Saturday, September 30, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid ® by Laurel Marcus

An Evening with Photographer Fernando Espinosa Chauvin

"Central Park"
by Fernando Espinosa
Infrared Photography New York City
Click image for full size view

What do New York City and the Galapagos Islands have in common? Not only have they both been photographed extensively by the infrared camera lens of Fernando Espinosa Chauvin, they are each in their own way, beautiful but potentially dangerous places.

On Wednesday evening I attended an art photography exhibition hosted by Eric Gartner AIA, and Supermodel and PR Queen Debbie Dickinson at SPG Architects on West 26th Street which featured selected works of Fernando Espinosa Chauvin. An enthusiastic crowd of people from the worlds of fashion, design, art, architecture and even Hollywood (Tina Louise of "Gilligan's Island" fame) were in attendance.

Artist Dara Campbell, Supermodel/Curator Debbie Dickerson,  Photographer Fernando Espinosa Chauvin, Model Sara Johnson Hoyle, & Philanthropist/Real Estate Agent Jane Pontarelli
Photo: Laurel Marcus - click image for full size view

Some other notables included A-list society/ real estate broker/fundraiser extraordinaire and former Playboy bunny Jane Pontarelli who proudly sports pink hair as a breast cancer survivor; Errol Rappaport whose family owned the fashion line Damon Creations; Stone Zhu, a noted fashion photographer; Patty Somers, a writer for Fortune Magazine; and blogger Vevlyn Wright to name a few.

Gartner, Patty Sellers, Vevlyn Wright

Espinosa Chauvin clued me in on how the awesomely stark, crisp black and white effects are achieved. "Anything green comes out white and anything blue comes out dark," he explained as we looked at one of his Central Park photos entitled "White Oak Branch at Sheep Meadow." He has photographed in Central Park hundreds of times over the past few years mentioning that there are only certain times of the day (he tries to avoid too many kids and their nannies) and certain weather conditions (it should be a mostly sunny day) that are conducive to do so.

Dream Lights of the City
by Fernando Espinosa Chauvin
Infrared photography - New York City
Click image for full size view

Other outstanding photos of our town include "Highline and Hudson Yards" photographed from a helicopter about two years ago before the entire lot was developed. I noted that this photo follows the "rule of thirds" in its composition -- in this case it is one-third air, one-third land, one-third sea. "Freedom Tower and Marina" is another masterpiece which follows that rule -- this piece is so evocative of the push/pull of the triumph and gloom that still linger over Lower Manhattan. The hauntingly beautiful aerial New York cityscapes are known as "Dream Lights of the City" -- see lead photo.

Galapagos Surreal – Auckland Zoo
by Fernando Espinosa Chauvin
Click image for full size view 

The photos of Galapagos are equally dramatic. It would seem counterintuitive to photograph a place known for its exuberant color in black and white however in reality the lack of color brings out the textures, whether of the prickly cactus, the scaly iguanas or any of the other flora and fauna, are greatly enhanced through this process. "Though there is beauty, the climate is harsh, it will kill you. You cannot stand around too long in the heat," therefore he likes to get his shot quickly before taking a break from the elements.

by Fernando Espinosa Chauvin
Click image for full size view

Although landscape infrared photography is now his forte, Espinosa Chauvin began his professional career in fashion photography for international modeling agencies including Ford Models, Elite, IMG and Next. He has taught at the International Center of Photography and at the gallery Pobre Diablo in Quito, Ecuador.

On display were three of his photography books: "Afrodisiaco" (a photography/art/cookbook complete with recipes; "Dubrovnik" (a travelogue); and "Galapagos Surreal" which he signed and gifted me with as a parting souvenir.

- Laurel Marcus

Better Bets by Rhonda Erb

Music in Flushing Meadows

The Meadows Music & Arts Festival
Photo: Rhonda Erb
Click images for full size views

For three days in September, the parking lot of Citi Field in Queens, New York was transformed into a concert goer’s paradise, as thousands soaked up the late summer sun at The Meadows Music and Art Festival. The event, which was held on the former location of Shea Stadium, featured headlining acts that included The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gorillaz, Foster the People, Weezer and Jay-Z.

