Saturday, September 29, 2018

New York Fashion Cool-Aid® by Laurel Marcus

Book Review: WILDCHILDS Takes a Walk on the Wild Side of the Modeling Industry

More info/purchase 

You know when a good suspense novel has you on the edge of your seat waiting to see how all the loose threads get woven together? Wildchilds, a first novel written by fashion industry insider Eugenia Melian released last week to coincide with Fashion Month, never really sews up the garment.

"The loss of innocence, the death of beauty, and the price of success. An ex-model's journey through the dark side of fashion, where beautiful people do ugly things" reads the book's blurb. Protagonist, Iris de Valadé has a secret -- 17 years ago she suddenly fled Paris leaving the love of her life and her successful modeling career to return to her parents' home in New York -- oh, and she's pregnant.

As the story opens, Iris, now a sculptor, is raising now teenage daughter Lou on a sleepy northern California ranch when her past comes back to haunt her. A FedEx from a lawyer informs her that her long-estranged lover, celebrated art and fashion photographer Gus de Santos, and father that Lou has never met, has unexpectedly died. He has left his estate to his daughter. However, Iris must return to the scene of her traumatic experience to face her demons to recover a missing collection of his work. Also, there's a notorious tabloid threatening to expose very private images of her past, oh my!

I found it tough getting past the highly descriptive, plodding beginning. The inauthentic mother-daughter conversations with Lou on a road trip to the lawyer's office, a writing device meant to fill the reader in on Iris's backstory, didn't ring true to me. The real action doesn't occur until Iris arrives in Paris. Another problem with the story is that the narrative often shifts from points of view and present to past without warning. Suddenly we have time traveled back almost twenty years to when Iris first encounters Gus on a Genius Group shoot. Small problem on set -- the featured clothing has not yet arrived. Iris agrees to be photographed au naturel --a state that she seems to spend a good deal of time in considering that she's a fashion model, not an adult film star.

Photographer and model become inseparable --Iris eventually comes to terms with the fact that Gus is an artist -- a tortured soul who, even as he adores her, warns her repeatedly that he's no good for her. When he hires an unsavory agent to represent him, she becomes Gus's protector yet Gus is unable to protect her. Speaking of the agent, "I don't want that toxic piece of shit in our home. He's going to pollute it," she pleads before a party celebrating their opulent new Boulevard Voltaire digs. "Iris, seriously, just burn some sage after he leaves," responds Gus. Without giving away the plot twist, here's where it all gets a bit hazy.

Eugenia Melian

Author Melian, a former model (as well as agent, producer, and music supervisor who's managed photographer/fashion illustrator Tony Viramontes and photographer David LaChapelle), clearly knows the ins and outs of the New York, London, Milan, Paris fashion circuit. She takes us from the runways to the photo studios, from the cramped model flats to the editorial offices of the fashion industry's most influential publications. Her fictional Iris was introduced to the fashion and modeling biz courtesy of Revue Magazine -- her inscrutable (seemingly negligent) mother Delfine was its former, long revered editor-in-chief. In an interview about the book, Melian denied that she is the basis for Iris saying that her characters are a composite of multiple people who may even recognize themselves.

Much seems to ring true --her insights and details on the underbelly of the fashion beast appear horrifyingly spot-on --from the party scenes, to "baby models" falling prey to smarmy svengalis wielding editorial power. The breakneck pace at which the newbie models are worked, abused, preyed on, plied with "blue pills" to be thin and maintain energy, leaving them hollowed eyed and drug dependent often leads to physical or mental breakdowns or even suicide -- facts that were long swept under the industry rug. Melian worked on this book for four years yet somehow managed to hit the bullseye with her timely intersection between the #MeToo movement and the newly forming organizations providing supportive platforms to guide and protect young models.

"Kids are being made to believe that success comes fast, but in Wildchilds I address how long and difficult the process is and what it can take if you want to succeed. The sacrifices you must make. And what happens when your ambition is stronger than your moral standards," -- said the author.

I couldn't help noticing that the book's cover shot by Ethan James Green is reminiscent of the Michael Gross books "Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women" as well as "Focus: The Secret Sexy Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographs." I had assumed that Wildchilds would have been a more polished literary work as high profile industry friends Joan Juliet Buck, author of "The Price of Illusion" and editor-in-chief of French Vogue 1994-2001, and photographer/director Peggy Sirota had each written favorable reviews.

Towards the end of her Paris ordeal redux, Iris gazes contemplatively at the Seine watching as a bateau passes by. She seizes a talisman of her past -- Gus's leather corded silver pendant from around her neck, tossing it into the river. This gesture, symbolizing her freedom -- reminded me of the famous scene in "Titanic." Although the book had its moments, I also felt liberated upon reaching the end of 405 pages.

- Laurel Marcus

Friday, September 28, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

New York City Ballet Fall Gala

The room
All photos Lieba Nesis
Click images for full-size views

The New York City Ballet (NYCB) held its annual fall gala on Thursday, September 27, 2018, with cocktails beginning at 5:30 PM at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. I was excitedly anticipating this annual extravaganza where choreography and couture are joined for one night only. I was hoping this would be a welcome respite from all the #MeToo news; a place where I could relax and enjoy the movements of sinewy dancers - no such luck. The ballet began with principal dancer Teresa Reichlen, joined by the entire Company, speaking about the high and uncompromising moral standards that the NYCB holds its dancers to and how they seek to be role models for the public. The audience responded with rapturous applause.

Sarah Jessica Parker & Andy Cohen

NYCB has come under fire as its creative director Peter Martins, and its principal dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro were forced to retire after being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior. Being that this is its major fundraising event of the year, alleviating the fears of potential donors must have been at the forefront of the Company's mind in preparing this speech.

