Monday, December 15, 2008

Rogue Waves have replaced the Trickle Down Effect

When first I learned the meaning of a Rogue wave, I thought it was something that only happened way out at sea. The Perfect Storm, a great novel, explained how these waves came out of nowhere, churned up from the belly of the ocean building and growing to the height of a 30 story building. This is not the sort of wave you body surf, not even a wave for the best of surfers to hang ten. This baby picks up and demolishes ocean liners. What was quaintly referred to as the Trickle Down effect is no longer applicable to the sort of damage we're witnessing now. With one you just hang on and wait for the clouds and winds to shift. The latter causes you to bend over, put your head firmly between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye.

Try as we all must, everyday seems to get a little trickier. Cleverness is no longer enough. Brilliance and a mind geared towards strategy is the new daydream. One by one designers, companies and fashion is losing it's tenuous hold. When people talk about how things are going , it's a veiled question as to "Are you still in business?" or " Do you still have your job?" Personally, it feels like an invasion to even broach such a dicey subject. No one wants to really answer it, few are prepared to admit the truth to themselves ,let alone share it with others. It's a bit like rape victims who are reluctant to admit that they have in fact been raped.

This past week was one that I've never experienced in years of working in this industry. I actually thought about packing it in. It wasn't a fleeting thought, but a cloud of indecision that settled on me and wouldn't budge. Everything I could muster to shake myself out of it did nothing but bring the dreaded choice closer and closer to home. I felt physically ill. Couldn't sleep, eat, couldn't even enjoy watching Dexter ....nothing. Some yoga, meditation,praying ,kick boxing,nothing could shake it. I even tried looking at my treasured collection of books and still I couldn't escape. A call to Mom only elicited an invitation to come home to my room that hasn't changed since high school graduation. That prospect , I will admit, got me thinking about the cons of quitting. Still I remained stricken.

Friday night compelled me to call a friend , for whom I care very much. This call brought my fears to the surface. As we talked, I shared my dilemma and the week of self inflicted torture I had endured. In relating these horrors of indecision it came out that I was not alone with my dark thoughts. My friend had been suffering the very same nightmare, only had taken the giant leap to call it quits. That admission stunned me. My first response was to try to talk him down from the cliff's edge, but his decision was made. We have been at this game for the same amount of time. His success has been real and appreciable and yet he felt the time was right to stop. It hit me so hard I started to cry while still on the phone. It felt so pointless and grossly unfair that this wave had come out of nowhere and took hold of his ship. When I hung up, secretly I prayed that his mind would change, but this is a decision one makes alone. No words from others can change that when all else has been weighed.

I spent the weekend going over and over our conversation and came to a conclusion. The full moon shone through the trees illuminating the forest and cast a clear sharp light on my thoughts. For every reason I could list for giving it all up and taking a nice long rest I couldn't give up this desire to keep going. Whether an audience or economy is there to cheer me on, I realize I've always done it for myself. I'm not ready to stop for myself or anyone else who has gotten satisfaction and pleasure from what I do. The song "The Moon is a harsh mistress" came to mind. Wanting out, wanting a respite from the undertow is not as strong as my desire to thrash through the water, the waves, life as it is at this moment.

...."then the darkness fell, the moon's a harsh mistress, the sky is made of stone"....

Each of us must choose. For today I choose to accept facts, but I don't choose to be undone by them.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Premie-Fall Collections

There was something decidedly premature about many of the pre-fall collections offered over the last few days. Much like infants taken from the oven a few months too soon. Some actually looked as though they'd been yanked from the life supporting incubators, tossed down a runway or in front of a photographer and tossed back. I seriously wonder if some of them will survive. A head, 10 fingers and 10 toes doesn't mean that the little one is alive , let alone ready for the bright glare of the critics. Many of these collections were mercifully small. Some were regrettably large. More has never been a rule for better and a few key collections proved this .

I mentioned in my last Post that Oscar de la Renta sent out a rather sad lineup of exits. There were a handful of looks that were directional,modern and provocative. They were more in the daytime phase . Beautiful,yet simply draped silk tunics,more like actual dresses,over pants were two complete statements in themselves. Too much of the collection looked forced. It was a pendulum swing between the expected and the sure sellers.

Badgley Mischka was very tired. They were recently resold (the Collection) and it looked as though they were shackled to the OLD BM look. Apparently the lower priced Platinum collection is selling ,so that one gets the gas. This one was definitely running on empty. There were only about 15 looks and all were poorly made and depressingly predictable. That isn't to say that there's no life there, only that the pulse is so faint that it's any ones call.

Francisco Costa's collection for Calvin Klein, which very often is one of the most forward collections in this country was surprisingly self conscious. Not cool, but somehow trying too hard. The fabrics were so tech based and hard in many instances, they looked sculpted and uncomfortable. Many of the cuts looked poorly tailored. Some of the coats and jackets were unflattering. I was disappointed and wondering what was in his head. The fact that so much was black didn't disturb ,but black clothes call for a precision and degree of brilliance that color can easily camouflage. Black leaves very few places to hide technique. It's either banal or merely derivative or it's great in it's own way. Too many looks were between banal and derivative. The pieces in white were just forgettable . Modern isn't always that thought provoking. In the end one felt anesthetized...drowsy.

Isaac Mizrahi cobbled together a collection that was supposed to evoke 'comfort clothes'. He quipped that they were the equivalent of Mac and Cheese dressing. Cheese was about the best that could be said for it. I don't get the press' fascination with his design aesthetic. From unappealing dresses,coats,Jammie suits to ugly satin construction boots it was a thankfully brief cavalcade of unattractive looks.. The evening gowns were no less interesting than his day looks with the exception of the first suit. To think that he's the Creative Director of Liz Claiborne leaves me speechless.

Zac Posen went on a nostalgia trip back(again) to the forties. That is easily my most unfavored periods. There were some lovely dresses. He has a gift for dresses, but it was all a bit too literal . Fringe abounded and suits that looked like vintage store copies. Leopard prints were the highpoint in dresses ,a jacket and the lining of a full length peach leather coat. He is a rising star but I can't see the brilliance that so many others do. He still appears to be searching for a voice . I'm waiting to hear his own and not the whispers of others' who came before.

