Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

David Zinczenko On ‘Galvanizing’ His Growing Digital Empire

Michael Freidson, Diane Clehane and David Zinczenko
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I’ve interviewed hundreds of some of New York’s most successful people at Michael’s for over a decade. On a weekly basis, I have marveled at the accomplishments of many a lunch date who sat across the table from me while picking at their Cobb salad. There have been authors, editors and television personality that have all left quite an impression. And then there’s multi-hyphenate David Zinczenko who is all that – and the undisputed hardest working man in media.

I first met David in this very dining room (where else?) when our mutual friend, ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong introduced us one Wednesday way back when. At the time, David was several years into his successful tenure as editor-in-chief of Men’s Health (he got to the top of the masthead at the ripe old age of 30) and was appearing regularly on the Today show as their fitness expert. He was also churning out one best-seller after another (he’s had 20!) starting with The Abs Diet – and now has over 10 million books in print. Yes, you read that right. He is also the creator of the compulsively readable Eat This, Not That series. (Much more on ETNT later.) Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

Back when Dave was at the helm of Men’s Health, he was overseeing 39 international editions. He also served the editorial director of Women’s Health and Prevention. Print had not yet felt the full effect of the digital revolution – but the handwriting was on the wall. Rodale, the publisher of Men’s Health, was a family-owned business based in Emmaus, Pennsylvania run by Maria Rodale, a woman who clearly did not fully appreciate the advantages of having a star editor who was on national television pretty much every week at a time when magazines were increasingly vulnerable to skittish advertisers with shrinking budgets. When David’s contract came up, he took his best-sellers, branding expertise, authoritative voice in health and fitness and unheard of work ethic and in 2013 started his own company, Galvanized Brands.

“I realized life was too short. I wanted to work with people I loved and respected,” said David after we ordered. (He had the Cobb salad) “Our mission is to create best-in-class life changing content in the health, fitness and wellness space for our brand partners.” With a tight-knit staff of 25, David has created a formidable media company with a growing stable of brands that include Eat This, Not That and Best Life (with more to be announced this year) that reach 25 million (and growing) across multiple platforms. There’s also a branded content studio, Galvanized Strategies. David brought Michael Freidson, executive director of editorial, who oversees content and revenue for all franchises and clients -- across all platforms -- to explain the whole shebang.

“My job is to translate Dave’s vision to the editorial team,” said Michael who describes the process as a “mind meld” that “mixes Dave’s DNA with strong editorial voices and content that help readers to live their best life.”

Michael is the number two at Galvanized and has the background that was ideally suited for the job. He rose from intern to editor-in-chief of Time Out, did a stint at Yahoo and later moved to London to run the entertainment coverage at Metro, an international newspaper with local editions all over the world where he just happened to balance editorial and advertising responsibilities. He told me he believed so strongly in what David was doing (“He changed the way I think about food”) that he sent  “a heartfelt letter” (“And it was funny,” said David) at the end of 2013 when he heard Galvanized was “staffing up” and was back in New York on the job at the start of the new year.

It’s clear that Michael is quite the multi-tasker balancing both day to day editorial and advertising responsibilities while David continues to expand Galvanized Media’s sphere of influence. Galvanized exists as “two silos.” The first includes the company’s owned and operated brands – the biggest being Eat This, Not That and Best Life (full disclosure – I’m a contributor). Both, said Michael, are experiencing “ridiculous momentum” with visitors to ETNT site spending three and a half minutes on a story and Best Life holding their attention for four minutes per post (an eternity online). With more than 150 million page views between the two brands, January beat the previous largest month by more than 65 percent. Visitors also rack up a record number of 17 page views per session. Michael attributes this to the sites’ “strong and satisfying writing – readers trust us.”

Galvanized has partnered with Meredith on Eat This, Not That on a quarterly magazine for the past two and a half years. Michael told me just this week Meredith started “a massive subscription drive” leveraging the collective audience of all their titles. “We want to get into those mailboxes,” he said. David was quick to add this would not be possible without the support of Meredith’s Steve Lacy, Tom Harty and Doug Olson.

ETNT also has a publishing partnership with Simon & Schuster and is now handling worldwide sales and distribution for Galvanized Media’s catalog of books in health, fitness, diet and lifestyle including the 14 Day No Sugar Diet and a series that addresses heart  health among other topics.

