Saturday, October 27, 2018

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

Fashion Law Institute Takes On Firsthand Legal Issues in the Secondhand Market

The panelists
Photos: Laurel Marcus

Chances are you're probably not concerned with any thorny legal issues when you see an eBay or The Real Real ad featuring a resale designer handbag -- you most likely want to know what's the price. Now that we've been conditioned to get extra value and save the environment by reselling, recycling and renting (representing the circular economy) rather than producing, using and throwing away (the wasteful straight line) it's ironic to think that perhaps those who reap the benefits are the lawyers. On Thursday evening I attended a panel discussion dealing with this subject and more entitled "Re: Fashion, Legal Issues in the Circular Economy" at The Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University School of Law.

Panelists included Julie Golden, ADAY; Sonia Valdez, Legal Counsel, eBay; Allyson Tenney, Director, Division of Engineering (Textile Flammability and Electrical), U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; Gail Wheeler, Vice President - Legal Counsel, Hermes; Jana Checa Chong, Intellectual Property Counsel, Louis Vuitton Americas; and John Maltbie, Director of Intellectual Property, Civil Enforcement at Louis Vuitton Americas. Jeff Trexler, Attorney and Associate Direction, Fashion Law Institute was the moderator.

Audience

Since just about everyone spoke strictly OTR (off the record) I will not be attributing anything to any particular individual -- instead here's a general overview of the legal trends in the world of secondary market sales and advertising. Golden of ADAY was the lone exception, there to represent her new apparel company which takes activewear fabrics and makes them into "regular" clothing. "These items are easy to care for yet are the opposite of fast fashion -- they are made to stay in your wardrobe for a long time," she said. ADAY's "Waste Nothing Jacket" is made from recycled plastic water bottles which are ground down and made into yarn. The company uses a "closed-loop system" for the dying process which means they are recycling the same water minimizing usage. A "Reprieve" program in which customers can send back their old pieces and receive new ones -- the old ones will be broken down into reusable materials is in the works. Golden wore a basic white button-down shirt and black pants from ADAY with a cape from Rent the Runway -- she takes advantage of their unlimited subscriber program, as does eBay's Sonia Valdez who wore a black dress from RTR.

I found it fascinating to hear that eBay has 160 million active users and one billion live listings representing mostly small businesses and local economies. There is a long-standing relationship of anti-counterfeiting with luxury designer brands like Louis Vuitton and Hermes. Regarding authentication, seller ratings come into play concerning trust issues which is why user feedback is so vital to their business model. Of course, it's still got to be an uneasy alliance as luxury brands eye luxury goods resellers with a certain degree of contempt and hostility -- these sites are considered the competition.

The point was made that since luxury brands are all about craftsmanship, they are the only ones genuinely able to authenticate their own product. Not even a former employee should be considered to be able to do so. In the case of Chanel vs. What Goes Around Comes Around, the court upheld the claim of trademark infringement stating (among other things) that WGACA was creating confusion with the customer base in falsely leading customers to believe that Chanel had partnered with them. Similarly, Dillard's was caught creating false stories or advertising around their "Louis Vuitton Department," using fake LV signage, claiming that they sold exclusive limited editions that had only been used on the runway as well as stating that Vuitton would repair or authenticate the bags.

Moderator Trexler suggested that First Sale Doctrine which states that the right of a producer to control the distribution of a product bearing its trademark does not extend beyond the first sale of the product, as well as Fair Use Doctrine are "always there" and could apply here. Exceptions to First Sale Doctrine can include "material alterations," for example, if a serial number is etched off of a resold item. High-end counterfeits are sometimes sold to customers unknowingly -- in the case of Glamora by Sadia consumers were paying thousands of dollars for counterfeit bags which supposedly came from the sellers own collection.

In my opening, I referred to some of the issues when sites such as Rebagg feature LV product or a Celine luggage bag in their ads -- both protected trademarks-- something also done by The Real Real. Another example of sketchy advertising showed a Vuitton wallet supposedly marked down by about $150. However, the list price was inflated to make one think they were getting a better deal. The actual savings for the probably fake wallet over the one directly from Louis Vuitton was only $10!

