Friday, June 29, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Atlantic City "Hard Rock" and "Ocean Resort" Casino Openings - A Star is Reborn

Our reporter Lieba Nesis
Click images for full-size views

I had no idea what to expect on my first ever visit Atlantic City as the reviews from my fancy friends were mixed-why would you go there they asked. Despite my apprehension, I grabbed my heavy suitcase and camera and headed to Penn Station to grab a train. Unfortunately, I misread the schedule, and there were no direct trains on a Wednesday night. Should I or shouldn't I? It was close to 10 PM, and I was more than a bit discouraged about whether it was worth the trip. Heading to the Port Authority terminal, I was told the next available bus was leaving in an hour and a half. Vacillating as to whether to proceed I waited patiently next to a man who sounded like he had Whooping cough and about ten pigeons who remained dangerously close to my suitcase. I purchased a ticket for $21 and headed to the gate. As the bus left the driver asked the passengers to refrain from drinking. To no avail, the man in front of me continued to offer me and my seatmate sips from his vodka flask admitting that he had been drinking since way before departure.

Elvis Presley Rolls Royce at Hard Rock Casino
All photos: Lieba Nesis

I am slightly uneasy but mostly annoyed by this passenger who continues to chat my reluctant neighbor up. We arrive at Caesar's two hours later-my trip to Greenwich Village during rush hour takes longer-and I am left wandering the streets of Atlantic City at 2 A.M. with a suitcase and Louis Vuitton bag wondering if this is a precarious situation.  Finally, I spot a Sheraton in the distance and for $150 a night I am brought to a lavish room replete with air conditioning and curtains (luxuries an $800 room in the Hamptons fails to provide.)

The Boardwalk

The next morning I excitedly headed to the casino openings of "The Hard Rock Hotel" and "The Ocean Resort" located on the Boardwalk. I was astounded by the vast expanse of the Boardwalk and its magnificent beach.  Amusement Park rides, Go Karts, and Food Trucks sprinkled on the nearly three-mile walk which was teeming with enthusiastic crowds. "The Hard Rock Casino," the 2,000 room behemoth located in the midst of the action, spent $500 million over the past 14 months to renovate the former Trump Taj Mahal. Joe Gingoli, along with Jim Allen and Jack Morris otherwise known as the "Jersey Boys," attended the day's festivities. Gingoli wearing a sharp grey suit and accompanied by bodyguards called the Hard Rock "a game changer" due to the 390 shows a year and the numerous theaters it contains. Gingoli said the press reports about the demise of Atlantic City were wholly inaccurate and he was willing to bet big on the beautiful beaches and boardwalk.

Jamie Foxx performing at Ocean Resort

The morning festivities at "Hard Rock" consisted of greeting guests with the smashing of guitars, a performance by Jamie Foxx and massive fireworks.  Mark Wahlberg was also in attendance at both openings as well as Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan. Over the weekend a 36,000 Square Foot "Scores" Strip Club is opening, and both Carrie Underwood and Pitbull are to perform at the "Hard Rock." Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam heralded the day's events calling it "a new era" and remarking that Atlantic City was open for business. In fact, within the next couple of days, more than one million people are heading to Atlantic City to celebrate its reemergence as a gambling hotspot.

The introduction of sports betting and the opening of Atlantic City's Stockton University's Beach Campus in September are signs that the lost jobs and casino closings during the last five years might be a thing of the past. Five of Atlantic City's 12 casinos closed between 2013 and 2106, and the unemployment rate of 6.3% was way above the national rate of 4% at that time. Atlantic City was once the number one tourist attraction in New Jersey, but as recently as July 23, 2017 "Business Insider" called it a "ghost town."

Left to right: Peter Milto, Paul D’Angelo, and Nick Milto

It is hard to explain why developers have chosen to pour billions of dollars back into this risky investment with multiple nearby venues now offering gambling; however, since most of these renovations have occurred during the Trump Presidency one explanation might be the resurgence of the economy and the hope that people are spending big again. The Second Casino, "The Ocean Resort," which was formerly called "The Revel," cost $2.4 billion to build and closed in 2014 after only two and a half years of operation. Glen Straub acquired the property out of bankruptcy in 2015 for $82 million and Colorado developer Bruce Deifik bought the 1,399 rooms in January for $200 million and proceeded to spend more than $200 million on a renovation.


The building was magnificent with glass enclosures that highlighted the beach and a casino that was on par with the best of Monte Carlo and Vegas. I gasped when I rode up the escalators and looked out onto the magnanimous boardwalk. Restaurants including Dolce, Amada, Cafe 500 and American Cut as well as a hamburger restaurant owned by actor Mark Wahlberg called "Wahlburgers," and an over-the-top Food Court draws culinary aficionados to this gambling site. "Ocean Resort" also contains a sports betting facility, golf simulator, burlesque club, spa and a 5,500 seat concert hall.