The second silo is Galvanized Strategies which has created branded content and strategies an impressive list of clients including Tiffany & Co. (Best Life’s launch sponsor) Burberry and Polo Ralph Lauren. Projects included videos for Tiffany’s engagement rings and CT 60 chronograph watch, a nightlife guide for Burberry and an exercise app with 20,000 permutations to help market Polo’s Tech Shirt.

You would think all that would keep David pretty busy but somehow, he found himself in the interesting position of revisiting where his career all began. In January, it was announced that he would be the acting editorial director of Men’s Health (which was purchased from Rodale last year) and assist Hearst in the search for a new editor for the title while Michael and the Galvanized team work on the brand. He is overseeing the April, May and June issues. “This opportunity has allowed me to work with great people like David Carey, Joanna Coles, Troy Young and Michele Promaulayko,” he told me. And, after four years as nutrition and wellness editor for ABC News, he has returned to Today as a contributor.

“Our mission is really to make people happier and healthier,” said David as we said our goodbyes. “And I couldn’t be happier personally, nor prouder, nor humbler to work with the world’s best media companies while doing it.”

Scene and Heard Around the Room

Departures’ Steven DeLuca on Table One … Eva Mohr, who went over and gave Kathie Lee Gifford a big hello when she arrived on Two … David Zinczenko, Michael Freidson and yours truly on Three … Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman on Four … The Today show on Five: Kathie Lee Gifford, Jill Martin and a tanned fellow we didn’t recognize. About midway through the lunch, Hoda Kotb came in – still wearing her favorite USA jacket from the Olympics. Today did a segment this week which showed how happy the on-air talent who traveled to Pyeong Chang were to be reunited with their kids. I loved seeing Hoda with her 1 year old daughter, Haley Joy. Motherhood agrees with her and trust me, Hoda deserves every happiness. She’s one of the good gals... Andrew Stein on Table Six … Legendary songbird Judy Collins holding court on Eight. Producer Beverly Camhe, who was on Table Ten, motioned me over to meet Ms. Collins who was gracious and lovely.

And there’s more

On Table Eleven: Eighties television star sighting! Audrey Landers (I know I’m dating myself, but she played Afton Cooper on Dallas) with her lookalike son, actor-singer Daniel Landers. In case you were wondering, she looked great. I meant to go over to her and ask her what she thought of another former primetime soap star of her era in the news recently. As the New York Post posited this morning – What the hell happened to Heather Locklear? … Linda Wachner and Marc Rosenthal on Twelve … Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew at her regular perch on Table Fourteen … Norm Pearlstine, who stopped by our table to say hello to David as he made his way into the dining room on Fifteen … BizBash’s David Adler on Sixteen … Long time no see! Randy Jones on Eighteen.

And finally …

The ‘Two Joans’: producer Joan Gelman and the grand dame of New York radio, Joan Hamburg on Twenty ... Quest’s Chris Meigher on Twenty-one … PR maestro James LaForce on Twenty-two … and Chuck Pfeifer on Twenty-seven.

 Faces in the crowd: Author Pamela Keogh in the dining room … Kira Semler and Vi Huse celebrating the early arrival of spring with a champagne lunch at the bar. Cheers!

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

The 2018 Art Show Gala Preview Benefit

The Art Show celebrates 30 years
All photos Marilyn Kirschner
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As a college art history major (with a sister who is an accomplished painter and sculptress), I can honestly say that the only thing I love as much as fashion, is art. If not more so. Indeed, looking around, it IS all about art these days and I was especially looking forward to the 2018 Art Show Gala Preview Benefit which was held on Tuesday evening at the Park Avenue Armory. All proceeds benefited the Henry Street Settlement, the peremptory social service, art, and health care organization which is celebrating its 125th year. Over 2000 people attended and approximately $1 million was raised but because general admission to the fair also goes to the Henry Street Settlement, this number will have grown by the end of the week. The show runs through Sunday, March 4th.

The Art Show is the nation’s longest-running fine art fair and continues to set the standards of excellence with its museum quality exhibitions of Impressionist, Modern, and Contemporary works. Organized by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), this prestigious show, (now celebrating its 30th year), has afforded collectors, art professionals, and the public an opportunity to engage in a variety of carefully curated exhibitions representing a selection of works from 72 of the nation’s leading art dealers, dating from the 19th century through today.