Vera Wang was regrettable. But that's not news.I saw 1 dress that was great , but only 1. Her styling is beyond me and the choice of models looked like early cro-magnon women. Very Museum of Natural History Diorama. Not modern and certainly not pretty.

Donna Karan found this season's signature drape and worked it left right and center. Some great things especially for evening. Silk jersey draped gowns that were probably the best of all the contenders, but overall it was Donna in a zen time warp. OM.

Narciso Rodriguez saved the day from the very first exit. The MOST perfectly cut charcoal coat. Narrow shoulders,shaped waist and beautifully curved hips gave it the shape of a perfect hour glass. That coat was IT. From there simple straightforward artful separates and great young cool dresses. Some were in his now signature cut out theme and others very young ingenue looks with controlled full skirts and wrapped or draped sexy bodices. All in all a fresh, always fresh take on cool urban dressing that works anywhere on all ages. His collection was what a fall collection or Pre-Fall should be. Complete.

Now let's see who will buy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pre-Fall. Concept or Condition???

All these Pre-Fall collections are being shown this week. One has to wonder what's up. Pre-Fall is considered the most important collection of the year because it delivers early and sells the longest. It's also the one that grabs the largest dollars from retailers. For some strange reason, it is the new Fall and the old Fall which happens in a couple of months is mostly window dressing. If that is really the case, then why bother with Fall proper?

Oscar de la Renta showed his Monday and Chanel presented theirs" a la Russe" last week . All the other usual players are doing the same throughout this week and next. It just seems like an exercise in futility when we can't find a flashlight bright enough to find our way out of Black Friday. There isn't a battery strong enough. Stores can't give the stuff away and design houses are scrambling to put out new collections for dollars that are as fictitious as the idea of a bright tomorrow. The night we're in makes the far northern hemisphere look like a blindingly bright endless day. The truth is that it's dark at this moment. Pitch black dark. Friends and associates are losing jobs or shutting down businesses everyday. Not one day goes by without someone ending on the proverbial down beat.

This need to pump product for a public who is no longer able or interested in buying unless the markdowns start at 60% with an additional "friends and family" 30% off on top. Try to make something on that ........ This is the new math. I was never good in math, though my Mom was a math teacher, but even I can do that simple subtraction. If I didn't know better you end up with a negative number. That is not good, is it? Am I making a mistake on the equation? I could call Mommie and ask, but something tells me I could be right on this one. So what to do?

Pre-Fall looks more like a condition than a business concept. Pre: as in just before the tumble. The next month or two will sort out the results of this effort. We'll see who and how many benefit from this early sell. The pie is the size of a half eaten cookie. There is not that much to go around. Oscar was lackluster, which really surprising. He is so much of the time right on the money, but this collection was as depressed looking as the state of the economy. A bummer parade of bummer looks. Karl sent out a Russian inflected modernist take on Poirret,Bakst, YSL and some Coco to taste. It was rich and in some cases the total opposite reflection of what the mirror reflects. I kind of like that attitude. It gave you something to ponder,dream about, and basically took your mind to a different place. The collection was inspiring,probably absurdly expensive, but amusing. Amusement is so lacking in the air. To smile, enjoy and feel a lightness is in short supply. For that I am grateful. Many commenters on the NYTimes fashion blog "On The Runway" were less than positive about it. A lot of criticism about Karl /Chanel being out of touch and living too much in the past and not pitching forward to the future(quite unknown). Call me old fashioned but there was something brewing in that collection that could be an antidote to the malaise which has infected the public at large. Some fantasy grounded in real time can't be all bad. Otherwise, why get up in the morning. It takes more than meds now to navigate these shoals. Just inches below this rising tide are jagged rocks that I have no intention of tripping over and being pulled under.

For those of you who have not looked at the Times' fashion blog, check it out. The conversation and criticism is very lively and thank God, intelligent.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bill Blass Couture is Shuttered.

For several months I've written about the House that Blass built. Granted, many of my opinions in regards to the designers who have taken hold of the wheel were unlicensed for the job. That would have to include the president of the company, Michael Groveman. The most unfortunate thing that could have befallen such a venerable and landmark establishment was the appointment of Michael Groveman. His story is the dark tale of the effects of nepotism. Perhaps Dad could do it, but Junior couldn't.

Bill Blass will officially close up shop ( it already has) on Dec. 19, 2008 , unless they decide to go to press sooner. The company has disbanded the design studio and now are in the process of selling off machinery, supplies and fabrics in order to lessen the debts which still hang over them. It's a fire sale in it's most discreet form.

There was no White Knight to come to it's rescue. The parent company NexCen was unable to find a suitor for a house that was for sale at one point for as little as 10 million dollars, down from it's purchase price of 54 million. At one point it was offered for $1.00 if all debt, loans and all related baggage would be assumed. The Direct to Customer Collection ( a la Tupper Ware party presentations for Ladies who neither shop nor lunch) which was generating 1 million this past year was closed down a few weeks ago. That collection had it's own designer and was priced below designer and above bridge. Effectively, the Budget Blass collection. At least that collection was making headway. The part of the Blass body that was gangrenous was the Couture. Peter Som proved season after season , like Lars Nillson, Steven Slowick,Probal, the long suffering assistant designer, and Michael Vollbracht , perhaps the most wise if not most lackluster of creative designers, that the job of moving the collection forward and still maintaining it's solidly loyal customer base was beyond his meager talents.

Peter Som was over faced by that job. One must have a point of reference , a knowledge of the history of more than the house , but of the unique client who's needs it serves.This isn't a case of "being to the manor born", per se. This just means years of experience in life, an understanding of a specific culture and the frame within which it functions. That is what was so unique and successful about Bill Blass, the man. He may have been from Indiana, served in the military and had little or no money in the beginning. What he did have was an eagle's eye for the nuances of a world in which he strived to inhabit. He studied his clients before they were his to dress. He was a self created man , some would say affected, an ersatz gentleman...but he became and fully inhabited the person he chose to be. In doing so, he also became the go to guy for the society client who demanded a like minded Designer to answer their needs. He was a perfect fit and foil for his Ladies. This dogged determination on his part is a perfect example of this new book, The Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell(also author of The Tipping Point). The idea is that laymen and scientists agree that for a person to become essentially expert in their field, it takes 10,000 hours of practice. That means that 10 years of steady work must happen before one can master a skill, truly master it. Blass spent those 10,000 hours working for other companies before opening his own. He had his schtick down by the time the Nan Kempners, Chessy Raynors, Pat Buckleys, Casey Ribicoffs, Nancy Kissingers,Louise Grunwalds,and so many others of his "Gals" walked through those doors. Peter Som and the rest of them, save Vollbracht, have not clocked those hours. They are amateurs, gold leaf plated arrivistes. I'd go so far as to say "ambitious actors". When the curtain comes up one needs to know more than just ones lines. It helps if one knows the play .

