in figure flattering dresses, pants, fabulous jackets, blouses, and suits.

Linda Rodin

What sets her apart: When this NYC based former model, magazine editor, boutique owner and stylist could not find beauty products that suited her, she devised them her own bathroom. The result is luxury beauty brand RODIN olio lusso (which was acquired by Estee Lauder in 2014). Her guiding force is “simplicity is beauty” and to her credit, she has refused to look younger unnaturally (she never dyed her hair or considered getting a facelift). She is eternally cool and oozes relaxed elegance thanks to her innate knack for throwing her classic pieces together in a playful, highly personal way. She has said, “I didn’t find my style. It found me.” She eschews trends in favor of a signature personal style that suits her and her lifestyle: she only wears flats or very low heels (shoes and boots), has traded in eye-makeup for a statement making glasses, keeps her platinum hair in a simple ponytail or bun, wears red lipstick. Her enviable, carefully edited wardrobe is based on simple clean unfussy lines, and her love of denim, specifically dark, original, uncreased denim. As she put it, “I like jeans with anything! Casual or dressy. Jean jackets with a dress or skirt, jeans with vintage sequined tops... jeans are always right. They have been the main part of my wardrobe since I was 16."

Joy Venturini Bianchi

What sets her apart: This native San Franciscan, a familiar face on the society scene, is as much known for tireless philanthropy as for her faultless taste and bold head turning, entrance-making style (she has said she learned about quality, fit and investing in great pieces and how to mix them up and make them work, from both her parents). She has been involved with Helpers, a charity that aids the developmentally disabled, since she was 13 years old and in 2008 she founded Helper’s House of Couture which was named one of 10 best fashion stores by Vogue in 2010 (the proceeds go to fund her charity). In addition, she has promised to bequeath her entire personal collection of museum-worthy designs by Alaia, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Balenciaga, Dior, Valentino, Galanos, Ralph Rucci, and Tom Ford, etc.

Michele Lamy

What sets her apart:  With her tattooed hands, gold teeth, eclectic jewelry and artistic use of kohl, Michele is the most eccentric and unconventional in this group. She has enjoyed successful careers as defense attorney, clothing designer, cabaret performer, film producer, and restaurateur. But since 2003, she has been best known as wife, business partner, muse, inspiration, and creative mind behind fashion designer Rick Owens (who will receive the 2017 CFDA Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award on June 5th). Rick has described her as “a mesmerizing sphinx” and the couple, who live and work in Paris, are all but inseparable; dressed head-to-toe in his designs. Unsurprisingly, the only other designer she is seen wearing other than Rick Owens, is Rei Kawakubo. At the recent Met Gala, she was one of the few brave souls who actually took the dress code seriously and wore an avant-garde red Comme des Garcons dress, prompting one attendee to note “Michele is more Rei Kawakubo than Rei Kawakubo”.

(Photo credits: Zimbio.com, Dazed.com, BFA.com)

- Marilyn Kirschner