The Fendi family - Fe and Alessandro Fendi and daughter

This event is not for the faint of wallet with tickets starting at $2,500 sold out weeks in advance.  Despite the drama or perhaps because of it, there was a palpable excitement in the room as attendees came out to support the remaining dancers and bolster a company struggling to regain its footing. The list of socialites and philanthropists was outstanding including Fe and Alessandro Fendi, Ann Van Ness, Patricia Shah, Jean and Martin Shafiroff, Nina Griscom, Sheila Grant, Mary Elizabeth Snow, and hundreds of others.

Kelly Ripa and Zanna Rassi

Unfortunately, there were also some noteworthy absences including designer Valentino Garavani and his entourage, David and Julia Koch, and the Lauders.  Moreover, I have noticed a steep decline in celebrity attendance at many New York society events. Whereas in the old days five or ten prominent luminaries would attend, tonight there were only regulars Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Kelly Ripa, and Andy Cohen. Rihanna even had a difficult time getting her celebrity friends to attend the "Diamond Ball" this year as more celebrities are choosing to either stay home or attend events for which they are paid or are near and dear to their heart.  The ballet itself was surprisingly austere with bare sets, sparse music and pared down costumes despite the utilization of famed designers Gareth Pugh, Alberta Ferretti, and Giles Deacon.

Gareth Pugh and Carson McColl

Before the dancing began, we were shown a film on how Pugh brought his dark vision to the art form, Ferretti brought her expertise in fit and design, and Deacon went for a more bold look. Whereas, other years Valentino and Oscar de la Renta wowed the crowd with their opulent and impractical gowns, this year the dancers' needs were the paramount concern of the three designers.

Lisa Rinehart, Katie Currie, Joaquin De Luz, and Mikhail Baryshnikov

The first act premiered "The Exchange" a dance choreographed by Matthew Neenan with costumes by Gareth Pugh. Pugh said dressing the dancers was a breeze as he has designed costumes for the ballet and opera in Paris and London and stuck to a "brutalist" and "stripped back" look. Pugh acknowledged that he has attended the Costume Institute Gala in year's past but said he mostly tries to remove himself from dressing or attending celebrity-heavy events (although he was heading to Atlantic City for the weekend to help style, Christina Aguilera).

Tyler Gardella and dancer Alec Knight both wearing D Squared

Pugh's costumes in red and black with men wearing black cut-out garments with slitted pants and woman in red dresses allowed principals Maria Kowroski, Tiler Peck, Joseph Gordon, and Adrian Waring to move freely. The next act entitled "Judah" was executed perfectly by dancers Harrison Ball, Lauren Lovette and Sara Adams with costumes by Alberta Ferretti, the only designer who was a no-show for the evening.

Sheila Grant and Nina Griscom

19-year-old choreographer Gianna Reisen said working with Ferretti on the costumes was a treat since Ferretti knew how to design simple and flattering attire. Although she never personally met Ferretti, who is based in Milan, they continually exchanged emails until the desired result was achieved. This is the second ballet Reisen has choreographed, and she put it together in three weeks - a remarkable achievement for this ingenue. The costumes in green, red, yellow and white were fresh and fun: the placement of dancers bodies on some of the attire added a creative touch to the designs.

Tommy Dunn, Tiler Peck, and Jan Raymond

The last act, in a ballet with no intermissions, featured the world premiere of "The Runaway"; this was the only surprise of the evening, and I am still moderately shocked. The ballet took a big gamble in its' attempt to inject a bit of fun, whimsy and pop culture into an art form that has been waning in popularity. The music which was predominantly from Kanye West also featured Jay-Z, James Blake, and Nico Muhly. Taylor Stanley opened up with a sexy performance that had the audience chuckling with delight as he held back bending positions that were mind-blowing.

Jean Shafiroff and Victor dE Souza

The black and white costumes by Giles Deacon were expertly crafted and artfully designed. The black wigs and headpieces made it hard to identify the dancers and yet who cares-the only thing we needed to see were their feet and bodies. Undoubtedly, ballet purists in the audience were unhappy as they were bombarded with Kanye West rap tunes at a major cultural event. Moreover, the dancers were hardly adept at hip-hop; while fun to watch, the results were less than extraordinary. Nonetheless, without this last piece, the ballet's monotony would have been glaring-kudos to NYCB for trying something new that they will hopefully perfect.

Peter de Florio and Ashley Bouder

As guests headed to the second floor for dinner and dancing, Sarah Jessica Parker gave a speech heralding the dancers for their commitment to excellence and thanking attendees for sticking with NYCB "in sickness or health." Kathy Brown, the director, announced this year's gala had raised a healthy $2.3 million. Following dinner, guests danced enthusiastically to DJ Chelsea Leyland who repeats the same catchy tunes each year.

Michele Herbert, Patricia Shah, Antonio Saracino, and Ann Van Ness

The evening also celebrated dancer Joaquin De Luz who was ending his career after 15 years of dazzling audiences with his jumps and pirouettes. For much of the evening, De Luz was deep in conversation with Baryshnikov, a ballet giant who has mastered "the art of retirement."

- Lieba Nesis

Friday, September 21, 2018

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

FGI Wakes Up & Smells The Fragrance Industry

Rose Marie Bravo, Annette Green & Kate Oldham
Photos: Laurel Marcus - click image for full-size view

"Everything I've ever done or seen I relate to fragrance," said the indomitable Annette Green, author of the new book "Spritzing to Success." The 40-year executive director and president of the Fragrance Foundation, a non-profit educational organization (she's now president emeritus since her 2003 retirement) and the 1972 originator of the FiFi Awards, was featured along with Kate Oldham, senior vice president and general merchandising manager of Saks at FGI headquarters bright and early yesterday morning.  Rose Marie Bravo, a veteran of the retail "trenches" (a nod to her time at Burberry for which she received her CBE) served as moderator.

