Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

A Smart & Stylish Partnership: O Magazine, Talbots and Dress for Success

Lucy Kaylin, Diane Clehane, Joi Gordon and Meredith Paley
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I was very excited about this week’s lunch at Michael’s because I was going to be talking to three fabulous women from companies I’ve long admired – Hearst, Talbots and Dress for Success (which is actually a non-profit that’s so well run it could teach many corporations a thing or two about management). Lucy Kaylin, editor-in-chief of O The Oprah Magazine, Meredith Paley, Talbots’ vice president of public relations, and Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success, joined me to talk about their unique -- and highly successful -- partnership, now in its third year, that is the very definition of doing well by doing a lot of good.

Yesterday was the official launch of the O, The Oprah Magazine and Talbots’ co-branded capsule collection benefiting Dress for Success. The five-piece limited edition collection designed by O’s creative director Adam Glassman and the Talbots’ design team offers a fresh take on preppy springtime staples like the cardigan, short sleeve sweater and clutch. Everything is done in red, white and blue “with a patriotic feeling” and many pieces (like the sweater I’m wearing today) are embroidered with ladybugs (which, according to Adam, are “the new polka dots”).

Meredith told me that Adam was inspired when he saw the eye-catching insects flying around Oprah’s garden in California. It turns out ladybugs symbolize love, luck, and prosperity which fit perfectly with the spirit of the whole shebang. It was fate.

O! The Oprah Magazine March Cover

The 2018 collection is featured in the March issue of O The Oprah Magazine in all its striped and gingham glory (and, of course those embroidered ladybugs) worn by actors Connie Britton, Sophia Bush, Busy Phillips, Extra’s cohost Tamika Ray and comedian Yvette Nicole Brown. (There’s also two inside Talbots' covers.) “We had lots of meetings. Lots of meetings,” said Lucy when I ask how they chose the women for the shoot. Lucy, Gayle King, Adam and the magazine’s publisher Jayne Jamison all weighed in. “We wanted women who exuded a sense of fun and were truly interested in helping other women.” And there’s no stick figure in the mix, either. “Adam is keenly sensitive to the issues women face trying to get dressed.” The women on the pages of the issue reflect that.

I had to ask Lucy, who has been editor of O for nearly five years now, what it was like around the office after Oprah gave that barn burner of a speech at the Golden Globes in January that immediately set off speculation she was gearing up for a run at the White House. “Unbelievably exciting; there was a dreamy vibe,” she told me. “The prevailing feeling was a sense of pride. We were profoundly attuned that something extraordinary had happened.” I’ll say.

The O Magazine and Talbots collaboration predates the #MeToo movement (“Something I’m incredibly proud of”) and was in many ways prescient in predicting today’s zeitgeist. “This has been an extraordinarily strange time,” she said. “MeToo caught a lot of people by surprise. Now you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. We’re living in a time when complacency is not okay.”

As a company, Talbots’ message has long been one of empowerment and positivity. It’s mission, said Meredith, is really based on “women helping women,” and their commitment to Dress for Success proves they’re not just talking the talk.

Thirty percent of the net proceeds from the line will be donated to Dress for Success, an international not-for-profit organization that provides women with the tools they need to achieve economic independence. This year, for the first time, Talbots will match customers’ monetary donations up to $250,000. The 2016 and 2017 initiatives raised close to $3 million and collected over 12,000 boxes of donated business attire for Dress for Success, benefiting over 60,000 women. They’re certainly off to a good start. According to Meredith, yesterday brought in $63,000 in donations from Talbots’ customers around the country – making the one-day total triple the amount that was collected last year.

Talbots stores nationwide will continue to collect customer clothing and accessory donations for the Dress for Success program and will also accept monetary donations both in-store and online at

And it started with a single box of clothing. “For years we’d get a box of plus size suits from Talbots without any note or invoice or request for a tax receipt,” explained Joi, a lawyer whose first experience with the organization was as a donor and she’s now been there for 21 years. “Our greatest need was for suits size 12 and up and most of our donors are size 10 and under, so it was perfect. We were able to outfit ten women in suits.”

Four years ago, Talbots’ CEO Lizanne Kindler and Deborah Cavanagh, SVP of marketing, met with Joi after she redirected their donation to Dress for Success’ Boston office (Talbots is based in Hingham, Massachusetts). “They told me that they wanted us to be their one charity which is unique to an organization,” said Joi. “They were clear. They wanted one organization they could wrap their arms around. In three years, the partnership with Talbots and O has literally lifted off the page.”

Joi told me when other companies reach out to her now, the partnership with Talbots inevitably becomes a topic of conversation. “It’s ‘best in class.” Lucy concurred. “I’ve had plenty of fellow editors come around to my door and ask, ‘How’d you do that?’