Some novelty features include "Cereal Town" which serve cereal 24 hours a day and a giant fish tank. Between the two casinos, more than 7,000 people have been hired with room supply increasing by 30 percent and gaming space up by 41 percent. When the clock struck 11 PM, I ran to catch the two-hour express bus at the nearby station and took one last glimpse at the majestic "Ocean Resort." Atlantic City was established in the 1800's as a health resort has become a mecca of glitzy high-rise hotels and nightclubs. The short 24 hours I experienced has left me wanting more. When my friend's inquiry about my trip I gleefully respond, "what happens in Atlantic City stays in Atlantic City."

- Lieba Nesis

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

Best Summer Uniform

Jackie Kennedy in her uniform of black t-shirt and white jeans with Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti
on the Island of Capri

Blame it on the advent of summer, the constant barrage of fashion shows and collections (and images that can only be best described as TACKY and TASTELESS), but I am really feeling for a chic, fuss-free simplicity right about now, and the idea of streamlining, and affecting a uniform, is particularly appealing. Who wants to spend hours getting dressed, especially this time of time year? If I had to write a book about fashion (especially summer fashion), the title would be, “It’s not that complicated” because it really isn’t (with age comes wisdom).

For me, there are no more enduring images than the ones of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis on holiday on the Isle of Capri (a personal favorite of mine) from 1969 – 1973, looking ultra glamorous yet ultra-relaxed in her uniform of white jeans and black short sleeved tee. In some pictures she is wearing flat thong sandals (made on the island), her hair obscured by a printed scarf, and her ever-present Hermes “Trim” bag in natural Toile and Barenia neatly tucked under her arm. But my favorites are where she has kicked off her shoes, her hair is worn straight, parted in the middle and pulled back in a low bun, and she has accessorized with the aforementioned bag, gold hoop earrings, and oversized shades. What more do you really need? Nothing. It is the epitome of easy glamour, chic simplicity and quite frankly, it is a look that you cannot improve upon.

In addition to being forever obsessed with white jeans, I am always on the hunt for the perfect black t-shirt, which is the ultimate wardrobe workhorse. It is much more versatile and easier to keep clean than white, works for day and evening, can be worn on its own or beneath a tailored blazer and is the perfect year-round layering piece. Of course, what is perfect for one, may not be perfect for another and even I will admit that I need a wardrobe of black tees in a variety of cuts and sizes because fashion is all about proportion. In a recent search, I found a number of good choices, priced from $9.90 to $556.50 (for those who just can’t bear to save their money lol).

Click images for full-size views:

You can’t get any more basic or do better for the price, than Uniqlo’s crew neck short-sleeved cotton jersey t-Shirt, $9.90. More info/purchase

J. Crew’s Slim Perfect T-shirt is aptly named if a slim cut is what you are after, $29.50 More info/purchase

Theory’s black Slub Cotton Tiny Tee, with its bound neckline and double-needle topstitching on the collar and sleeves, is as close to perfection as one can get, $85. More info/purchase

If you want something with a lower scoop neck, Vince is offering an Elbow Sleeve Scoop Neck in black Italian jersey, $125. More info/purchase

If you want basic, but not THAT basic, and need a designer label affixed somewhere (for everyone to see), you can splurge on this Saint Laurent made in Italy appliqued soft cotton jersey t-shirt, cut for a loose fit, $490. More info/purchase

Balenciaga’s slightly slouchy black cotton jersey t-shirt is appliqued in back with blue designer lettering which is frayed for a DIY feel, $450 More info/purchase

And for those who absolutely need to express themselves and make a statement with a slogan, there are, of course, slogan inscribed black t-shirts. Double Trouble Gang ‘s black cotton-jersey t-shirt is embroidered with ‘Trouble Maker’, $42.50 (reduced 50% from $85). More info/purchase

This Ashish cotton-jersey t-shirt top has long sleeves and is imprinted with, “Life is Exhausting and People are so Annoying” in Swarovski crystals, $556.50 (30% off $795). More info/purchase

One slogan loving customer who I assume we won't be seeing these on is the First Lady!

- Marilyn Kirschner

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Buckle Up for the Next Big Fashion Trend

Gucci 2019 Cruise Collection
Photo: WWD -click images for full-size views

Buckle up for an exciting fashion season with buckles, seatbelt belts, and statement clothing making a prominent debut on catwalks, red carpets, and magazines. Many have heard of buckles on belts, but buckles on pants, T-shirts, and skirts are an exciting new trend. Gucci, an accurate harbinger of upcoming shifts in style, debuted its 2019 Cruise Collection featuring the "rock star" look of pants with buckles on the side and a seatbelt belt.

$1900 buckle skirt from Marina

This is reminiscent of Gucci's introduction of the fanny pack into mainstream fashion lingo - an almost unthinkable development. I wore fanny packs years ago to black-tie events and clubs and was outwardly mocked by shocked attendees. However, with the advent of athleisure wear into the "fashion hall of fame," I wouldn't be surprised if buckles and seatbelt belts eventually appear prominently in evening wear.

