Thursday, November 30, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

Catherine Malandrino Debuts "A Femme Francaise" at French Institute/Alliance Francaise

My first thoughts when I heard that fashion designer Catherine Malandrino was giving a talk with Kristen Ingersoll, Fashion and Entertainment Director of Hearst Magazines International, and a signing of her new book "Une Femme Francaise: The Seductive Style of French Women" at FIAF were "Oh, what is she doing after selling her company in 2013?" followed by "Mon Dieu! Do we really need yet another book on French style?"

In the interest of true investigative reporting, I decided to find out the answers to these burning questions. As FIAF President Marie-Monique Steckel pointed out there was a little event taking place at Rockefeller Center (the Christmas tree lighting) concurrently however Ms. Malandrino still has what it takes to sell out FIAF's 8th floor Sky Room.

Catherine Malandrino and Kristen Ingersoll
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Ingersoll began by asking Malandrino why she wrote this (her first) book. "I love words," said the author. "I wanted to write about the challenges, difficulties and successes -- about the special journey for a French woman." Malandrino, who started her company in New York in 1998 after having worked at Feraud, Ungaro, and DVF, added that she needed some perspective on her residential dichotomy when writing -- "a clear vision of the other side" as she calls it. "When I am in New York, they say I'm very Parisian, when I'm in Paris they say I am very American."

According to Malandrino there is a very different point of view of success in the two cultures. "Americans are all about the money, in France success equals harmony -- it's a little more complicated; Money is not the only thing that makes us happy and complete. There are different goals and a different lifestyle. The little pleasures like waking up with the sun, having my little cup of coffee, the little romance in life.

The pleasure of life is in the details -- money and success are only one part of it. Americans must learn some joie de vivre." That includes no plastic utensils or paper plates, ever -- if you must do takeout it should be served on nice china preferably with wine, a floral arrangement and candles -- no TV!

The book which I received for review, includes whimsical drawings, tips on where to dine in Paris, quotations from famous French style authorities, as well as the biographical and anecdotal details on how she grew up in the mountains of Grenoble, loving nature but longing for the big city of Paris with its chic style. In the opening pages she explains how she was obsessed with her grandmother's sewing machine and eventually her very own portable machine, detailing how as a young girl she secretly opened the seams on her mother's only Chanel jacket to learn how it was constructed and then carefully sewing it back. After confessing, rather than being angry, her home maker mother who raised her and her sisters to believe they could do anything they set their minds to, only wished that she had been there to share the experience -- Incroyable!

Photo: Laurel Marcus

The talk was accompanied by rotating slides: various old school French women like Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve, next generation stylish filles such as Vanessa Paradis or Marion Cotillard, some wearing lingerie, some in the easy menswear inspired looks that are considered classically French looks, as well as a slide of various celebrities wearing Malandrino's iconic flag dress and another of her "Easy Rider" inspired nail head embellished leather jackets. These supplied a brief visual retrospective on her solo design career and a commentary on her ideas on Gallic chic. "French elegance is still very much alive. French women keep it light.  There is no book of rules -- no need to be perfect as Americans often do."

The Flag Dress"

Of course let's talk about the flag dress! "When the flag dress came out in August, right before September 11, I didn't have a message -- I was just paying homage to America. I was inspired by the open land, free spirit, strong women but not the America of Bush. I wanted to bring power and confidence to women and the freedom of the "Easy Rider" movie," she said citing the film that is one of her lasting influences. "In France you don't show the flag like Americans -- you only see the Tricolor on July 14th. I wanted to be part of that -- this dress has become the symbol of women after Meryl Streep wore it at the Democratic convention."

Book signing
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Although Malandrino wanted to see a female president and remarked on how close we got, she doesn't consider herself a man-hating feminist, but maybe a "feminine feminist." This lead to her discussion of seduction. "Every woman is dreaming about being seduced -- it is extremely important for a designer to be seductive but it has nothing to do with harassment" she was quick to add in today's troubled climate. The still sexy 54-year-old complained of American men's inattention to women, their lack of etiquette (she has taught her 20 year-old son to respect women by holding doors among other things), and perhaps their fear of being charged with harassment. She wants men to notice her and act romantic and doesn't believe in a group of only females getting together -- "If we don't have men, what are we going to talk about?" If you do have a man in your life she warns against becoming overly familiar. "Complete nudity shouldn't be easily given away. The long seduction moment is a process -- the longer the better," she adds. On her fears? "I was afraid of heights so I had to jump from a plane. You must push your boundaries -- French women are more likely to do that."

As for what is in her future plans -- "I have so much envie (desire)! You keep young and active but as a French woman I am mysterious and don't want to give it away."

- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid® by Laurel Marcus

David Hockney Makes His Proud Return to The Met Museum

Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy 1970-71
Photos of artwork by Laurel Marcus

In a career that has spanned nearly 60 years, British Artist David Hockney has explored multiple areas of the art world including painting, drawing, printmaking, stage design, photography and video to great acclaim, however he may have just received one of his biggest honors right here in New York. "I'll never forget the smile on his face when I told him the show right next door is Michelangelo," said Sheena Wagstaff, the Leonard A. Lauder Chairman for Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum. Aha, so this explains the long lines of people in the cold awaiting entry, lining the steps of the museum before it opened this morning -- Michelangelo just opened last week,

Mt. Fuji and Flowers, 1972

Yesterday I attended a press preview for Hockney's upcoming exhibition (November 27 - February 25, 2018) at The Met Museum. This is to be the only North American venue for the exhibition (the last Hockney exhibition was in 1988), which has already traveled from the Tate Britain, London and, most recently, the Centre Pompidou in Paris. It also marks the homecoming of two of his major paintings including "Mt. Fuji and Flowers" (1972) which is apparently the Museum's best selling postcard -- outselling Monet, Van Gogh and even The Met's famed Christmas tree.

Man in Shower in Beverly Hills, 1964

This retrospective of Hockney's career encompasses works from 1960 to the present. It fills eight rooms or galleries, mostly in chronological order, spanning from the graphic, often homosexuality themed paintings of his days at the Royal College of Art in London to his relocation in 1963 to Southern California, a place that lived up to his fantasies with its rolling hills, backyards and swimming pools. Of his 1967 painting "A Lawn Being Sprinkled" he remarked "In LA the rain comes from the ground."

Large Interior, Los Angeles, 1988.

A few Picasso inspired cubist works are here in the shape of medical and office buildings while Hockney's famed life-sized double portraits including one of Celia Birtwell and Designer Ossie Clark are on view in the next room. There are line drawing portraits of his mother and father, his boyfriends, Andy Warhol, and others. Many of his earlier paintings have curtains in the foreground, alluding to his time spent designing theater sets.

Gregory Swiming

A small number of photographs are shown  including his individual Polaroids arranged in collage compositions to form "Gregory Swimming," (Los Angeles, March 31st, 1982) as well as a photo collage of his mother sitting among the ruins at Bolton Abbey.

Canyon Painting, 1978

A room of mural sized landscapes include his stylized, colorized vision of the Grand Canyon which he would often drive through on his way West, and a winter view of "The Tunnel" near his studio in Bridlington, Yorkshire. As is evident here, Hockney doesn't believe that rules should govern artistic freedom. He is quoted as having said that "there are no borders when it comes to painting -- no frontiers just art."

Sheena Wagstaff, Ian Alteveer, Meredith Brown

Curator Ian Alteveer spoke briefly of Hockney's many artistic influences including Matisse, Van Gogh, Fauvre, Picasso, Chinese scrolls and, in particular, Fra Angelico's 15th century work "The Annunciation, which looks to me like it could have influenced his double portraits.

A Bigger Splash, 1967

Bringing this exhibition full circle back to The Met, is a 1968-9 double or pairs portrait depicting then Met Modern and Contemporary Art Curator Henry Geldzahler and his then partner, painter Christopher Scott. Geldzahler was known to befriend many of the artists of the day and was even a subject of a 1964 Andy Warhol silent film in which he smoked a cigar for 97 minutes while becoming increasingly agitated.

David Hockney

About halfway through the speeches I realized that David Hockney himself, a nattily dressed older gentleman, was in attendance. Fashion conscious from way back in the '60s when he wore a gold lamé jacket to receive a medal, he was regularly photographed as part of the swinging London scene, often making the pages of the new celebrity glossies. "I'd like to say that it's a marvelous exhibition," said Hockney. "I want my work to be seen -- I don't have to be seen. Thank you very much."

Blue Terraces, 2013

Lest you think that an 80-year-old would not be up on new technology, the last gallery proves you wrong. Hockney had embraced the iPad in the early 2000's using it to draw what he saw looking out his bedroom window while in Bridlington. Those sketches can be seen here as they automatically scroll through to display "Views through the Artist's Bedroom Window, Bridlington."During the summer of 2013, Hockney moved back to his Hollywood Hills home which he had decorated in living color back in the 1980's. The cobalt blue decking, bright pink stucco wall combined with the bright green grass make a striking composition for an artist who is still going strong and staying true to his roots.

Reproduced Section of the Sistine Chapel ceiling

Afterwards, I couldn't resist a brief nip next door. The Michelangelo exhibition was very crowded so I quickly snaked my way through the galleries containing many figurative drawings and a few sculptures. Finally, I looked up and was rewarded with this recreation of a section of the Sistine Chapel.

- Laurel Marcus

Sunday, November 19, 2017

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

The Sexiest and Un-Sexiest Men Of 2017

I am sitting here dumbfounded as I read this month's "People's Sexiest Man Alive" issue. While last year I lamented the predictability of a Dwayne Johnson cover and found 2015's David Beckham plain boring this year's choice was downright inexplicable. Anxiously anticipating this monumental double issue yearly special I was sadly disappointed by Editorial Director Jess Cagle's introduction where he calls this "the annual ritual of silliness."