I always wondered why a design house as good as Blass would go the way of a lost penney. It was a viable business with a bright future. It kicked the butt of other competing houses like Herrera,and others not worth mentioning. Now there is only Oscar in 550 Seventh Ave. to carry that torch. Fine with me. He is a master and will not be unseated for years to come.

This reminds me of a cocktail party where I was standing next to Peter Som and his acolytes. They were giggling like little school girls about something . He was clearly the leader of the group , but everything that he uttered was pure chatty kathy ,cotton candy archness parading as cleverness. I walked away thinking that if that is the heart that beats in the body of that house, it will die in it's sleep. Well, It appears that that is exactly what has come to pass.
Bill Blass Couture has died while sleeping. Unfortunately, we all stood by and had to watch.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Inspiration: A needle buried under a mountain of rubble.

Inspiration is so easy and yet so hard. Good weather, a beautiful piece of music,perhaps someone passing just beyond your periphery. It takes so little and yet one must be totally attuned to ones inner compass and the world around you. The glass needs to be half full , not leaking out of a hairline crack.

Working on a new collection, the Fall 2009 season, is a time when we try to get pregnant with a belly full of ideas. Even one healthy idea complete with 10 fingers and toes and hopefully a head complete with a mind. My method is to go on a book buying binge. Anything to do with art or culture, fashion from the past or present, anything that allows me to close my eyes and start to see. Moments in time, like now cause the clouds and darkness to descend but night vision glasses or the strongest inner torch are my weapons against the abyss. The gravitational pull towards utter blackness is the hardest thing to avoid. Newspapers and magazines are poisonous to my psyche, so I seek out people , places and things that cast a glimmer of light. In the light resides possibility. In possibility rests hope and in hope lies the road map to creation. Traveling to a far off place for many is a sure fire journey to a fresh vision. To my thinking, the problem with escape is that your bags are loaded down with the you you're trying to leave at home. I choose to stay and seek a warm , well lighted place within.

Though this inspiration is chiefly directed towards a creative end, it also has everything to do with ones desire and ability to face each successive day and the obstacles that over face us . Being creative in life has a direct effect on how creative we will be in our work. One cannot be separated from the other. That's what makes getting up in the morning so challenging. That idea of being born alone and dying alone also pertains to going through each day alone. Being supported by friends, families and lovers makes it easier , but the road is still solely yours. I never feel as alone as when I’m faced with a blank piece of paper staring me down, waiting to be filled.

Many people don’t feel the need to find inspiration. It’s considered irrelevant or too much of a luxury; one that is no longer affordable. Better to revisit old hits or misses and cobble together something that resembles newness. The same thing recast with an exclamation point instead of a comma. Tearing out pages of others efforts and tacking them to your wall …the old “possession is 9/10ths of the law “excuse. The most creative soul search is the buying it in a store and sticking your label in it. The number of people who play these creative games would shock and appall many of you, but that has become the rule and no longer the exception.

Themes are a popular route. Cultures from before, mythic characters or periods of fecundity sends some designers into a realm of the senses. The world of the pre-Raphaelite courtesan or the society beauty who lives and dies for fashion . Often, rich visual feasts are mined . Other times redundant periods of the near past are used as the dead horse to continue flogging. Whatever the case, I find specific times, place or people too often fodder for imagery too easily recognized or too dated to qualify as modern or valid for the present.

To be brutally frank, One can ask the question,” What the hell were they thinking to trot that down a runway?” I have no more right than the next kitten to pass judgement on another’s method to their madness. I only know that it isn’t easy and if it were everyone would consider themselves a designer. …. BUT EVERYBODY DOES.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Is the Lincoln Tunnel the portal to the Black Hole? Is Atlantic City the fabled Elephant's Graveyard? Does every straight man's idea of dressing up consist of a "dress shirt" worn untucked with a pair of "dungarees"? Is the one item that every woman in this country, or on the east coast, shelling out for a pair of stiletto heeled suede boots with a buckle on the side of the leg?Am I alone in these observations or am I just being an unkind and overly critical snob?

This weekend found me, or perhaps lost me in AC ( Atlantic City) for a Madonna concert. It seemed like a good idea; a lark which I figured would take my mind off of the fact that this country and the world is going headfirst down the toilet in a counterfeit Kate Spade bag. Yes, that's just how ugly the reality is. I digress, so back to the scene of the crime. I curled up in the back seat of our comfy super sonic SUV for a short cat nap and awoke in Sin City. From the moment we checked into the only "boutique" hotel on the boardwalk( The Chelsea) I started to see repeats of the same look over and over and over again. Obviously, Madonna was the only game in town considering the people massing at the front desk and all over town. I wouldn't say that it was a bridge and tunnel thing(I'm not going to be a bitch ) but there was something decidedly down market about the guests . Whenever I see people checking in at hotels and their clothes are on hangers instead of suitcases, I start to draw certain conclusions. Ok, so I'm a snob, but I thought when one travels, one carries ones clothing and personal items in overnight bags , or suitcases or at worst in an over sized IKEA plastic bag(.59) but NOT on a hanger. There were lots of hangers being bandied about.

Nevertheless, there was an electricity in the air. Everyone was clearly ready to party and have a very good time. Her newly-divorced Highness was in town and the party was clearly getting started! We took in the floor show and immediately started to pick up on the trends. Actually, it was one trend that had taken hold of this gang. Very high , high heeled boots. I'd have to say 8 out of every 10 women were teetering in them. Some were pros at stepping confidently in them , while others were walking with heels seesawing from left to right at 45 degree angles. Each foot was on its own special flight path trying to get their precious cargo to the elevator or the bar; whichever was closer or easiest. The swains in attendance were all pretty nondescript in jackets over jeans and Geoxx shoes. I spotted some cowboy boots , too.