The Crowd
Photo: Rhonda Erb

Comfort was the order of the day when it came to dressing for the event, with attendees predictably wearing tee shirts, jeans, cut-off shorts or flowing summer dresses. At the other end of the style spectrum was the natty attire of Rivers Cuomo, lead singer of the alternative rock band, Weezer, who performed his set in a coordinated shirt and tie.

Family Style

Vicky Zhang collection
Photo: Rhonda Erb

Family oriented fashion was a major theme on the runways at Skylight Clarkson Studios on the last day of New York Fashion Week. The day opened and closed with the shows of Vicky Zhang and Jia Liu, respectively. Each of these collections was highlighted by adult ensembles that were accompanied by coordinating children’s wear.

Vicky Zang collection
Photo: Rhonda Erb

Chinese designer, Xu Xinyin, named her Vicky Zhang brand after her four-year-old daughter. Xinyin’s couture sensibility was apparent throughout her spring/ summer collection, which featured classic, parent/ child eveningwear looks made of fine Chinese silks with elegant detailing.

As You Are collection
Photo: Rhonda Erb

Beijing native, Jia Liu, took a more light-hearted approach to mommy, daddy and me looks with the debut of her SS18 Comme Tu Es (As You Are) collection.  Her colorful sportswear was inspired by the experiences encountered during family travel. Liu showed designs ranging from Emoji Movie print shirts to playful party dresses.

As You Are collection
Photo: Rhonda Erb

Happy Birthday GILT

Original Gilt website
Photo: courtesy of Gilt

Gilt, the online retail and lifestyle website that features everything from on-trend brands to travel experiences, celebrates its tenth birthday this year. To celebrate being ten years young, Gilt has given itself a makeover: updating their website for a whole new look.

Footwear & accessories
Photo: courtesy of Gilt

The new site offers users a better, more personalized shopping experience, with added visual recognition and machine learning technologies. Navigation and search functions have been improved, with increased inventory and exclusive full price and discounted products. Customers can receive $30 off their purchase of $150.00 or more with the code: NEWGILT30.

School Project

Danielle Rueda Designers
Photo: courtesy of AAU

Oh, to be a recent fashion school graduate showing your designs at New York Fashion Week. This dream has become a reality for a select few student designers from San Francisco’s Academy of Art University since their first Fashion Week show in September 2005. This season’s talented group includes ten recent BFA and MFA graduates, presenting five womenswear and two menswear collections (two of the collections were collaborations). The designers include: Hailun Zhou, Eden Slezin, Dina Marie Lam, Carlos Rodriguez, Rheanna Oliver-Palanca, Saya Shen, Joanna Jadallah, Cana Klebanoff, Ryan Yu and Jelly Shan.

Saya Shen
Photo: Bob Toy

Chinese designer Saya Shen, holds an MFA in Fashion Design, and drew upon her own photographs of natural scenes of trees, waves, the San Francisco landscape and the snowy mountains of Japan, to create her unique designs.

A Saya Shen design
Photo: Rhonda Erb

Shen worked with Kornit Digital, a leader in the digital textile industry, to digitally print her photographic images directly onto her fabrics. Her silhouettes are oversized, reminiscent of the snowy scenes she shot in Japan. “We were in the mountains where everything was completely covered in snow, Shen explains, “We were surrounded by nature and the snow was untouched and beautiful. I designed the collection to be oversized like the snow forms, and to be comfortable as the scene was so peaceful”

- Rhonda Erb
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Friday, September 29, 2017

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

New York City Ballet Fall Gala Merges Fashion and Dance

The room of cascading flowers
All photos Lieba Nesis
Click images for full size views

The New York City Ballet held its Annual Fall Gala on September 28, 2017 at the David Koch Theater with cocktails beginning at 5:30 PM. This event, which is the brainchild of Sarah Jessica Parker, merges fashion and ballet by allowing renowned designers to create costumes for the dancers.