The lead sponsors for an evening of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres (both provided by Canard, Inc.), and art, were AXA Art Americas Corporation (which specializes in protecting art and collectibles) and Renate Hofmann Article 3 Charitable Trust. Diamond Circle sponsors were Bloomberg Philanthropies, Scott and Evette Ferguson, Ian and Lea Highet, Pilar Crespi Robert and Stephen Robert, Harry and Laura Slatkin, and Lily Safra. Among those in attendance: Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn, the actor Steve Martin, the actress Stephanie March, legendary photographer Roxanne Lowitt and philanthropist, art patron, collector Agnes Gund, and art critic Jerry Saltz.

I was bombarded with visual stimulation everywhere I looked and among the standouts that grabbed my eye:

Richard Avedon's photograph  at Pace MacGill Gallery

Richard Avedon’s riveting black and white photograph, “Jesus Cervantes and Manuel Heredia, prisoners, Bexar County Jail, San Antonio, Texas” on view at the Pace/MacGill booth.

Nairy Baghramian’s “Stay Downers” polyurethane and silicone sculptures, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery.

Jackie Saccoccio’s visceral, expressionistic, abstract paintings at Van Doren Waxter Gallery.

Marc Janssens’ ribbed glass paintings (he uses two sheets of glass) at Bortolami Gallery.

Dotty Attie’s statement making feminist art.

As for the fashion, unsurprisingly many attendees were in minimal New York black, particularly the artists, who I assume, did not want their outfits to distract from the often graphic, colorful artwork on display (it worked!)

 Luhring Augustine wearing Dries Van Noten

One noticeable exception was Luhring Augustine, a standout among her wonderful small scale sculptures, clad in a printed Dries Van Noten dress, which she perfectly accessorized. FYI, when I mentioned that the Dries show was the next day in Paris, Ms. Augustine said she knew and was looking forward to viewing it. And yes, the collection did in fact, have an artistic slant. In fact, it was inspired by art brut (‘raw art’). Invented by Jean Dubuffet, it is meant to describe art such as graffiti or naïve art, made outside the academic tradition of fine art.

A guest wearing a graphic color block coat

There were a number of other women who dressed colorfully and graphically, seemingly with an art show in mind: some in Pucci-esque prints, a few in color blocked coats, a smattering in florals, and a handful in leopard (leopard, which has been all over the runways, is the ultimate neutral and goes with everything, including art!) There were several male peacocks as well: Sanford Smith was in an embroidered iridescent lavender dinner jacket with matching scarf and Christopher Mason wore a colorful scarf and bow tie in different patterns to accentuate his colorfully patterned pants.

Calligraphy artist Wang Dongling with  Marilyn Kirschner

I opted for a colorful, beaded vintage 80’s ‘Miro’ jacket by Jeanette Kastenberg for St. Martin which echoes Oscar Wilde’s notion, “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art”. Of course, Gertrude Stein also said, “You can either buy paintings, or buy clothes.” Do I really have to choose?

Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress

There is no question that the connection between art and fashion is a strong one regardless of whether or not you think fashion can actually rise to the level of art (as it assuredly does at Comme des Garcons). What cannot be denied is that art (in all its forms) has served as major inspiration for fashion designers through the years and continues to do so. Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian homage is one iconic example that immediately comes to mind and just think about all the graphic color blocks, stripes, splatter paints, abstract patterns, artful patchworks, and florals that take a page from the impressionists, not to mention all the contemporary poster art, some of which has been plastered on the walls of show venues (notably at Prada).

Art galleries and iconic art museums are periodically chosen as show venues. To wit: Carolina Herrera staged her last show at the Museum of Modern Art (she has also shown at the Frick). Proenza Schouler and Tory Burch have shown at the Whitney. The Olsen twins emphasized the sculptural purity of their minimal designs for The Row by filling their downtown studio with a number of sculptures from the Noguchi Museum (including several pieces which had not been seen before).

Ralph Rucci Twombly Swan dress in cotton gazar

It’s impossible to talk about the connection between fashion and art without mentioning couturier Ralph Rucci. Not only has his work been inspired by Cy Twombly, Franz Kline, and Louise Nevelson (among others); he is also an accomplished artist with a number of one man shows under his belt.

