Saturday, September 16, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

Make an "Expedition" to the Museum at FIT

.Photograph by John Cowan 1964
 All photos Laurel Marcus
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"Expedition: Fashion From the Extreme" at the Museum at FIT shines a spotlight on how high performance survival wear has influenced high fashion. From the peaks scaled by mountaineers, to the depths plunged by deep sea divers, from the two arctic poles to the wild blue yonder of outer space, this new exhibition (through January 6, 2018) demonstrates how form follows function into the creation and design of lasting archetypes used in fashions of the past and present century.

Surf inspired Thom Browne & Karl Lagerfeld

Jules Verne, the father of science fiction, presciently wrote of space and deep sea travel long before these things became a reality with his books including "From the Earth to the Moon" (1865) and "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" (1870). His writings lit a creative spark under many for centuries to come, including those in fashion. Interestingly, I couldn't help noticing that this exhibition works well in tandem with the timely upstairs exhibition "Forces of Nature" (yes, we've certainly experienced a few of those recently) as they both have to do with spectacular features of the natural world.

Patricia Mears

Deputy Director Patricia Mears was initially inspired to research this subject while attending Joseph Altuzarra's Fall 2011 runway show in which she noted how the fishtail fur hooded, down-filled, army green parkas closely resembled M-48 and M-51 survival wear worn and designed for the United States military while weathering the brutally cold winter during the Korean War. These military surplus parkas were later appropriated by the counterculture in the late twentieth century. The Mountaineering section also features the earliest version of a patented, down-filled jacket created by none other than Eddie Bauer (yes, he was a real person!) in 1935.

Charles James Puffer jacket

A 1937 Charles James high-fashion version in eiderdown and white silk satin, once modeled by Pat Cleveland, is in an adjacent case. In 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest, inspiring many more designers to create down-filled garments. Norma Kamali's famous "sleeping bag" coat was born of necessity on a camping trip when the designer wrapped her sleeping bag around her for a late night trip to the restroom. Later versions included the "puffer or puffa" jacket created by Tommy Hilfiger and worn by hip hop stars.Junya Watanabe's 2004 Comme des Garcons colorful striped down skirt and jacket are featured here as well as last year's Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga's uber popular off the shoulder red jacket are shown here.

Siberian funerary fur

Arctic wear was often inspired by garments designed for Western explorers, the designs heavily influenced (some might now call it appropriated) from the Inuit. Set among the icebergs are garments borrowed from the American Museum of Natural History including a stunning Siberian funerary fur, encased due to its once having been preserved with arsenic. "Furs and feathers are the first thing to be attacked by animals," said Mears, explaining how these poison treated to protect from vermin items required great care in their handling. I couldn't help thinking that an animal or two in the background would have been a nice touch. "We asked the Natural History museum if we could borrow a polar bear but they said no," remarked Mears. There is also a pair of shaggy wolf fur pants which had to be lovingly restored as they had not been found in ideal condition. For those who prefer their fur on the faux, there are two apres-ski Yeti-type designer renditions represented here from Fendi, Madame Gres, and a Donald Brooks metallized fish scales coat.

Joseph Altuzarra parkas

This section includes exploration inspired items (1880 to 1920), such as those worn by North Pole expeditioners Robert Peary and Matthew Henson as well as modern versions such as Isaac Mizrahi's "Nanook of the North" inspired version featured in "Unzipped" next to the "rival" John Paul Gaultier design which has a more Russian look. It's hard to forget Mizrahi's extreme distress in the film when he discovers that Gaultier would be showing his similarly themed collection first -- back when Paris Fashion Week was ahead of New York -- however, Mizrahi didn't need to fret -- the two collections were actually quite dissimilar.

Space Station

Blasting back to the Space Age-y '60s may seem familiar to you if you caught the last exhibition entitled "Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968" -- here there are a few holdovers including the Courreges space boots and "Inuit" bone goggle-type glasses. Designers internationally had been inspired by the 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik to create fashion reminiscent of what would be worn in space. This era of sci-fi fascination ended in 1972 with NASA's last moon mission. From the mid to late '60s the French designers Andre Courreges, Paco Rabanne, and Pierre Cardin created youth-oriented mini dresses, metallic and plastic trimmed dresses and geometric styles that could be at home on Star Trek or The Jetsons.