"Years ago I was walking down Madison Avenue and passed Steuben (Glass) where they had snuff bottles in the window. They should be perfume bottles, I thought to myself. " Later she made good on that idea with a production line of 'Small Wonders' as they were called. Then there's the time that Green was on a bus coming down Fifth Avenue and saw people standing in line. "I wondered what they were in line for -- it turned out they were having their hearing checked.  I thought why not do that for their sense of smell -- people know even less about that." Another Green brainchild was born leading to the one-time Fragrance Fun Day in Lincoln Center.

Yet another story revolves around the indefatigable Green trying in vain to contact a handsome Lanvin executive by phone -- she wanted the company responsible for then uber popular fragrance Arpege to join the nascent Fragrance Foundation. After repeatedly being put off by his secretary, the gods of serendipity (or maybe the St. Patrick's Day leprechauns) smiled on her. Encountering him in his office building's lobby florist while she was buying a friend a green carnation, he relented and agreed.  All of these and many other stories are detailed in her memoir.

Why is scent important? Green's offshoot of the Fragrance Foundation known as the Sense of Smell Institute ran a study that showed how fragrance can improve behavior, mood, make you feel better -- even increase productivity in a work environment. Green mentioned how a peppermint scent gave more energy to factory employees -- may be less need for that coffee break? Shimadzu fragrances (scents that do something for you) are being developed for use in various settings -- Bravo mentioned Evelyn Lauder having developed fragrances for Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Oldham, wearing what appeared to be a Prada lipstick tube skirt (doesn't anyone make a perfume bottle skirt?) was quizzed about the Saks second floor beauty renovation and move. "When I heard that Saks was going to move Beauty up to the second floor I said don't do it!!! But now I say if you haven't seen it yet, go!" remarked Bravo. In a quest for more space and that ever-present bugaboo known as providing an "exciting experiential environment" the beauty floor moved up the escalator and possibly upmarket. "We either could stay and keep things the same or move and do things differently," said Oldham. "Some brands didn't come with us." Bravo mentioned the impressive Saks Beauty catalog while Oldham spoke of how women today want a "wardrobe of fragrances. Everyone is doing it, even McQueen -- it's here to stay. There's no signature fragrance anymore leaving an 'elevator trail' wafting out. People don't really do that anymore, as in, 'Oh, Rose Marie was just here,'" she quipped to audience laughter.

As Saks has become known for "niche brands of the haute parfumerie" (such as Creed, Killian, Bond No. 9 and Le Labo), the sticker shock of fragrances has perhaps lessened. "Once a woman spends $300 on a fragrance, she's not going to go back to spending $65. The Millennial interest in self-care is really good for fragrance and beauty." There's also more interest in personalization. Bravo mentions how back in the day we all wanted Opium (my fave '80s scent). Chanel No. 5 and Joy. However, once the scent is in the wind so to speak, other retailers jump on board the trend for niche brands -- "everyone's catching up, so we need to think of something else," Oldham added.

What of online sales for scent?  "Will we get to the point where our computer shoots out fragrance?" mused Bravo. "If it resonates as a story, people will buy it," answered Oldham. " We're pretty particular -- we try to make it about the fragrance versus the marketing. If it's authentic, people will buy." Oldham confessed to enjoying the movie or video clips found on YouTube and social media that introduce new fragrances as she finds them very effective.

Bravo returned to Green asking her how she managed to always have her finger on the pulse of the fragrance industry -- recognizing trends such as the importance of musk, the rise of the celebrity fragrance, packaging, limited distribution and developing a quality product which raises the bar for everyone. "I once interviewed a child psychologist who said the most important thing in life is to learn how to hear the grass growing. I didn't know what she was talking about then, but now I do. Being on the scene all the time feeds ideas to me." When asked how does she succeed in bringing other industry types (her co-conspirators) along Green, a former journalist extolled the need to have communication skills. "It's not easy to speak to a room of 1,000 people. Forget yourself, think of your audience and try to get your message across."

Annette Green signing copies of her book

What of her general ebullience? "I eat a Mediterranean diet -- I haven't had meat in 30 years. I exercise with a trainer and go to Equinox. It's important to be interested in life -- I'm involved in women's theater, I love ballet and opera. The one word used to describe me as a child is 'curious' so I guess it stuck," Green, an FGI member since 1956 "(it was my ultimate goal at the time -- you had to have two sponsors!") remarked. "I would use the word 'love.'" said Bravo. "She has love in everything she does, and it's inspirational."

After the panel wrapped up, Green sat and lovingly signed the large stack of books on the hallway table as attendees lined up to purchase their personalized copy.

- Laurel Marcus

Monday, September 17, 2018

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

New York Fashion Week Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear: Rules Don't Apply!

 Ralph Lauren's 50th Anniversary Show, for Fall 2018, was the
highlight of the week
Photo: The New York Times- click images for full-size views

Among the many themes and subthemes that kept reappearing during NYFW which ended last Wednesday evening, were strong vibrant color and color blocks, head to toe white, yellow, lace and lingerie touches, fringe, pleats, luxe boho, florals, stripes, choir robe gowns, denim, tailoring, shirt dressing, pantsuits, tie-dye, romanticism, cross-cultural references, prairie looks, trench coats, caftans, pointy-toed pumps, crochet, photo prints, cargo pockets, face art, shifts, volume, oversized, etc. But just listing trends robotically is boring and irrelevant, and anyway, when are these items above ever ‘out’ of style? What is good is good period. It is how things are worn, mixed, and put together that makes it modern and relevant. It’s all about variety, options, and personal preference.

Of course, one significant trend of the week was the plethora of showings by designers who are all but unknown (right now) except to a handful of fashion insiders. Industry veteran Fern Mallis who created NYFW admitted that there were “a thousand names on the calendar” she had never heard of, and when she got an invitation, she often wondered who it was. One such newbie was undoubtedly Jerry Lorenzo’s label Fear of God which focuses on unisex classic American workwear seen through the lens of fashion. You better believe it’s darn scary to start a fashion business these days as the name implies.