Jean Shafiroff, Michele Herbert, Patricia Shiah and Barbara Tober

There was a noticeable electricity in the air as guests were anxiously anticipating what Virgil Abloh of Off-White and Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim from Oscar de la Renta had planned. The excited crowd included luminaries: Keri Russell, Sarah Jessica Parker, Andy Cohen, Malin Akerman, Jess Cagle, and Mikhail Baryshnikov; as well as philanthropists Liz Peek, Jean Shafiroff, Fe Fendi, Mary Snow, Michele Herbert and many others.

Fe Fendi, Liz Peek and Monica Wambold

The first act opened with the World Premiere of "The Wind Still Brings" with costumes by Jonathan Saunders. The pink and blue striped leotards and blue tights were very "American Apparel" and gave the dancers an ease of movement. The choreography by Troy Schumacher was fun with sparse music and a large repertoire of dancers.

Dancer Ashley Bouder and Peter de Florio

The next premiere "Composer's Holiday" was more exciting with black and white costumes designed by Virgil Abloh and choreography by Gianna Reisen. This was Reisen's first-ever work and she did a remarkable job.

Karen Murphy, Bobby and Phoebe Tudor

The accompanying costumes of black, white and blush tutus of the women and black lace ensembles of the men were unembellished but pretty.  Abloh is the New "it designer" and his competency was readily apparent. The dancers moved with grace and ease performing such crowd pleasing stunts as ballerinas stepping on men's backs and floating in the air.

Mary Elizabeth Snow and Joachim Bader

The next act, the world premiere of "Not Our Fate" was my favorite technically and the costumes were black and white once again with black jackets and white full skirts adorning the ballerinas who were dressed by the Oscar de la Renta label. This act was modern and dramatic with men partnering other men and at one point women doing the same. The music by Michael Nyman was exhilarating and the crowd loved the pairing of the dancers.

Costume designer Tsumori Chisato

My favorite costumes of the evening were in the last act called "Pulcinella Variations". Designed by Tsumori Chisato the clothing was fun and outstanding while still allowing the dancers to move. This was the only act where the costumes were the focal point with painted and checkered tights and colorful half tutus astounding the audience who applauded enthusiastically.

Reggie Van Lee, Debra Martin Chase, Meria Carstarphen and David Heleniak

Chisato was hands down the designing star of the evening-producing a feast for the eyes that was incredible. After a nearly two-hour performance without any intermission, guests headed to the second floor for an elaborate dinner where cascading flowers adorned the magnificent room; a harbinger of the exciting gala season which awaits.

- Lieba Nesis

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wednesdays at Michael’s by Diane Clehane

A Conversation With One of the Stars of A&E Network’s New Docuseries “Undercover High”

Diane Clehane & Shane Feldman at Michael's

Young Adults Secretly Go Back to High School With Eye-Opening Results

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go back to high school knowing what you know now?  I was joined this week by an intrepid young man who did just that – with the cameras in tow – posing as a senior with six other young adults (between 21 and 26 years old and all unaware of each other) who all had their own reasons for wanting to do the show. The result is “Undercover High,” an eye-opening new 12-episode docuseries premiering on October 10 at 10 PM ET/PT on A& E Network. It should be required viewing for parents of tweens and teens everywhere.

The impossibly well-spoken and self-possessed Shane Feldman, who is all of 22 years old, had something of a leg up on the other participants who willingly signed up for another round of chemistry and gym classes (shudder). He is an internationally recognized youth empowerment expert and motivational speaker as well as founder and CEO of Count Me In, the world’s largest youth-run organization that, he told me, has impacted over 10 million kids in over 104 countries. Oh, and he started it in high school. His reason for signing on to do the series: “I wanted to do a deep dive on what it’s like to be a teen today.”