Things can really get sticky when items are modified -- whether upcycled, embellished or reconstructed. Louis Vuitton items, in particular, are subject to becoming "western wear" -- they've been bedazzled, bejeweled and even had Gucci stripes painted on them. A hilarious (and hideous) LV Speedy bag was displayed that someone had decided to deck out in long fringe! A brand known for producing these types of items called Medium Rare was found to have surfaced on Beyonce and Kylie Jenner's Instagrams. Reconstructed items raise other legal issues mainly if they are made in the same category (for instance iPad cases or bracelets) as authentic items, adding to that old customer confusion dilemma. It also begs the question of whether the material used is genuine or counterfeit.

A suggestion was made to employ blockchain technology to authenticate luxury goods-- much the way that its used on art --rather than some of the third party authenticators new to the market such as Luxuca or Entropy. It was stated that it's virtually impossible to authenticate 100% based on photographs alone (even microscopic high-resolution photos are not sufficient). Here's a no-brainer that Gucci may have picked up on: If Banana Republic and Club Monaco can sell vintage Chanel and Hermes products why are these luxury brands not selling their own vintage goods?




- Laurel Marcus





Friday, October 26, 2018

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

Fashion Group International Annual Night of Stars

The venue
Photo: Randy Brooke
Click images for full-size views

The Fashion Group (www.fgi.org) was conceived at an informal luncheon in 1928, and became an organization in 1930, “with a place, a purpose, by-laws, officers, and women eager to be members.” Founding members included Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Arden, Edna Woolman Chase, Lily Dache, Edith Head, Claire McCardell, and Carmel Snow. Everyone was a star in her own right. Each year, since 1983, they have held their annual Night of Stars Gala. Last night was their 35th. The setting was once again, Cipriani Wall Street and yes, it was a starry-starry night.

Vera Wang
Photo: Randy Brooke

Among the star honorees were Vera Wang, this year’s Superstar; Olivier Rousteing, Anna Sui, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony were the honored Fashion Stars. Hearst Magazine was the lead sponsor with Arcade Beauty, IFF and LIM College acting as support. The event was digitally powered by WWD.

Linda Fargo
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Guests included Linda Fargo, Fern Mallis, Natasha Lyonne, Andrew Bolton, Stephen Kolb, Jamie Drake, Hamish Bowles, Nina Garcia, Rosario Dawson, Soo Joo Park, Sailor Brinkley (a dead ringer for mom Christie), Dolly Wells, Cynthia Rowley, Martha Kramer, Neal Fox, Coco Rocha, Rosita Missoni, Angela Missoni, Marylou Luther.

Olivier Rousteing and his Balmain Army
Photo: Lieba Nesis

If there was one fashion theme (other than New York black of course), it would be glitter and shine because many women were bedecked in something sequined or with paillettes. Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing was one of the honorees and his entire entourage was lit up in one of his glittery thigh length body con dresses (more on that later).

Hamish Bowles
Photo: Randy Brooke

The actual theme of the evening was “Design Reimagined” which is apropos since good design and thinking out of the box is undeniably at the heart of everything from fashion and beauty to home design, architecture, and technology as exemplified by the evening’s 13 honorees who “see the world the way it is and want to transform it”.

Simon Doonan
Photo: Randy Brooke

Ruben Toledo once again illustrated the invitations and commemorative catalog, reimaging them specifically for this event, and Simon Doonan reprieved his role as host of the awards dinner that began with cocktails. It was his shortest, most to the point, and perhaps best one yet. Simon traditionally ‘roasted’ the honorees but told me it is getting more difficult to do since people see humor differently and everyone is careful to be politically correct and inoffensive these days. So, instead, he ‘roasted’ fashion.