Lady Gaga
Photo: Vogue

Lady Gaga wore a pair of rainbow buckle jeans to the Gay Pride Parade this past Sunday which she posted on two Instagram photos. The designer of her pants was Marina Hoermanseder who has an entire site devoted to shirts, skirts, and pants with buckles and they are not cheap. The pants and skirts start at $640 and reach close to $3,000. These are statement pieces that garner tremendous attention as Gaga's pants were prominently featured in a Vogue article which called them "must-see" jeans.

Rihanna in buckle pants
Photo: Just Jared

The Hoermanseder site also has bags, iPhone cases, and dresses covered in buckles of all shapes and sizes. Another fashion influencer, Rihanna a.k.a. "Badgalriri," donned white buckle pants in an April 14th Instagram posting of her Coachella outfit - it appears an explosion of this trend is in its incipient stages.

A brief history of the buckle reveals it entered Middle English via Old French and the Latin "buccula" or "cheek strap" for a helmet. Some of the earliest buckles known were used by Roman soldiers to strap their body armor together. During the 14th Century, buckles remained a specialty item for the wealthy until improved manufacturing in the 15th century made the item available to the general public. While buckles have been commonly used on belts and sandals, they have recently become a status symbol with a GG (Gucci) or H (Hermes) buckle costing close to $1,000.

Solange Knowles
Photo: Just Jared

In the past couple of years, bows have been prominent on dresses, skirts, and shirts; it is about time the buckle got its time in the sun as a new decorative item that is edgier and fashion-forward than the old-fashioned bow. Buckles which in the past had a mostly utilitarian purpose can now be celebrated more frivolously and whimsically. This past May, style icon Solange Knowles wore an ensemble to the 70th annual Parsons Benefit that featured a seatbelt belt and cut out pants - a look that was met with mostly positive reviews. An honoree wearing an outfit of this kind to an elegant dinner would have been unimaginable ten years ago.

Ferretti Saturday Sweater

Another trend that has been pervasive for the past couple of years is statement clothing as introduced by Gucci with its "Blind for Love" moniker. Other designers followed suit with the successful introduction of Alberta Ferretti's day of the week sweater collection that has been copied by various websites.

Melania Trump

 Enter first Lady Melania Trump, who inadvertently gave momentum to this pervasive trend by donning a thirty-nine dollar 2016 Zara jacket emblazoned with the words "I really don't care do u?." While numerous designers have produced alternative outerwear with opposing words such as "I really do care" the undeniable appeal of being able to express one's point of view with an article of clothing is becoming more appealing.

Dior "We all should be feminists" t-shirt

From Dior selling a cotton T-shirt for $710 with the aphorism "We Should All Be Feminists" to the renowned feminist statement shirt "The Future is Female," it is safe to say this trend will continue to pick up steam. Imagine the allure of appearing on the subway in a "move out of my way" sweater -wouldn't that save a lot of unnecessary pleasantries.

- Lieba Nesis

Monday, June 25, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Hamptons Heart Ball Ushers in the Exciting Summer Season

Mark Talamini, Chris Dossa, and Dr. Apostolos Tassiopoulos
All photo Lieba Nesis - click images for full-size views

The 22nd Annual Hamptons Heart Ball for the American Heart Association (AHA) took place on June 23, 2018, at The Southampton Arts Center with cocktails beginning at 6:00 PM. This event ushers in the busy Hamptons season with a gathering of over 350 native Hamptonites. While the evening was a bit chilly, the warm atmosphere of the crowd lightened the mercurial weather.

Margo and John Catsimatidis with Rebecca Seawright

The night's honorees were Dr. Apostolos Tassiopoulos, Professor and Chief of Vascular Surgery at Stony Brook Hospital and Audrey and Martin Gruss - who were unfortunate no-shows. Co-Chair Jean Shafiroff, who joined Dr. Charles Simonton, has been working hard selling $600 tickets for the past couple of months to this pivotal event with many of her friends attending.

Maria and Ken Fishel

Those including Margo and John Catsimatidis, Rebecca Seawright, Maria and Ken Fishel, Paola Bacchini and Arnie Rosenshein, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Randi Schatz, Joe Fichera, Anka Palitz, Florence Anthony and Southampton Mayor Mike Irving.

Jessica Dimeo, Greg Kelly, and Barbara Poliwoda

During the cocktail hour, there was a silent auction where guests got to bid on some of Hampton's goodies including VIP tickets to Polo in the Hamptons, and dinners from Hampton hotspots.

Oscar Mandes and Bob Chaloner

Attendees then were escorted into the tent where emcee and news anchor, Greg Kelly, regaled the crowd with his spot-on Trump imitation telling guests they were in for an "amazing and fantastic evening." Kelly then stood blindfolded as he thanked the numerous sponsors-impressing the crowd with his keen memory.

Randi Schatz, Adele Nino, Allen Dalton, Lucia Hwong Gordon and Mark Masone

Kelly recounted his recent heart scare when his doctor warned him that he "was on his way to a heart attack." Kelly followed the dietary guidelines of the AHA cutting out red meat and sugar and sticking to a plant and fish based diet and saw his numbers dramatically improve while losing 15 pounds in the process.