All the years I wrote analytical articles dissecting this pivotal decision were torn to shreds by the head of the magazine. Hey Jess if it's so silly why print it? Jess then goes on to talk about the fact that "every day another famous man is being exposed as a sexual predator"- can we just call him "Jess the Downer." He then claims this issue celebrates men "who do good as well as look good"- if that's the case where's the Pope in this issue? You forgot to include Sully or all the cops and heroes who save people for little money on a daily basis. I am just curious as to what good Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent and Ryan Gosling do-aside from making a lot of money and having nice abs.

Jess then says, "Blake Shelton is sexy because he's sweet the kind of guy who would pull over and fix your flat tire; a guy who says he tries, every day, to put the woman he loves on a pedestal." This statement is wrong in so many ways. First of all he should have called the issue the "Sexiest guy who will fix your flat tire" not the "Sexiest Man Alive". Moreover, Blake may say he loves to put his woman on a pedestal but he has a pretty nasty divorce with Miranda Lambert under his cowboy belt - why don't we ask Miranda what she thought of him when he was flirting with young contestants on "The Voice" while being married.

I did learn from a television interview that the reason Gosling has not been chosen as a cover boy is because he has refused to be interviewed and photographed for the pictorial. Shelton might have been tenth on the list but the only one willing to appear on the cover - a bit of a consolation. I was actually coming to terms with the Blake Shelton choice as he's got a nice head of hair and has lost some weight over the years. I even began fantasizing about him picking me up on his horse for a date in the wild countryside with his cute Southern accent - that is until I read his cringe worthy interview. "Do you ever walk around the house without any clothes,?" the People interviewer inquired. Shelton answered, "I wouldn't want my dog to see me naked. It's like half-melted vanilla ice cream with little hairs stuck to it. That's what I look like naked."

Wow! If that isn't cause to revoke the "Sexiest Man Title" I am not sure what is. What happened to George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt - even Mel Gibson is looking sexy right now - okay maybe not. The inside of the issue is not much better with a whole section I found both corny and confusing entitled "studies have shown that pets make guys substantially sexier" and then pairing Jimmy Fallon with his dog Gary, Wiz Khalifa with his pet Max, Scott Eastwood with lab Fred and Bobby Flay with cat Nacho. I am baffled as to whether these men and their pets are included in the list of Sexiest Men or if it's just a suggestion to men as to how to increase their sexy quotient. Maybe People should have a "Sexiest Pet Alive" issue as an addendum - that would be fun.

The section on sexy newsmen which includes Anderson Cooper, Willie Geist, Jake Tapper and Shepard Smith left me going "Really"- did we have to go there. Next People revealed from a public poll what celeb feature "set pulses racing" with Andy Cohen's hair being the first item chosen -interesting choice of words considering Kathy Griffin accused him of offering her cocaine. Sorry Barack's smile is cute and Kit Harington's butt is nice but my pulse hasn't skipped a beat. The last item I will take issue with is the page "Sexy at Every Age" which includes James Corden, Aaron Paul, Sam Smith, Stanley Tucci and Matthew Modine - no commentary needed. In fact the sexiest man in the whole issue was the model advertising HIV drug Truvada - he is an absolute stunner. While last year I picked the men I thought were sexiest this year there were so many men behaving badly I will include an "The Un-Sexiest Men Alive" list.

The Five Un-Sexiest Men of 2017:

1. Harvey Weinstein - this 65 year-old lecher comes in first place with over 80 women accusing him of some type of sexual assault. Harvey apparently drew up a list of over 100 people to discover what they knew about his sexual misconduct and if they intended to go public. Poor Harvey went from Hollywood mogul to near fugitive within weeks. Even A-listers Gwyneth and Angelina joined the dozens of women claiming harassment. It seems the only women Harvey didn't accost were Meryl Streep and Judi Dench. Even Harvey’s magnificent wife Georgina Chapman filed for divorce due to his "unforgivable actions." Goldman Sachs recently wrote down the value of their stake in the Weinstein Company to zero. Hey Harvey you recently said everyone deserves a second chance but I am not sure you fall into that category - your best second chance might be heading to Brazil before the police get hold of you.

2. Larry David - the only thing less sexy then appearing on SNL to joke about sexual harassment in your monologue is a 70-year-old joking on SNL about picking up women in a concentration camp. This is beyond bad taste and exemplifies a desperate desire to gain attention. Only one woman has been brave enough to marry this misogynist. Isn't being a billionaire good enough for you Mr. David? I hope this puts an end to your career. By the way, please retire the Bernie Sanders imitation he is no longer a candidate and it gets old just like you.

3. Al Franken - Senator Al of Minnesota has been caught red handed - if pictures tell a thousand words than I need say nothing more.

4. Louis C.K. - masturbating in front of women when you look like Louis is akin to inflicting Chinese torture. Moreover, while this man acknowledged doing so he never apologized and said he would be "listening more." Thankfully, his new movie "I Love You Daddy," which makes light of incest has been pulled from distribution - some things just aren't funny. This man lost his manager, publicist, network and streaming service. I am hopeful he and his creepy red beard will fade into the sunset.