Then of course, there is Raf Simons who has stated that art is more important than fashion; and he keeps proving it. Who could forget his Picasso themed collection for Jil Sander in spring 2011? But perhaps most convincing is his long running and highly successful collaboration with California artist Sterling Ruby. Mr. Ruby has designed prints for Raf’s first Christian Dior Haute Couture collection, spring 2012 (the traditional Bucol silks were woven to represent a painting, drips and all), as well as for his eponymous men’s collection in Paris (2014).

Calvin Klein artful show venue fall 2018 Ready-To-Wear

He is now a major part of his widely acclaimed re-invention for Calvin Klein, down to the show venues and settings. For fall 2018, their show venue was a completely transformed American Stock Exchange, recreated as a post-apocalyptic barnyard/art gallery complete with gallons of popcorn, Andy Warhol photographs, and Sterling Ruby sculptures hanging from the scaffolding.

- Marilyn Kirschner

New York Fashion Cool-Aid® by Laurel Marcus

FGI Frontliners Panel "The Making of A Beauty Entrepreneur"

Left to Right: Elana Drell-Szyfer, Frédéric Fekkai, Nancy Twine, Matthew Malin, Jamie OBanion
Photo: Laurel Marcus - click images for full size views

What does it take to become a beauty entrepreneur in today's economy? What is it like to launch a new beauty initiative into this already overcrowded market?  This was the subject of Tuesday night's FGI Frontliners panel entitled "The Making of A Beauty Entrepreneur" sponsored by Cosmoprof. A sold out crowd gathered at FGI headquarters for a panel discussion featuring Elana Drell-Szyfer, CEO RéVive Skincare as moderator; Frédéric Fekkai, Co-Founder & CEO, Bastide; Matthew Malin, Co-Founder, Malin + Goetz; Jamie O'Banion, Founder & CEO, Bioscience, and Nancy Twine, Founder, Briogeo.

Karen Young, FGI, Matthew Malin, Jamie O'Banion, Frederic Fekkai, Elana Drell-Szyfer, Nancy Twine

Drell-Szyfer opened the discussion with a shout-out to a WWD special edition on mergers & acquisitions of beauty brands and their entrepreneurs. "Companies don't come to market anymore, you have to be in the know," she said. The four panelists would certainly fit that description. Of course, Frederic Fekkai, the celebrity hairstylist is basically a household name. "There's Estee, Helena and Frederic," quipped Drell-Szyfer. Tonight's focus was not on his eponymous brand but on his 2015 launch of Bastide, a French skin-care line (he purchased the company Cote Bastide based in his hometown of Aix-en-Provence) for which he has developed his own products. Matthew Malin, once a buyer at Barneys and a developer of products for lines such as Kiehls, is one half of the personal and professional partnership with Andrew Goetz, an architect. Jamie O'Banion is the daughter of a chemist who worked on products for private label dermatologists as well as for "the big four" -- together they developed Beauty Bioscience, a pioneer of various skin advances including a micro-needling patent. Her products are sold on HSN as well as in the prestige market. Nancy Twine started formulating her products in 2010 but worked her high-level job in finance until 2014, "I didn't quit my Wall Street job until I had press and landed Sephora." She developed Biogeo hair care in her studio apartment kitchen after realizing there was a need for products to address a diversity of hair types.

Capacity audience

Is there a right time to start your business? "No, it's when you have a passion and an idea," said Fekkai. He knew the time was right when he saw Cote Bastide was for sale giving him an opportunity to "rebrand an authentic brand and make it transparent, run like a family business at a global scale." Twine remarked on the importance of filling a void in the market. And if you think it will be easier being your own boss, everyone on the panel agreed with her statement "It's a hustle every single day!" Malin thinks there is a right time to launch adding that he is from a very risk averse family as opposed to Goetz who grew up in a family of entrepreneurs."Fear drove me to work like a dog," he added of his now 14- year old company. Stunning model, former Miss Teen Texas and Miss Teen America runner-up, mother of three O'Banion said it's similar to the question of "Is there ever a right time to start a family?" Her father was a "self-made millionaire" so science was always in her blood. "When people tell me they want to start their own companies so they can make their own hours, when they complain about working 12-hour days -- how do I delicately and politely tell them I wish for their 12-hour days?" She adds that it's important to "organize, prepare and plan" as well as to make mistakes but learn to "pivot before you run out of money."