To be a part of “Undercover High,” Shane had to step away from his role at Count Me In, put a hold on his full slate of speaking engagements and – perhaps most traumatic of all – wipe his existing social media profile clean and pretty much cut ties to most people in his life. For nine months, Shane Feldman didn’t exist. (Shane used his middle name as his last name just in case.) Quite a feat in this day and age, don’t you think? To prepare, his younger sister Jordyn served as a “mentor” and he asked students at appearances leading up to the show’s taping what was “in” and of interest to them.

Even with his background working with teens and the intel he gleaned from various sources, what he found was still a revelation. “High school is tragically different than it was a decade ago,” said Shane between bites of mushroom ravioli. “Everything is changed, but nothing is different.”

Shane and the other undercover high-schoolers attended Highland Park High School as seniors in Topeka, Kansas for the final semester of 2016. The school’s kids and parents were told the cameras were there to film a documentary on education. The school’s diverse student body is comprised equal of numbers of Hispanic, African-American and Caucasian students. Only the school superintendent, principal and vice principal knew who the undercover student were. “I went home to an empty apartment every day and obviously couldn’t have anyone over,” recalled Shane. “The isolation was very hard.”

The crushing loneliness that Shane felt before making friends with the kids and acclimating to his new environment was, in many ways, a mirroring of one of the biggest issues facing today's teens. When I asked Shane what he found he answered: “A epidemic of hopelessness.” Just let that sink in for a moment.

The disconnectedness so many of today’s high schoolers feel, explained Shane, can be attributed to several factors. It’s no surprise social media is at the top of the list. “It has accelerated everything. Middle school is the new high school.” Which leaves high schoolers feeling they should have it all together by then and sets up an unrealistic quest for perfection. The carefully curated lives on display on Instagram (which, by the way, has surpassed Snapchat as the preferred social media platform for teens now that it has announced its 24-hour story feature) emphasis perfection that just doesn’t exist. “Life is messy, awkward and hard and kids don’t see that there.”

Here’s a staggering statistic: Shane told me in prior years one quarter of the kids he met had either had some experience with “self-injury or self-harm” and it isn’t always the kids one would expect to be struggling that have done so. “It can be the captain of the football team, the straight A student. They feel like it’s too much of a risk to talk about it.”

And there’s this: “Parents have less influence over their high-schooler than then they think,” said Shane. “The peer group” is much more influential. “There is this growing disconnect between teens and adults that they are not understood.” But, he warned, parents should not give up. “The number one misconception is that teens don’t want a relationship with their parents. Kids want it and need it.” But they’ll keep testing the limits all the time. “Kids are in survival mode in high school.”

Before you decide to home school your kids, take heart. Shane also discovered some positive trends. There is less division [between the students] than you would think.” Even in the economically challenged community of Highland Park, he noted, the kids were there for each other. There is a sense of community, these nods in the hallway that says ‘I’ve got your back.’” The students that “flourish” are those that are involved in the school community and community at large by participating on clubs and teens.

This is something Shane already knew. Growing up in northern Toronto, he moved and had to go to a new high school where he knew no one. “There were 1300 kids and I didn’t have any friends. I went to my guidance counselor to transfer and he gave me a list and said I had to join five of the clubs on the list and come back in two weeks.” The result: “Something so simple changed my whole life. The only reason I felt like an outcast was because I was acting like one.” That experience became the basis for Shane’s school project freshman year which grew into him founding "Count Me In" while he was just a junior.

The big reveal comes at the end of the season of “Undercover High” when Shane tells his classmates who he really is. Their biggest shock: his age. After hearing his story, said Shane, the kids knew “I had their best interest at heart.” And there was a ripple effect: the school is implementing a series of changes based on the recommendations that were made after production wrapped including a club for teen moms. Do you feel as old as I do right now?