5. Kevin Spacey - this man was never a looker but making passes at dozens of boys and men is deplorable. While this two time Oscar winner has enormous talent his sexual appetite and ego are similarly oversized. How this 58-year-old was allowed to continually abuse subordinates is a mystery. Sorry Kevin the "Cards" have turned against you this year.

Ending Thanksgiving on a positive note I would like to choose The Five Sexiest Men of 2017:

1. Nick Bateman: This 30-year-old 6' 4" inch Instagram star with 6.7 million followers is also a martial artist, winning four world titles, and an actor. Hailing from Burlington, Ontario this brunette from Canada has abs made of steel and a chest that is Herculean. I met him this year at The Harper's Bazaar Icon Party and he was humble and kind. Nick frequently posts about his mother's brave battle with cancer and doesn't take himself too seriously. This man has a "huge" career on the horizon.

2. Tristan Thompson: This 26-year-old may be known as Khloe's better half but this tall glass of water is an accomplished ball player having helped the Cavaliers win an NBA championship in 2016. He is handsome and discreet and continues to prove he is the perfect boyfriend. He and Khloe Kardashian are expecting a baby and I hope this 6' 9" hottie enjoys impending fatherhood

3. Rob Thomas: Nothing is sexier than a man who stands by his magnificent ailing wife. This 45-year-old is one of the most talented musicians on the planet - excelling in singing, songwriting and producing. He and his wife Marisol continue to bravely confront her battle with Lyme disease - hats off to Mr. Thomas.

4. Alex Rodriguez: Talk about a resurrection this 42-year-old former player for the New York Yankees went from oblivion to superstardom after hooking up with J.Lo. They continue to be the hottest couple on the planet and are one of the few to appear jointly on the cover of Vanity Fair. Alex is now a TV Personality on Shark Tank, Fox Sports 1 and The ABC News network. Alex seems to be the perfect boyfriend and father and I am predicting an imminent wedding.

5. Brad Pitt: While he may no longer have the chiseled abs or perfectly smooth face this man acted nobly during his brutal divorce and Hollywood took notice by giving him a well deserved standing ovation at the 2016 Golden Globe Awards.& In May 2017 he gave an intimately personal GQ interview in which he confessed to being an alcoholic-this was brave beyond words. Angelina might not want him but there are thousands of others who do. Hoping the future turns brighter for this devoted dad!

- Lieba Nesis

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

FGI "Tastemakers" Presents Norma Kamali & Anna Sui at 21 Club

Anne Fulenwider, Anna Sui & Norma Kamali
Photos courtesy of FGI - click images for full size views

Question: What could be better than starting off your day with a breakfast at the 21 Club? Answer: When that breakfast is part of the "Tastemakers" series hosted by Fashion Group International featuring a conversation between two living legend fashion designers: Norma Kamali and Anna Sui. Throw in yogurt parfait, and clearly, my morning couldn't get any better.

Both FGI President Margaret Hayes and moderator Anne Fulenwider, EIC of Marie Claire, introduced Kamali and Sui as "two fiercely independent women," while Fulenwider went on to point out that the two have "quite different aesthetics and visions yet are similar in history and heritage." After thanking sponsors Macy's and Interparfums, Fulenwider turned attention to Norma Kamali who she attributed with the kickoff of the activewear trend as well as "the development of a parachute coat that became the precursor to the puffer that we see everywhere." Of Sui, Fulenwider spoke of her rock & roll aesthetic and mentioned her recent solo show at the London Textile Museum -- the first ever for an American designer.

It was a love fest between the two designers with Sui remarking that she had once moved to be near the Norma Kamali boutique. Fulenwider pointed out that both designers are daughters of immigrants -- Kamali of Lebanese and Basque descent, Sui of Chinese descent whose parents met while studying in Paris. Both were raised in families that expressed the importance of working hard and excelling in their chosen professions.

Norma Kamali, Anna Sui and Anne Fulenwider

Here are some highlights of the questions posed by Fulenwider to Kamali and Sui:

Anne Fulenwider -- "How did you earn your first dollar?"
Norma Kamali -- "It was working in my stepfather's candy store. I arranged all the candy bars by color and size. It was an obsessive kind of behavior. I also learned how to sell and how to make a New York City egg cream except that I was lactose intolerant so I couldn't drink them. I wanted to be a painter so I had to work to buy paint supplies and take classes. I went to FIT for fashion illustration because I thought that was a more certain way to make money than to be a fashion designer." She also told the story of her first job interview when the male interviewer had no interest in seeing her portfolio, only her rear view, and how that solidified her resolve to start her own company. Interestingly, I know she's been telling this story forever but it's now extremely timely with the subject of harassment arising everywhere.
Anna Sui -- "I worked at a dry cleaner and I loved it because there were some women who had designer clothes from Courreges and I was obsessed. In 1981 I became a started my line by accident and it was in Macy's and Bloomingdale's since those were the fashion stores at the time. By the late '80s I was in Barney's. Steven Meisel was my friend who took me to Paris for fashion week. On our way to a show we stopped at the Ritz to pick up Madonna. She was wearing a coat but when we got to the show she told me she had a surprise for me. She took it off and underneath she was wearing an Anna Sui dress!"

