Sunday, April 26, 2009
There's the tiniest sliver of a new moon in the sky tonight. A record warm late summer weekend in April. What a pleasant and unexpected surprise. There seem to be other unexpected surprises occurring as well.
After a rather storm tossed week this kitten landed on dry land. The roller coaster of fashion, what it was, is and could be seem to keep so many of us off balance. But perhaps that is best and the definition of fashion , which is in itself a mutable and ever shifting form. Trying to nail it down, proclaim this mood or trend or designer the One, the Leader is just an exercise in nonsense. Like mercury , it never sits still long enough to grab a hold.
I went to an event at Bottega Veneta last week and was expecting to see the never before seen. I went ,I saw and then went for a great meal. What had staggered me the last 2 seasons was still evident, but there was a degree of leveling off. This is not to say that I saw a collection, vast and inspired, but neither was it earth shattering. It was beautiful . I met Thomas Maier, and expected a humble savant. A genius who would somehow appear remote and introverted. What I saw and who I met was much more an urbane, very German dandy. So there you have it....one never knows. You can't and shouldn't ever try to pin anything or anyone down. They will never be what you expect. I'm glad of it, though it popped the balloon of my preconceived notion.
This new moon is the harbinger of big and small changes to come. Alchemy is the magic , the science that is the thing of fashion, the essence of life. To add 1 and 1 and make 10. This is something I believe and live by.
This is the first of a short series of thoughts I will expand on. But for now it's a new moon, a reason to celebrate and to create hope. All will be well. All will be better than it once was.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
A recent stroll up Madison Avenue the other night brought me to the windows of Lambertson Truex's eponymous shop. I expected it to be vacant like most every third boutique up and down both sides of this street of dreams. Happily, the store was not papered over and the windows were filled with some of the smartest accessories and shoes anywhere. It appears that they are hanging tough and soldiering their way through the storm. I'd written a few months back about their chapter 11 filing, but it looks like the light has not dimmed.
I was encouraged and very happy to see that . I hope that they pull through. I hope we all pull through.
"My name is Fluff Chance and I'm an addict.I'm addicted to Bravo's Real Housewives of New New City."
( other fellow addicts sitting in the "Rooms" ): "Hello Fluff Chance, you're in the right place. Welcome."
There...I've said it. The sweat is still running down my forehead but there is a sense of relief. Knowing that I'm among others who share my disease is a comfort. I no longer have to hide in my apartment at night watching the show over and over until a new episode airs on a tuesday night. The shame and self loathing is already lessening. I've heard that a group of fellow addicts will go for coffee after the meeting around 9 to talk , share their experience , strength and hope, but I worry about getting home in time to watch this past weeks episode. Oops , there I go again. The tug to follow gorgeous renegade Kelly Bensimon and pathetic social crawling Alex or Ramona, of the Bug Eyes, and 20 years experience in fashion....you know she went to F.I.T. and everyone on 7th Ave. KNOWS her....... Since when did social climbing send you tail first down the ladder? Tumbling ,like scaling the heights of society has gotten hopelessly confused. Much like cleverness and idiocy. Manners, and crass vulgarity suffer the same confusion. Let's not ignore Jill, the nightmare Yenta who has never had a satisfied moment in her life. If there is a Yeti in the deepest forest, she is a Yeta in the wilderness known as the Upper East Side.
I want to heal. I want to regain control of my life, regain my self respect but it's so hard when you've got a monkey on your back, more like 6 of them if you include Alex's husband Simon. He of the chic, debonair "man about town"coolness.Let's not forget his unerring eye for glamor,style and all things sartorial.
Though I can count Kelly as a acquaintance , I'm horrified at her decision to join that damaged cast, but the heart has it's reasons. It wasn't the smartest move . Now she has a huge audience that views her with disdain. She's honestly a very warm and kind person, but the darker side is what we see now. We all have one but we don't share it with millions of strangers. I know that I don't. I hope in some small way this will be a plus at the end of the day. Any press is supposed to be good press, but I never bought into that. I know first hand that bad press is just that, Bad Press. There is a breed of human who thrive on attention no matter what the cost. In a recession like this, I would save my self respect , even guard it and not squander it for the world to deride.
Call me old fashioned.