Connie Britton

If you’re like me, you might have known that Dress for Success provides women with professional clothing and accessories needed for job interviews but did you know they were an international organization whose services include a whole host of programs ranging leadership training to health and wellness? Now you (and I) do. They have 165 offices in 30 countries around the world and have helped over 1 million women. They also offered disaster relief to clients during Hurricane Harvey and other severe weather events. Women in job training programs are referred to the organization to help prepare them for a specific job interview. If the client doesn’t get the interview, they can stay in the program and get support for their continued job search. Ninety percent of their funding comes from corporations or foundations tied to corporations. “In four short years, Talbots has surpassed all of our [other] corporate sponsors in terms of donations,” said Joi.

But there was another equally rewarding byproduct of the organization’s association with Talbots and O Magazine. “It’s transformed how we think about ourselves.” said Joi. “We feel like this is our moment.”

Dress for Success is having another big moment on April 18 at their annual gala at Cipriani Wall Street sponsored by Talbots and O Magazine (who else?) where Bethenny Frankel will receive the Humanitarian Award for her work with the organization. Adrianna Papell is receiving a corporate leadership award (they will also be dressing clients for the gala) and branding agency FCB is also being recognized for their pro bono ‘Open Door’ campaign.

The partnership between O Magazine, Talbots and Dress for Success has also evolved as women’s interest in helping other women seems to be at its highest level in recent years. “Twenty years ago, our clients were the welfare to work population,” said Joi. “In 2008, when the economy bottomed out, that shifted and women who once donated were knocking on the door as clients. Now, we’ve seen a tremendous uptick in volunteers. Women want to stand for something.”

Lucy, who joined Dress for Success’ board of directors last year added, “You can leverage [a partnership] for endless revenue or you can help women and change lives.”

As we finished up our lunch, I listened intently as Meredith and Joi shared many of Dress for Success’ clients’ stories and how truly inspiring these women are. One client has a daughter who was recently accepted to Yale University. This would not have been possible, said Lucy, had her mother not been helped by Dress for Success. “The ripple effect of the program is amazing and one you don’t immediately think about,” she said. What also impressed me was when Joi found out this young woman needed to come up with $5,000 to make up what her scholarship wasn’t paying for, Joi went back to her extensive network and came up with the money. “I wasn’t going to let $5,000 get in her way. She is her mother’s success story.”

As we said our goodbyes it struck me that while in the course of the past two hours, although we’d talked about the challenges we are facing today, everything that was said was coming from a place of what we can do rather than focusing on gloom and doom and supposed limitation. Oprah would have been proud.

 Seen & Heard Around the Room

Fashion television pioneer Elsa Klensch celebrating her 85th birthday on Table One. Remember when "Style with Elsa Klensch" on CNN was required viewing? … Andrew Stein on Three … Peter Brown on Four … The Today show’s Kathie Lee Gifford, Eva Mohr and a charming fellow named Benny Hansen on Table Five … Table Six was a gathering of ladies who do a lot more than lunch: Mickey Ateyeh, Betsy Perry, Rikki Klieman and Joan Jakobson dining and dishing … PR maestro Hamilton South on Table Seven … Producer Kate Edelman Johnson on Eight.

And there’s more … Estee Lauder’s Alexandra Trower who will be honored with a Matrix Award at this year’s Women in Communications luncheon on April 23 with a pal on Table Nine. Congrats! … Larry Kudlow on Eleven … LAK PR’s CEO Lisa Linden with her colleague Angel Fahy and matrimonial attorneys Lisa Zeiderman and Faith Miller … Penske Media’s Vice Chairman Gerry Byrne with the doyenne of documentaries Sheila Nevins on Fifteen. Did you know Sheila has produced over 1000 documentaries for HBO and has won so many Emmys, Peabodys and Oscars that she had a room at their headquarters to house all her awards? Now you do. Busy Sheila has been traveling far and wide thanks to the incredible interest in her best-selling book, You Don’t Look Your Age … and Other Fairy Tales.

United Stations Radio’s Nick Verbitsky at his regular perch on Table Sixteen … Discovery ID’s Henry Schleiff  on Seventeen  … British Heritage Travel’s CEO Jack Kliger with Janice Orefice Dehn, CMO of Kliger Enterprises and Mark Cooper of Mark Cooper LTD whose firm represents Harney & Sons Teas. Mark told me Harney was asked by Historic Royal Palaces of England to create a collection of English tea blends. Each blend, he noted, “pays homage to tea's imperial history and roots” and comes packaged in a pretty jewel-toned tin. Just the thing to drink later this spring while watching the royal wedding at the crack of dawn, no? … and former NBA commissioner David Stern on twenty-four.

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

New York Fashion Week Fall 2018: In Living Color

Marc Jacobs
Photo: The New York Times
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NYFW was as decentralized as ever. But while the shows may have been scattered, they were also more scaled down with many designers (Victoria Beckham, Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang among them) opting for fewer guests in order to make it more intimate, and easier to focus on the clothes. They ran concurrently with the continual barrage of sexual misconduct claims, the ongoing Russian investigation and political discord within our government, the human tragedy surrounding the recent senseless school shooting in Florida, and the human drama unfolding at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Seeing all those amazingly talented female athletes was inspirational, and could not have been better timed since women, and female empowerment, are being celebrated. This was best exemplified by the American alpine skier and Olympic gold and silver medalist, Mikaela Shiffrin, whose motto is “A.B.T.T. B” (“Always Be Faster Than the Boys”).  No wonder NYFW seemed to have been overshadowed at times. But while there were forgettable clothes and collections, there were certainly moments that stood out.