On their fashion breakthroughs Sui said: "It was the height of Chanel, Versace -- it was daunting to compete. The models like Linda and Naomi were generally in head to toe runway until suddenly it changed -- they were starting to imitate street style. I gave Linda a dress and when she went to Paris all the models wanted Anna Sui dresses." For Kamali the eureka moment came on a camping trip in the early '70s. "We used to go camping near The Narrows Bay, NY and canoe down the Delaware River. It was freezing and I had to use the bathroom so I unzipped and wrapped my sleeping bag around me and thought 'this is a great coat!'" She explained how she uses the NASA principle of cold and warm air exchange rather than down fill for warmth but remains true to the original pattern.

What are some of the hurdles these designers have faced? Kamali told the story about Halston's assistant stealing her bathing suit design which ended up attributed to Halston on the cover of Time Magazine. Kamali was actually remarkably Zen after the initial upset. "Other people will profit from what you've done but I always had another idea and maybe they don't." She let him off the hook after he floated a parachute down on her head from the balcony of Halston's duplex apartment giving her the idea to use parachute fabric.

Sui spoke about the pressures of doing a collection every season. "You have to come up with a concept, build the colors, fabrics etc. Then there's the challenge of the show and the reviews. We used to run to the newsstand early in the morning to buy all the papers to see what they thought. Now you get it more quickly on your phone." She also spoke of the challenges in building and keeping important industry relationships. "People change jobs and move around more," she added.

AF--"What are the last three purchases on your credit card?" Without hesitation Sui admitted they were shoes and clothing. Surprising no one, Kamali listed hers as "wellness, wellness, wellness" adding that "healthy is beautiful" and "when you are 72 you have to exercise every day."
AF--- "What gives you the greatest joy?"
NK -- Making women feel beautiful and giving other people joy.
AS-- Family, friends, work.
AF -- "Do you have a secret talent?"
AS-- Shopping! I know where to find anything.
NK -- I have no secrets."
AF -- "Any vices?"
NK-- Not knowing how to say 'no' to projects that there's no time for (to which her assistant in the audience nodded her head in the affirmative).
AS -- Shopping! When I'm traveling I'm always looking for a half hour to find a flea market."
AF -- "Karaoke favorites?"
NK -- Etta James, the blues.
AS -- I'm the worst singer -- I don't do Karaoke.
AF -- "What of the role of fame in fashion?"
AS-- I'm very private. I don't talk about my friends and private life.
NK-- I love being behind the scenes. I'd rather take your photo than you take mine. However I need to share my info with women -- it's my role now.
AF --  "What's on your nightstand?"
AS -- A book that I'm pretending to read and the remotes. My last binge was 'Stranger Things 2.'
NK -- A playground ball so I can do exercises in bed while I answer emails. I'm not a TV person...'Schitt's Creek' was my last binge watch.
AF -- "Any invention that you'd like to have?"
NK -- A driverless car. I'm not afraid after some of the rides I've taken with New York City cab drivers.
AS -- My nephew is a programmer and he's working on this app that coordinates dinner dates between you and your friends.
After a brief discussion about how the fashion industry is broken and should shift to sell clothing in season thereby thwarting some of the knock-offs seen at H&M and Zara (at least according to Kamali), the designers were given the choice of answering either "I wish that..." or "In another life..."
AS -- In another life I would be a rock star who has no schedule to make an album or tour as opposed to a fashion designer with a rigid schedule.
NK -- I wish that we could stop the objectification of women (and gay men). Objectification wears away at our self esteem and the secrets are devastating to our character and our worth. By sharing stories you cleanse and encourage others to do the same.

Writers note: if you go on there are videos of various women in the spirit of #MeToo, doing just that.

- Laurel Marcus

Friday, November 17, 2017

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

The Inside Story on Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

Diane Clehane & Sarah Cooper
Click images for full size views

For six seasons, the first commanding notes of Downton Abbey’s sweeping musical score elicited a downright Pavlovian response among the beloved series’ faithful fans. Sunday nights were certainly sacrosanct at my house when, for one blissful hour, I was transported across the pond to the post-Edwardian era and into the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their devoted servants who lived in a grandly iconic English country house.

I experienced that feeling again – and then some – earlier this week when I got a private behind the scenes tour of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition which opens to the public this Saturday. Fans of the show are sure to love this first-ever fully immersive multi-media experience set inside the world of Carnival Films’ award-winning global phenomenon. [Carnival Films is a division of NBCUniversal International Studios and one of the UK’s leading drama specialists] The exhibition space at 218 W 57th Street (between Broadway and Seventh Avenue) is positively stunning and recreates the world of Downton down to the smallest detail.