 Pyer Moss

Another trend is that Brooklyn has officially replaced Soho and Tribeca as the cool, hip, happening place to show. But not everyone who showed in Brooklyn found such a symbolic venue as Kirby Jean-Raymond. He launched Pyer Moss as a menswear line in 2016, and his shows are always loaded with social commentary (specifically, as it applies to race). He presented his women’s spring 2019 line at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Weeksville, Brooklyn. As one of the first free black communities in the United States, founded in 1838 by an African American man named James Weeks, the location was loaded with rich history and symbolism, and was a perfect setting for Kirby’s beautiful collection presented on men, women, and little children (symbolizing the importance of family). One highlight was the designs featuring the artwork of Derrick Adams, who was commissioned by Kirby to create 10 paintings specifically for the collection.

But perhaps the most important trend, when it comes to fashion and beauty, is that anything and everything goes. There are no rules and no hard and fast dress codes with regards to seasons, occupations, occasions, and especially as it applies to genders, and that was the message that rang loud and clear throughout the week. Remember when you could tell the boys from the girls because they were the ones with the short hair, wearing blue, and the girl was wearing pink and had the long hair? Neither can I!

Women routinely wear men’s suiting, oxfords, and brogues, and men are increasingly donning florals, ruffles, dresses, sequins, heels, carrying handbags and wearing their hair long. In fact, they have become the peacocks. Women are shopping in menswear departments, and men are buying in women’s departments. There were so much wardrobe sharing and so many designs that were gender-bending and gender neutral, that quite frankly, I often did not know if I was looking at a man or a woman. Was it a woman wearing a man’s design, or a man wearing a woman’s design or both? It’s increasingly about his, hers, theirs.

Ralph Lauren

This was exemplified by Ralph Lauren’s Golden Anniversary Collection for fall 2018. It was a real highlight of the week, and much of the fashion, shown on 100 or so models (toddlers, seniors and everything in between) was almost entirely interchangeable. As usual, Ralph once again proved that he is a master of the mix, which is what makes it all modern and relevant.

 Matthew Adams Dolan

Among the labels that showed their women’s line on both sexes was Matthew Adams Dolan who launched in 2017. He was one of the many designers showing last week, who could be considered as under the radar although, given his talent, this is likely to change. His show was a study in functional, practical, unfussy American sportswear, played out in monotone shades of cobalt blue, magenta, fluorescent yellow, purple and green and it was terrific. He said he was inspired by the work of American fashion icon Claire McCardell who is credited with creating American sportswear, though I also saw vestiges of another American designing icon, Bonnie Cashin, who also revolutionized sportswear.

Photo by The New York Times

Monse’s Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia said that menswear retailers have already been buying pieces for customers and that their male friends have been wearing their designs (specifically their twisted takes on men’s shirting, which were inspired by menswear in the first place). So, this season, they actually added a dozen items (oversize knitwear with a nautical bent) that were explicitly made as unisex items. Tibi’s Amy Smilovic said that the men in her office routinely wear her neutral looking tailored clothing and knitwear and while she did not launch menswear this season, there were a handful of guys walking in her runway.

Eckhaus Latta
Photo by Krista Schleuter for The New York Times

The unconventional, versatile sportswear of Eckhaus Latta, designed by Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta has been interchangeable between the sexes from the beginning, particularly their in-demand jeans. Because of the way their design studio is set up in their L.A. store, they say they can literally hear when men are trying on women’s clothes and vice versa, which gives them a pretty good idea of what is actually working. Well, something is indeed working for the design duo who are part of a new generation of designers operating at the intersection of fashion and contemporary art. They are the subject of an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art, "Eckhaus Latta: Possessed" which runs through October 8, 2018.

Calvin Klein
Photo by The New York Times

At Calvin Klein, Raf Simons put his scuba suits and scuba suit tops (worn with tanks splashed with the “Jaws” promo picture and used as aprons/cummerbunds that wrapped the hips), oversized blazers, chunky fisherman knits, and graduation caps (inspired by “The Graduate”) on both the men and women. I’ll be honest with you, while I’m a huge fan of Raf’s work which is always interesting and loaded with references and symbolism, this was not one of my most favorite of his collections. His fixation on the movie “Jaws,” and water was not only a bit strange but unfortunately ill-timed. Who wants to see more water right now? Not only has it been a rainy summer, and a rainy fashion week, but just days after the show, Hurricane Florence hit, and as I am writing this, more than 800,000 souls have been without power, and at least 15 deaths have been reported. And as for sharks, I’ve feared them since the movie “Jaws,” and in a case of life imitating art, on Saturday, there was a report of the first fatal shark attack off the coast of Cape Cod in more than 80 years. Too close for comfort from my point of view.

Tom Ford
Photo: The New York Times

Tom Ford played masculine against feminine pairing men’s jackets in silk satin, gutsy zip front biker jackets and blousons made of faux crocodile and leopard printed pony, and oversized trenches, with more delicate lace trimmed slip tops and knee-length skirts with lace slips peeking out from beneath. But there was nothing at all gender neutral about his shoe of choice, a fierce pointy-toed stiletto. For those who wondered whether this signaled the death of comfortable, practical, footwear, try running through an airport in those shoes! And judging from the show attendees, many whom did not teeter around on stilettos but rather, stuck to somewhat comfortable shoes (including sneakers and trainers), they agree that one does not negate the other. It’s all about options and choices and in fact, on most other runways thus far there have been plenty of comfortable options including sneakers, espadrilles, pancake flats, kitten and block heels, flatforms and platforms, and a variety of boots.

There were plenty of designs that were unmistakably feminine rather than gender fluid. Oscar de la Renta’s Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia were inspired by past holidays in Morocco and a future sojourn to India (and Spain of course) among other destinations, but they wisely did not take their references so literally as to make the clothes look costumey. There were some absolutely lovely pieces with an emphasis of course, on evening wear. And while it looked elegant, it had a light, easy, vacation vibe.