Once we were in our room and taking it easy before the big event, we checked out the movie channel for some entertainment. I thought we should test out the flat screen and nibble on some beef jerky that the mini bar was offering.....yes, beef jerky, and gum. Before we could see the latest Hollywood hits we got lost in a sea of "Adult" selections. If I say there were about 50 -60 movies being offered I wouldn't be exaggerating. What I found even stranger was that in all 60 selections there was only one GAY movie . It was so obviously an afterthought I felt pity for it. That poor guy (a solo, no less, when everything else was 2somes, 4somes, gang bangs and whole cheer leading squads) must have felt so alone and lost. I know, I could relate. I didn't see anyone who remotely resembled me.........

The 3 of us were hungry and decided to go to the restaurant on the 5th floor before heading over to the concert. That's when the trending began. Boots, boots and more boots. Groups of friends were meeting up in the bar and it was as though they all went to the same store. In some cases the boots on a couple of women were identical . They tended to wear what looked like sweater dresses, tights and boots. The sweater dresses were all VERY short and the boots very high. There were a lot of sweater tube tops over minis with tights and boots. Everyone in that room for the most part was thirty-ish. Once I took in the scene an insidious look for the guys came into focus. I feel a bit blind to how men dress, because I just didn't realize that there is a costume that is de rigeur of almost every man walking upright. I mean a costume with almost NO VARIATION at all : untucked dress shirt over jeans. Oh, and whether the guy is overweight or in good shape, the shirt is at best 2 sizes too big. Most of them , when you looked closely, were overweight. But the beauties with fit tight bodies didn't dare be left out, so their shirts were over sized too. Now, I'd seen this over this past summer on the weekends at the beach, but I just assumed it was hot and linen loose fitting shirts worn out were more about comfort, ease and being cool. I had no idea that this is the uniform for men to feel in the step. On Point.

After 1 hour and not getting served dinner( the kitchen was overwhelmed with the timing of the concert goers) we left and headed over to the venue. I was hungry , pissed and stymied by the throngs and their utter lack of individuality. Inside the huge hall I grabbed a couple of bags of popcorn and we headed for our seats. Considering the concert started an hour later, there was plenty of viewing time. The audience in the end was the real show. But from a bar of maybe 100 to a hall of thousands , I still saw the same look until I couldn't look any more. It was at this moment that a pair of UGGZ walked past and I was re booted. I was actually thrilled to see a pair of UGGZ. That girl was the Iconoclast, she was not afraid to go headfirst against the tide. There were some very trashy silver glitter 6 inch pumps, but that's what I expected. The UGG factor threw me for a loop.

Well the concert was fun. Visually it was incredible. Audibly, it was a little disappointing. Maybe because her divorce had been granted that day or she was tired from a long tour, there wasn't much Snap Crackle Pop. Soggy, a bit flat and a little too long is closer to the truth. I did have my eyes opened to what people are wearing at night. It ain't designer, that's for sure. It's totally middle market to tarted up lower end. Considering we're all basically broke it doesn't really matter as long as we spend something on having a good time and feeling like we look cool. I just wish people would take a few more chances and try to push the envelope a bit. When I saw a guy with his shirt tucked in, even with a bit of a gut, he looked so much better and sexier than his Brothers of the Perpetual Cover Up.

You'd almost think it was a form of male maternity wear.

Friday, November 21, 2008


I recently received an email from a friend which struck me as rather questionable, yet hilarious.It was a picture of a woman in an Angel's outfit. The message was basically that Heaven didn't want her so they sent her to my friend and he wasn't sure he wanted her and was sending her on to me. I was instructed NOT to return her to the sender.

It was all a joke but it got me thinking about things, life, work and how we all get through it...or don't. I'm not a religious or terribly spiritual cat, but I have certain things I believe to be so and one is the presence of something out there that is greater than me. Now ,is it God or Buddha or a flock of Angels or what? I don't know, but I feel there is something there. I also believe that we're all watched over despite good and difficult situations that befall us. Life can't be explained or controlled. Life happens and we're here for a stretch of time to participate in the whole experience.

Now , whether it's individuals that are there for us or just one, we're covered. It seemed so ironic to get this particular Angel because she is the antithesis of the woman I have in mind in my work. In fashion , she is not really someone I would call my client, but I would bet she's still somehow my special Angel. I don't pretend to think or say I've ever seen one, but one hears of sightings all the time. Usually, these take place in remote locales , but what is more remote than a grungy city street outside a bar? For the same token one never chooses who or what in this very sacred category. My idea would be a wildly elegant spirit with every detail a perfect piece to a divine puzzle. If my Angel is this one, I would have to say all of the pieces do in fact fit. They just aren't the divine pieces to the puzzle I would have imagined. That's what's so confounding and yet so perfect.

My life's work is about creating an ideal of utter balance, mystery and allure. It's a journey that never ends and one that has everything to do with a honing and dogged refining of ideas to mine my way to an essential glamour. Nothing more and nothing less. Some of you may think this a misogynistic image that I share with you, but that is the farthest thing from my intention. So please don't turn your minds off to what I'm trying to articulate. If this a statement about fashion or taste it is also a statement about our own validity as people with something special to contribute in this life. If my Angel is this one, I'm thrilled that I have someone looking out for me and helping me through this life I've chosen. She keeps me honest. Most importantly she keeps me inspired.

My Angel encourages me to do the hardest thing of all: She keeps me going. Keep your eyes open at all times, you may just be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of yours. When you do, say "Thank You" and mean it!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ralph Rucci

I have a confession to make. I've been wrong about this man. I've criticized him and feel I owe him an apology. I think that in some way I've discredited him and his uniqueness . He is truly a master. Ok, I think an arrogant one at times, but great talent has all kinds of human foibles which are not always easy to take, but it should never take away from the exceptional qualities they possess. He is unquestionably one of the greatest designers we have in America, and a designer who can stand up to the greatest in the world.

I recently looked at all of his collections, books which include his work and his own book of his work. Chado Ralph Rucci is a designer who will go down in history as someone who changed the way we all look at fashion. The designers who comes to mind when I think of his power and vision are names like Geoffrey Beene, YSL, Balenciaga,Dior, Poiret and Vionnet. All of these people changed the way we see fashion, style and the absolute mastery/mystery of creation. It's about finding a new language to express the idea of BEAUTY. The sheer force of his vision and unwavering belief and commitment to his message is the challenge they all faced at the risk of what was considered accepted...the status quo.