The pack of them are really neanderthals in Jimmy Choos not worth the time of day. The Countess whom I've witnessed first hand more than once is truly special. A big, boorish broad who specializes in taking whole tables of perfect strangers hostage. Gay guys are her preferred quarry. They nod knowingly as she holds forth like the Countess that she is, or was or soon will no longer be. It appears the Count has tired of her shameless flogging of his family's title to any and all who will listen. Too bad for her. She could have had it all. Now it's just the kids she never has time for, a book on Manners and Etiquette and a show that displays all of her social pretensions, lack of manners , empathy and little or no sense of the meaning of Etiquette.
" C'est la vie"....as her noble, soon to be ex-husband's aristocratic family would have said.
Bethany, the straight talking UN-married Housewife keeps me coming back. I have great regard for her. She is a person with a sense of humor, ethics, loyalty and self respect. Of all of the characters she seems real . I hope she has a future that will benefit from this train wreck. I picture her walking with her head held high, with a conflagration raging behind her on the screen. All the others will be toast but Bethany, single , searching for love and healing from the wounds that come from a dysfunctional family will prevail. I'm not a girl , or in need of a Skinny Girl diet book, but I would buy hers to show support. She just touches me in some weird reality show way.
Having "shared" with the group the details of my addiction it's time to repair to the coffee shop down the street. It's 9:30 and if I leave now I can get home just in time for those revolting opening credits .... I think I'm going to make a run for it.
I'll have to find a meeting during the lunch hour so there's no chance of my recovery interfering with my addiction.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
We can all breathe easier, even sleep more soundly. Barneys , like the good ship Poseidon, will have it's morning after. This restores my faith in the newest form of investment. It's called the Bail Out. Istithmar , or whatever the hell they're called came in and dropped not 10 million but 25 million into the piggy bank to shore up vendor confidence. Now this number wouldn't be qupted , so it's probably more like 12-15 million instead of the original 10.
On the very next day pictures and print covered WWD with the grand reopening of a new and improved Barneys in Chicago. Other stores are opening in a few other key cities and across the globe. That just struck me as a little strange. One minute you're sprawled on the pavement with a cup in your hand and the next you've taken the $1 bill you just scored and are now opening a smart boutique, the one that you were leaning against with the windows being papered over. Why not put that money into securing what you have , taking care of your vendors, maybe holding onto some staff who are about to be papered in pink slips?
I know you have to be in it to win it. I also know that Chicago was a project in the works before the sink hole which is American business opened WIDE. You have to ask yourself what these investors were thinking. Simon Doonan the Creative Director, whom I met the other night at a party is as GRAND as he is diminutive but that's a short story and not a very interesting one. Still, what goes through their minds? Expansion and more expansion when all they can do is put everything on sale as they tag it and load it onto the racks. I walked past the windows last night on Madison Avenue and was dumbfounded at the unattractive display of distressed blue jean dresses, gowns and pieces by a bevy of DIRECTIONAL designers. All was collage. Unappealing, absurdly over-priced and ultimately depressing. It seems the wolf is no longer out side the door but roaming freely within. The look of those windows were certainly the result of his overly fecund and clever humor/imagination. It looked like a view into the darker side of his head. It brought me back to the night we spoke "oh so briefly". I thought I'd be meeting the charming, funny, engaging and quick witted elfin genius behind Barneys. The person I met was a garishly dressed, dismissive , cold little man without a shred of grace or charm.
With that said ,I imagine all will be well with Barneys for the foreseeable future. The Istithsmar Group ( can't remember the spelling to save my life) says they will continue to infuse more cash as need be ..... My feeling is that they pray someone will take this store off their hands ASAP. The foreseeable future used to mean just that. Now it means 3-6 months max. Barneys fall selection will get shipped and paid for .
The following season will most likely find them asking the same question : Daddy, can I have some money?
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
NEW YORK, April 13 (Reuters) - Standard & Poor's on Monday cut its ratings on Barneys New York Inc to a deeply distressed level and warned that vendors may tighten terms or limit shipments to the luxury retailer as its liquidity declines.S&P cut Barney's credit ratings two notches to CCC, eight steps below investment grade, from B-minus. The outlook is negative, indicating an additional downgrade is more likely in the next two years.
"The downgrade reflects the deteriorating liquidity position of the company as demonstrated by the need for a cash infusion by Istithmar World," S&P said in a statement."