Jean Shafiroff

Kelly introduced Chair Jean Shafiroff as an Instagram star and the most photographed woman on the planet and thanked her for her tireless philanthropic efforts. Shafiroff, wearing a dramatic pink and red Victor De Souza gown with a turquoise belt, greeted guests with enthusiasm and kindness. Jean recalled her father's heart attack at the age of 51 and how organizations such as AHA helped her father survive until the age of 94.

Amelie, Simon and Mederick Burckhard

As attendees enjoyed a meal of salmon and beef the heart-wrenching story of 8-year-old Mederick Burckhard who was born with half a heart and has endured eight grueling operations, was recounted on film. Mederick received a standing ovation as he and his parents stood on stage with steely faces acknowledging the help AHA provided while admitting they were anxiously anticipating future surgeries and difficulties. Mederick is a magnificent child, and he danced beautifully to the tunes of the band "The Groove" with more enthusiasm and revelry than most healthy children his age.

Left to right: Linda Tepper, Steven Abrans, and Joan Macri

But there was a definite sadness permeating the visage of his parents as his father, Simon, described their enduring struggles. Simon said that the AHA had provided invaluable support to his family and helped pass legislation making it necessary for kids to get tested for their pulse oximeter as Standard Operating Procedure - a test that was previously unavailable when Mederick was born.

Sandra Kuhl and Joe Fichera

After a live auction, guests were treated to a dessert of apple pie or chocolate cake and then escorted to an after party where heart-healthy tunes were played by DJ Martial. Departing guests received a goody bag which contained a beach bag and mat along with a book and some scented candles - a perfect gift to mark the beginning of the summer.

- Lieba Nesis

Friday, June 22, 2018

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

Charlotte Moss Entertains

Michael McGraw, Diane Clehane & Charlotte Moss
Click image for full-size view

I love when the topic of discussion with my weekly lunch dates serendipitously corresponds with something in the air. Today, I can say without question, I was thrilled that my conversation with Charlotte Moss was the polar opposite of the ugliness that has taken over the news cycle and consumed so many people’s every thought.

Charlotte Moss is all about beauty – seeking it out and creating it in everything from interior design to the dinner table to the backyard garden and, of course, in the pages of her latest lush illustrated book, Charlotte Moss Entertains. Having just returned from France last night, Charlotte sailed into Michael’s at the appointed hour with looking fabulous, pleasantly perfumed (Portrait of a Lady by Frederic Malle) and not a bit jet lagged. “I’m fine! I’ve been up since 3 o’clock this morning,” she told me as we settled in for our chat with Michael McGraw of The McGraw Agency, who arranged for us to meet.

This multi-tasking lifestyle maven is a renowned interior designer, author of ten books and a dedicated philanthropist to a host of causes that a close to her heart. In addition to her 34 year-old interior design firm that caters to a small number of select clients (Michael Bloomberg was one of her first), Charlotte has created a myriad of collections of furniture, carpets, fabric, china and jewelry (more on all this later) while somehow still managing to write and produce gorgeous “coffee table” books every few years. “I’m from a military family. My dad was in the military,” she told me between bites of soft-shell crab when I asked her how she keeps all the balls in the air. “I learned as a child how to manage my time.”

But the secret ingredient to her success is “passion,” said Charlotte. “If you really want to do something, you will. The minute you lose your passion, try something else.” Charlotte’s passion for creating beautiful environments and collecting objects goes back to her childhood in Virginia where she rearranged her mother’s furniture and loved to find ways “to make anything better.” She told me it was her maternal grandmother who introduced her to the idea of creating a welcoming and inspiring home for entertaining. “She had a way of setting a table and arranging family buffets,” said Charlotte. “She had that ‘je ne sais quoi.’ I got that gene.”

There is plenty of evidence of that in Charlotte’s new book that is filled with page after page of beautiful table settings at home, outdoors and in spectacular spaces – all coordinated down to the smallest detail. She took almost all of the photographs in the book explaining to me, “These are photographs of actual lunches, dinners, and parties. How do you have a photographer live with you and get all that?” Still, Charlotte doesn’t consider herself a photographer. “I love being behind the camera. When you’re writing, it’s a pretty solitary activity, but behind the camera it’s you and ‘it’.” Being both writer and photographer of the book, she said, “allowed me to stretch.” Then added, “Intellectually, we all need that push.”

Our far-ranging conversation covered, among other things, the indecipherable design tastes of millennials, the scourge of the selfie stick and the well-earned label of the ‘Ugly American’ rightly bestowed on tourists who show up in fine French restaurants in Europe wearing flip-flops and shorts. “Americans are always the worst dressed,” said Charlotte of her observations she’s made traveling around the world. We can’t say we disagree.