Fern Mallis
Photo: Randy Brooke

He began asking what everyone thought was the “biggest issue” of the day. And no, it’s not what you think. It is fanny packs. He then asked attendees to raise their hands if they were for or against buying them this season. That got a big laugh. He went on to ponder the meaning of fashion these days. Number one on his list was “jumbo sneakers the size of cinder blocks that look like they are for stylish mental patients” as he jokingly put it.

Marilyn Kirschner
Photo: Randy Brooke

Number two is driving your husband crazy asking him to take endless pictures of you (“spontaneous images”) as you are heading out the door in one of your endless outfits so it could be posted on Instagram.  Number three is mentoring a new generation of global brand entrepreneurs and wondering how you could possibly be a “top-flight influencer’ if you don’t know what a fashion magazine is (this too was met with laughs from the audience).

Coco Rochas and Anna Sui
Photo: Randy Brooke

“Fashion is so paradoxical” Simon noted, which led him to a discussion about the late Bill Cunningham who he called a wise “sage.” He would often go to Bill when he was confused about the state of fashion. When he asked  Bill to clear things up for him, he recounted how Bill replied in his “James Stewart voice”: “Well, young fella, fashion is a mirror, a reflection of the culture, and it is chaotic, so naturally, fashion is chaotic as well.”

Maria Cornejo and Mark Ruffalo
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Simon then introduced actor and environmentalist Mark Ruffolo who immediately joked, “I love a good fanny pack.” He was on hand to give the Sustainability award to Maria Cornejo. Mark and his wife have been friends with the designer for a decade, and he said that he literally “falls back in love with her when she wears one of Maria’s original, beautiful designs.” He praised the designer for dressing women for women, not for men and credited her with doing sustainable fashion before anyone else. “It’s design with a conscience. She is pushing the needles a step at a time to help the planet”. Maria said that the planet is very important to her. “I always try to be creative with less, and I want to empower women, make them feel beautiful and feel good about themselves.” She ended with, “Please go out and vote!”

Vanessa Friedman and Dean Baquet
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Media Award winner Vanessa Friedman, the Fashion Director/Chief Fashion Critic of The New York Times, lined up her boss Dean Baquet, who has been executive editor of The New York Times since 2014, to do the honors. He described Vanessa as someone who was not necessarily a “fan of fashion.” “She does not gush, she is serious about it,” he said. “She did not select to be a fashion writer. She is a thoughtful, serious journalist and an equally elegant person”. He specifically mentioned, “Burn it All Down,” the masterful piece she wrote while in Paris covering the Rick Owens show, which began the same time the Kavanaugh hearings were getting underway in Washington. Her editorial began with the thought that “there’s no good way to write about fashion in the wake of the scorched - earth event that took place Thursday in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington. No respectable segues into focusing on clothes. But you cannot ignore it either”.

Cynthia Rowley
Photo: Randy Brooke

Dressed in a chic understated Narciso Rodriguez one-shouldered asymmetrical tunic over narrow pants, Vanessa told me she had selected it “the night before,” Ms. Friedman thanked everyone in the room. “You are very good material,” she said. “It’s a privilege to be part of the dialogue because it’s civil discourse. And why does that matter? It matters because the world is not changed by naked people.”

Rebecca Minkoff

Rebecca Minkoff, a past recipient of the Design Technology award, was there to give this year’s award to Billie Whitehouse for Wearable X. Architectural Digest’s editor-in-chief Amy Astley was on hand to give Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch of Roman and Williams this year’s Architecture Award. Stephen noted that even though they are not explicitly involved in fashion, what they share with fashion is that they “create things that are about making our lives more meaningful and creating beauty.”

Sailor Brinkley
Photo: Randy Brooke

Fashion Stars Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, the creative team behind Opening Ceremony and Kenzo received their award from Sasha Natasha Lyonne who said the duo “use style to fight for personal freedom,” specifically citing their fight for the LGBQ community. Carol asked everyone at their table to join them on stage because “It takes a village” and they “brought us to where we are today.”  Humberto described them as “storytellers who pay attention to real life stories; human topics.” He then thanked Marc Jacobs for his inspiration to the fashion community.