Raf Simons’ Collection for Calvin Klein was simply put, like nothing else that was shown  -- it’s impossible to even categorize it. It was all about the Belgian born designer’s continual experimentation with American symbolism, his view of American society and democracy, staged as a post-apocalyptic barnyard at the former American Stock Exchange. It was inventive, rule breaking, surprising, and out of the ordinary; exactly what you want from great fashion! With Thom Browne now decamping to Paris and no longer on the New York Fashion Week schedule, we really needed this moment. Bill Cunningham once said, “Fashion is the armor to help get you through the paces of your daily life” and Raf took this a few steps further with clothes as protective layers, seemingly made not just for getting you through the paces of your daily life, but for getting you through any disaster that might come your way (chic Hazmats, anyone?).

Marc Jacobs provided one of the only major fashion moments of the week and he too looked like nobody else this season. Though he did look like his hero, Yves Saint Laurent circa 80’s, but far more exaggerated and over-the-top. Where Calvin Klein was all about Americana, for Marc Jacobs, it was quite couture like and Parisian. It had nothing to do with streetwear/sportswear but rather, a sophisticated, dressed up approach to sportswear. The attention to detail, choice of fabrics and accessories, and the way it was all put together was meticulous. In a season of color and stellar coats, he had some of the best. Was it commercial? No, this was unapologetic runway fashion, but not everything was impossibly voluminous and oversized, and there were some wearable pieces. More importantly, it was inspirational; about the joy of fashion, the joy of dressing and if nothing else, it could serve as a catalyst to help one rethink one’s wardrobe and the beauty of experimenting with different proportions. What’s wrong with enjoying some of your more outsized pieces now and again? It’s another option.

The Row was, as always, sculptural and tailored; luxurious purity personified. Each season, the Olsen twins deliver a line-up of pieces that could be the foundation of an ideal timeless wardrobe; the backbone of a daily uniform (if money were no object).It should also be noted that coats were especially strong here as they have been this season in general. I was not the only one who observed that the monastic, ecclesiastical pieces in black (and black and white) would be ideal for those attending the upcoming Met Gala in celebration of “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Imagination”. Crucifixes optional.

Other Notable Highlights: The dreamy evening wear and moody wintry florals at Oscar de la Renta; Chris Leba for R13’s strong streetwear/sportswear collection combined with an underlying message about protecting the environment; Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss’s hip, cool active wear for men and women, his new collaboration with Reebok, and a celebration of the black cowboy’s place in American history.  Derek Lam and Gabriela Hearst’s urban but relaxed elegance: Town & Country personified with a nod to the chic equestrienne spirit (the former with an American slant, the latter, channeling her rich Argentinian heritage).

Coach 1941 by Stuart Vevers’ rough and tumble ‘South Western Gothic’ was appealing (great outerwear); Alexander Wang ’s urban, slick sculpted black leathers were punctuated with edgy silver hardware. And let’s talk about his inspired venue: the former Conde Nast headquarters at 4 Times Square.

I loved the freewheeling spirit and studied nonchalance of Michael Kors and his message that anything goes; all proportions are relevant, all types of shoes work (sneakers, flats, platforms, kitten heels, high heels, ballerinas, sandals, pumps, lugged sole lace up boots, slides, etc.), all patterns can be mixed. It’s all about wearing what you love depending on your mood, your needs, and appropriateness of the occasion. It was meant to look spontaneously put together, not perfect and not planned. If it was just a tad dorky, that was part of the charm, and just a bit uncool? Well, there’s nothing wrong with that either. It was all about Michael’s favorite things.

Looking back at the week, these are some of the things that stood out for me:

1. In Living Color

Sies Marjan

There was a joyful explosion of color on the runways. It’s as though everyone has caught up with brilliant colorist Sander Lak of Sies Marjan whose calling card, since his launch for fall 2016, has been the exceptional way he mixes color. This season, even the lighting in the background of his show brilliantly mirrored the intense ombred palette of the collection.

Narciso Rodriguez

Color can be tricky if it’s not done right, but it was done quite well and in a very sophisticated manner this season (as exemplified by Narciso Rodriguez who just celebrated his 20th anniversary in business). Orange just happened to be one of the stars on the runways and one can say orange is the new black; it works as a neutral and looks great with camel. Fun fact: did you know that orange was Frank Sinatra’s favorite color? ‘Orange’ you glad I told you that?

Millennial pink, which was touted as THE color for spring 2018, was back with a vengeance, whether used alone, mixed with other shades of pink, or contrasted with red or orange. FYI, the upcoming exhibition at the Museum at FIT Curated by Dr. Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at FIT, is Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color . It will explore the changing significance of the color pink over the past three centuries and runs from September 7 – January 5th.