When it comes to “dressing” a house, Charlotte told me there are similarities in her work as interior designers and writing a book. “In both cases, you’re telling a story.”  When working with clients, she told me, “Knowing what to ask is important. Sometimes it’s a matter of me getting out design books and putting Post-its on pages. A ‘no’ tells you what not to do.”

I’d venture a guess that’s not a word Charlotte hears often judging by the impeccable, inspiring spaces she created that are featured in the book. All the photographs are of “real meals, real parties and real events (some featuring Charlotte and her friends who are lucky enough to attend her annual “Caftan Caucus”). Gatherings of family and friends are at the heart of the book for a very specific reason. “Now, more than ever, people need to come together,” she said. “Too many kids are eating alone at the kitchen counter. We’re all hither and yon. It’s about having a conversation, checking in with each other and talking about your day.”

Besides the engaging photographs, Charlotte Moss Entertains is a treasure trove of advice and insight the designer has acquired over the years ranging from how to seat your guests to keep the conversation flowing to creating an element of surprise. All the basics are also covered highlighting the finer points of creating a theme, decorations, and menus.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a section in the book devoted to “Entertaining Ladies” where Charlotte pays tribute to many of the style icons whose influences are still felt today including Audrey Hepburn (“She was a great mom who loved to cook!”), Betsy Bloomingdale (“The ultimate hostess”) and, of course, Jacqueline Kennedy. She did the same thing in her New York Times best-seller, Garden Inspirations. “It’s important for me to a have history, not just have [the book] be Charlotte Moss going off.” I don’t know what made me ask, but I had a feeling Charlotte, being such an avid collector of beautiful things, would have bought something at the famous Jackie Kennedy auction years ago. It turns out she had bought a few things at auction that once belonged to the former first lady – but it was at another smaller Sotheby’s auction where she inadvertently stumbled upon a set of watercolors that Jackie had owned as well as her housekeeper’s notebook from her time at White House. It contained the typed menus of White House dinners as well as the guest lists, a vitamin chart, and even handwritten notes written in Jackie’s distinctive loopy script. “There was a note from her saying she wanted these daisy placemats used to serve the children dinner one night because they made her happy,” said Charlotte. “It’s all in the details.”

That’s the name of the last section of the book which is a stunning collage of all the details needed to create the perfect event big or small -- placements, tableware, and her signature floral arrangements. We both agreed the much-maligned carnation gets a bad rap. “I love the smell!” she told me.

In her work as an interior designer, she creates “couture” for clients and no detail or job is too small. “We’ve done bookplates, stationery, China, embroidered linens. We’ve been asked to do libraries and monographs on artists.” For such a personalized task, Charlotte has called in a specialist to find the right books and install them.

She has interesting advice for a client once she’s finished designing their living space. “The minute we’re done, we make sure the client has planned a party,” she said. “It breaks in a house.”

Books play an important role in Charlotte’s leisure time. She’s a voracious reader and is never without a title on her nightstand (currently it’s Proust’s Duchess by Caroline Weber). “People ask me, ‘What are you reading?’ and I say don’t ask! I’ve always got a book.”

Her other passion (there’s that word again) is philanthropy. She sits on many different boards including American Corporate Partners, which mentors veterans returning to the workplace. Charlotte just completed a year of mentoring a returning female serviceperson and is set to get a new mentee at the organization’s next meeting. She is a trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello and has been working with the Bone Marrow Foundation, which helps families ease the financial burden of treatment, for almost ten years. The work of the Foundation is especially important to Charlotte, who was a donor for her late brother who died of leukemia. “Treatment can be very expensive and there are many people who can’t afford it.”

As we sipped our cappuccino, Charlotte filed me in on her upcoming appearances and projects. She’ll be in Summit, New Jersey, next week for a book signing and reading at A Home. Her calendar for fall is packed with product launches including a jewelry line for P.E. Guerin which will include cuff bracelets, a collection of occasional furniture for Century which debuts in New York in September and a collection for The Ibu Movement, an organization founded by minister-turned-artist Susan Walker whose not-for-profit supports the handmade work of female artisans around the world. “It’s all women. Talk about timely!”

I was exhausted just listening to everything Charlotte is doing and plans to do, but she showed no sign of jetlag after our two-hour lunch. Do you ever just do nothing at all? I asked her. “In my next life I’m coming back as a client so I have more to time read and relax!”

Seen & Heard Around the Room...

Jane Flom at Table One … Wayne Kabak on Two … Joan Jakobson and Mary Murphy onThree … Frank McCourt, former owner of the LA Dodgers on Four .. Andrew Stein on Six … Author Daisy Kahn, whose new book, Born With Wings: The Spiritual Journey of a Modern Muslim Woman, is a must-read and producer Beverly Camhe on Seven … New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Emilia Saint-Amand at his usual perch, Table Eight.

And There’s More...