I was joined at Michael’s today by Sarah Cooper, chief operating officer of NBCUniversal International Studios, and Denise Bassett, SVP of Corporate Communications, who gave me the inside story of the incredible amount of work that went into creating what is sure to be one of the most talked about exhibitions in recent memory. Based in London, Sarah is in town to kick-off the exhibition with a series of events culminating with Friday night’s gala at the space with series’ stars Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary), Allen Leech (Tom Branson), Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates), Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore) and Sophie McShera (Daisy Mason).

The series, which aired on PBS’ Masterpiece, attracted an impressive 26 million viewers in its final season, is seen in over 250 territories around the world. “We were keenly aware that Downton has a fan base like no other program,” said Sarah. I ventured that the show’s stateside fans must be among the most passionate and she agreed. “The show’s popularity in the US reached a scale that told us the fans were passionate to experience the show in the round.”

The fans’ enduring affection for Downton is “a tribute to the characters Julian [Fellowes, the show’s writer and creator] and Gareth [Neame, executive producer] created and speaks to their creative genius,” said Sarah. The show’s “charming” cast of actors have always been very accessible to their fans and very supportive of the show. I’ve gone to many a panel discussion where every last one of them stayed until every fan had the chance to get a photo and briefly chat with them. Many of the actors came ‘back to Downton’ and got into again character to do all new material that was created especially for the exhibition. “There was this sense of the band is back together,” said Sarah. “They were all happy to be part of this family again.”

The presence of the actors and the grand scale of the series is deeply felt throughout the museum-quality exhibition in many ways. Visitors could easily spend hours poring over more than 1,000 items from the show beautifully staged on three floors ranging from an extensive selection of costumes and jewelry worn by Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Hugh Bonneville and Dame Maggie Smith to some of the series most recognizable sets. I don’t want to spoil the fun and give too much away, so I’ll just tell you this --- Visitors can walk through Downton Abbey above and below stairs and explore Mrs. Patmore’s bustling kitchen, the servants’ hall – with the bell board and Lady Mary’s bedroom -- all recreated to look just as they were on the series. There’s even an exact replica of the Crawley’s dining room that looks as if the family is about sit down to entertain in the grand style as was their custom. It is a truly dazzling set piece among a whole host of ‘wow’ moments.

“We were very keen to ensure the people at the heart of the show was part of the creative process,” said Sarah. Emmy-winning production designer Donal Woods, Anna Robbins, costume designer on seasons five and six and executive producer Liz Trubridge were all very involved in the creation of the exhibition.  “It was a deeply collaborative process,” said Sarah.

The Dowager Countess

No detail was too small in recreating the world of Downton. Anna Robbins posed the female mannequins just as a lady of the period would stand and gesture, explained Sarah. The result is when you look at certain mannequins, you can literally see the characters come to life before your eyes. Lady Mary lives! The same precision was applied to the set decoration. “There’s a certain shade of Downton green,” explained Sarah in describing the color used in the house and was needed for the exhibition. “We knew we had to get it exactly right.” To that end, after lunch, Sarah was going off to do two final sound and light checks. “The lighting is key – especially with the costumes,” she explained. “All the sound levels have to be right. The ambient music has to be at different levels at different parts of the exhibition. All of this affects the overall experience. After we have people come through, we’ll be looking at them again.” Carson would be so proud.

Lady Mary Costume

And the exhibition isn’t just for fans of the show. In addition to revisiting the characters and the costumes, Downton Abbey: The Exhibition also offers a fascinating look at all aspects of the period in which the Carnival Films’ series was set. The events and social issues from World War I to the Roaring Twenties are woven seamlessly into the exhibition with an insightful and comprehensive look at British society, culture and fashion. “This is such an interesting period,” said Sarah. “We wanted to tell the story from an art and design standpoint as well and capitalize on the differences between characters,” explained Sarah. “The Dowager Countess was quite Victorian versus Sybil who was very much a Bohemian and Edith who was slightly Bloomsbury, very artistic and became this independent woman with a career.”

The costumes, all beautifully maintained, are sure to be of great interest to fashionistas everywhere. Curated by Anna Robbins, the characters’ lives are chronicled in a stunning array of many of the series’ most memorable costumes including Lady Mary’s ‘Engagement Dress’ worn in that unforgettable scene where Matthew proposes in the snow, Lady Sybil’s pantaloons which she boldly wore with an embroidered bodice and headpiece and Lady Rose’s ethereal gown and feathered headpiece worn when she was presented at court during the ‘London season. My personal favorites are the wedding dresses. Both of Lady Edith’s are on view. “They’re both so beautiful,” said Sarah. “But the second one really shows how Edith had become this very sophisticated woman who was comfortable in her own skin.” We were always #TeamEdith.

While diehard fans might not need to be reminded who wore what and when, each costume will be accompanied by a photograph of the character wearing the garment and a card explaining its significance.

Not that there’s any chance the exhibition will be anything less than a sell-out, there is plenty of promotion geared to entice visitors to the space. Sarah is meeting with concierges from the city’s top hotels to give them a first-hand look at the exhibition so they will be able to suggest a visit to guests in town for the holidays. An elaborate Downton-themed afternoon tea will be served at The Palm Court at The Plaza and special exhibition packages are available at The Whitby and the Viceroy Central Park Hotel. Downton Abbey: The Exhibition will run through January (and is open on Thanksgiving and Christmas if you’re looking for a good excuse to escape your relatives). Dates for national tour will be announced at a later date. See you there!