What is so profound about his journey is that to this day he faces a journalistic public that resists giving him his due. I have been part of that blind mass. He's a designers' designer. Research, experimentation, starting and stopping, scrapping an idea until it communicates the idea he intends. The stress that goes into this form of perfectionism is one that most people in fashion have neither the patience , drive or commitment to go through. He is the antithesis of fast fashion. He makes a tee shirt a work of art. I've seen piece after piece which and wonder how he came to that particular choice of cut or detail. The cost is extraordinary, but at the end of the day one is investing in an article of clothing that will be a collectors' treasure long after he and the rest of us are gone.When one considers how the most important press: Vogue etc. , ignore him month after month is criminal. This is a talent that makes so many other would be talents look like school boys and girls.

I only hope the world wakes up and begins to acknowledge him for who he is and the contribution he makes day after day, season after season, year after grueling year. The man is a force of nature.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


The definition of a rumor is a lie, gossip or half truth parading as fact. Many are false ,many result in the truth. Many are a combination of both. Being the subject of rumor isn't always pleasant , but it makes for interesting weekend reading, n'est-ce pas? So here are a few that are in fact true, others that remain to be seen and yet a couple more which are any ones' guess.

Todd Oldhams' contract as Design director at Old Navy has not been renewed : termination.

Patrick Robinson will again not make it through to the end of his contract as Design director at Old Navy.

Badgley Mischka Collection is a loss leader at Iconix Brand. The divisions for sportswear, jewelry and shoes are being eliminated. The freestanding store in L.A. is in question as is the New York Flagship ,which was in the planning stages.

Dolce and Gabanna are in trouble financially. They've shuttered their swanky Fifth Ave. showroom, let go the U.S. ceo and are not replacing that post. The new showroom will be decidedly less smart downtown in the land of SoWhat.

J.Mendel is also on the brink of collapse. Susan Sokol has been hired to save the ship, but the whole design studio save 1 or 2 people have all been let go. The spring collection was a clear indication all was not well. No runway show, few styles and sad ones at that. Susan Sokol is generally the advance person for the Grim Reaper.

Ralph Rucci is essentially broke, again. Too much of a good/same thing.

Kimorra Lee Simmons and Baby Phat are a House of Cards. Fabulosity is headed for Foreclosure

Andre Leon Talley is no longer the Court Favorite, or Jester for that matter. Is he headed to the Tower?

A foreign Editor of Vogue is starting to threaten the position of another Editor of Vogue. Advertising pages have dropped off steadily. Top Brass are questioning her tenure.

Liz Claiborne Co. is headed south. Desperate measures have been taken , but the Miziah is a false idol.

I'm not a cat, just your basic junk yard dog. At the same time when I see a tasty looking bone, I'm going to bite it and chew away.

Grade: P -

Todd Oldham
Patrick Robinson
Stores are all being rated at the moment because the 3rd quarter has just ended and we're on our way to the home finish of the fiscal year. Some performance levels are all being watched a, analyzed and judged. With the holidays looming, this is when most go for the gold. Unfortunately, this year will have very few finishers let alone winners. I know this sounds dull and redundant to hoe the same old tired earth, but there are a couple of things I found when studying this final analysis. Performance , or a stores profits and losses are not all tied to the consumer going broke over the course of a New York minute, but also product and it's validity, appeal and quality.

The usual suspects are not doing that well, the hyper LUXE chains like Saks , Niemans and Nordstroms. I always thought the rich stay rich and keep on shopping as long as the door is open. Not so , this time . Yes , they keep shopping but with less abandon and in more specific ways. Impulse purchasing is on the wane. Only really specific needs are being satisfied. Granted, those needs are pretty sweet, they aren't just going from department to department and buying something from each of them. It's a $10k custom made ostrich bag from Bottega and not the golden woven satin evening minaudiere as well. See, they are making judgement calls and taking one, not both.

The stores whose performances surprised me most were the Gap and Old Navy. These are very inexpensive chains with tons of product at prices many people can afford. You can go in and get a few things and still have a few dollars left for Red Lobster. Analysts from WWD, the NYTimes and Wall St. seem to think that the reason for the loss of profits and the customers ambivalence is not price but product. Lack of interest and the wow factor. Flat and boring looks that fail to inspire the customer. Fashion that isn't. Dullness. Boring unnecessary clothes. This is not the way this fairy tale was supposed to end. The Gap with Patrick Robinson at the helm and Todd Oldham steering Old Navy were touted as BRILLIANT creative directors to the rescue. It looks like neither has been particularly adept at the task. Both designers have lots of experience and in some circles are thought to even have talent. Neither have ever exhibited much vision in their past posts and it's unsurprising that they continue along the same path.

Patrick Robinson is a lot like Lars Nillson. He's a serial non-starter. He goes from one plum assignment to the next, but never stays long enough for the credits. Somewhere in the middle of the show he's left the building. Anne Klein, Perry Ellis , his own label, Armani, Paco Rabanne(that one still leaves me scratching my bald head)and now Gap. Having married a priestess at Vogue has been his one true success story. She has kept him in front of the press and is certainly instrumental in helping these choice jobs land in his lap. In his case it's sort of presumed talent by association. When Gap took him on, there was going to be a whole new look and a push to make the store a competitor with the likes of Banana Republic, Abercrombie, Club Monaco and J.Crew,don't let me forget Target. At this stage he's running the store behind Kmart and steadily into the dirt. I ask myself why. I answer my query with this: High fashion, middle market or the moderate to low end all calls for an imagination , talent and the ability to produce while working within a structure alongside a good team. He's unable to do these things that add up to a success story. Asked recently in an interview regarding his project with Target, the interwiewer asked how people can discover their own personal style. His answer was to cut out pictures from magazines and emulate what you see. When his personal style was questioned and he was asked who he models it after his answer was "no one" . It's his unerring taste and eye that has made him style himself. He said that jobs like Armani, Anne Klein, Rabanne a nd Perry Ellis were his chioce, the jobs were his choosing, not that he was recruited and hired....and fired. The hubris in that statement could sink a ship. His greatest desire at this moment is to find the"perfect bathing suit for his new swimming pool". How many times can they afford to going barrelling down the freeway against oncoming traffic?