This news flash reported by Reuters is not one to take lightly. The unavoidable reality is that one of the pillars of Major Department stores in NYC is not at all well. The center can no longer hold. The cosmic reality check is seeping through the terribly clever Simon Doonan designed windows and spreading like a fungus throughout the well appointed floors. What disturbs me is that a store owned by a huge Dubai investment concern is scraping by, just barely. Vendors are forewarned that they must alter the terms /conditions of doing business with the retailer and that there is no clear and certain safety net.
My worry is that others like Barneys are only waiting in the wings. When you read again and again that Saks and Co. is in dire straits and Nieman MarcusGroup(Bergdorf Goodman's Daddy) are in strained financial positions it begs the question,"Are we headed for a massive shake up from the top down?"
All along it's been assumed that the designer would be first to go down for the count. That is still the case for many, but now the table is starting to turn. With the most sought after and prominent retail outlets in (semi-quiet) trouble, where does that leave the designer? One toils to create a collection,kills oneself and those on the team to break through to the coveted rack or said T-stand only to find out that your dream venue is sinking into the pavement. My fear is that too many will ignore the warning signs and fall prey to the siren song; throwing themselves and their companies into the lion's mouth. Astute business savvy? No. Desperation for what once was the best game in town? Yes.
If Barneys is but a burp, then Bergdorfs is likely to belch. Saks and Nieman's will more than likely fight over who gets the Heimlich first, leaving the loser choking on his tongue. This, granted, is a worst case scenario, but I have come to believe that if one prepares oneself for the worst then if all turns out well, it's a very welcomed and happy surprise.
Let's hope for the very best, but be prepared for something less.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Reading Vogue, trying to swallow the elitist garbage fed to the masses like Jones town and a pool of Kool-Aid, is making me wonder what the hell happened. Where did the sense and sensibility of a journal meant to educate and illustrate what style could be, go so willfully wrong? I'm at a point where I'm not even angry any more. The 4 stages of grief are: denial, anger, acceptance and utter horror.
We are all guests at the wake for what once was a living breathing business. Every store in this town is a converted chapel where the grieving friends and families come to view the dearly departed. The bodies are beautifully arranged on racks, T-stands and shelves with expressions frozen. Only the most shattered of the grief stricken, actually touch the bodies ,weeping quietly. No one stays long, there's just a steady stream of people filing in and out. No one stays.
So many signs are staring us in the face that no matter how you crunch the numbers or measure the wind velocity, it keeps coming up unbalanced and dangerous. I hate doom and gloom stories. Believe it or not, I have a history and reputation among my closest friends of having an indomitable spirit of optimism. I never quit, never give up ,never believe that the end is the end or even close. For this reason, I'm letting my fears speak but not my true feelings. I still believe there is a future, ther's still hope that we'll find a way through the blackness....but the stench is making it increasingly more difficult to take deep breaths.
It's an "every man/woman/gay/transgender person for him/her/ he-she self" . The magazines which acted as road maps , compasses if you will have magnetic fields hopelessly compromised.
The more subversive publications like PURPLE or OPRAH give a clearer less biased message. Forget Bazaar, Town &Country or any of the others. It's a daisey chain of didacticism. Only is I don't buy it any more. They make good trash bag stuffers and kindling in the winter, and so -so litter biox liners , but not much else. Cultural reviews such as new books, plays, art and theater are of interest but that's where it begins and ends. You can get that information from other more informed publications which don't necessitate a bath after reading.
So my optimism sits quietly in the back row for the scene to change and give me a reason to be filled with a warm positive glow. Meanwhile the tissues are gripped tightly in my claws. They do double duty dabbing at errant tears and covering my too sensitive nose. I'm not budging til there is a sign of life or when they close the chapel for good. After all, it's Easter.....
Anything is possible.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
Well it had to happen . The Fashion Firmament is Fuming.
Oscar, Donna and Vera got mad and decided they wouldn't take it anymore. Oscar led the charge complaining that the First Lady should stop playing in the girls dept. and step up to Ladies furnishings. In today's WWD he chastised her choices in costume for meeting the Queen and for wearing J.Crew and "other" designers. It was beneath him to utter the names: Wu,Thakoon ,Narciso,Isabel Junya Watanabe....all the upstart infidels. He said she should be wearing his couture. Donna said the same. She wants to "dress and address" the "whole"Michelle....what does that mean? Vera felt left out as well. She complained that Michelle should give them their just due. After all, they are the leaders, the cool kids on the playground, THE clique.
Think about it . The entitlement they are collectively being denied. Well, I say deal with it. It's been 3 months and they are annoyed that they haven't taken charge. Why do you think the CFDA has bestowed a Fashion Icon award on the First Lady? It's little more than some back room arm twisting to obligate her to start playing by THEIR rules.