Lunch today at Michael's

Seen & Heard Around the Room

Mickey Ateyeh (who, you may recall, knows everyone in New York) with actor Tony Danza (who looked terrific) and Clive Davis, his husband Greg Schriefer and Tita Kahn widow and Michael Riedel of the New York Post on Table One. … Robert Zimmerman and the New York Post’s Richard Johnson on Two … In an encore of last week’s appearance Eva Mohr and Kathie Lee Gifford sipping – yes – chardonnay on Table Three … Leonard Lauder and a blonde gal (anyone?) on Four … Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman at his regular perch on Table Five … Andrew Stein on Six … Bookseller Glenn Horowitz on Table Seven ... Publicist to the fashionable and fabulous Hamilton South on Eight.

The big doings in the dining room on Table Fourteen started before lunch even began – the ‘body men’ for Phil Murphy, the newly elected governor of New Jersey, scoped out the dining room (“Where is the men’s room?”) before Mr. Murphy arrived with his wife and daughter. Celebrating his big win, no doubt.

Moving on … The networking champion Barry Frey having not one, but two lunches in the space of two hours. First, pre-noontime tea with Tim Bleakley, CEO of the Britain-based Ocean Outdoor UK followed by a sit-down with Marshall Sonenshine. How do you do it? … Producer Beverly Camhe on Twenty-two … Long time no see! Larry Kramer, Chairman of the Board of Directors of TheStreet with Harvard Business Publishing’s Josh Macht. Nice to meet you!

And finally, a few words about Liz Smith, who passed away earlier this week. Long before I started doing this column, I did an interview with Dominick Dunne who revealed to me he was battling cancer. It was the first time he had mentioned his illness in print. He was a good friend of Liz’s and after he told me, he worried she might be mad at him for not giving her the scoop. I had never met her, but a few days after the story ran, I received an envelope in the mail with her name in the upper left corner. Inside was the interview torn from the pages of the magazine with said paragraph circled in black ink. Attached was a note from Liz which read, “Well done!” I finally got to meet her years later at Michael’s (where else?) when our mutual friend Joe Armstrong introduced us. When I thanked her for her note she said, “Oh honey, I was mad but that’s yesterday’s news.” RIP Liz.

We’ll be off next week getting ready for the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving. See you back at Michael’s in two weeks!

- Diane Clehane

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Waxman Cancer Gala Raises Millions at Cipriani Wall Street

Marion Waxman, Wes Edens and Samuel Waxman
All photos Lieba Nesis - click images for full size views

The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation held Thursday its 20th Anniversary “Collaborating for a Cure Gala” at Cipriani Wall Street with cocktails beginning at 6:30 PM. This event was spearheaded by Bear Stearns employee Michael Nierenberg 20 years ago who learned the concept of giving back from CEO Ace Greenberg.

Elin, Michael and Jonny Nierenberg

Nierenberg has made this a go-to event on the calendar of 800 Wall Streeters raising more than $50 Million over the years to fund the research of scientists who have developed a cure for a devastating form of leukemia and made tremendous progress in treating melanoma, liver, prostate and breast cancers.

Ricardo Rodriguez, Matthew Lyons and Jim Cotins

The foundation which was founded by renowned oncologist Samuel Waxman in 1976 seeks to eradicate cancer by funding cutting-edge research which identifies and corrects abnormal gene function that causes cancer. The research is the basis for developing minimally toxic treatment for patients.

Left to Right: Howard Kurz and Gary Gladstein

The Waxman Foundation has awarded approximately $90 million since its inception to support the work of more than 200 researchers around the globe. Collaborating with world class scientists through its program "The Institute Without Walls" investigators share tools and research to improve the pace of cancer research.

Samuel Waxman with Matthew, Allie and Jody Gorin

Tonight a posthumous award was given to William Gorin, CEO of MFA Financial Inc., who lost his two-year battle with pancreatic cancer this past August. His wife Jody tearfully recalled his bravery in confronting the disease as emcee Chris Wragge, co-anchor of CBS 2 News This Morning, remarked on all the incredible people whose lives were lost to cancer this past year.

Auctioneer Hugh Hildesley

After cocktails and dinner Auctioneer Hugh Hildesley, Vice Chairman of Sotheby's NY, held an auction where $10,000 worth of John Varvatos items were given to a lucky bidder for $9,500. This is one of the only dinners that auctions off a dog and this year it was an adorable Cockapoo who was first bid on for $11,000 and when the bidder disappeared a substitute bidder took the dog for $9,000.