Prabal Gurung

Pink certainly made a statement at Prabal Gurung. In the Nepalese designer’s homeland, pink represents strength and fearlessness, and he wanted to use the hue to empower women and as an antidote to the ‘All Black’ moment at the recent Golden Globes.

Red and pink and every color in the rainbow, was also the story at Milly by Michele Smith, where it made an uplifting, powerful statement about inclusion and positivity. On Monday, February 12, just three days after the designer’s runway show, Michelle Obama’s official portrait was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery (along with that of the former president), and the dress she was wearing was from the Milly 2017 collection. It was made of humble worker’s fabric (couture like but Spartan) and came with a rather accessible price tag. That season, the designer’s collection was meant to evoke “equality, equality in human rights, racial equality, LGBTQ equality”.

But let’s face it, a little bit of color goes a long way. Quite frankly, the more I see color, the more I love black. One thing you can be certain of: the tide will be soon turning and the runways will soon be fading to noir (I can guarantee it). Certainly nothing cleanses the palette quite as effectively as black and white, which never loses its graphic appeal. Thankfully, this timeless combination showed up on many runways this season.

2. The Continued Celebration of Diversity and Inclusion

Eckaus Latta

Models of different sizes, shapes, ages, genders, and ethnicities took the runways, helping to challenge notions about conventional beauty and redefine beauty for the 22nd century. It’s certainly not about an unattainable every-hair-in-place perfection but rather, about embracing and loving one’s flaws and celebrating who you are and what makes you unique, warts and all.

Christian Siriano

Eckhaus Latta, Prabal Gurung, Chromat, Christian Siriano, R13, and Michael Kors were among those designers who were intent on highlighting diversity in their runway shows.

Gypsy Sport

Perhaps the strongest message was to be found on the runway of Rio Uribe’s Gypsy Sport where the message was “wear what you want, forget about societal mores and restraints, and ignore those who seek to body shame”. The star of the show, was a 10 year old self-described drag kid and LBGT activist, named Desmond.

While we’re on the topic of beauty, there’s great news if you hate your hair, are having a bad hair day, or don’t have any hair at all.

At Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs, the models’ hair was almost completely covered thanks to the use of hand knitted baklavas (at the former), and black scarves and chic brimmed black hats by Stephen Jones (at the latter), and they looked amazing!

3. Quilts

Calvin Klein

Raf Simons has long said that art is more important than fashion and his graphic quilted dresses with matching stoles (all illustrative of his ongoing fascination with Americana) could easily hang on the walls of the American Folk Art Museum.

Rosetta Getty’s sequined quilted gown and knitted quilted sweaters could hang right next to them.

4. Relaxed Evening Glamour

Carolina Herrera
Photo: The New York Times  

Why does evening have to mean a traditional ball gown and big jewels? Why not something more relaxed and unexpected? Carolina Herrera’s farewell runway show as a designer before (she will be Global Brand Ambassador and Wes Gordon will take over the design reigns) ended with a parade of colorful ball skirts and contrasting wide belts, paired with her favorite signature piece: a crisp white button down shirt.

Brandon Maxwell

Brandon Maxwell, whose collection specifically focused on relaxed evening glamour, also endorsed crisp white shirts, pairing one with a long narrow embroidered red evening skirt and red cardigan with fur collar), suggested a simple white t shirt as way to downplay a dramatic satin ball skirt, and closed the show with a glittery ball skirt and black hoodie. 

5. Leopard

Tom Ford

They say a leopard never changes its spots that that doesn’t mean designers don’t keep trying to change the way leopard looks. This perennial favorite was all over the runways, and while one expects to see traditional leopard coats, jackets, and pocketbooks, what I loved most were the unexpected uses. Tom Ford collaged leopard and snakeskin to fashion a great coat and he recolored leopard (neon green, yellow, orange, red), sometimes beading it, to fit into his 80’s mashup.

Calvin Klein

Raf Simons paired leopard baklavas with graphic oversized menswear patterned coats and different colored plaid skirt suits.


R13’s wonderfully throwaway, sporty takes included a leopard hooded anorak coat with an enormous matching leopard backpack.

6. The Big Bag Theory

Victoria Beckham

This was a season of superb coats AND supersized bags so how about mixing the two and creating something practical and good looking? Apparently Victoria Beckham, (who will mark her 10 years in business with a fashion show in London next season), figured that if you are going to tote your entire life around in a bag, it might as well look sensational and match your coat.

7. Dressing for the Season

There is something undeniably ‘cool’ and modern about ignoring seasons (you know; bare legs, sandals, sheer wispy chiffon slip dresses in the winter). We may be enjoying ridiculously mild weather (the thermometer reached an all-time monthly high of 78 on Wednesday) but have also suffered through snow and the bitter cold, and I am really into clothes that look geared for those impossibly frigid days. Typically wintry clothes that look warm and toasty; clothes to keep you warm, protected from the elements, and fabulously turned out to boot are very appealing! As I previously mentioned, Calvin Klein’s Raf Simons personified this with his protective armor like layers, as did Marc Jacobs, whose models were literally covered in fabric from head to toe. And at Coach 1941 Stuart Vevers emphasized the season (and the protective nature of his gusty shearlings, leathers, quilted woolens and thick denim pieces) with a moody wintry background that mimicked the deep woods, complete with falling leaves on the ground.