What about the focus on formulating products with a "natural transparency and performance balance?" "We make a lot of organic raw materials -- there's radical transparency with what's in it and what it is formatted without" said O'Banion, adding that she would never formulate a product with parabens or sulfates. Malin mentions his brand's "modern apothecary look. It's how people shopped a hundred years ago -- you went to the chemist and he mixed something and put his chemist labels on it." He agreed that "the customer has become educated or even over-educated." Twine says her products contain "no synthetics and are six-free. We check in with the EWG (Environmental Working Group) -- everything is cruelty free and vegan certified." Fekkai added "I don't think today we have a choice to include non natural products. Everyone is so educated today. Technology for natural products is developed so well to be toxic free."

What advice would you give to anyone considering becoming a beauty entrepreneur? "The good news about being an entrepreneur is you allow yourself to make a mistake but not to repeat the mistake. What can I do to be different and surprising to the customer? [It's about] creating ideas with product that is exciting and innovative?" O'Banion addressed the guilty mother issue: "Sometimes I'm a kick-ass CEO and sometimes I'm a great mother but they're never on the same day. I'm on a plane every week and I used to apologize to my kids intimating that what I'm doing is wrong so I changed the dialogue. I've re-framed it by saying 'I'm going to go work so hard and you go work so hard at school and we'll high five each other when I get home.'" Malin advises working with someone who possesses different skills than you -- a yin and yang relationship. "I'm dry and sensitive, Goetz is oily and resilient -- we balance each other out although we do butt heads at times."

Other topics such as who to go to for advice (Twine said "everyone who's close to me,") if and when to take on investors ("Finding people to share your passion -- you must seek out the right partner,") the need to diversify the brand (Malin + Goetz has a freestanding store, a website/social media, national and international distributors -- department and specialty stores and an amenity program for the service industry). The importance of knowing and understanding the business operation of your creative endeavor coupled with hiring the right people, and corporate culture were also discussed. Fekkai may have put it best when he offered this piece of wisdom: "You must make it like a home -- if it's not welcoming, people may come in but they will soon get out."

Final words of advice? Fekkai stressed the importance of listening saying "People forget to listen." Twine: "Stay true to your core -- slow and steady wins the race. What is our mission? What are we trying to do?" Malin spoke of the farmhouse in upstate New York where the couple of 25 years goes to retreat and he has taken up gardening. "I'm doing something just for me -- it's something that helps me recharge." O'Banion spoke of "captaining your own ship. We all have 24 hours in a day. It's important to own your own decisions, to put a stake in the ground. No one else can run your life -- define for yourself what success looks like." If that's supposed to be a pep talk it failed on me -- I feel like a slacker!

- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

"Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion" by Clare Press

More info/purchase

I approached "Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion" by Vogue Australia's sustainability editor-at-large Clare Press, the way one would a bottle of foul tasting medicine -- if I can get this down maybe it will be good for me. Press, who has been not only a fashion editor, but also a brand consultant, and columnist, as well as the presenter of the Wardrobe Crisis podcast, strikes a snappy humorous tone in this her second book. Warning: get out your British English to American English dictionary or Google the many funny slang expressions. These British-isms make sense since the author is Aussie and the book was originally written for the UK market (it was released there in 2016) but must have slow walked here -- it was released February 20 for the US and China market.

In our current culture of news immediacy I'm wondering about the two year lag time and if it impacts any new developments in the world of sustainability. I also have been asking myself if the titular "wardrobe" refers to the piece of furniture which holds one's clothing (the primary meaning across the pond) rather than the repertoire/collection of clothing which one owns. I guess it works either way -- the idea being that they are both overstuffed!

Clare Press

The book's 336 pages are really like two books in one with the first half being an enjoyable vast fashion in-depth look at important design houses from Charles Frederick Worth, to Coco Chanel, Dior to Hermes -- the author not only loves clothing but loves their history. The impact of these icons on the fashion world is detailed showing how our "need" for status clothing was shaped. Nowadays social media spurs clothing over-consumption and fast fashion is only too happy to comply, leaving our landfills as overloaded as our closets. I learned several retail terms I was aware of but didn't realize they had names. In case you've ever wandered dazed and confused around a store (I immediately think of Ikea) with its deliberately designed system making one subject to impulse buys, it's called the Gruen Transfer. The second half of the book illustrates how shopping habits combined with clothing production have come home to roost in various harmful ways, impacting our health, natural and human resources.