Use of silver

Couture designers also were influenced by the metallic silver often used, as can be seen here in on a gown by Galanos. Interestingly, the use of silver was mostly on the underside of a real spacesuit while the outside would be a dull brown.

Philipp Plein jumpsuit

A fiberglass dress by Hussein Chalayan represents a later version of a space age creation. Helmut Lang revisited the space theme in the early 2000's featuring looks with simple seams and a nod to the equipment that an astronaut would wear. On the other side of the "space station" is a Philipp Plein beaded silver jumpsuit donated and worn to the Met Gala's Manus x Machina 2016 ball by FIT Couture Council President Julie Macklowe.

"Deep Seas"

The deep seas were yet another "land" to be conquered. After World War II with the exploration of underwater worlds expanded, scuba and wetsuit technology began to come up for air. The 1960's image of models in skin tight wetsuits was a regular feature in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. The late '80s were a time of designers discovering neoprene and nylon fabrics. This area features avid scuba diver Alexander McQueen's popular 2010 collection featuring manta rays and other sea life, a DKNY neoprene dress, a platform of Thom Browne surfing inspired trompe l'oeil wetsuits and coats as well as a 1991 Karl Lagerfeld Chanel sequin jacket inspired by scuba wear in a deep ocean blue.

Safari section

There is also a Safari section touted as the "birth of expedition fashion" at the entrance which includes an Abercrombie & Fitch suit circa 1913-15, and two versions of Yves Saint Laurent "Saharienne" collection iconic khaki cotton laced safari tunic worn by Veruschka in Vogue Paris, 1968

Overall, the exhibition has an uncluttered yet very dramatic look due to the blue mood lighting, the backdrops, and the distinct raised sections. Mears thinks that this exhibition has just scratched the surface of the subject serving as a jumping off point for more discovery. "I hope this encourages others to delve even deeper into this area of exploration," she said.

- Laurel Marcus

Friday, September 15, 2017

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

NYFW Spring 2018: “In the Pink”

Tom Ford is one of many designers who endorsed pink this season
Photos: & The Impression - click images for full size views

One of the most glaring aspects of NYFW which ended yesterday is how the balance of power has shifted from a few established instantly recognized household names, to those only well known to a nucleus of fashion insiders. Many of the promisingly talented young names on the calendar this season were so under the radar, I was barely familiar with them.

Yes, we had Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, and Tom Ford (this season). But let’s face it; even if designers like Thom Browne, Proenza Schouler, Rodarte had not decamped to Paris, we would still not be on par with Milan or Paris with must see directional shows, some with legendary labels (Miuccia Prada, Comme des Garcons, Balenciaga, Gucci, Valentino, Celine, YSL, Chanel, Dior) that literally set the tone for the season.

The two most anticipated, talked about, buzziest shows this season were Ralph Lauren’s fall 2017 presentation at his Bedford Garage (personal, unique and fabulous on every level), and Shayne Oliver’s re-vision of Helmut Lang (which had mixed results and mixed reviews).

Among the recurring themes that have played out: streetwear, athletic wear, survival gear (clothes that would get you through anything; including a hurricane), long duster coats, shirt dressing, deconstructed menswear, slouchy pants, western shirts, fringe, transparency, the return of the 50’s mid- calf full skirt, white, black and white, pastels, psychedelia, the elevation of nylon and industrial fabrics, relaxed menswear, laid back evening glamour, denim, re worked jean jackets, high cut maillots, off the shoulder, stripes of all kinds including rainbow stripes, art inspired splatter paint prints, mixed menswear patterns, dots, florals. And color!

Is it really surprising that as a backlash or anecdote to the anxiety ridden, turbulent times we live in (particularly for Americans here in the U.S.) designers showing in New York for spring 2018 have been intent on infusing their collections with a note of upbeat optimism, regardless of how obvious and clichéd that seems? There is no other color, or group of colors, more iconic, upbeat, feel good, or mood elevating than pink. And nothing is as universally flattering for that matter.

Ralph Rucci
Photograph by Marilyn Kirschner

This was exemplified by Ralph Rucci, who wore a tuxedo jacket crafted of cotton-linen in the most wonderfully flattering shade of salmon pink to the FIT Couture Council Artistry in Fashion award luncheon honoring Thom Browne last Wednesday. Made in Italy by Cifonelli, it’s available at Barneys New York.