Rosie Assoulin

Of course, without doubt, the warmest coats are puffers and sleeping bag coats which are literally ubiquitous on the streets. And they have never looked better or more appealing. This season, standouts included R13’s version in white lined in red shown over a bodysuit and leggings photo printed with trees and branches and Rosie Assoulin’s colorful, painterly, art inspired iterations.

Norma Kamali

Perhaps the most all enveloping and coziest of all is Norma Kamali’s floor sweeping version in pink. Of course, the designer initially put sleeping bags coats on the map.

By the way, not everything that happened during NYFW was a fashion show and as it turns out, one of the best events during that week was the "Norma Kamali Retrospective" at What Goes Around Comes Around, in commemoration of the designer’s half-century in business featuring “collectible art” ranging in price between $750 and $7500.

The iconic award winning designer, who looks decades younger than her 72 years, is the epitome of modern. I love that she is not at all nostalgic, and is always on to the next thing. She wisely resists the urge to wear anything remotely stuck in a time warp. She instead always shows up in chic tailored, timeless, no nonsense pieces that really suit her. Best of all, she is generous with her time and talent. Remarkable!

- Marilyn Kirschner

Sunday, February 18, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Gets "X"-tra Sexy

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Sports Illustrated (SI) came out with its controversial stand-alone 2018 swimsuit issue this past Thursday which features black and white nudes of models describing themselves in words written on their bodies. The all female crew taking the photos were heralded by the Sports Illustrated staff as being part of the sweeping "me too" movement which has gained traction and produced much needed changes to an industry rife with abuse. Unfortunately, having dozens of women appear naked or in pornographic poses doesn't seem like a step forward.

Lais Ribeiro

Certainly, these models are more representative of the general population than Victoria's Secret, as some are size 12 and up and that should be applauded; however, the objectification of women is more glaring than ever in this overtly sexual issue. The first page of the magazine features the Kardashians in Calvin Klein underwear; hardly an aspirational group for teenage girls and boys who are looking to see role models such as Aly Raisman and Genie Bouchard. This magazine should be rated as "not suitable for anyone under the age of 18" as page after page displays women with their legs splayed and their boobs displayed with only a string or a finger covering their nipples. Is this what modern day modesty looks like?

Olivia Culpo

Putting an African American Danielle Herrington on the cover, joining Beyonce and Tyra Banks, as only the third ever, is great but are these plastic surgery altered women really the face of the population. The first swimsuit issue debuted in 1964 as a five-page supplement featuring Babette March in a modest white two-piece. Since becoming a separate issue it has launched the careers of Elle Macpherson, Christie Brinkley, Cheryl Tiegs, Tyra Banks, Kathy Ireland, Paulina Porizkova and more recently Kate Upton to stratospheric heights. The Elle Macpherson cover will be etched in the memory of thousands of teenage boys for decades.

Kate Upton

Being placed on the cover is no longer as consequential as manifested by cover girl Herrington's paltry 104,000 Instagram followers. However, the annual issue remains a money making machine bringing in more than $1 billion in Revenue since being sold separately in 1997. To pretend it is anything other than a commercial endeavor is dishonest. Nearly every page features an advertisement for something whether it's Aruba, where the shoot took place, or the bikinis and jewelry the girls are wearing.

Hunter McGrady

While the issue seems to promote being healthy and loving your body it was ironic to see a cigarette advertisement for "Natural American Spirit" which it says "are no safer than other cigarettes." Editor MJ Day, a 20 year veteran of SI, wrote an Editor's Letter, perhaps anticipating the outrage the magazine would elicit, with justification after justification claiming, "beauty comes in all forms... A key theme this year is Swimsuit's power as a platform for the voices and messages of the bold, diverse and yes stunning women we feature." Another theme she espoused was "a woman does not have to be modest in order to be respected. There is beauty in not holding back."

Olivia Culpo

According to Day, writhing around in barely there bikinis while millions of men glare at your picture while their wives stand idly by is a new form of feminism. The negative impact of all this nudity on young teenage girls who are being bombarded by images of the Kardashians on a daily basis is cringe worthy. There are so many beautiful women in the issue but their messages get lost in the pornography.

Ashley Graham

What better role model than Brenna Huckaby a paralympic snowboarder who is also a cancer survivor and mother who graces the pages in a sexy yet relatively demure swimsuit that truly shows beauty comes in all forms. Aly Raisman a three-time Olympic gymnastics gold medalist who recently spoke out against her abuser is another heroine; yet even she looks cheap appearing naked with a “Survivor” sign on her chest. Ashley Graham, another plus-sized role model shows her nipples in a yellow bikini that had me sighing in disappointment.