Photo by The New York Times

But in some cases, the femininity was quite exaggerated as it was at Rodarte which could not have been more obviously feminine and romantic. It was Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s return to New York after showing in Paris the last two seasons. The 46 piece collection, a marvel of workmanship and construction, belies a commitment to their craft. It was filled with color (only 3 outfits were black) and comprised of full-skirted tulle gowns, ruffles, lace, and satin with a smattering of leather, shown like nowhere else. Los Angeles based floral artist Joseph Free created headpieces made of garlands of real roses that the models wore in their hair. The prettiness was offset by showing in the historic Marble Cemetery on the Lower East Side with a constant drizzle toning things down a bit and adding a supernatural glow.

Marc Jacobs
Photo by The New York Times

There were frills galore at Marc Jacobs’ over the top, extremely frothy, cotton candy-hued collection. Like last season, it harked back to the 80’s, was couture like, and notable for its large proportions, giant Pierrot collars, oversized rosettes, and bows. Marc was once again inspired by his personal design heroes Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel. There might have been a smattering of tailored, broad-shouldered jackets, and one fabulous trench, but all in all, the clothes were significantly ultra femme and were made for a great photo op, and for special occasions. If you’re looking for something great to throw on to walk your dog, get a carton of milk, or for all other real-life situations for that matter, you might want to look elsewhere, like Proenza Schouler.

Proenza Schouler
Photo: by The Impression

It was the first show back in New York for Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough after presenting in Paris for two seasons. Inspired by the success of their lower priced sporty line, Proenza Schouler PSWL, the design team was intent on focusing on “real” clothes. What it was lacking in artsy-craftsy (which had become a signature), the duo made up with their urbane, gusty, sportswear. Their pragmatism, no-nonsense approach, mannish jackets, layering, interesting proportions, and a controlled volume called to mind Phoebe Philo when she was at Celine. Coincidentally, German artist Iza Genzken, who created the mannequin installation at the entrance of the show, had a MoMA exhibition five years ago that was sponsored by Celine.

At the heart of the collection were ‘humble’ workwear fabrics like cotton twill (there were some pretty wonderful belted trench coats) and denim, the latter of which was offered up in several appealing incarnations. It was shown dark, bleached out, acid washed, and tie-dyed and included slope shouldered blazers, A-line skirts, halter neck drop-waist dresses, and enormous bags slung over the shoulder. It was all about clothes that celebrated every day rather than special occasions. Of course, I happen to think every day I’m alive is a special occasion lol!

Gabriela Hearst

Clothes for real life; quietly luxurious, exquisitely fabricated wardrobe basics, are the definition of modern, as summed up by Gabriela Hearst.

The Row

Luxurious, timeless wardrobe basics are also at the heart of The Row, whose purity of design never gets old.

Talking about getting old, every season, one color or another is touted as the ‘new’ black. This time it’s yellow, the symbol of sunny, cheery optimism and part of the “C’mon, Get Happy” movement proposed by designers like Michele Smith of Milly, Prabal Gurung, Bandon Maxwell, and Michael Kors all of whom presented ultra-colorful collections. Michael Kors seems to be eternally cheerful (what does the billionaire designer have to fret about? lol). Of course, he appeared at the show’s finale dressed all in black but proudly anointed himself to be ‘fashion’s Xanax.’

Discount Universe

But isn’t it clichéd and oversimplifying things by thinking that just by wearing bright, happy colors and prints you will instantly be happy? Sure, strong color can change one’s mood, but it’s got to be done well for it to be good. I smile whenever I see my 1960’s apple green canvas Bonnie Cashin coat peeking out of my closet. And I will admit that Discount Universe ’s unique and colorful ‘Losing my Mind’ mix leather coat might just make me lose my mind. But I am similarly swept off my feet when I find those perfect pieces in black. And my idea of fashion heaven can also be Gabriela Hearst’s midnight above blue silk and wool pantsuit, or The Row’s pristine floor length white tweed coat for that matter.

FYI, Discount Universe is an Australian company who made their NYFW debut. And no, they are not Australia’s answer to Zara, but an irreverent feminist label designed by Cami James and Nadia Napreychikov with more than 286,000 Instagram followers. Their strikingly colorful, shiny, sparkly collection, accessorized with plush red hotel slippers embroidered in gold with the word, ‘Bitch’ included sequined pieces with provocative feminist slogans like ‘Not for sale,’ ‘Not your baby,’ and some cheekily objectifying the female form. There was one so sexually explicit I will refrain from sharing.

Maybe you stumbled across items this past week that "floats your boat". If not, there’s always London, Milan, and Paris. And there’s still your own closet. Sometimes the biggest takeaway from the collections, more than the clothes themselves, is a styling trick (a color combination, a proportion, an accessory) that you can apply to what you already have, that changes it all and makes it sing.

Fashion is a powerful tool for self-expression. In the best case scenario, it can be transformative, change one’s mood and the way one feels. But it’s hardly about a one size fits all proposition. Designers can only propose. They give us the raw materials, but the fun part is ruthlessly editing, selecting what works best and personalizing it to make your own. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Touche!

- Marilyn Kirschner

Better Bets by Rhonda Erb

A Conversation With Designer Emily Brady Koplar

Emily Brady Koplar

“I have always been interested in design and business and have spent much of my life balancing the creative and the practical.” In another life, Emily Brady Koplar, founder and designer of the women’s clothing line, Wai Ming, might have found herself working in finance or accounting. “I grew up designing, drawing, painting, and sewing while also working at my mom's office and factory on the weekends. When it came to college, I decided to forgo a degree in fashion design and ended up studying Economics at Boston University.”