The auctioned Cockapoo

Some other items that received exorbitant prices were two tickets to Bruce Springsteen on Broadway which went for $17,000 and a six-person dinner at Rao's which fetched $21,000. Tonight I had the privilege of sitting near auctioneer Hugh Hildesley and asked how much he was paid to conduct the auction. His response was surprising informing me that he conducts 60 charity auctions a year for free helping to raise more than $20 million this year and more than $200 million in the past 20 years for various organizations. Hildesley has been assisting charities for 45 years and remarked that it was hard work.

Maria and Ken Fishel

He also expressed surprise at the recent sale of the Da Vinci for $400 million by his main competitor Christie's and recalled that Sotheby's had sold the Da Vinci to a European buyer years ago. Hildesley said Sotheby's does $6 to $8 billion a year in sales but you "are only as good as your next sale" he remarked, while he kept confidential the identity of prominent collectors. Hildesley is an excellent auctioneer and his British accent lends a certain gravitas to the process.

John Ryding Laura and Fred Barney

After the business portion of the evening was conducted, including a silent auction and an extremely efficient process of texting pledges to a telephone number with your name appearing on the screen, guests were treated to a delicious vanilla ice cream dessert and the lively performance of The Avett Brothers. Nierenberg informed me that more than $2 million had been raised this evening as he and his wife Elin joyfully embraced.

- Lieba Nesis

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid® by Laurel Marcus

From Photos to Footwear -- "Avedon: Something Personal" Book Launch & Trippen Shoe Store Opening

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Richard Avedon (1923-2004) was arguably the most in-demand fashion and portrait photographer of the past century. If you were anyone, he had taken your picture. From memorable advertising campaigns, to iconic fashion photographs for Harper's Bazaar and later Vogue, Avedon was the lensman.

Right: Barbara Tober

I attended the launch of "Avedon: Something Personal," to be released on November 21, yet available here at the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) fleetingly while supplies lasted; which was for about the first hour of a two hour long event. The dishy book featuring excerpts from those who knew and worked with Avedon along with his comments on various celebrities, is authored by his longtime collaborator and business partner Norma Stevens and writer Steven M.L. Aronson. Judging by this event, Avedon can still draw a killer guest list even from the great beyond. Patrick McMullan himself was there snapping away -- other attendees included Barbara Tober (the hostess of the event), Jean Shafiroff, Lauren Lawrence,  John Guare, Joan Hornig, Betsey McCaughey, Scott Corzine, Pia Lindstrom, Richard Johnson, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, Diana Mellon, Joanna Mastroaianni, Pamela Taylor Yates, and Pat Hackett.

Marsha Herman, James Kaliardos, Pat Cleveland, Norma Stevens, Tony Spinelli
Photos: Laurel Marcus

I got a chance to speak with one of Avedon's subjects, namely the lovely and multi-talented Pat Cleveland. I introduced myself by telling her that her June 2016 launch party for her book "Walking with the Muses," (See my article) has gone down in my limited history of attending fun soirees as one of the best ever (but more on that later). She informed me that she is a painter now with a show of her "small paintings" happening in London -- perhaps an exhibition in New York on the horizon.

Center: Diane Mellon;
 Right: author Steven M.L. Aronson

"I was interviewed for the book," she says. "People ask me what I remember of Avedon. We were always jumping around and being happy...he had so much energy. His assistants would try to keep up following behind with the umbrella." I mention the relative dearth of photos featured in the book: "It's a story book, everyone already knows the photos," she says.

Jean Shafiroff

Pat also lamented the demise of other photographers such as Bill Cunningham and how the New York Times has not really replaced him (not that he is replaceable) . Her husband Paul van Ravenstein joined us which calls for a recounting of how I enjoyed her party. It turns out that he was instrumental in making some of that happen because "she deserved a big party" and apparently her publisher was being a mite stingy. We reminisced about how Pat "serenaded" everyone a la Josephine Baker which led Paul to conclude "I'm a lucky guy."

Trippen boot collection

After the books were all sold and the room began to thin out, I made a break for my second destination of the evening -- the Trippen shoe store (243 Mulberry Street) opening in Noho. This little known sustainable company has been producing and manufacturing their unique product (since the early '90s) outside of Berlin and in Northern Italy. The brand only recently came onto my horizon when I saw a very limited selection of their boots in a store in Tribeca. Trippen prides themselves on creatively meeting the challenge of presenting shoe designs that have nothing to do with traditional shoe patterns. My curiosity having been piqued due to their extremely quirky designs (they have an ugly/cool aesthetic), I ordered a pair of boots on Farfetch only to receive an invite to the opening of their first store in New York almost immediately. Up until then I had no idea that they were opening their first US store here! Shoe Karma works in mysterious ways.

Co-designer Michael Oehler hugging customer

In store I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Oehler, the co-designer of Trippen (along with Angela Spieth) as well as the chance to try on some amazing new boot designs. The comfort of slipping out of my heels and into these boots is like coming home and putting on bedroom slippers. After a glass of champagne and some up tempo beats from the DJ Wallah, how could I resist indulging in a little retail therapy? After all these wildly original boots had traveled a long way to meet me -- so I returned the favor by taking them on the long subway ride uptown.

- Laurel Marcus