Moreover, most of the women featured have breast implants, and surgically altered faces hardly representative of the "diverse and bold" general population. There is nothing wrong with making money by showing nearly naked women; however, when it is done under the auspices of empowerment it sends a dangerous message.

- Lieba Nesis

Saturday, February 17, 2018

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

Marc Jacobs: Yves Saint Laurent on Steroids

Marc Jacobs Fall 2018
All photos

Marc Jacobs officially closed NYFW with a show that turned up the drama and put the ‘F’ in fashion. And I thought it was "Fu*king Fabulous"! The fall 2018 collection is all about a bold, oversized silhouette, strong shoulder, luxurious, gutsy fabrics and fabric mixes (leather, metallic, wool jersey, cashmere, taffeta, etc.), and a grown up, dressed up glamour that evokes another place and time; one that has nothing at all to do with street-wear or athleisure. The main focus was on day-wear and sportswear done in a way that is very couture like and very dressed to the nines. These are not clothes for ingenues, but rather, for real, gown up women.

It instantly conjured up Yves Saint Laurent, who has been a constant inspiration for the Marc through the years, but everything (the shapes, silhouettes, details, proportion) was bigger and more exaggerated as is usually the case with Marc; Yves Saint Laurent on steroids.

These are not clothes for the faint of heart. And the over scaled proportions are not for the very petite. Color has been a big story this season and Marc’s color combinations, like Yves, are sophisticated: a mix of jewel tones and brights (turquoise, jade, aubergine, teal, yellow, mustard, pink, purple) almost always played down with brown, gray, or black.

Coats have also been stellar this season but leave it to Marc to send out a lineup of the most deliciously oversized and colorful cashmere coats with huge matching scarves. There were also beautifully crafted coats in leather and sheared mink, mannish overcoats in glen plaid and Donegal tweed and a number of impossibly chic long belted trench coats.

With the exception of a few evening dresses, the models were literally covered in fabric from head to toe and each look was fully realized and complete in and of itself. There were high waisted cropped trousers and skirts that were rounded at the hip; cropped boleros in thick cashmere, mannish boxy double breasted jackets with matching trousers or skirts, beautiful taffeta blouses (some striped) with pronounced, face framing flower like details, elongated sweaters, some shot with lurex, and several body conscious color blocked jersey dresses.

Evening gowns had enormous balloon sleeves or trains. The legs were always covered in opaque tights and there were both flat and heeled oxfords, velvet and satin pumps (some were striped and were decorated with bows or jeweled embellishments), and gleaming leather boots. Accessories included long fur stoles, extra wide leather belts, structured belt bags, and leather gauntlets.

Most of the models wore black scarves which completely covered their hair and chic black brimmed black hats by Stephen Jones while a few had their had dyed to match their ensembles (courtesy colorist Josh Wood). What an eyeful. I think it’s safe to say many of us were hungry for this sort of thing and it could not have come at a better time. It was the highlight of the week, along with Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, a collection that was completely different in mood and aesthetic.

A great way to end the week.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

Lunch with American Couturier Ralph Rucci

Diane Clehane & Ralph Rucci
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I was really looking forward to this week’s lunch with designer Ralph Rucci for a whole host of reasons. I’ve long been a fan of his exquisite couture designs that are unrivaled in their artistry, precision and beauty. And, it’s New York Fashion Week, which used to be one of the most exciting times in the city when the industry’s top talent gathered just blocks away from the Garment District under the tents at Bryant Park to show their spring collections.

That was another lifetime ago. In 2010, IMG moved the shows to Lincoln Center and for many of the fashion faithful it was the beginning of the end. Over the course of the next five years, Fashion Week became a soulless and overly corporate endeavor promoting commercialization over creativity. Some of the biggest names pulled out and bailed on New York opting to show in Europe. Today, Fashion Week is an anorexic shadow of its former self with a calendar bloated with fashion filler instead of fabulousness. I thought Ralph, who last showed in New York in 2014, would surely have plenty to say on the subject.

“I didn’t know who ninety percent of those people are,” Ralph told me when I mentioned the ad that ran in this past Sunday’s style section in Times promoting Fashion Week.

Everyone who is anyone in the industry knows Ralph. Considered by the fashion intelligentsia to be the sole American couturier designing today, he was the first American in more than 60 years to be invited to show in Paris by the French Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 2002. He continued to show his collections there for the next five years. “I was so embraced by Paris. That was the greatest time in my life. In the reviews, they wanted to know ‘How does this American know how to do this?’ I miss it and I want to go back.”

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Ralph has always had a clear affinity for a European approach to design. “Distillation is the key to taste,” he told me just as his salad nicoise was served. “American fashion reflects politics. When you have this kind of White House, you can’t use the word ‘taste’ in any capacity.”

Ralph Rucci Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear

He has been nominated twice by the CFDA as womenswear designer of the year and been the subject of two books and two documentaries. (Much more on that later.) His exquisite haute couture gowns are part of the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art among many others. He was the first designer to be honored with FIT’s Couture Council Artistry in Fashion Award and was the subject with an exhibition “Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness” at the Museum at FIT. Fashion historian Valerie Steele penned a book of the same name.