Personally, I find it unseemly to voice these opinions. When one as respected as Oscar de la Renta starts complaining when he's no longer the man of the hour, one must question his sense of proportion...his manners. Think it but don't say it. If you insist on being a horn player , don't blow your own horn. Chances are you're either blowing sharp or flat.
This tune is decidedly flat.
I'm of two minds, neither of which I'm that clear on or sure of. The huge focus on fashion and it's connection to Michelle Obama is starting to bother me and intrigue me at the same time. Honestly, it bothers more than intrigues , but it's hard to ignore. This first big trip to Europe and the press and public's fascination with her clothes is impossible to ignore. This is a situation where both she and our President are under a very large microscope. The world is curious to see and hear them up close and we , as Americans, are just as curious to see how well they will perform. At the same time everyone is curious to see and judge Mrs. Obama's choices of wardrobe for all of the myriad occasions and introductions to the world leaders they are meeting for the first time. So far so good...as we all expected and knew.
The whole fashion question is taking center stage in the press and in many blogs, not just fashion blogs. It seems so petty to keep score and at the same time,those of us in the business of fashion can't avoid it. Why did she choose this or that? Why not wear this instead, or isn't that look too casual? Why the same designers again and again? This is where it all gets dodgey and easily becomes an excercise in passing judgement.
I am not a huge fan of Jason Wu and Thakoon Panichgul. It's just my personal taste. I can't say that they as designers are better or worse than others . I just don't find them that interesting . When I see Michelle Obama in their clothes on the international stage, or in J.Crew I think that she could be more imaginative and wear designs with more depth;in short, looks that are more intriguing. But I'm not the First Lady and it's not my choice to make. Wearing young American design is a boon to the careers of these fortunate few and that is a great honor not to be minimized or belittled. I have to just do my best to take the high road. There are other designers who I believe could dress her and make her even more beautiful than she already is, but that is a question of time.
Seeing her in France today with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was an interesting study. So far they both wear the fashion of their countrymen. Carla is always and only in Dior for state occasions and absolutely no one seems to question her choice. If anything she is applauded for her immaculate taste. One never hears things like why doesn't she wear Lanvin or YSL or Balenciaga? So I ask myself why am I complaining about Michelle Obama's choices? The answer is that I think she falls short of dressing in a way that shows herself to her greatest advantage. This is not a Jackie O fixation or comparison. Jackie had a fashion obsession, Michelle does not. But as First Lady the world is looking to her to be the Ambassadress of American style. I fear it is a job that comes with the JOB.
Over time Michelle will undoubtedly become more experienced in the expectations of the public and her responsibility to the world press, which in visual terms means to look her best no matter the occasion or situation. Style is a very necessary component to the position. I hope that we will see that evolution for the better. Perhaps Laura Bush wasn't a focus of the fashion press, but that's simply because she was of little weight or interest to the country or the world. The same can not be said of Michelle Obama.
Like I said , "so far ,so good"..... as if I were the judge and jury. I'm not. It's only my opinion.
Most importantly, I'm amazed that we came out of utter darkness with the luck of having two such brilliant and committed leaders to restore this country and the opinions of those who inhabit the rest of this world.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
I'm getting really tired of Michelle Obama positioned as the Savior of American Fashion. If that were truly the case, she'd make a statement, come to NYC and stand with us in solidarity as we storm the Department stores and boutiques demanding our due: SUPPORT. But she isn't. She goes about her days dressed in less than ground shifting clothes. Wearing Jason Wu and Thakoon Panichgul to the G-20 talks is really not news. She's photographed with the wife of Britain's Prime Minister in J.Crew (pictured right).Her championing of these designers is not a gesture of banner waving support: it's just simply a display of middling taste on her part. She is the savior of these 2 labels and maybe Narciso and Isabel Toledo and J.Crew when the mood strikes her, or more specifically, when the mood strikes Ikram, her retailing stylist. Her taste is not to be questioned or judged , but it does raise questions nonetheless. Why these guys?
Ok, she's not Madame Sarkozy with the experience and relationships with the greatest designers in this cosmos, but she certainly has access if she chooses. This brings me back to my initial statement. Michelle Obama is the First Lady . That's going to have be good enough, which is plenty good considering the woman she is.
Savior of American Fashion ??? I think not.