Moncler's Robert Norton and Miles Chamley Watson
Photo: Randy Brooke

Miles Chamley-Watson, the Olympic fencer, was on hand to give Moncler the Luxury Life Style award. Robert Norton, president of Moncler USA accepted the award. Barbara Bradley Baekgaard for Vera Bradley received the Humanitarian Award from Richard Ellenson who noted that she helped raise over $32 million in the fight against breast cancer and cerebral palsy. “What a gorgeous accomplishment and what a gorgeous woman,” he said. Barbara called the honor “the nicest tribute I have ever received in my life.”

Maye Musk and Julia Perry
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Julia Perry was there to present Maye Musk with the Fashion Oracle award. Julia hailed her as an “It girl at 70” and called her an inspiration, an amazing mother, and grandmother to 11 who is never on time but is always early to every appointment. “She is very professional and is actually a basic gal with simple needs, a great sport, who is a fearless adventuress.” For her part, Maye was impressed that she can now say she is officially an ‘oracle,’ but at the same time, she observed that everyone over 70 is wise, and gets wiser with age.

Angela and Rosita Missoni

Neiman Marcus’s Jim Gold was there to give Deirdre Quinn for Lafayette 148 the Corporate Leadership Award. She said she was “proud to be a woman-owned and woman lead company where the best is yet to come.” Mr. Gold noted that not only does she have remarkable leadership skills, but other than Chanel, her company is Neiman’s largest with sales that are actually higher than Chanel. “Ready to wear is a bitch” he admitted and to be able to sustain the level of popularity the way they have, is a major feat. He cited “collaboration, loyalty, giving back to the community, and major philanthropic efforts,” as reasons for her success and called her a “selfless, humble, loyal, caring, giving person who knows how to run a business the right way.”

Roseanne Morrison
Photo: Randy Brooke

Frederic Malle received the Beauty Award from Daniella Vitale who described him as a “disrupter.” “The balance of art, beauty, and fragrance is the key to his success, blurring the lines between fashion and fragrance” She went on to describe him as an “incredible genius, and his brand is an incredible gem.” Frederic said that 20 years ago the fragrance industry was “going down the drain” but thanked his long love affair with Barneys (and Simon Doonan) as a turning point in his career.  He said what sets his fragrances apart is that they are “artistic perfumes that are works of art.”

Olivier Rousteing
Randy Brooke

When Fashion Star winner Olivier Rousteing came onstage, he was surrounded by an entourage that included a gaggle of his gorgeous leggy models wearing his signature body-conscious, beaded dresses. As he put it, “I don’t want to be alone on stage as you can see. This is my comfort zone. I want to apologize to my publicist because I am going to fuck up my speech. My nine years at Balmain has been an incredible experience. I created the ‘Balmain Army’ to fight the boundaries of fashion”.

Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Fashion Star Anna Sui enlisted her best friend Marc Jacobs to do the honors (the designer was wearing a woman’s Chanel jacket). FYI, in 2013, Marc and his then business partner, Robert Duffy were recipients of the Superstar Award and last year, Marc was on hand to give WWD’s executive editor Bridget Foley her Board of Director’s Media Award. Marc quickly congratulated all the honorees; “You are all fantastic” he said.  And then talked about how he first met Anna three decades ago when he was working at Charivari and described what she was wearing (one of her own designs).

Marc continued: “Anna always knows. She is passionate, authentic, and always knows what’s happening before its happening. She’s a great vintage and antique shopper, a great fashion designer who is reimaging the past but always keeps it contemporary. She is an incredible historian; an encyclopedia of fashion. She remembers everything. She never ceases to thrill and delight.” FYI, when the famed 26th Street Flea Market was open in New York years ago, I was there religiously every weekend, and I always saw Anna. In fact, very often we were fighting over or eyeing the same pieces lol. Anna said that she started with 5 pieces in 1981 and observed that 37 years later she’s still doing what she loves. “I am SO blessed!” She thanked everyone who helped her fulfill her dream especially her parents. “I hope we all live our dreams” she enthused.

Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Vera Wang
Photo: Randy Brooke

Last but not least, Superstar honoree Vera Wang came on stage with both Donna Karan and Calvin Klein (they were a unified vision in black). I guess when you are the recipient of the Superstar Award, you can have two designing icons do the honors for you. And a lovefest it was.  Calvin called her an “international superstar, mother, philanthropist, and a designer who is advocating for and inspiring women. She is also one of the hardest working designers I know other than Donna Karan of course.” This pleased Donna who added that Vera is like her in that she is “never satisfied” and “Oy Vey, is always complaining.” “We both love black, we both love Rick Owens, and she’s like a Jewish mother, and she’s not even Jewish!”, Donna joked. “But it’s not what she wears on the outside. It’s what she wears on the inside that is important”.

Vera was very animated and called her award, and receiving it from two iconic designers who are her friends no less, a “personal milestone.” She thanked them for their enormous creativity on behalf of the fashion industry, and she lauded the “brilliant” Olivier Rousteing. She also thanked Margaret Hayes and Nicole Fishelis and thanked the Fashion Group and the women pioneers who started it back in 1930. “Come on, clap! Let’s get some energy here” she scolded. Vera recalled how, back in 1999, she received an award from Fashion Group International as a fashion star. “It’s an extraordinary institution,” she said. “You rock! And you do too Simon!. I am VERY honored”.

At this point, Simon told everyone to go home, “but don’t forget your “fanny packs” he quipped! Well, we might not have had fanny packs, but when we exited, we were all handed enormous baby turquoise leather bags filled with goodies.




- Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, October 25, 2018

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

"Chronicles of a Fashion Buyer" Makes Retail Funny Again

More info/purchase

Upon graduating from NYU with an Economics degree Mercedes Gonzalez had no intention of working in the fashion industry. Gonzalez, author of the new book "Chronicles of a Fashion Buyer: The Mostly True Adventures of an International Fashion Buyer" wanted to work on Wall Street and be Michael Milken -- right before Wall Street crashed and Milken was arrested for insider trading. The times being what they were, (plus the fact that "my fancy degree in economics didn't seem to be worth the price of toilet paper") she instead took what she thought would be a temporary job working for Uncle Manolo, a garmento who sold "old lady polyester print dresses."

Manolo's advice which sticks with her to this day: "You need to know the price of rice in China to understand this business."

Gonzalez began to change her perspective. "I wanted to be a buyer: saving the world one dress at a time, running ethical, sustainable, organic factories that ran on solar-powered fairy dust and unicorn tears.  I was going to live the glamorous life, flying on the Concorde and going to all the fashion shows. I was in for a big surprise," she writes.

Mercedes Gonzalez

The book, available on October 28, is a fun and informative romp through Gonzalez's nearly three-decade career.  From being gutsy enough to take her Uncle's production overseas, where else but China, in order to sell in bulk quantities to Walmart, to a job at a buying office where she made her mark in knit tops under $10, Gonzalez writes wryly and hilariously about the challenges she faced every step of the way. Eventually gaining full-service clients in the U.S., Mexico, and Latin America (her main qualification was that she spoke Spanish) and even a Siberian mall developer, she started her own business, Global Purchasing Companies, now in its 20th year.

In her irreverent, entertaining style she details many of the dubious situations both home and abroad  (mystery soup in China, an underground gay nightclub in Pakistan, being hit by a NYC taxi), along with the colorful sometimes unscrupulous characters that she's had to learn to deal with. Her successes and failures are laid bare whether called on to nurture and develop new design talent, merchandise existing stores, implement a supply chain, or grow a concept from the ground up. Potential clients should be prepared -- she will not be your "yes man" the way friends and family are known to be. While Gonzalez is the self-proclaimed "dream crusher" she is also the "nightmare avoider" preferring that those seeking her advice enlist her when they first have their idea so that, if need be, she can shut it down before real money is wasted.