To the uninitiated, every one of Ralph’s designs are created in the ‘haute couture’ tradition creating toile, then a paper pattern, fit on cloth and sewn entirely by hand. When I asked him to give me some idea what a coat (our mutual obsession) and day dress in a fine double face wool might cost me demurred saying, “It might scare people.”

Still, he told me, “I think it’s important for people to see haute couture to see what hands can do. There is a word for this is Paris – ‘métier’ – it’s not just the work, but the soul in the work.”

We’re talking about some serious artistry, here.

That’s why, in 2014, when Ralph announced he was walking away from Chado Ralph Rucci, the 33 year-old couture house he founded, the fashion industry was stunned. Ralph told me he “left unwillingly” and was no longer able to use his name on a collection.

But that hasn’t stopped him from designing for private clients. “My [company name] is ‘RR331,’ (His initials and the number of steps in the Japanese Chado tea ceremony.) My label is my signature – an abstraction. An iconic part of who I am.” But luckily, not part of what his former investors now own since he left the company. Ralph told me he’s grateful they’ve never raised any objection to his use of his signature as his label and added that he’d “like to open up a chain of communication” with them in hopes of getting his design archives back which he sees as a big part of his “self-worth” adding it’s been “terrible psychologically” to have been parted from his past work.

These days he sees many of his private clients at his home on the Upper East Side which he admits is difficult. “I find it depressing. You can never leave [the work]. My home has always been my sanctuary and right now it is filled with fabric.” He wishes he had a larger studio space where he could work and paint (His art has been exhibited in the city and at the Serge Sorokko Gallery in San Francisco). Ralph is also still mourning the loss of his English bulldog, Twombly (named after the artist), who died almost two years ago at 11. “He was the love of my life.”

Despite the current challenges he’s facing, Ralph has a vision for the future. “I want to introduce a line of better priced women’s clothes,” he said. In the past, he shipped a ready-to-wear collection whose craftsmanship was at “haute couture level” at prices that were “high, but not nearly as high as they should have been.”

To produce a new better priced collection, “I need a partner,” he said. “Not an investor, a partner.” For the moment, Ralph has several new collaborations that will sure to delight his legions of fans. He’s designed pieces exclusively for Iris Apfel’s boutique at Bergdorf Goodman opening next month and the store’s fashion director, Linda Fargo, has asked Ralph to do an all-black collection for another boutique opening in the fall. He has been invited to show at Palm Springs Fashion Week and will be presenting 20 new looks on March 24th and seeing private clients by appointment. He has also written the foreword for Norell: Master of American Fashion (Rizzoli), the new book on Norman Norell, by designer and good friend Jeffrey Banks.

With the Oscars less than a month away, I had to ask Ralph, who designed many pieces for Elizabeth Taylor, which actresses he’d love to dress for the red carpet. He answered immediately. “Judith Light (who has worn his designs) and Tilda Swinton. They’re both extraordinary,” he said. Then smiled, “But I’m open. For partners.”

Ralph is no stranger to Hollywood. He was the star of the documentary “Ralph Rucci: A Designer and His House” narrated by Martha Stewart which aired on Sundance Channel. Ralph also told me he was the subject of a “terrible” film by British director Christian Leigh. “I left the screening. I didn’t want people telling me it was fabulous when I knew it wasn’t.”

I asked him if he considered the possibility of doing his own film ala Tom Ford? “I think I’d make a good director. I’m a very good psychiatrist,” he said.

And what about writing his own story? He’s certainly got plenty of material. Judging by his reaction, Ralph has clearly thought about this a great deal. “Great question!” He explained he had to sort out two things in his mind before he could undertake such a task. “I have to have a great achievement to talk about from what’s next and I have to find a way to talk about my past – somewhat politely.”

After being famously outspoken on what – and who -- ails the fashion industry (Google it), Ralph has become much more circumspect, but still says he feels a “responsibility” to reveal the “horrifying” politics that control the fashion industry in whatever he may write at some point down the road. “The fashion magazines don’t sell fashion, they sell ads,” he said. The rest, I’m afraid, is off the record.

As we finished up our salads, I sensed that revisiting all the highs and lows of his career had left Ralph feeling nostalgic. “I’ve never compromised,” he said as we hugged goodbye. “Life could have been much easier.” Perhaps, but a lot less interesting, too.

 Seen & Heard Around the Room

Star Jones celebrating the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women’s initiative with a table full of pals on Table One. Star also made a welcome return to The View yesterday and weighed in on this week’s Hot Topics (We can’t imagine what she was talking about) … Former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine on Two … Andrew Stein on Three .. Attorney Bob Barnett in from Washington, DC for lunch with his client Cynthia McFadden on Four and for the second seating agent Boaty Boatwright and Academy Award-winning director (The King’s Speech) Tom Hooper took over the table … Ted Hartley on Five … Sharon Hoge and Patrick Murphy on Six ...Mellody Hobson (that’s Mrs. George Lucas to you) on Eight. Earlier this week on CBS This Morning, Mellody, a financial contributor for CBS News, tried to reassure jittery viewers about the stunning stock market plunge by explaining, “This is to be expected.” I feel so much better, don’t you?