By asking about the supply chain through which our clothes are produced, from the fabric to the manufacturing, it becomes eye-opening how many possibilities there are for potential abuse of both man and nature. Since most manufacturing has been moved overseas for lower wages, poor or dangerous "sweatshop-type" working conditions have resulted in countries such as China, Mexico or Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza building collapse was this generation's Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. There's also the potential spread of disease through any sick unregulated "home workers"in close contact with a garment which will end up in some unsuspecting person's home, perhaps causing "a pox on both their houses," as the saying goes.

Sometimes it really comes down to choosing the lesser of two evils (or Boll weevils lol) as organic crops, such as cotton can be subject to insect infestations. Poisoning the insects spreads potential carcinogenic risks up the food chain so a better type of cotton seed was developed by scientists; on the contrary there's the problem of killing off the silk worms after they've cocooned the silk which many think is inhumane. Our oceans are full of plastics which impact fish, birds and end up in our drinking water; the dye from blue jeans actually makes China's rivers, also used for bathing and drinking, run a toxic blue.

So what's to be done? Press who sits on the Australian advisory board of Fashion Revolution details several solutions for developing nations such as startups involving social enterprise rather than conventional fashion labels. Organizations such as the UN Ethical Fashion Initiative and the International Trade Centre's Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) link artisanal micro producers with an aim toward empowering people in poverty. The author admits that the product must be something that people want to buy (she mentions several such as soleRebels shoes from Africa, and garments from Studio One Eighty-Nine, a collective of batik artisans in Ghana and New York co-founded by actress/activist Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah) to ensure any kind of lasting sustainability.

Fashion designers who are praised for making an eco effort include Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Maiyet, "Choose Life" graphic t-shirt designer Katherine Hamnett (who had a go at supplying Tesco with an "organic and Fair Trade" collaboration until she discovered that they were not finding it easy being green), and UK brand People Tree. U2's Bono and activist wife Ali Hewson are applauded for starting the now defunct company Edun (Nude backwards); Patagonia gets kudos for doing an environmental study of their fleece (they actually found those residual fibers everywhere!) as well as for their 2011 "Don't Buy this Jacket" ad campaign encouraging a model of less consumer consumption and less factory production. Pharrell's G-Star Raw for the Oceans which recycles plastics found in the oceans into clothing, is yet another example (when Press interviewed him she was cautioned not to talk about THE HAT). Even H&M is working the eco market despite half of their sales staff being oblivious to their Conscious Collection.

Naturally, Press discusses real fur versus faux, mentioning UK brand Shrimps -- one of the only faux fur brands against using a softening chemical process -- supposedly they have sourced a faux fur that doesn't need more treating as it's already soft. There's an informative section on Merino wool, sheep shearing and mulesing -- a surgical procedure in which a sheep's butt folds are smoothed out to prevent flystrike -- does anesthetizing the sheep make the practice ethical?

In the last chapter entitled "Can We Really Change Our Ways?" Press, who once owned a vintage shop, unsurprisingly endorses vintage fashions. Other popular ways to "waste not, want not" include adding hand work to existing clothing -- repurposing, repairing, upcycling, using scraps and fabric overruns. Crocheting is another favored method -- no fabric is wasted since you are creating something which didn't previously exist solely from a spool of yarn. In the eco world there are even those who will buy defective sweaters (with a flaw or a dropped stitch), for the purpose of unraveling the yarn and reusing it.

No matter if you don't immediately take up a crochet hook, darning needle, or hightail it off to the nearest crafting store -- after reading this book, you will no doubt be more aware. Side effects include examining the tags of your clothing with a more discerning eye.

- Laurel Marcus

Monday, February 26, 2018

20th Annual CDGA Costume Designers Guild Awards by Merle Ginsberg

Costume Designers Are the Real West Coast Fashionistas

The Audience

CDG . . . To any normal living breathing fashion person, those 3 initials could only stand for one iconic thing: Comme des Garcons. But here in Hollywood, where fashion’s always related to entertainment in some way or another (even when it’s bad – no, especially when it’s bad) – CDG stands for The Costume Designers Guild.

The boring explanation: The Costume Designers Guild is the union (Local 892) of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE): Costume Designers, Assistant Costume Designers and Costume Illustrators for film, television, music videos and commercials.

The more relevant fashion explanation: CDG is the twenty year old organizing body for every major modern costume designer you’ve ever heard of: Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago) Ann Roth (The Hours, The Talented Mr. Ripley), Bob Mackie (Cher, Diana Ross, The Love Boat), Sandy Powell (Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator, Velvet Goldmine, Carol, Cinderella), etc etc.