Old Navy should be a no brainer. It is a brilliantly conceived idea for the marketplace. Take the latest trends, the staples of today's culture and churn it out at very very reasonable prices. Basically riff off the zeitgeist , follow what should be a strong Gap model and sell circles around it and the rest of the competition. That's not to say it's a task for anyone to pull off, but it's not brain surgery. What it does call for ,though, is a brain . Todd Oldham is that brain, or is supposed to possess one . Todd is an interesting subject. He had a collection for several years that was cleverly based on over the top clothes that spelled F-U-N. M-A-D-C-A-P. Coming from Texas and learning to sew on his Grandmother's sewing machine and finding his way to the big city, and on and on and on. Then he hits the big time. He's self deprecating, and humble and so Aw Shucks you just have to love him. Then the public tires of the same clothes season after season and his coterie of famous edgy celebrity pals. That includes Susan Sarandon, which I always found puzzling. After that circus packed it's tent along came Laz-Y-Boy. That was more of the Aw-Shucks I'm such a normal cool guy I want to make Laz-Y-Boy in my own image. Did you buy one? I didn't.

The gig at Old Navy, which was to be the lion's share of his projects and income is getting the same rap as Robinson's at Gap. Flat,dull, boring and not performing up to the expectations the company gad when he was hired. It looked good in the beginning. It was fashion being sold not just $9.00 polo shirts, but it's been diluted and not drawing the customer in or causing them to buy. Maybe he's spreading himself too thin. Maybe there is just too little to spread. Half the time he's in L.A. doing inane reality TV, which keeps him out of the studio and on channel 675 for 6 weeks at a time. That's valuable studio time for such an important position. Unlike the good old days when one created 3 collections a year, Old Navy has something insane like new product deliveries ever 4-6 weeks. Constant freshness. If you're missing in action then who's minding the store? It must be a team of assistants, but ones who need direction. Faxes and conference calls , sketches on napkins from Spago or the Chateau Marmont are probably not enough to lead the troops to victory. Todd and his partner in business and in life( notice the order in which I list the connection) seem to be so busy scoring the next deal that they neglect the ones that are already crowding their paper plate. It can't be Chinet, because it keeps falling to the ground.

We will see how these behemoth chains shake out in the 4th Quarter. I'm watching closely. Buying so-called talent has become a lesson in futility. The list of talent that keeps coming to the fore is consistent in it's lack of foresight and wisdom. This country , up until last week, has shown it is masterful at repeating the same mistakes again and again until they finally make such a big mistake they decide to make a change. I wish both designers luck. We'll see where the Wheel of Fortune stops. Vanna, give it one more spin and let's see if they can put together the puzzle.

The audience has the answer already: Grade : P -
( meaning: Passing , but below grade level)

Friday, November 7, 2008

This (kidney stone) Too Shall Pass.

Reading the paper this morning on the way to the office was very depressing. Stores like Niemans' and Saks and Nordstroms' are all sucking wind. Sam's Club and Costco are riding the crest , for now, but most everyone else is not. Louis Vuitton has wrapped itself in a Murakami insecurity blanket and nothing seems to sell unless it's 50-60% off.

Now on the one hand, it's attractive to many of us with little or no play money but the larger picture is turning black at it's edges and moving steadily towards no picture at all. I'm feeling a low grade sense of panic. I'm a fearless and undaunted breed, one who was bred in the times of the Pharaohs. But I'm also a cat of today. The reality and gravity of what has befallen us, and those of us in the fashion business is daunting, to say the very least. Getting depressed or paralyzed does nothing but invite more of the same. It also infects those around you and the environment in which you work and live. For that reason, I'm fighting the urge to panic, but it's a roller coaster of emotions that will not slow down.

Why would Louis Vuitton pull a Murakami blanket over it's head? What is a little splash of prohibitively expensive color going to do , when most people don't have a pot to .... in? To my mind, I find that idea absurd and irresponsible. Most of all, because the lure of the whole selling tool doesn't come with an incentive. Everything is priced at the top of the scale. The most you'll get at a bargain is perhaps a key chain. It's elitism at it's most brazen. Marc Jacobs has been in Paris too long. Time to come back to the hood for a bit of a reality check.

The present situation in this industry is a mix of facing facts or sticking your head in the sand, sand which has turned to quick sand. We must do something, and it's now or never. I won't indulge myself like I did last year. Friends and family will get more love than actual durable goods. Love and friendship tends to be more durable, anyway. Good times together and simple luxuries like dinner and films together at home, or trips to museums and places that open your eyes and soul are the food we need for sustenance. We need strength. The gym or simple exercise is much more satisfying to the body and soul than a new LV/Murakami garish bag, complete with vulgar decoration and a ridiculous price tag.

I honestly don't mean to karp away like an envious outsider with my nose pressed to the store window, but it just doesn't make sense. I am a player on the same field and am not even remotely removed from these repercussions, but I want to find a responsible way of managing this beast. I want to survive as much as the next person, but not at a cost that drives everyone away and me and my life's work into a ditch on the side of 7th Ave.

It feels like a large and angry kidney stone that must pass....and there is no detour for this one.
It's going down a one way street, and it appears to be gathering speed. My only hope is that the passing is swift and we can all get on with the business of life which starts with a big load of JOY!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's only a DRESS........

First off, We have a new President and his name is President- Elect Barack Obama!
I for one am extremely happy and relieved. This is so much greater than just an historic moment. It's America's chance to regain it's dignity, humility, honor and respectability. It's also the absolute definition and personification of that idea of CHANGE. I'm heartened and encouraged that perhaps we don't have to go down in flames after all. This cat has had at least 7 or 8 lives, but if this is my 9th, it will be one of the sweetest!

Those of us who are working stiffs,whether successful ones or less so, have been tossed around like ping pong balls for so long now, we've forgotten what it's like to enjoy a quiet , still moment. The possibility to relax one's mind and body is so foreign that it felt like something from childhood. The night of the election my mate and I had some of our closest friends over to watch the unfolding of history being made. We got a little crazy and decided sunday at Costco, history might unfold a little more dramatically in high definition on a 52" screen. So what the hell ,we crammed it into the car ( I lay on top of the box because I wasn't walking back to the city) and brought the monster home. Presumption led me to choose a menu decidedly 'SOULFUL'. That means: fried chicken,barbecued chicken, ribs,greens and enough Veuve Cliquot to serve everyone at Chicago's Grant Park.