And there’s more … NBC’s David Corvo on Eleven ... Christine Taylor on Fourteen …British Heritage Travel’s CEO Jack Kliger with Nico Bossi, founder of The Exchange, on Fifteen .. LAK PR’s CEO Lisa Linden and New Criterion’s James Panero on Eighteen... PR maven Judy Twersky with a group of fashionable gals on Twenty-two. In attendance: Anne Gravel, manager for Tory Burch’s Tory Sport boutique in East Hampton, Sheila Fruehauf, who is in town for the AMFAR gala, BB Jewett McCloud (who was Candice Bergen’s ‘right hand’ for many years and fashion industry vet Kristin Stewart. … CBS Televsion’s David Stapf on Twenty-five … And Perri Peltz (looking fabulous in jeans!) who decided to move her large party which was originally to be seated in the center of the front room to an quieter corner of the Garden Room.

Sometimes there is just too much news for one columnTwo weeks ago, I ‘Lunched’ with Sandra Luckow and Stu Zakim to talk about Sandra’s new film “That Way Madness Lies” and we covered so much ground, I could have written two columns on our conversation. So here’s a little extra helping of dish from our chat: Besides being associate producer on Sandra’s film, Stu was part of the PR team that successfully scored Golden Globes and PGA awards for the hit Amazon show, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."  Stu told me his firm, Bridge Strategic Communications, “has taken a leading role in PR for the recreational cannabis industry” and helped organize the recent NJ Cannabis Symposium at Newark's NJPAC. So now you know.

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

De Monchy Holds "De-licious" Luncheon For Gal-entine's Day

Debra Wasser and Katlean De Monchy
All photos: Lenny Stucker
Click images for full size views

Katlean de Monchy hosted a Galentine's luncheon for 87 women at restaurant Avra located at 14 East 60th Street. Guests gathered from 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM to socialize over a generous helping of sauteed chicken, and chocolate cake.

Jean Shafiroff, and Cindy Hsu

Attendees included: Patricia Kluge, Susan Gutfreund, Jean Shafiroff, Jill Zarin, Maria Fishel, Barbara Winston and Maggie Norris. Jill Zarin who recently lost her husband Bobby was still mourning over this great man who touched the lives of so many. Bobby succumbed to cancer after years of suffering with the dreaded disease.

Andrea Wernick, Jennifer Myles, Maria Fishel, Maria Elena Christiansen

Documenting the afternoon was phenomenal photographer Lenny Stucker who captured the festivities with his discerning eye. Lenny recently bought a $50,000 camera and has been shooting book covers and private parties at a frenetic pace.

The scene

Lenny may be able to fill the void left by photographers Bruce Weber, Mario Testino and Terry Richardson with his keen skill and polite demeanor.

Mary Brown, Katlean De Monchy, and Lieba Nesis

As hordes of blonde beauties streamed in Katlean welcomed guests and took to the microphone to relay her success with phenomenal nutraceutical Aethern - which sells for $295 and was given out for free at the conclusion of the lunch.

Maggie Norris and Cassandra Seidenfeld

Barbara Winston, daughter-in-law to Harry Winston, attended the luncheon wearing green emerald earrings that her husband Bruce made which were phenomenal. Her daughter, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, is a senior adviser to Melania Trump and was the founding fashion director for Lincoln Center.

Jill Brooke, Kathy Reilly, Nancy Pearson

I was seated next to another female powerhouse, Jill Brooke, who is a best selling author and TV host who urged me to read her book "The Need to Say No". I jokingly responded "no thank you" but I liked her advice on defining your boundaries and sticking up for one's principles.

Patrica Klug

Katlean de Monchy’s Galentine’s lunch at AVRA turned into a scavenger hunt after the entrepreneur lost her zebra glasses. While the glasses were never found, guests did view some great talent, including a surprise song from guest Mary Brown, who wrote Beyonce’s first number one single with Detinys Child "No, No, No".

Andrea Stark, Lauren Day Roberts

Katlean in hoping that maybe the glasses fell into one of the snazzy gift bags that were filled with Aethern nutriceuticals - which she added is more than her glasses which are sentimental.

Lucia Hwong Gordon, Adele Nino and Lauren Lawrence

As guests headed out, I spoke with art dealer Robin Cofer about the booming market for contemporary art. Robin and Lucia Hwong Gordon always dress with creative flair and this afternoon Robin was wearing a Comme Des Garcons vest and riding hat and Lucia donned a sweater from her grandmother with red boots.

Goody bags

At 2:45 PM I left these lovelies to catch the 3 PM Naeem Khan show - not a bad way to end a delightful afternoon.

- Lieba Nesis