The New York Post’s media columnist Keith Kelly and Dawn Bridges in Twelve …Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew on Fourteen … Carol Anne Riddell and pals in Sixteen … PR maven Liz Kaplow on Seventeen … Discovery ID’s head honcho Henry Schleiff and attorney Paul Levy on Eighteen … Jack Myers and legendary ad man Martin Puris on Twenty-One … Sara Beth Schrager on Twenty-six … And Kira Semler and Vi Huse enjoying a champagne lunch at the bar.

I’ll be taking an extended ‘Lunch’ break starting next week and won’t be at Michael’s for most of the summer this year. I might pop in for a few special lunches in July, so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

FGI Tastemakers Series Weaves a Breakfast Tapestry with Rose Marie Bravo & Victor Luis

Rose Marie Bravo, Victor Luis, and Margaret Hayes
Photo courtesy of FGI by 
Bruce Borner
Click images for full-size views

It was a very festive and intimate atmosphere on Wednesday morning in the lower level of the Cosmopolitan Club (a welcome change of venue from the usual 21 Club). FGI held their Tastemakers breakfast featuring former president and CEO of many brands as well as CBE (Commander of the British Empire) Rose Marie Bravo posing thought-provoking questions to Victor Luis, CEO of Tapestry. Before you start singing "I feel the Earth move under my feet," this Tapestry refers of course to the multi-brand umbrella including Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman.

The breakfast
Photo: Laurel Marcus

FGI President Margaret Hayes issued a welcoming introduction by FGI President Margaret Hayes likening the setting to a 'mini-wedding' while remarking that the Cosmopolitan Club was a female based establishment much like Fashion Group International. She also informed us that we had 25 minutes to consume scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage and bacon, hash browns, assorted danish, fresh fruit and a yogurt parfait (pretty much encompassing all food groups I'd say).

Rose Marie Bravo
Photo courtesy of FGI by Bruce Borner

Bravo, wearing a colorful Versace-esque blazer, led off with "It's been 12 years since I stepped down from Burberry -- my how things have changed! How do you (as CEO) deal with the speed of change? How do you get a team to deal with it?" Luis responded that you start off with a "clear direction beginning with the Coach brand which needed a big change. Once you have a focus, the hard part is to implement it". Of course, it's important to do that in a way that will "surprise and delight" the customer. How to transition from a single to a multi-brand? How do you know you are ready? Luis spoke of the acquisition of Stuart Weitzman saying that his team didn't want to buy SW at first, "they didn't think they were ready. I decided that we were and the team was ready."

President of Movado, Efraim Grinberg, event sponsor with Victor Luis
Photo courtesy of FGI by 
Bruce Borner

On the subject of multi-group luxury, Bravo wanted to know why the companies who own them are always French (no doubt referring to LVMH and Kering) -- "why not American?" she asked. She also inquired about the moniker -- "I had enough trouble just taking the 'S' off of Burberry -- how do you come up with a whole new name?" Luis explained that when Coach acquired Kate Spade, there was a social media backlash. "The Kate Spade customer didn't want to buy Coach thinking that they're going to be the same," so a new name for the multi-brand preserving each brands unique DNA was needed. Many proposed nomenclatures were already taken -- "I was shocked that Tapestry wasn't registered. It's a great metaphor -- different threads coming together in one tapestry."  As for the use of the sunny color logo: "Yellow is very New York -- the taxis are yellow, and it's a happy color."

Luis went on to explain the difference between "good product pickers" and "good storytellers," the latter being the real key to a brand's success. "It's not as much about retail as about brand," he explained. "Consumer habits are more online now, but we give narratives and stories through marketing and translate them globally versus the good product pickers locally. As a brand-led company, we want to be the best storytellers. We are building a brand for a decade in our business model. Our European competitors have companies passed down for generations -- we are creating a brand business model."

How did Luis take a brand like Coach upmarket? By differentiating from the past and its competition. "We had to make Coach a better more relevant brand. It never had the fashion cred of Michael Kors, Tory Burch or Kate Spade which all had more of a lifestyle image. " How do you do that? By hiring the right person: Stuart Vevers as Creative Director who sought to build credibility over time. "We are surrounding ourselves with the talent needed to do that. We asked 'what do we want to be?' and 'who do we need to make that happen?" In team building Luis refers to "green shoots," (not green shots lol) -- people that can take a brand to the next level while recognizing and allowing that each brand has its different culture and DNA. Luis credits optimism, innovation and inclusivity (more on that later) as the three most important values at Tapestry.

Is the business model of a business person and a creative director together, such as YSL and Pierre Berge still the norm? "People are becoming schooled on both sides these days. There's no way Virgil Abloh would have been a creative director 20 years ago," remarked Luis. Bravo went on about her tenure at Burberry where they had "20,000 SKUs of beige trench coats" and needed creative talent to elevate them. First, it was Raf Simons who had come out of Jil Sander followed by a "refresh" from Christopher Bailey from Gucci who was a youngster (28) but "the perfect person. It wasn't easy to change designers at that point," she said. "Angela Ahrendts did a great job utilizing his talents. Now there are two Italians at the top of Burberry (Marco Grobetti and Riccardo Tisci)." Because this is 2018 and everything is politicized, cue the immigrant discussion as Bravo points out that both she and Luis are immigrants whose families came to pursue the American Dream.