I have been thinking about pink ever since summer began (let’s give a shout out to rose wine!) But it’s been hard not to notice how ubiquitous the hue (which Diana Vreeland referred to as “the navy blue of India”) has become. Actually, I should say hues, because there are at least "50 shades of pink" (sorry), from the palest of the pale, to the most vivid fuchsia and magenta, and I’ve been seeing them all this past week.

Tom Ford  

Last Wednesday evening, Tom Ford officially opened NYFW with a powerful show that made a case for a revival of the sexy glam of the 90’s. It was also a wholehearted endorsement of pink, from the most subtle, barely there, whisper soft flesh tone shades to the most in your face and shocking (as seen in the opening shot).

Michael Kors

Pink opened yesterday morning’s Michael Kors show (which had an unmistakable beach vibe). It took the form of a pink tie-dye, multi-ply cashmere sweatshirt lined in cotton and matching stole.

Marc Jacobs

Among the other shows and presentations the hue subsequently turned up, in one form or another, whether full on fashion or as an accessory: Rag & Bone, Delpozo, Prabal Gurung, Sies Marjan, Brandon Maxwell, Zac Posen, Sachin & Babi, Jason Wu, Victoria Beckham, Adeam, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Matthew Adams Dolan, Oscar de la Renta, Derek Lam 10 Crosby, Tracy Reese, The Row, Milly, Opening Ceremony, Libertine, Pamella Roland, Marchesa. Marc Jacobs officially brought NYFW to an end in a madcap blaze of riotous pattern and color, and yes, he was another designer to use pink.

In Rihanna's Fenty x Puma universe, the sand is even pink.

Helmut Lang

There was a smattering of innocent, baby pink mixed in with black and white at Shayne Oliver's kinky, fetishist revision for Helmut Lang. He also toughened up the soft color using red harnesses and bags, and the rather unexpected clashing color combination of pink and red has been a huge trend; the surprise hit of the season.

Among the notable examples:

Zero + Maria Cornejo 

Magenta and red opened Zero + Maria Cornejo's 20th anniversary show.

Opening Ceremony

At Opening Ceremony, red track pants were shown beneath a pale pink double breasted blazer and matching abbreviated skirt.

Oscar de la Renta 

At Oscar de la Renta, a red beaded bustier was shown underneath an eased up jacket in vivid pink and matching culottes.

Brandon Maxwell  

Brandon Maxwell offset an otherwise formal floor length red skirt with a more casual pale pink ribbed cashmere sweater and went one step further by accessorizing with statement making red and pink earrings.

Sies Marjan 

Sies Marjan, a superb colorist who has always loved pink (everyone is catching up to him lol) threw a dyed red Mongolian lamb coat over a whisper soft pink slip dress.

Oscar de la Renta

Pink has hardly been used gratuitously; the pink ensembles were often the standout pieces in the collection with styles running the full gamut from day (streetwear, sportswear, athletic wear) to evening, and everything in between. But because pink is such an identifiably feminine color, you sort of expect to see girlie cocktail frocks and frothy formal evening gowns in the color.

Tracy Reese

So, throwing it off and using it in less predictable ways (making it tougher, edgier, gutsier, sportier, more streetwise, more masculine, more relaxed), makes it far more interesting.

Matthew Adams Dolan

There have been pink buttons downs, pink sweaters, perfectly tailored pink blazers, natty pink pantsuits, pink bombers, oversized pink parkas. There have also been slouchy wide legged pants and cargo pants in pink.

Rag & Bone 

In some instances, the color was used as an accent, via the use of pink footwear, as seen at Rag & Bone and at Calvin Klein, where Raf Simons further accessorized with pale pink long gloves and pale pink bags.

There were no pink clothes at Alexander Wang (the color palette was primarily black, white, silver, tan). But one model, Stella Lucia, did have dyed pink hair. Pink was also noticeably absent from Ralph Lauren’s fall 2017 show held on Tuesday evening at his Bedford Garage (he doesn’t have one pink car lol). But there’s no question the legendary designer, who will turn 78 in October and will be celebrating his 50th anniversary in business this year, is ‘in the pink’.