A&E will roll out digital content related to "Undercover High," including a short-form series touching on very topical issues facing teens and has partnered with Crisis Text Line, a not-for-profit organization that provides free crisis intervention via SMS message that will be offered across the network's platforms as a resource for viewers. The network also created a scholarship fund administered by the Topeka Public Schools Foundation aimed at providing enhanced learning and achievement opportunities for Highland Park High School students. The series’ production company, Lucky 8 TV, is also donating resources towards a new media center being established in the school district.

Trust me, this show is worth watching.

Sights & Sounds Around the Room

Frank McCourt on Table One … Andrew Stein chatting with a brunette gal on Table Three … Producer Joan Gelman with the one and only grand dame of radio, Joan Hamburg, who interviewed me about my new book on her radio show on 77 WABC last week. Thanks for making me sound so good. Joan and Joan were with two friends named – wait for it – Joan.

In the middle of the room Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer at their usual table (six) for their weekly lunch. I always stop to talk to these guys if I can because they are such gentlemen – and always interesting and funny to boot. Jerry, as you probably know, is the husband of the fabulous Judy Licht … Also at his usual perch: New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia with Brooke Hayward on Table Eight … Joan Jakobson was right across the way on eleven.

More sightings This week’s best dressed couple Rich Wilke and birthday boy Steven Stolman (whose being feted here tomorrow night) in matching blinding white shirts and blue blazers on Table Fifteen. A little birdie told me Steven has just inked a deal to do his fifth book for Gibbs-Smith – a monograph of the visionary architect Wade Weissmann entitled Heirloom Homes. Sounds swanky, doesn’t it?

I also ran into my good friend Lisa Linden, CEO on LAK PR who introduced me to Christopher Perez, SVP asset management and leasing, for Mitsui Fudosan America. Lisa, you should know, knows every important person who has anything to do with the running of the city.

Spotted around the room: WWD’s baron of beauty (my title, not his) Pete Born and producer Beverly Camhe fresh off a trip to the Toronto Film Festival where she told me “There were so many filmed directed by women!” One to watch for: Lady Bird directed by indie actress Greta Gerwig. “I think it’s going to win an Oscar!” cheered Bev.

 - Diane Clehane

New York Fashion Cool-Aid® by Laurel Marcus

MoMa's "Items: Is Fashion Modern?" is a Clothing Time Capsule

Red Gore-Tex Parka across from Red A-POC (Issey Miyake)
All photos Laurel Marcus
Click images for full size views

Can you name 111 garments that changed the world? The Museum of Modern Art decided to turn this challenge into an exhibition entitled "Items: Is Fashion Modern?" to open on October 1 (through January 28). "Items" seeks mostly to highlight the "stereotype" of each familiar garment, meaning that which you would see if you close your eyes and thought about the object.

The 111 garments listed

The exhibition hews to the generic although there are outliers here and there, maybe indicative of NYC, in which the example is an elevated version of something utilitarian becoming high fashion -- (think Prada rather than Jansport backpack).

More LBD's including Mugler, Versace, Rick Owens

When presenting a few categories such as the Little Black Dress several examples are shown to include the various archetypes, shapes or evolution of the design species. Not to be missed: the creepy Little Black (Death) Dress prototype by Pia Interlandi which uses thermochromic ink to simulate touch.

Revlon Fire & Ice Lipstick

Other prototypes that hint at future designs made possible through technology, social dynamics, aesthetics, or political awareness include Lucy Jones' Seated Pantyhose, designed for those who are wheelchair bound. These eradicate the need for the standing tug normally required when donning panty hose and are featured in the undergarment section along with an already existing modern feat of technology/engineering: the Wonderbra.

Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Glenn D. Lowry, Director

Tuesday morning's press preview included a talk or conversation presented in the theatre with the Senior Curator of the Department of Architecture and Design Paola Antonelli and MoMA Director Glenn D. Lowry. I learned that there's a good reason that I couldn't recall another MoMA fashion exhibition (or to be more accurate "a design show that takes fashion as its focus") -- there hasn't been one since 1944!