Of course, before great American and European fashion came to Hollywood (around the early fifties, when Givenchy started dressing Audrey Hepburn), the classic costume designers of yore: Edith Head (All About Eve, Roman Holiday, Sabrina ), Irene Sharaff (Funny Girl, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Cleopatra) Orry-Kelly (Gypsy, Some Like it Hot) were the ones who made the iconic Oscar gowns of Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly, etc.) Before fashion designers became frock stars, Hollywood costume designers had the biggest effect on American – and international – fashion; all little girls wanted to dress like glamorous actresses in the movies. Movie imagery is what moved merch. Even major hair styling trends started with movies (Mia Farrow’s Vidal Sassoon pixie in Rosemary’s Baby comes to mind)– and eventually, television (need I say more then Jennifer Aniston?).

Doug Jones
Photo: Merle Ginsberg

This week, I attended the annual Costume Designers Guild Awards – this one being it’s 20th anniversary – and event I always look forward to – not for who wins – but for sartorial people watching. The CGDA, as the event’s known, is always a welcome frilly fantastical flamboyant break from status quo Hollywood so-called “fashion” events. When you go to other Hollywood awards shows/parties, you see two things: 1/fabulously dressed actresses, wearing designer ready to wear or couture gowns, chosen by stylists, or, 2/very badly, blandly or cheaply (or both) dressed everyone else, since they wear jeans or leggings every other day of the year.

Now, when you go to Hollywood mainstream real fashion events: runway shows, store openings (McQueen recently moved from Melrose to Rodeo Drive) – or even last week’s 50th Anniversary of Mr. Chow’s extravaganza (local fashion stars China Chow in Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garcons, Anjelica Huston in Pamela Barish, Anne Crawford in Rick Owens) – you see stylists/artists/socialites/big shoppers/rappers/music biz types and of course, actresses -wearing very expensive designer clothes they got at Barneys or the Rick Owens store on LaBrea Avenue.

An Crabtree costume designer
Photo: Merle Ginsberg

This is why the CGD’s are so exceptional: when you go to the Costume Designers Guild Awards, you aren’t going to see chic – or sexy – or even - designer. Costume designers march to the beat of their own drums – and sewing machines. They’re going for drama – theatrics - they flourish in a heightened reality, creating characters, not fashion icons (like celebrity stylists). They’re telling stories – not looking for compliments. Or rich husbands. Or paparazzi snaps. So what they wear reflects their own stories, their own imaginations, their own influences. If you’re looking for wildly original looks in New York, you’ll cruise the East Village. In L.A, you’ll cruise the CDGA.

And just to add to the fashion world synergy/cred, CDGA 20 was sponsored by Harper’s Bazaar, The Outnet and Westfield Malls.

Mayes C. Rubio costume designer
Photo: Merle Ginsberg

This year, I was surprised to see these female and male swan/divas all wearing black. Turns out, famed modern costumers Ellen Mirojnick (Wall Street, Fatal Attraction) and Arianne Phillips (W.E., Kingsmen, and Madonna’s stylist) put out an APB to guild membership that they should all pay their non-colorful respects to the current #metoo and Time’sUp dress code. Still, even in a sea of film noir (double entendre), there was plenty of eye-popping originality. For instance, tv costumer Dawn Ritz floated by in a black column gown and a makeshift headdress of rainbow colored paper mache butterflies – now, that’s what I call sartorial rebellion! Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale costumer Ane Crabtree threw a black corset mini dress over leggings, and added black flowers at the neck and long leather gloves (never mind the drama of her shaved head). Get Out costume designer Nadine Haders popped on a black gaucho hat to liven up her simple black dress. British Game of Thrones costumer Michele Clapton (who of course, won) donned a puffed sleeve black midi, granny boots and hoop earrings nearly the size of Jon Snow’s direwolf.

Sara Sensoy costume designer
Photo: Merle Ginsberg

 Thor: Ragnarak costumer Mayes C. Rubeo doctored up her black fringe Stella McCartney. “That’s what we costumers do!,” she told me. “We can’t go plain, no matter what the dress code. I added the embroidery and beading myself. I always do add-ons.” Music video costumer Sara Sensoy (Marilyn Manson, Florence and The Machine) was probably the evening’s best dressed costume designer – let’s call it, most interestingly dressed – in a crowd of eccentrics: she took an already avant garde pin- striped Comme des Garcon-like long dress and goth-ed it up even more: “I added the chains, the pins; I guess I went a bit heavy. And this hat is a leather fez from Morocco – I was going for a YSL aesthetic.”