Ralph Lauren

How many other designers (especially on this side of the Atlantic) could entice the likes of Anna Wintour, Stefano Tonchi, Vanessa Friedman, Linda Fargo, Ken Downing, Diane Keaton, Jessica Chastain, Katie Holmes, to make an hour or more trip each way, to see a fashion how, dinner or no dinner (lobster salad and burgers from his signature restaurant of course)? As I predicted months ago, the collection he showed, for men and women (which was not only inspired by his treasure trove of cars; they served as a backdrop), was a sleek study in black and white (including mixed menswear fabrics), with flashes of red, bright blue, and chrome yellow, accented with gleaming silver hardware. Like the cars, it was vintage Ralph all the way: classic and classy.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal was told that nobody has won a Grand Slam tennis tournament wearing pink, so for his match last Sunday at the U.S. Open, he merely accented his black Nike top and shorts with flashes of the color (via the iconic Nike Swoosh) and his pink customized pink sneakers. But when he won, he wasted no time changing into his shocking pink Nike warm up jacket.

When Sloane Stevens won her U.S. Open championship on Saturday (her first Grand Slam), she was a vision in pink from her pale pink wristband to her pinky peach tennis dress with vivid pink straps that matched her visor. There’s no doubt she is the future of tennis and for her, the future definitely looks ‘rosy’. And from the look of things on the NYFW runways for spring 2018, it’s a rosy outlook for all of us.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wednesdays at Michael’s by Diane Clehane

W’s Stefano Tonchi on Fashion Week, The Trump Effect and ‘Talking’ Magazines

Stefano Tonchi, Diane Clehane and Chris Mitchell
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Welcome to Wednesdays at Michael’s! The faithful, fabulous flock has returned to 55th and Fifth after their summer break ready for action. Judging from the looks --and sound -- of things around the dining room, there were plenty of big doings being done over Cobb salads around the room. Today was a mix of talking heads (Kathie Lee Gifford, Ron Insana), media machers (Discovery ID’s Henry Schleiff) and politicos (Democratic booster Robert Zimmerman and former ‘right’ hand man Paul Manafort (really!) Starting this week, I’ll be reporting all the latest dish from the media hotspot for, one of the longest running sites to cover fashion and society. I’m really excited to reach an even larger group of influencers and I hope you’ll help me spread the word about my new online ‘home.’

With Fashion Week in full swing, who better to lunch with than W’s editor in chief Stefano Tonchi and the magazine’s chief business officer Chris Mitchell? The dynamic (and impeccably dressed) duo took time out between shows to talk business (theirs is quite good, thank you very much) and weigh in on the state of print (better than you might think – for some), retail (undergoing a massive shift) and fashion (rapidly evolving into something much more experiential).

Speaking of experiences, Stefano told me last night’s Ralph Lauren’s show, held at the designer’s sprawling estate in Bedford was one for the ages. Attended by some 600-plus editors and influencers, the show was staged in the garage where Lauren stores his multi-million-dollar collection of classic cars. It was a social media bonanza. “Everyone wanted a picture with the $40 million Bugatti.” I’ll bet. Today’s savviest designers know “everything is a social media opportunity” and “everything is designed to be an opportunity [to be posted on] Instagram.”

“The secret of social,” said Chris, is really understanding which platforms to leverage with each initiative. “What works on Facebook doesn’t work on Instagram.” One thing is for sure, it’s made Chris and Stefano’s jobs a lot more interesting. “This is a fascinating time to be in this business,” said Chris. “There are challenges to the print model but there are challenges in every business. I think when people say the old days look good it’s only because they were simpler.”

Fashion Week has certainly evolved from its bygone days in Bryant Park but is still “very relevant” said Stefano, even if its mission has somewhat changed. “It’s more about [the merging of] fashion and entertainment” or rather “entertainment using fashion as an excuse” for media coverage. “Other night I was sitting in the Armory, what has been the temple of high fashion – Marc Jacobs used to show there – I was there to see Rihanna for Puma. I thought fashion is not for the few, it’s for the many. Fashion has never been more popular.”

Even if showing in New York is not. The election of Donald Trump, said Stefano, has caused “a little exodus” from the city to Europe because some designers “want to show in a place more tolerant.”

Inclusiveness has been a hallmark of Stefano’s vision for W and his enthusiasm for the magazine and it’s ‘Three Ds’ – disruption, diversity and discovery – is infectious. “They are part of the DNA of W!” Even in an industry chock full of visionaries, rarely have I met someone so inspired and inspiring with a breadth of knowledge of fashion and all its nuances. Stefano just knows fashion. He and public relations director Adriana Stan arrived with an armload of September and October issues -- all works of art in their own right. The September issue with a futuristic Katy Perry on its cover literally came to life before my eyes (more on that later).