After college, Emily decided to follow her heart and enrolled in Parsons School of Design, where she earned her degree in fashion design.  After years spent honing her skills at companies like Ralph Lauren, Aeropostale, and Vivienne Tam, she felt ready to start her own apparel line, Wai Ming, which means “Gift of Light” in Chinese.

“Throughout college and design school, I interned for companies in design, buying, merchandising, and PR.  I was exposed to many different opportunities and facets within the fashion industry and decided that design was still what I wanted to pursue post-graduation. After graduating from Parsons, I worked as a designer for several companies before deciding to start my own line.”

Rhonda: When did you start your fashion line, Wai Ming?

Emily: I launched Wai Ming in 2012 through specialty boutiques.

R: What are your influences for your Wai Ming designs

E: The collections are often inspired by architecture, art, and my travels, but I truly find inspiration anywhere and everywhere. It could come from an interesting woman that I meet or read about, textiles, textures, a font, a sign, a shadow - anything is fair game! Spring/Summer 2018 was inspired by strong architectural lines juxtaposed with floral tiles and the pleats of handmade fans. It's all tied together with beautifully textured fabrics from Italy and Japan and clean, modern silhouettes.

R: Is there a specific type of Wai Ming customer?

E:I always think of the Wai Ming customer as a strong, dynamic, global woman. She is intelligent, curious, creative, kind and witty. She is a leader in her industry who wants to look effortlessly polished and put together, not stuffy or uptight.  She wants clothes that help her shine and make her feel like she can take on the world. She appreciates quality, subtlety, interesting design details and versatility since she is balancing a demanding work schedule, social engagements, family and travel.

R: Where can Wai Ming be purchased?

 E: You can find Wai Ming online at or at specialty retailers across the country.

R: Anything else that you would like to add about yourself or Wai Ming?

E: The entire line is made in New York with fabrics from Italy and Japan. 
I always design with versatility and comfort in mind. I want my customer to be able to wear pieces in a variety of ways and on multiple occasions.

 To see more of Emily’s designs visit:

- Rhonda Erb

Sunday, September 16, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

The Four Seasons Reopens

The Bar
All photos Lieba Nesis
Click images for full-size views

It is July 14th, 2016 and The Four Seasons Restaurant is closing its doors having been kicked out by mega-landlord Aby Rosen after residing at 99 East 52nd Street for 57 years.  The funereal air in the room is quickly alleviated upon the arrival of owner Julian Niccolini who enters with a bright smile in his hot pink Four Seasons jacket. It is my first time meeting the notorious Julian who is both friendly and flirtatious; his generous attitude permeates the space as the crowd finds him irresistible.

Julian and Lisa Niccolini

Julian, along with owners Alex von Bidder and The Bronfman family, had achieved legendary status amongst New York's social set for accomplishing the nearly impossible feat of producing unparalleled success in the cutthroat restaurant business for almost four decades. The press went wild reporting the rift between Rosen and Julian and the closing of a historic eatery as items were auctioned off at stratospheric prices. Martha Stewart, Leon Black, David Dinkins, and dozens of others came to say goodbye and mark the end of an era of one of the most important gastronomic destinations in the world. Every United States President had dined at the eatery and icons such as Elton John, Mick Jagger, and Aretha Franklin had held legendary birthday parties in the restaurant.

Julian taking reservations in the dining room

The vast dining room and infamous pool, where drunken socialites swam naked, had been tirelessly documented by gossip columns for years. I wondered if the restaurant would be able to emerge from the ashes and regain its stature as the number one power lunch space in the country. Initially, I was dubious, despite Niccolini's undeniable charm raising exorbitant funds to restart was an insurmountable task in the fickle restaurant world. Each time I saw Julian and inquired as to the restaurant's opening date I was met with the ambiguous response, "soon." And then a year passed by and sixteen months and still no word. Finally, I am sitting on the beach in Southampton in August 2018 and receive a phone call from Julian's best friend, Joanna Fisher, with the message "Hi it's Joanna, I just wanted to let you know Julian's restaurant opened today and he would like you to stop by."

Julian in his wine cellar

 I am astounded that Julian was able to raise $30 million to open a destination that far surpasses the former. The new location, which is four blocks away from the old, resides at 42 East 49th Street. As I enter, I can feel my heart racing with excited anticipation. There is no large sign outside, or conspicuous entrance - the food, ambiance, decor, and service speak for itself without the fanfare associated with fly-by-night hyped up chophouses. Julian greets me at the door with a contagious enthusiasm as he shows me the sultry sunken bar with tops made from gold and glass that took three months to construct. The nearby wine cellar that can hold up to 1,000 bottles; the tiled floors assembled in Italy and reassembled at the restaurant; the mesh walls accompanied by a $10,000 serving table; the lighting system designed by a famed English designer; and the state-of-the-art marble bathrooms with materials imported from Florence, Italy.

The Kitchen

Brazilian Architect Isay Weinfeld was chosen from a list of 16 competitors, and the painstaking detail given to each facet of the space was readily apparent. Julian says spending upwards of $30 million was necessary to ensure the comfort of his customers noting the enormous sums spent on insulating the space from the rumbles of Grand Central Station which lies underneath. The 19,000 square foot space which can seat around 110 people is noticeably smaller than the old 30,000 square foot space, and yet Julian says he prefers this venue since there are no bad tables near the kitchen like the former space. Niccolini feels zero nostalgia for the old abode remarking that "it was time to move forward without any grudges or negativity."

Julian shows off the marble bathroom

Julian is dressed in head-to-toe custom Thom Browne, the only designer he wears, with his staff outfitted by Joseph Abboud. The Tuscany born Julian, recalled arriving in the United States at age 18 as a waiter and becoming headwaiter at the Four Seasons in 1977 and partner in 1995.  He remarked that America was the greatest country because it was the only place where achieving the impossible was possible due to its capitalistic system.  Julian said most of his customers "just want to be treated fairly" and vowed to accommodate all those who show up despite lacking a reservation.