Kerry Washington
Photo: Getty Images

And the actors who come to present upped their game a bit, too. Hunky Rufus Sewell, there to present, wore a very traditional Cary Grant looking tux with bow tie. Tall drink of water Shape of Water actor Doug Jones had on a one of a kind vintage steam punk coat from a mail order steam punk catalogue (yes, they do exist). Lily Tomlin, who presented, told me, “I dug out this old black Chanel jacket that I loved – till I read that she was a Nazi lover. Please don’t tell anyone! But Ms. Fonda told me never to toss out Chanel.” Her ruby earrings turned out to be costume – “they belonged to Mae West – someone gave them to me. Do you think Mae West wouldn’t wear paste??” The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Rachel Brosnahan did her 1950’s fit n’ flare character proud: she put a tweed strapless fit n flare midi dress on top of a black v neck. And divine diva-swan Kerry Washington, who got the CDG Spotlight Award, was resplendent in a spring 2018 floral Dolce & Gabbana tulle gown based in black, but strewn with giant 3 D red rosettes. Looking back at the high fashion effect of her show Scandal – the Olivia Pope look sold more Prada bags than Sex and the City – Washington credited the show’s costumer Lyn Paolo with making her waist always nipped – “even when I was pregnant. She got Armani couture pants, cut out the waist, and added expandable fabric. I waddled a lot – but I still looked chic. And not pregnant.”

Eva Longoria, who presented Washington with her award, clearly didn’t get the #metoo memo. The pregnant star looked a little embarrassed in a blush satin Nili Lotan slipdress, with what looked like a baby pink satin bathrobe over it. Well, okay. Pitch Perfect actress Anna Camp looked terrific in a coral tiered J. Mendel gown – but a little sheepish at missing the dress code. Hey, it’s one way to stand out in that crowd.

The night’s big winners – outside of Kerry Washington’s Dolce ensemble - included the costume designers of I, Tonya, The Shape of Water (Luis Sequeira beating out likely Oscar winner Mark Bridges, for Phantom Thread), The Crown, Wonder Woman and Game of Thrones.

The funniest presentation of the night, the one that woke up everybody in the Beverly Hilton Ballroom at the end, was done by Sally Field, presenting a career achievement award to costume designer Joanna Johnston (Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, Lincoln). Field dragged a big old white canvas tote bag on stage with her, and whipped out the fuzzy pink sweater she wore when she (as Mama Gump) famously told Forrest Gump that “life is like a box of chocolates.” “It's such a specific choice for such an important scene — Mama Gump's death — and it speaks in ways words can't,” Field said. She also showed off an odd pastiche quilt constructed from pieces of each of Mary Todd Lincoln's 1860’s gowns, that Johnston made her as a souvenir from that 2012 film.

“All right, who else is going to pull out their quilt?” host of the evening Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) asked the crowd. Rodriguez herself went the typical young actress route for her look: a metallic slip dress with a slit up the back. When in doubt in Hollywood, wear a metallic slip dress and show a lot of skin. Hardly original –but not everyone can be an original.

Unless they’re a costume designer.

- Merle Ginsberg

She is an award winning writer/journalist/editor, and the New York Times best selling author, who specializes in fashion, beauty, culture, and whole crossover thereof. She's been a staff writer for Rolling Stone, W Magazine, Women's Wear Daily, Harper's Bazaar, and The Hollywood Reporter. She's also been a contributor to New York Magazine The Cut, the NY Times T Magazine, People, US, Ladies Home Journal, the London Times, Daily Front Row, Marie Claire, NME, Tatler, Variety,Esquire, Cosmopolitan, The Daily Beast, Fashion Network, - and she currently freelances for The New York Post, as well as other publications. Her television career includes entertainment/fashion on air reporting for CNN, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, ABC News, The Today Show, Good Morning America and the BBC. She was a staff producer/writer for MTV, VH1 and E! Entertainment - and starred on two reality shows: Rupaul's Drag Race and Bravo's Launch My Line.

Saturday, February 24, 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.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

New York Fashion Week Fall 2018: In Living Color

Marc Jacobs
Photo: The New York Times
Click images for full size views

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