Life and retail lessons include the obvious such as know your customer, pick the right location, the right salespeople, the right merchandise (it should have that "Je ne sais quoi" but not just something that you like), stock it within easy access and of course, offer it at the right price. Don't keep your dead stock (merchandise more than six months old) on the floor at full price -- run a sale. Your slightly off-kilter hobby should not be your business plan. If you have to decide between being rich or famous Gonzalez advises going for rich any day! In case you want to know who's got retail right, there's a whole chapter in the book extolling Paragon Sporting Goods -- especially their sales staff's techniques which have made the author a loyal customer.

As "advance warned" on the book's back cover Gonzalez will "convince you to become a proponent of child labor, an advocate of GMO, and a cynic of organic cotton." I first thought that this was just a bit of sarcasm however once these terms are unwrapped -- and the author explains how she's been exposed to them all (and more) in her (occasionally) dangerous travels -- you will see beyond the popular rhetoric and understand her viewpoint.

After reading this book I had a better idea of what' s involved in fashion buying. Albeit not everything registered with me  -- someone who long ago gave up even the pretense of balancing my checkbook. Yet another back cover tagline reading "Fashion is a business of smoke and mirrors, notorious for crushing the souls of most that dare to be part of the industry," is quite easily relatable.

Should this book leave you wanting more, Gonzalez is currently at work on her next book entitled "The Garmentos."



- Laurel Marcus

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Alzheimer's Gala Brings the West to Cipriani 42nd Street

Yasmin Aga Khan and Martha Stewart
All photos Lieba Nesis- click images for full-size views

Once in a while, there is a gala that has a moment that is so unforgettable that it not only leaves you in tears but will be etched in your consciousness for eternity. At Rita Hayworth's 35th Alzheimer's Gala held on Tuesday, October 23rd with cocktails beginning at 6:30 PM there was one such indelible memory.

The night began with the usual pleasantries as the heroic Yasmin Aga Khan, Gala Chair and Founder and daughter of Rita Hayworth, thanked the crowd and sponsor Rolex in her one-of-a-kind Naeem Khan gown - looking every bit the star. She and Anne Hearst work tirelessly for this cause as joint chairs and have gained a reputation for their steadfast efforts.

Martha Stewart opted for one of her own designs from QVC that she bedazzled herself.  She said she would be selling kits to learn how to bedazzle and was excitedly anticipating Halloween where she would be making her own Pharaoh costume - this woman is unstoppable.

Andrea and Margo Catsimatidis, Greg Kelly and John Catsimatidis

The night had a Western theme entitled "Blazing Trails" which even had the Catsimitadis clan dressed in their Gary Cooper best with Margo wearing a sequined cowboy outfit and John wearing a more casual-rugged look.

Jean Shafiroff and Yasmin Aga Khan

There were certainly a host of additional luminaries including: John McEnroe and Patty Smyth, Candace Bushnell and Jim Coleman, Anne Hearst and Jay McInerney, Christopher Mason, Chuck Scarborough, Eric Ripert, Matt Rich, Robert Verdi, Nicole Miller, Susan Magrino, Diandra Douglas, Jean Shafiroff, Michele Herbert, the Kornfelds, Nurit Kahane, Nikki Haskell and dozens of others.

Jay Allen, with his mother Sherry and Willie Geist

And then came that magical moment that so rarely happens where the perfect combination of beauty and sadness collide and just when it's almost too much to bear it concludes. Emcee and news anchor, Willie Geist, who does a magnificent job each year, introduced Jay Allen who had composed a song called "Blank Stares" documenting the struggles of his 56-year-old mother who has early onset Alzheimer's. Jay flew in from touring Nashville for tonight's event and recounted how every so often his mother, Sherry, has a lucid moment and says "I miss you".