The energy in NYC all day, from the polling centers to the subway and streets of midtown was surreal. When we all converged at the apartment it was a veritable United Nations. From my German boyfriend another German and A Swiss , to a Lebanese, Jamaican, Martinquean,New Zealander and 2 of us who are Americans, it was a world wide audience. The jokes and comments were flying with every ones own particular take on the country, the McCainPalin pas de deux, and the hopes and fears for our future. It was hard for me to sit still and just watch the returns, so I stayed busy bringing in and out food and bubbly . My faith was sound but my nerves were shot. All I could think about was if things didn't go the right way, the horror of what 9/11 did to our lives ,businesses/jobs, sense of security inside and out ,and the present nightmare with it's ground hog day effect might just brake my flagging optimism. So I kept moving.

When the west coast states closed their polls and in a matter of seconds Obama was over the top with electoral college votes and named President -Elect, you could feel the earth rumble. Maybe it was the subway, but I choose to see it as a major ground shift. Such an incredible moment. Guys were crying and holding each other, hugs and kisses were flying all over the room and a new day had dawned at 11p.m. at night.

My mother called, who had worked the polls in my hometown from 6a.m. til 9p.m. at 78 years old. She was in tears telling me how happy and proud she was. She wished that my grandparents had lived long enough to see a country that had discriminated against them and my parents and me for that matter, finally turn around and pay a man of color the highest honor, and vote him into the highest office. I felt so incredibly good inside and so much love and respect for my parents and Grand parents who sacrificed so much for me and so many others like me. Watching the crowd in Chicago and seeing Oprah and Jesse Jackson and so many people in tears made me realize just how momentous this is. Even Andre Leon Talley stood there in the crowd . There was no V.I.P. section. Everyone stood together. Like it should be. Americans first....celebs second.
The concession speech was impressive and filled with good will and humility. Fortunately, Ms. Palin was mute. Cindy McCain was very beautiful in what could only have been Oscar de la Renta. That woman has taste and great style and the bucks to pull it off. Still, that suit was perfection.

When President Obama and his family came out to greet the masses it was an electric moment.
We all have waited so loooong for this election to happen and it was finally over. The First Family looked so real and so natural and happy. It was mind boggling how cool they all were in view of the reality that was that moment. All eyes were on Michelle Obama and her dress. Comments were ricocheting off the walls as to what she was wearing. No one knew. It was puzzling in it's unusual detail. My feeling is very personal. People make choices to please themselves except for those with stylists and handlers. I knew there would be an uproar but SO WHAT.....Actually, I was amused and thrilled that it obviously wasn't Oscar, the GO-TO GUY for every political maven for the last 3 administrations.

It appears that Narciso Rodriguez was the lucky guy. I'm happy for him, I'm glad Michelle Obama, our new First Lady, exercises her free will in her choices in fashion and the press and armchair experts should take a chill pill and get over themselves.

Like it or not, for God's sake......IT'S ONLY A DRESS.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Turn of the Screw

Today is the 1st of November. I just love autumn. So many things which were alive and fresh and vibrant are now dried, dying and tumbling to the ground. The same is happening with the trees and foliage.... The attrition rate between man and nature is a road race that man appears to be winning.

As much as I hate change personally, I get a kick out of it all around me. Seems everything is moving at a faster and faster rate. Politically, we're steamrolling into the station called Obamaton,D.C. It's looking like a freshly scrubbed metropolis of the future. Monumental ,yet people friendly. Money is scarce but hope is is alive and starting to fill the pockets of the masses. It's going to be the currency with which we conduct the business of life for a while.

I'm amused to read that in the business of fashion, designers are weighing in on how they plan to weather the Tsunami that is building and at this very moment is about 100 miles off the coast, each one of our coasts. DVF is cutting only what's ordered. Peter Som has finally gotten the heave ho from Blass so he'll concentrate on his namesake collection, which believe me needs some concentration but is also a much better fit. Oscar is chopping away at expenses but building more freestanding stores. Tory Burch is "connecting" more personally with her clients and "asking them more of what it is they want. Tahari doesn't know what they're doing and others like Cynthia Rowley are opening stores in the far east and stocking their own stores , so as not to rely on major dept. stores more than they must.

Yet others have grander, more vaunted /veiled solutions. This was rich. Ralph Rucci is going to work more with his archival fabrics and buy much less. Translation: he's overbought for years, has a ton of old stuff sitting on shelves in storage and none of the top luxury fabric suppliers is in a rush to sell him more , because he still hasn't paid for the old stuff he's going to work with this season. Sounds harsh, but that comes from sources in the industry who wish to stay anonymous. He also plans to do his fantastic embroideries and surface treatments which are part of his trademark In HOUSE. No more Lesage in Paris or other embroiderers abroad, but some good old home grown talent. This is clever thinking.... keep those jobs on Main St. and not on Rue de Over-prixed. But when asked how this will affect his prices he was very quick to say that there would be no change in price because the labor is so expert and intensive. If anything the prices will rise, which is appropriate for his precious creations.He doesn't learn that you have to give a little to get a little. Fabrics alone which have passed the year mark lose their value. They can depreciate by as much as 25% . this is a drop in overhead expense right there. Another anonymous source who is a buyer says that they are not doing well. They are "trying " to get people in to buy. Where is the logic. There is no logic. In the past 2-3 months Ralph has been honored at the White House and at the Cooper Hewitt and as a result he must think his press speaks for him and for itself. He has been chosen.... Chosen is a multi faceted word with many sharp edges to it. I fear he may wake up and see a house of cards that's blown itself right off the map.

If Chanel is categorically lowering the prices by 10-15% at least for the pret a porter, why aren't we seeing how we can do the same? Instead , companies like J.Mendel have hired industry experts like Susan Sokol to come in and move the mountains and stem the tide. She went to Vera Wang to do the same, and Michael Kors, and Pegasus , and Donna Karan ,maybe even Calvin Klein, not to mention her own consulting firm. This blond Rain maker is a size 4 messiah with blown out hair. That company needs design direction and a sharp pencil. Instead, they've let go of the bulk of the design team and staff and have hired her instead. She doesn't sew, she commands a huge salary and is full of wildly impractical solutions. Grow it, grow it, grow it is her mantra. I don't know, but I smell the smallest trace of smoke.