Chanel Evening Dress 1925-27, Charles Creed, Utility, Autumn 1942, Dior Two-Piece Evening Dress ca. 1950, Givenchy, 1968

"Every 70 years please come back for a fashion show," quipped Lowry. The current exhibition's title riffs off of that of architect and curator Bernard Rudofsky's "Are Clothes Modern?" which dealt with the status of clothing standards in the waning era of World War II "when conventions were being questioned but old attitudes still prevailed" while it "sought to have the public reconsider their relationship with the clothes they wore, and with the designers and systems that produced those clothes."

Stephen Burrows jumpsuit 1974, Richard Malone Jumpsuit Specimen 2017

"The term 'Item' really resonated with fashion people," explained Antonelli on her choice for a one word moniker encompassing the idea of individual objects that stand for whole periods or segments of time in fashion history. "When I came to MoMA 23 years ago the museum owned no fashion except for an early-twentieth century Delphos dress by Mariano Fortuny, acquired in 1987." For this exhibition, an international advisory committee was assembled including scholars, journalists and designers, the likes of editor/curator Penny Martin, designer Shayne Oliver, and Kim Hastreiter and Mickey Boardman of Paper Magazine.

Platforms A-Plenty

Antonelli spoke of cultural touchstones such as the humble hoodie -- originally created in the 1930's to keep athletes warm, which has since become fraught with social and political associations. "The wearer can have the false impression of being invisible while other people may perceive you as menacing. These articles become imbued with so much power. Anything that you wear can be powerful or can be a symbol," the Milan native continued. "Even the three piece suit could be worn by a bodyguard while the guy (or girl) in the white t-shirt could be the "most dominant person in the room."


Originally there were 99 items which eventually grew to 111, however the public is encouraged to add to the list by using the #ItemsMoMA. Incidentally, many people are convinced that several VIG's (very important garments) were omitted judging by the crowd today. Walking through the exhibition of displayed, sometimes glass showcased prosaic normcore: the Dockers chino pant, Levi's 501 jean, Gore-Tex parka, Woolrich plaid flannel shirt, Lacoste polo, Champion hoodie, Patagonia fleece, Hanes white tee, Bass loafers, Danskin leotard, Brooks Brothers oxford-cloth button down, black turtleneck, Ray Ban Aviator, Tevas, Havaianas flip flops, Olof Daughters clogs, graphic t-shirts, Dr. Martens, Swatch watches and a Fitbit, to rattle off just a few, gave me an eerie feeling. What if this was a gigantic time capsule to be opened by future Martians beamed down to Earth; this is how they'd discover the way people dressed and lived in the 20th and 21st centuries? Beam me up Scotty...there's not a lot of interesting fashion here.

Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking, Rudi Gernreich Unisex Project

The exhibition starts out strong with the aforementioned various incarnations of the LBD including examples from Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, Thierry Mugler, Arnold Scaasi. A Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche (1966) Le Smoking tuxedo evening suit stands next to two Rudi Gernreich Unisex Project (1970) knit jumpsuits. Fun fact: the first LBD was created long before Coco entered the scene -- 15th century Spanish aristocracy wore black dresses produced through an expensive dye process to convey privilege and distinction.

Schott Motorcycle Jacket, Asher Levine Leather, Synthetics, LED Biker Jacket, Westwood-McLaren God Save The Queen T-Shirt

Another highlight is the "punkish" section with the Schott Perfecto leather biker jacket; the prototype Asher Levine leather, polymer, and LED's glowing jacket (2017); leather pants, and Vivienne Westwood/ Malcolm McLaren screenprint "God Save the Queen" aka the Cecil Beaton photograph of Queen Elizabeth II irreverently shown with-a-safety pin-through-her-lip muslin tee. I'm not understanding the three different examples of black knit balaclavas and a Keffiyeh so much. Even surgical facemasks are being promoted as a fashion statement here -- is that really a thing? Apparently so, as there's a Zhijun Wang Sneaker Mask (2016) from the Yeezy Boost collection along for the ride.