Allyn Magrino, Alejandro Bataller, Susan Magrino, Martha Stewart, and Chuck Scarborough

I am tearful recounting Jay joining his ailing mother on stage as he sung the most haunting tune with her clinging to him. For the duration of the four-minute song, she never let go and Jay never stopped hugging her. The bravery of this duo was mindblowing with Allen's mesmerizingly soulful voice filling the Cipriani ballroom with an overwhelming melancholy. The crowd was in shock and awe as most of the attendees were both crying and speechless-trying to process the enormity of the moment they had just experienced.

Candace Bushnell and Jim Coleman

The bond between a mother and child is unparalleled as exemplified by Aga Khan who still mourns the death of her mother Rita Hayworth and Jay Allen whose mother still desperately clings to him. Allen is headed towards country superstardom possessing an abundance of vocal talent and charm. The guests at the dinner were running over to hug him and tell him of their stories of woe at the hands of this dreaded disease.

Nicole Miller, McKenzie Liautaud, Robert Verdi, and Patty Davis Raynes

Fashion expert Robert Verdi whose mother is sick with the disease and father died of it was tearful as he hugged Allen. Allen's performance hung over the whole evening as he humbly stood at the dinner in a jersey and jeans greeting all his newfound fans with a smile.

Michele Herbert, Liz Brewer, and Della Rounick

Another luminary who accepted an award was David Hyde Pierce whose father and grandfather struggled with the disease and who has been a longtime advocate. Pierce said that more than 5.7 million people struggled with this malady, the sixth leading cause of death in the world and that by 2050 that number could increase to 14 million. He noted that surprisingly and thankfully the Trump administration had quadrupled its funding for research with an additional $425 million allocated - bringing the total government funding to $2.3 billion.

Laurie Waters, Liliana Cavendish, and Michael Schultz

Pierce was further encouraged by a study that linked the reduction of Alzheimer's to the lowering of blood pressure and said there were a host of drugs in the pipeline. Pierce remarked, "research is a fancy word for hope." Another illustrious family being honored were the Johnson & Johnson family who had lost heiress Libet Johnson to Alzheimer's in June 2017 at the tender age of 66.

John McEnroe

Yasmin Aga Khan noted how Libet had gotten her through difficult times and how she brought light and love to all those she came in contact with. Her handsome son Oliver accepted the award on his family's behalf and said he could feel his mother's presence in the room. He also thanked CeCe Cord and Laurel O'Brien who organized his mother's care and helped every step of the way.


The California Cowboys

After the Western-themed meal of braised short ribs and corn succotash was served guests were treated to some lighter fare with the fabulous country group "California Cowboys" and the legendary Patty Smyth - this woman still has it. The “California Cowboys” added just enough mirth to a heavy evening especially when they played Pretty Woman.

Anne Hearst, Jay McInerney, Donna, and Augusta Dixon

Another delightful experience was bumping into actress Donna Dixon who is married to Dan Aykroyd whom she met on a movie set.  When I asked why she was no longer acting she said that life was short and she wanted to do meaningful things such as her current animated movie which highlights the dangers of global warming. This woman was with her adopted daughter Augusta and is still the beautiful vixen I remember from "Bosom Buddies."

Another sex goddess, Rita Hayworth, would have been 100 this month; feting her with this memorable birthday dinner was the ultimate gift of love from a daughter to her mother.





- Lieba Nesis

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

2018 National Arts Awards Raises $1 Million

Ann Ziff and Renee Fleming
All photos Lieba Nesis - click images for full-size views

I have attended the majority of galas in New York at least once - except for the National Arts Awards held at Cipriani 42nd Street on Monday, October 22, 2018, with cocktails beginning at 6:30 PM.  While most of my friends were at the competing Angel Ball I was wondering if this event would be as exciting or glamorous.

Jeff Koons

While there may not have been socialites flying in from St. Tropez for the evening, the crowd was as stellar as they come. There were creative icons such as Jeff Koons, Julie Kent, Peter Gelb, Andrew Goldstein, and Zac Posen. Moreover, illustrious honorees Ann Ziff, Justin Peck, Mavis Staples and the legendary Ai Weiwei were paid homage to by luminaries Renee Fleming, Tiler Peck, Stephen Colbert and Alexandra Munroe.