The October issue, W’s fourth annual “Royals” issue spotlighting those who are “classic” (meaning over 40 or thereabouts) royalty and “new” (younger) royalty in film, television, fashion and society just hit the newsstands. The ten different covers featuring five men and five women spotlighting a diverse (there’s that word again) and surprising range of talent including new royalty “Renaissance Person” Pharrell Williams, an incredibly youthful and classic newly minted television star Winona Ryder, Tilda Swinton, James Corden, Tracee Ellis Ross and Jared Leto. I thought the inclusion of Ray Romano as “classic” television royalty was an inspired choice. In the portfolio by W “celebrity guru” Lynn Hirschberg, Romano, who has gravitated to darker, more flawed characters since “Everybody Loves Raymond” ended, told Hirschberg that he has to keep stretching in order to outrun his good guy sitcom persona. “I have to keep moving,” said the actor, “Or I catch up with myself.”

The ten-cover campaign, explained Stefano, “gives us access to ten A-list celebrities” which is beneficial to both sides of the equation. “A-list celebrities want the cover,” he explained. “No one wants [to be featured in] just digital. They want beautiful pictures and the print experience.” The digital component of the package includes twenty-five videos “screen tests” with all of the featured celebrities.

With Stefano at the helm, celebrities have never been depicted in W’s pages with static images that air-brush every trace of character (or flaws) from the famous faces. This, as they say, is not your mother’s W. “We some celebrities in a way that they have never been seen like before,” said Stefano. I’ll say. The October issue features twenty-five celebrities in a portfolio of arresting images like Marc Jacobs lounging in a fur coat and high heels. But there is a method to this madness, explained Stefano. “It has to be the right celebrity at the right time, in the right context.” And context is key to W’s success. “It is more important than ever to set ourselves apart from the marketplace,” said Stefano.

While W is clearly one of the few print books that can claim collectible status, it is equally innovative (if not more so) in the digital realm. Rather than bemoan the changes that it has brought to the business Stefano and Chris have embraced them as new forms of audience engagement and revenue streams. Over the past year W has had record-breaking audience growth. The magazine is up 44 percent in total audience with a head spinning 92 percent increase in mobile web and a 72 percent uptick in video.

“We are all living through the digital revolution,” but Stefano believes we will eventually “come to a place where it all balances out.” Both Stefano and Chris agree that there is a new emphasis on “experiences” but that doesn’t preclude print by any means. “Print will continue to evolve,” said Chris who, incidentally, does double duty at Conde Nast where he has the same title at both W and Vanity Fair – and oversees fashion and luxury sales for Conde Nast. “We lean into the large format [of the magazine]. We want to give people something to read. With all of the changes [to the business] magazines no longer have to be all things to all people. Magazines can be collectible pieces.”

At W, the marriage of print and digital has resulted in one of the most innovative and engaging experiences I’ve ever seen in from a magazine. While we were having our coffee, Stefano took out his phone to show me how the W app brought the cover and several different stories in the September issue to life. After scanning the cover image of Katy Perry, the singer started “talking” through what is called augmented reality. Perry also drives a car and sings in a portfolio in the magazine. There’s also another portfolio of “talking” streetwise models in immersive video. This crazy, fun magazine experience is the result of a collaboration between Stefano, photographer Steven Klein and the creative tech agency, The Mill. You’ve really got to see it to believe it.

In and around the dining room: Jack Myers and the cast of the new “Page Six” television show including my former People magazine colleague Carlos Greer on Table One …. Table Two: Mickey Ateyeh … Andrew Stein on Three … The Today Show’s Kathie Lee Gifford looking good and sipping chardonnay on Table Four … Allen & Company’s Stan Shuman on Five … Robert Zimmerman on Six … CNBC’s Ron Insana on Eight … Dr. Robi Ludwig on Nine … Discovery ID’s Henry Schleiff on Table 14.

More sightings … From the ‘What Me Worry?’ Department: Paul Manafort arriving at 2 o’clock for lunch on Table 16. Quest’s Chris Meigher on 21 ... PR maestro Tom Goodman and Glenn Roberts on 25. Chanel’s Olivier Stip on 28... Celebrating September at the bar: Liz Wood, Kira Semler and Vi Huse.

- Diane Clehane