Shift Dresses

The section of shift dresses shows how in opposition to the little black dress which shape shifts, here the silhouette never changes but the patterns and colors do. Selections are from varied designers: Hussein Chalayan, Helmut Lang, Lilly Pulitzer, Paco Rabanne, Anne Klein, Stella McCartney and a Harry Gordon paper Poster Dress of Bob Dylan.

Richard Nicoll, Optic Slip Dress 2017

Interestingly, in the down coat section there are doppelgangers to the Museum at FIT "Expedition" exhibition (which I just covered) including a Harper's Bazaar (October 1938) photo of a model in the Charles James evening puffer featured (the real thing is at MFIT), as well as a modern version of the Norma Kamali sleeping bag coat in red (FIT's is a vintage black one). Speaking of red -- the juxtaposition of the A-POC Queen Textile (Issey Miyake) dress (APOC stands for "a piece of cloth") which really does look regal across from the pedestrian red Champion hoodie (thank goodness it's not the pretentious Vetements version) is an interesting contrast.

Donna Karan's 1980's Seven Easy Pieces Have Not Aged So Well

Other items of fashion interest which made the list? How about slip dresses, shirt dresses, jumpsuits, platform shoes, a collection of Margiela Tabi boots, a look from the 1994 Anglomania collection Kilt remade by Vivienne Westwood, a Birkin and other handbags, swimwear from the bikini to the burkini and Donna Karan's Seven Easy Pieces concept meant to enable the '80's career woman wishing to dress appropriately for any occasion. News flash: everything is seriously dated in this collection save the black suede belt with the large sculptural gold buckle that I remember coveting and would still wear.

Dapper Dan Monogram Jackets

What someone at the Q&A termed "ghetto fashion" is represented by the Dapper Dan 1980's Alpo Coat as well as a pair of enormous silver Door-knocker earrings.  Just about every ethnicity is featured from Kippah, to Kente cloth, from Hijab to Sari, from Salwar kameez to Cheongsam and from Guayabera to Dashiki.

Armani Suits.

Cultural appropriation is delineated here in how items migrate across communities or when objects born of the subculture are adapted by the mainstream without giving credit.   Also weighing in on the political scale, the athleisure or sports section features the jersey of someone who likes to keep a "low profile"  namely Colin Kaepernick.

With this exhibition MoMA declares fashion as an important art form and aims to show that they do not fear fashion anymore. Director Lowry noted that we all get dressed every day and make a statement (intentional or otherwise) about ourselves in doing so. "What we wear, writ large, is part of who we are and design affects who we are all the time," explained Lowry.

So, which Items didn't make the final cut? Those which ultimately got the boot according to Curatorial Assistant Michelle Millar Fisher include the wedding dress, the Hazmat suit and the sock. Come to think of it, socks deserve an exhibition all their own; particularly if someone can empirically determine which alternate dimension the mate to your favorite pair legs it off to on laundry day.

- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Star-Studded Opera Gala Raises $4.3 Million

The Opera Norma
All photos Lieba Nesis
Click images for full size views

In another typical boring Monday night in New York City the elite of New York gather at the Metropolitan Opera House to be dazzled, and wowed for the opening night premiere of "Norma." This evening ushered in the exciting season of the Opera with the 157th Met performance of Bellini's "Norma. I never heard of Norma and was unsure as to what to expect but after attending this event for years tonight was the most spectacular.

Lead Soprano Joyce DiDonato and Richard and Carol Miller

The breathtaking performances of Sopranos Sondra Radvanovsky and Joyce DiDonato elevated the evening to an otherworldly level with these two mesmerizing singers astounding the attendees with hours of melodious notes that had me in tears. Normally there is one superstar who regaled the audience with her talent but tonight there were at least two with tenor Joseph Calleja also giving a magnificent performance. This was opera at its finest and the illustrious crowd was in love.