Cindy Bruna and Zac Posen

The cocktail hour contained a who's who of artists and their impresarios-a world I am mostly unfamiliar with. The attire of the attendees was mostly understated for a New York gala with some creative exceptions.  Zac Posen, accompanied by Victoria's Secret model Cindy Bruna wearing one of his elaborate designs, just returned from London after the Royal Wedding where he dressed the bride Eugenie for the after party.  He said it was loads of fun but was reluctant to provide any additional information. Bruna said she was preparing for the Victoria's Secret show which was being held in two weeks at an undisclosed location. Posen then presented the Arts Education Award to Virginia McEnerney, an award he had received in 1999 and which he considered to be a seminal point in his creative career.

Stephen Colbert giving award to Mavis Staples

Talk show host Stephen Colbert is similarly a frequent topic of conversation, and he presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to 79-year-old Mavis Staples who delightfully remarked, "I don't want to sound conceited but I deserve this award." Mavis said she was proud to receive the same award as her dear friend Aretha, whom she called "the greatest" and said G-d wasn't through with her yet. Dinner was then served until 9 PM at which point co-chair Sarah Arison introduced a spectacular performance by National Young Arts Foundation Alumni who had the audience on their feet with their rousing rendition of "I'll Take You There."

Melissa Chiu

Opera legend Renee Fleming, who unfortunately did not sing, presented her good friend philanthropist extraordinaire, Ann Ziff, with the Philanthropy in the Arts Award. Ziff whose mother was legendary opera singer Harriet Henders is Chairman of the Metropolitan Opera and Vice Chairman of Lincoln Center. Fleming said Ann can "charm your socks off" and that despite her lofty associations she embodies an incredible warmth, humility and joie de vivre - I can attest to that.

Kate Raudensbush

She remembers Ann handing her a pair of earrings that she admired 25 years ago on the slopes in Aspen.  Ann now has an eponymous jewelry company called "Tamsen Z" but Fleming remarked Ann herself was the real jewel. She also said Ziff had more energy than anybody she knew as she was able to party all night and then play five hours of tennis the next morning. Ziff received a standing ovation as we were treated to a film of Ziff where General Manager of the Opera, Peter Gelb, remarked that she was one of the largest supporters of the opera ever. Ziff, in her typical understated manner, said she was blessed with great fortune that enabled her to support great causes and if in some small measure she made a difference she was very grateful to have the opportunity.

Thomas Dunn and Tiler Peck

Ziff was undoubtedly the star of the evening and is one of the premier supporters of the Arts having contributed $30 million to the Metropolitan Opera in 2010. Some other major cultural players in the New York scene include dancer Tiler Peck who presented the Young Artist Award to Justin Peck, who she pointed out she was not related to. Tiler said that Justin would soon be choreographing a West Side Story film in collaboration with Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner and said that many had compared Justin to master George Balanchine.

Justin Peck

The most educational part of the evening for me was the presentation of the Outstanding Contribution to the Arts Award to Ai Weiwei who was nowhere to be seen until he arrived on stage. I was unfamiliar with the work of this giant and was fascinated to learn of his use of art to protest the Chinese Government's stance on democracy and human rights. Weiwei was imprisoned for 81 days after being arrested at Beijing Capital airport in 2011 and ended up in the hospital with a concussion after being beaten by guards. He was allowed to leave China in 2015 and now resides in Berlin while working on installations and traveling extensively.

Andrew Goldstein

His famous exhibition entitled “Sunflower Seeds” was exhibited at the Tate gallery in 2008 and allowed visitors to walk across and interact with the seeds.  Weiwei recalled painting portraits in Times Square for $10 a piece and after selling one thousand pieces, which he did not pay taxes on, using that money to pay his yearly rent. He concluded with the thought-provoking remark “I almost believe art can make some difference"- an inspiring conclusion to an unusually profound evening.




- Lieba Nesis