The Champagne Room

The restaurant's hours are nearly round the clock with Monday through Friday starting from 11:45 AM-11:00 PM with the bar open until 1:00 AM, and Saturday's hours from 5:00-11:00 PM-quite remarkable for a midtown location. The upstairs contains a sexy blue champagne room that is open "until necessary" and a private dining room that can seat up to a hundred people. Julian shows me around the kitchen which is impeccably clean and yet rather small for a New York hotspot. Deciding what to order is a challenging endeavor as I choose the truffles, which arrived earlier in the day, and the tomato salad which Julian's wife, Lisa, had handpicked from a farm in Mt. Kisco that morning.

Julian's wife Lisa arrives with fresh tomatoes

Julian and Lisa are an inseparable couple with Lisa providing invaluable input into all aspects of the restaurant. Le Bernardin chef Diego Garcia prepared the fish, which is delivered daily, with the delicate professionalism that was scrumptious without being overly gluttonous.  I found myself licking the plate, something I rarely do when fish is involved, only to be further overcome with ecstasy by the blueberry souffle prepared by former Obama pastry chef, Bill Yosses.

What I found most noteworthy about the ambiance of the restaurant was the manner in which Julian greeted each, and every customer-there were no favorites each individual was a celebrity. While Julian concedes that Michael Douglas, Henry Kissinger, Leon Black, Martha Stewart, Steve Schwarzman, and Don Trump Jr. have been recent customers, he says he is not overly impressed with anybody remarking, "give me a break what are we separated at birth or something." Finally, Julian admits being slightly awed years back by the presence of Jackie Kennedy who arrived at her table to a stunned dining room and thanked Julian by name for seating her. “When you are that powerful,” Julian remarks, “you don’t care what table you sit at.”

- Lieba Nesis

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

Lunch with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota

Diane Clehane and Alisyn Camerota
Click images for full-size views

I was very excited about my lunch this week with Alisyn Camerota, the anchor of CNN's must-watch morning show, New Day. I first met Alisyn when her first novel, Amanda Wakes Up, which received lots of good notices, was published last summer. It’s a terrifically fun read about an idealistic cable news anchor thrown into the deep end during a crazy presidential race. The book drew raves from National Public Radio and Glamour Magazine called it one of the best books of the summer. With the book now out in paperback and the daily onslaught of head-spinning political news, I thought it was a good time for a catch-up. We certainly had plenty to talk about.

“It was a really gratifying experience,” said Alisyn when I asked her how writing – and then promoting – the book has been for her. “It has opened a million doors for me with speaking engagements.” Since then, she’s spoken at the Forbes Women Summit and the intriguingly titled Women’s Campaign School at Yale. “They teach women how to run for office and they’ve never been busier,” said Alisyn. “Since the [presidential] election they’ve had so many women asking, ‘What can we do about turning our anger, frustration, and despair into something productive?”

There is no such thing as a slow news day anymore, noted Alisyn. “I have recently likened it to a hamster wheel on fire. There is a circular feeling to it. Every day there’s a new norm broken by a tweet or a statement to cover – but it’s on fire.” That is certainly the case in this particular news cycle, she said. “Between the Woodward book and the anonymous op-ed, we’ve heard some of this [before], but it’s never been compiled like this – page after page.”

The added fuel of Trump’s ire toward the press has added a new dimension to the coverage. “The ‘enemy of the people’ stuff is really unfortunate.” Especially, when the president pointedly directs his comments to journalists present at his events sometimes calling them out by name and often by referring to them as “those people,” said Alisyn. “People pay attention to what their leaders say. It’s not a joke.”

To that end, she has been testing the waters with regular voter panels for CNN that take “The Pulse of the People.” Aliysn has been moderating these panels since last year. “We’re not MSNBC and we’re not Fox, I like to check out what’s on the minds of viewers, and then I try to channel them for the rest of the year.” The most recent voter panel is scheduled to air next week, and Alisyn gave me a preview of the results. She recently sat down with six women from swing states of various political affiliations who voted for Trump. The findings may or may not surprise you. Three of the women, said Alisyn, are “disappointed” by the president’s behavior and said they were “embarrassed by their vote.” Here’s the kicker – they are planning to vote Republican in the midterms because they “like the lower taxes, like the policies and like the rolling back of regulation.”

I asked Alisyn what her takeaway from the poll was. “I think Democrats banking on a blue wave should temper their excitement,” she said. “People vote with their pocketbooks, not with their feelings.” Then she added, “If we learned anything from 2016, it’s that it’s very hard to read the tea leaves.”

Alisyn has also been at the forefront of the year’s other big story as both an activist and a journalist. As a leading voice of the #MeToo movement, she has helped give women a platform to tell their stories in a number of primetime specials, including “Tipping Point: Sexual Harassment in America” and "The Hunting Ground: Sexual Assault on Campus."

She is also on the advisory board of Press Forward, which is affiliated with Time’s Up, whose mission is to change the culture in newsrooms. The allegations against and subsequent firings of Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, and Roger Ailes were a wake-up call for everyone in the news business. “All these men capitalized on the power differential,” said Alisyn. “There was this idea that the business would not survive without them, but in fact, it has been thriving.”

Alisyn recalled how it would have been “laughable” for her to go to HR with her story of being sexually harassed by Ailes during her time at Fox News. Ailes resigned under pressure in July 2016 after another longtime anchor, Gretchen Carlson, sued him and the Murdochs retained an outside law firm to investigate the allegations.

Now it’s – pun intended – a new day for the news business. The Press Forward board is working to ensure things change for the better at every level from anchors to interns. “We talk about what has to be done to make newsrooms safe for everyone.” The Press Forward board boasts an impressive roster of journalists including Alisyn’s CNN colleague Jake Tapper, PBS’ Judy Woodruff, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, and Ted Koppel all lending their support and collective voices to the initiative.