Luis's father brought the family from the Azores taking a job as a barber here."Education, education, education" was the key -- "Education plus the opportunity to leverage it along with hard work. How do I instill these values in my kids since they have a lot? When you have nothing then you're more concerned about how you treat people," Luis said. (IMO -- he's correct for old-school LEGAL immigration on which this country is based).

An intelligent audience member asked the best question: "With a multi-brand portfolio is it hard not to love one child more than the other?" Luis answered that he tries to "get the absolute best team for each brand," one who "understands their vision. The Coach brand gets the most attention and has the biggest funds attached to it."

Bravo raised the diversity of talent issue including race and age as "very important." "WWD did an article about the dearth of women at the top of beauty companies and Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times recently wrote about how few women were actually at the top of fashion companies as designers." Luis spoke of Kate Spade (after Bravo mentioned the "beautiful tribute in the stores to Kate Spade") which has "all women at the top of the brand. Of the top 30, 28 are women. As a white male without an accent, you have blind spots. This is a discussion in every boardroom across the country."

Key things to look for while hiring key people? "We want nice people, smart people, and technical skills. We look for team players -- no high performing jerks. We want high performing nice people -- it feeds on itself. I liken it to a sport -- some people play baseball, we play luxury retail. To play you need the right people on the team," adding that he's "laying the groundwork for the next person. Bravo mentioned Tiffany's changeover: "Once the person at the top changed, the whole company changed. Because of technology, everyone got the message very quickly."

Interestingly, Bravo recounted a "luxury shopping experience" that she recently had at, wait for it -- B&H Photo, buying bird watching binoculars for her husband's birthday. "I didn't want to buy them online, and I wanted someone to explain them to me. I was in and out of there in less than 15 minutes -- they were efficient and knowledgeable."

What about future acquisitions to the Tapestry "quilt?" "We filter 20-30 brands we'd like to acquire. You may want to get married to a lot of people, but they have to say 'yes,'" he quipped.

Other Luis quotes: "If people feel good about a company they do great work." "If it's playing, it's great. When it becomes work, you're in trouble." On work/life balance: "Balance is such a difficult word -- everyone has to find it for themselves. I try to keep the pendulum in the middle and not have it swing to one side or the other. For the past 12 years since I'm at Coach the most important issue is the work/life balance."

- Laurel Marcus

Monday, June 18, 2018

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

Resort 2019: The Duchess’s New Clothes

The Duchess of Sussex wore Oscar de la Renta resort 2019 to a wedding
All photos - click images for full-size views

As I review the 2019 resort collections, which are now underway, I keep thinking of Meghan Markle. It’s almost impossible not to as her images are literally posted all over the internet and staring up at you from magazine covers. Plus, I’ve been seeing pieces that I think would be perfect as she settles into her new life as a Duchess. Meghan was an untraditional, unexpected choice to be Prince Harry’s bride, and her fashion choices should ideally reflect that and be similarly untraditional and unexpected. Not that I expect her to completely break the rules of course, just bend them enough. She can still look aristocratic but tempered with a dose of California cool.

She has already broken protocol in several instances, appearing barely legged at official events (she is supposed to wear stockings). She has not given up wearing trousers or jeans for that matter (they’re just not of the ripped variety). And while she raised some eyebrows at the Trooping the Colours with the pale pink off the shoulder Carolina Herrera dress, that is not why I didn’t care for it. I thought she looked like she was trying too hard, and it looked like something she would wear if she were playing herself in a made for TV movie. The white custom-made Givenchy cape dress, chosen for her first public outing with Queen Elizabeth, was chic and minimal (even if it looked a bit like a straitjacket lol). And she kept nervously fidgeting with her hair (she clearly has to figure that one out!)

But hey, she is still learning the ropes and settling in so there are bound to be some hiccups along the way. And when she attended the wedding of Harry’s cousin Celia McCorquodale to George Woodhouse in Stoke Rochford, England on Saturday, she wore a billowy Oscar de la Renta long sleeved loose wrap-style maxi dress in a blue and white toile-like pattern accessorized with white high heels and a white fascinator (her hair was wisely pulled back in a low bun). It was a rather surprising choice (she doesn’t wear many prints) but it worked on her and shows her range. (See lead photo) The dress was actually from the Oscar de la Renta resort 2019 collection that was presented in New York one month ago. Of course, Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, wore an Oscar de la Renta pistachio hued coat and dress from resort 2019 her daughter’s wedding last month.

Meghan Markle attending the 70th birthday celebration for Prince Charles

Probably my favorite moment, as the newly minted Duchess of Sussex, was when she attended a garden party in honor of Prince Charles’s 70th birthday wearing a simple blush pink long sleeved sheath dress by Goat with that recycled pink Philip Treacy hat, her hair neat and tidy in a low bun.