Jean and Martin Shafiroff

There were plenty of philanthropists on hand to experience this extravaganza including: Ann Ziff (donating $50 Million), Veronica Atkins, Sana Sabbagh, John Paulson, Jean and Martin Shafiroff, and many others. The night which usually attracts hordes of celebrities fell a bit short with thespians Jemima Kirke, Jill Hennessy, Jennifer Esposito, Erin Richards, Jesse Ferguson, Josh Lucas and Paul Sorvino being a couple of the luminaries gracing the event.

Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall

The evening began with the national anthem which everyone stood up for; General Manager Peter Gelb later joked that you couldn't tell if the singers were on their knees since the curtains were down. At approximately 6:40 PM the opera began and for the next three and a half hours we were treated to the Opera Olympics. Bellini's opera has long been underappreciated by the masses who complain that his operas are banal. However, as time has passed his works have received accolades for their superbly lyrical and long-breathed melodies.

Andrew Saffir, Daniel Benedict, Zani Gugelmann, Jamie Tisch and Sandy Brant

Singing his arias are considered an artistic Mount Everest and he has been admired by some of the greats including Wagner. Norma is the hardest part for any soprano with its wide range of emotions and incredible technical range required for the main character.

Cristen and Nigel Barker with Kimberly Hise

It revolves around a classic love triangle where the title character, a druidic high priestess, is engaged in an illicit relationship with the enemy Pollione but he abandons her and is seduced by Norma's younger colleague Adalgisa. With no way out Norma sacrifices herself and moves Pollione to do the same in the riveting finale where both die in typical opera fashion-usually one protagonist dies.

Elaine Yemchuk, Ebon Moss and actress Jemima Kirke

The soprano/mezzo Act II duet "Mira, o Norma" was sensational with the blending and contrasting voices of superstars Radvanovsky and DiDonato complementing each other and leaving a haunting imprint on the audience with their confrontational beginning culminating in a lugubrious unification.

Actress Jill Hennessy and Angela Mastropietro

This opera was all about the women regardless of whether both were in love with the same man and it showcased the female voice in all its glory. The climax of the opera occurs when Norma reveals to her people that she has violated her vows. At this critical moment Bellini strips away the orchestra leaving Norma's voice as bare as her character.

Actor Jesse Ferguson and Justin Mikita

Bellini continually exposes the inner life of his characters even if it means jettisoning the typical operatic forms and gives us a peek into the emotions of his character. There were only two sets used through the duration of the opera, although set designer Robert Jones told me he had prepared for this for four years, and the costumes were drab with brown and green schmattas adorning the singers. This night was all about the voices and nothing was going to detract.

Dee Dee Benkie and actor and husband Paul Sorvino

The performance which ended at 10:00 PM was greeted with ovation after ovation a rare occurrence at any performance. This audience knows their opera and if they stand they mean it. As guests headed to the outdoor tents for dinner with tickets beginning at $1,500 and climbing upwards of $10,000 Ann Ziff made the announcement that more than $4.3 million was raised.

Jessica Henriquez and Actor Josh Lucas

Bill de Blasio also showed up, revealing that he could not make it to the opera since he had other obligations but as an Italian could remember his grandfather whistling arias. He praised the opera and its attendees commenting that most people today have the attention span of a Twitter message. De Blasio said he was hoping Amazon would station their headquarters in New York remarking that what makes New York so unique is its cultural life including Lincoln Center.

Lead Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, Emma Spiteri Gonzi, lead tenor Joseph Calleja and Duncan Lear

Peter Gelb echoed this sentiment by thanking Sir David McVicar for his incredible direction and Carlo Rizzi who was a phenomenal conductor. As midnight struck I spotted the magnificent Radvanovsky who said she has sung Norma more than 80 times and prepares for this role by singing every day and doing physical exercise.

General Manager of the Opera Peter Gelb and Bill de Blasio

When I asked if she was nervous she replied, "yesterday I was but tonight a calm set over me and I couldn't figure out why until I realized it was my dad's birthday. I could feel him watching over me in heaven and that informed my performance." A miraculous conclusion to an evening whose performances must have involved divine providence.

- Lieba Nesis