When we talked about the recent allegations made against Les Moonves, Alisyn told me she didn’t know him but was struck by the fact that his accusers tell what has become an all too familiar tale. “The strain of assault that seeps into these stories is remarkable,” she said. Of course, the now-ousted head of CBS is just the latest in a long list of high profile people accused of sexual assault, harassment, and rape. According to Vox, as of May of this year, more than 200 celebrities, politicians and CEOs have been the subject of sexual harassment or assault allegations. Because of the tsunami of stories told by women about Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes and Moonves among many others said Alisyn, “We learned when there’s a groundswell of women, we believe them. The silver lining to this maybe it’s not ‘he said, she said’ anymore.”

Celebrities like Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie and Ashley Judd who came forward with their stories of sexual abuse and harassment have said Alisyn, “tipped the scales” for women. “It peels away some of the shame for some women. We’re part of the same club. I couldn’t [come forward at the time], but Angelina Jolie couldn’t either.

As a member of Press Forward, Alisyn hopes the group becomes a model for other industries who can organize similarly. “We are figuring out what has to happen in television news and hopefully it can be used it as a blueprint [for other industries].”

By the time our coffee arrived, I had realized we still hadn’t talked about Alisyn’s plans for more books given the success of her first one. “There’s one story I’ve always wanted to tell,” she said smiling into her cappuccino. “I’m writing a memoir of my wild teenage years. It’s a coming of age story. People will be surprised by what I reveal and see me in a different light.” Why not another novel? “Fiction can’t compete with real life. I can’t make up anything more interesting, so I thought, let’s just go there.”

Seen and Heard Around the Room

Jay Kriegel and pals on Table One ... Mickey Ateyeh and jewelry designer Kendra Pariseault on Table Two. Kendra was sporting a delicate design of hers that caught my eye – a glittering necklace that spelled out the name of her son, ‘Otto’ in diamonds. Swanky … Bookseller Glenn Horowitz on Table Three … Uber agent Esther Newberg with a copy of Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear Inside the Trump White House perched upright on Table Four for all the room to see … Blink, and you missed them: BJ Coleman and actress Vivica A. Fox who stayed just long enough to nibble on Michael’s legendary crab cakes … CBS Television Studios president David Stapf on Six … New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia back at his usual Table Eight perch with Alex Hitz and Brooke Hayward.

And there’s more...

The headline from Table 12: PR maestro Stu Zakim, who has been very busy on cable news weighing in on his experiences back in the day when he worked for AMI CEO and former Trump ally David Pecker, told me he and fellow spinmeisters Drew Kerr and Peter Himler hosted The Wall Street Journal’s scribe Ben Mullin to chew over the latest news in media … Alisyn and I stopped by Table 14 to chat with another high powered PR man and in-demand political analyst Robert Zimmerman on our way out. Robert, who is always the best-dressed man in any room, couldn’t say enough good things about Alisyn’s “fact-based” coverage of the news coming out of the White House … Nearby on Table 18, Discovery Communication’s Group President Henry Schleiff was lunching with Kerry Kennedy, who clearly didn’t want to be noticed since she had a pink baseball cap pulled down over her eyes. What gives? … Tom Goodman, yet another PR guru on Table 25 … So glad I got the chance to catch up with Liz Wood, who was up from Washington, DC and was lunching solo at the bar.

We’ll be off next week. See you on the 26th!

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

When Life Gives You Lemons

Marc Jacobs
All photos
Click images for full-size views

Every season, there is a color that is touted as the ‘new’ black.  Not that black can ever be replaced of course. Just ask Linda Fargo who just opened ‘Noir’, a boutique within Bergdorf Goodman filled with a select group of items in the powerful, always popular shade. Last season, pink was the ‘new’ black and many predicted that pink had run its course, but on runways for spring 2019, there were at least 50 shades of pink and it was far from ubiquitous.

That being said, the undisputed color of the season if there was one, was yellow, and not pale mellow yellow but saturated yellow (marigold, chrome, neon). It was shown in every imaginable iteration from streetwear and sportswear to cocktail dresses and evening gowns. And it looked darn good because the designers wisely kept the shapes rather simple if not minimal and let the color do the talking. By the way, with all the gloomy weather these days, yellow happens to be especially appealing and let’s not forget, it looks great with black, or black and white for that matter!

These are some of my favorites:

Milly’s Michele Smith showed practically every color in the rainbow, including yellow, in the form of a silk halter neck floor length gown.

Alice + Olivia offered yellow in several incarnations, including a duo of yellow slip dresses; one short and one long, both accessorized with yellow sandals.

Brandon Maxwell’s color-saturated runway included a simple yet striking yellow satin knee-length strapless dress.

At Carolina Herrera, now designed by Wes Gordon, yellow appeared both tailored and untailored. It was shown as a billowy long sleeved off the shoulder gown.

It also made an appearance as a knee-length tailored coat with embroidery, shown over a white and black printed button-down shirt.

Monse’s yellow 1 shouldered silk dress had an asymmetrical hem.

At Oscar de la Renta, a short strapless dress with the long train was accessorized with a single shoulder dusting earring to match.

A floor length chiffon gown with a halter top was another option proposed.

Prabal Gurung’s multinational runway was equally colorful, with lots of color blocking, down to the bright yellow patent leather pointy toed kitten heeled boots.

The floor length marigold silk gown at Pyer Moss was asymmetrical, side slit, and elegant.

Theory’s minimal ¾ length coat in yellow was shown over a matching slip top and wide-legged trouser and could not look easier.

The same can be said about their perfectly simple yet dramatic small waisted yellow sleeveless floor length dress.

Chrome yellow, in the form of a yellow oversized shirt and matching mini, was one of the more simplified looks on VFiles’ eccentric, eclectic runway.

- Marilyn Kirschner