Meghan obviously has so much potential as a fashion influencer; I just don’t want to see her turn into a Kate Middleton clone (at 5’7” she is about 3 inches shorter than her sister in law). I certainly don’t want her to start looking bourgeois, like the rest of the royals. She is clearly on the right track. Here are some suggestions from resort 2019 that I think would be perfect for updating the Duchess of Sussex’s wardrobe.

Ralph Lauren resort 2019

Recent CFDA honoree Ralph Lauren is synonymous with Great American Sportswear. His focus is on clean, streamlined, timeless, wardrobe staples and impeccable tailoring which is by definition quite aristocratic. This was exemplified by resort 2019, a study in monochromatic blue (navy and baby) and a perfect juxtaposition of day and evening. Among the standouts and Ralph Lauren signatures: the black tuxedo jacket, turtleneck, and chiffon evening skirt.

Ralph Lauren resort 2019 

The navy blazer paired with navy beaded trousers. Any way you look at it, they are right up the Duchess’s alley.

Dior resort 2019 

Maria Grazia Chiuri’s resort collection for Dior had an equestrian theme and nothing is more authentically royal or noble than this ancient sport. I don’t know if Meghan can even ride a horse, but I would love to see her in any number of these impeccably tailored pieces, down to the flat sturdy boots (perfect for England’s often inclement weather).

Dior resort 2019

The new animal printed toile which showed up in a number of incarnations (including a lovely crinolined full skirt), would be perfect on safari with Harry in Africa (admittedly, this is my decidedly romantic, dressed up notion of a safari lol). In addition, Meghan is an avowed feminist and feminism is always at the heart of Chiuri’s collections, so that is right in sync.

Erdem resort 2019

Erdem Moralioglu’s eponymous British label emphasizes couture-level craftsmanship and modern elegance and can best be described as aristocratically quirky, down to the hats and high Elizabethan collars. It’s not surprising that the designer has admittedly been inspired by the royal family, specifically Queen Elizabeth for the spring 2018 collection (he actually researched her wardrobe at Windsor Castle for inspiration).

Erdem resort

Resort is particularly romantic and flowery and flowy, with enough empire waists and trapeze shapes to come into play if or when the Duchess gets pregnant.

Delpozo resort 2019

After a decade of shows in New York, Delpozo’s Josep Font moved his runway presentations to London in February 2018. The Madrid-based creative director, who is a trained architect, is not only a longtime fan of the city but a longtime fan of surprises (he believes that fashion is all about surprises). Wouldn’t it be a delightful surprise to see the Duchess in one of his couture quality and famously unique, eccentric, and colorful designs?

Pringle of Scotland resort 2019

Pringle of Scotland is a heritage brand which is all about knitwear and the use of traditional patterns, done in a way that is sporty yet elegant. I could easily see Meghan wearing the argyle knitted pieces on a trip to Scotland.

Pringle of Scotland resort 2019

The same can be said about the plaid trench and matching pants.

Carolina Herrera resort 2019

Meghan has already worn Carolina Herrera, now designed by Wes Gordon. It is undoubtedly geared for special occasion dressing and considering the Duchess’s busy social schedule which is filled with special occasions, some of these dresses could fit right in. And how great would it be to see Meghan in more color!

Tome resort 2019

Speaking of color, this Kelly green blazer and micro-pleated dress by Tome, designed by Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin would look amazing on the Duchess and how perfect would it be for St. Patrick’s Day?

Victoria Beckham resort 2019

If you love denim, trench coats, and tall boots (as the Duchess does), what could be better than Victoria Beckham’s raw denim tailored trench with matching boots no less?

Giorgio Armani

This season Giorgio Armani focused on tailoring but added an easy sportswear vibe, so the result was a look that was formal and informal, dressed up yet comfy; just the perfect thing for lounging around the castle or palace (whichever one the Duchess finds herself in).

Giorgio Armani resort 2019

And I love everything about this long-sleeved splashy floral chiffon dress with matching clutch and flat pointy-toed mules. And based on what the Duchess has been wearing, I bet she would love it too!

From the moment it was announced that Prince Harry was engaged to Meghan Markle, the world has been transfixed by the biracial American actress, divorcee, and United Nations women’s advocate and she has quickly changed the perception of the royal family; modernizing it, and bringing it into the 21st century. She is beautiful, stylish, and loves fashion.  Whatever she wears (and thus far it’s been a good mix of British, Canadian, American, and French labels at a variety of price points) is instantly photographed and documented and sells out immediately.

Websites like are entirely devoted to her style and she has put some under the radar labels on the map. The website of Canadian brand, Line (, crashed the day she announced her engagement wearing their white wrap coat (it immediately sold out but is now being offered again). She has been heralded as a major fashion influencer and rightly so, even though she doesn’t have the millions of Instagram followers to prove it (she is not allowed to have her own Instagram account).

Fashion Influencer of 2019? Now, that would be a coup for the CFDA if she were to be so honored, and actually attended the award ceremony!

- Marilyn Kirschner