So change is in the are. The screw turns and some are setting themselves up to be screwed. Time for some humility and tough choices. Hubris has gone the way of a new Bentley's just this side of way too expensive.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Getting on with it

Life is all about moving forward. Forward motion whether we want it or not, but moving on we must. I've been feeling a bit stuck these days for a number of reasons. The past 6 months or so have been a lesson in humility. The universe has decided to spin on a whole new axis, one that seems to revolve in a slowed but multi-directional motion. No 2 days are even remotely similar. The whole static aspect we once knew of as "life as we know it" is a fast retreating memory.

Today is all about life as we've just discovered it. As people of the free world, we're faced with mind numbing shifts and altered states. You have it,then you don't ,then you might ,then you do, but the email you're reading at that very moment informs you that you don't , you didn't , in fact you haven't for longer than you thought. So what gives? Confusion is the only thing that's crystal clear.How does fashion work it's way into this narrative? I don't know....bear with me, I'm getting around to it, I think.

I took a rather drastic step the other day and went to a healer. A spiritual one. What a fantastic experience. I won't presume to speak for you, but my life hasn't been particularly satisfying of late. Not a lot of joy. Work is a mix of frustration and fear, my personal life is pretty sweet compared to most , but on my Crapometer the arrow is in the danger zone. So I thought that if I can't control or fix the world outside, maybe I can do some thing about my inner world, the one that ultimately counts the most. I learned a lot. The main realisation is that I have found ingenious ways of getting in my own way and making it nearly impossible to move forward or in any direction other than backwards and downwards. Those are not routes I desire. Sylvia made it pretty clear that I was standing dead still on a very blocked dead end. One without even a scenic view. The location of this dead end wasn't in a fashionable area, either (see I'm working my way around to it).

The experience boiled down to recognizing this un chic fact, getting my bearings and choosing to head in a different direction. One that pointed due forward. Letting go of the past and finding the thing that brought me so much joy and satisfaction not so long ago appeared to be the mission. When I realized how much I blame the world and forces/people around me for my unhappiness, it was all really of my own making. There was no smoking gun , no bad guy in the shadows with the controls, but just me.I'd venture to say that the same goes for more than just me .

Ambitious, passionate people are delicately wired and susceptible to the most insidious of malaise. As a creative sort, I'm unusually sensitive to and aware of my surroundings. My pillow and down comforter and so cozy bed have recently become my preferred surrounding. That's not a good sign when the sun is shining or the rain is pouring and you have a job to do. The world outside my front door may be unpredictable,troubled, even a bit dangerous , but it's the world I live in. Bad times come and then it makes a nice space for good to fill. I choose to make room for some good. Fashion is so much fun, so fascinating and such a compelling language to read,write and debate over. Thanks to my indomitable spirit, insane optimism and a woman named Sylvia I think I caught myself just in time.

I feel ready and willing to get on with it. I wish we all would. This landscape would look so different and so much better.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Twittering: I don't get it.....

Hey, What's up? I just cleaned the litter box and went for a facial and manicure...and a massage. how do I look ? Better for it all?

Concept : Followers...aka Fans!

As a rather novice blogger I'm a bit of a kitty with a ball of yarn. I play , toss, chew and on occasion hump this helpless toy not knowing it's real essence and value. Well , I know it's value, because next to this keyboard and a friend or 2 , it's the thing I like to claw and cuddle more than anything in my well stocked toy chest. Recently I had the pleasure of receiving my first official follower, MissWhitney T.. I'm touched and flattered that she took the time and energy to make this kind gesture.

I write as the spirit moves me. Some months I am moved a lot, others not as much. In general, I'm moved on a pretty regular basis. I do it because I really enjoy it. It's a release. When you live and work in this parallel universe called Fashion, it's necessary to make periodic visits to reality. The air is so thin there. Your brain and as a consequence your world view and values can get skewed.Writing about the comic and dramatic turns of the fashion screw is a way of letting go and letting God/Buddha/Reverend Moon....

My concern is that I'm writing something with some value, judging from some of the comments I receive which are consistent in content: "this should be required reading for people in the industry and those who want a balanced take on the business". When I see these comments, I feel like perhaps I'm doing something right. For this reason I'd love for this blog to be more on main street and not solidly on a back street. Don't get me wrong...there's so much more fun to be had in a dark back alley than under the glare of street lights, but you need them for more people to see.

So I guess the point of this is to invite you all to read , comment and add to the fun I have on an almost daily basis. The more followers/fans the better. We all need to feel that our efforts whatever they are go appreciated and so thanks for reading. The counter shows me that many of you have peeked , and for that I'm very grateful.

One Saturday night last march when I wrote my first post, I never thought it would become such an important part of my life. I'd never written more than letters as a kid and emails. No one was more surprised than I to see that this all took on a life of it's own. Now I can't imagine not putting my 2 cents worth in . The NYTimes blog "On the Runway" is one I follow and add comments to, but with it's clubby atmosphere it can be off putting. Here I have freedom to just be.

We all need outlets for our thoughts, opinions and rants. I'm glad I found this. Just last night , my mate told me blogging is over and now it's time to Twitter. I gave up alcohol and substances 14 years ago, so I'm not sure that Twittering violates my sobriety, but I'll certainly sniff at it. Meanwhile, I'm a dedicated blogger, whether in or out of fashion. That certainly is not a new concept for me!

Friday, October 24, 2008

what goes up must come down.

Something is happening and it's not a good thing.

Very quickly and slowly but steadily, some once very solid and powerful companies in fashion are starting to crumble. You can hear the sound of bits and pieces of things falling apart and shattering on the pavement. None of this is front page news, and hopefully will stay out of the papers for their sake, but there is a rumbling in the jungle and it's the sound of disbanding tribes.

Rumor is just that. The only problem with rumors are that they're too often based on undocumented fact or not so well kept secrets. The mill is grinding and some of whats spilling out is a bit surprising and in some cases shocking. The economy is in a downward spiral; one that will be gathering speed before leveling and starting a halting ascent. This is a fact that none of us really wants to accept. The unfortunate truth of this is telecast and written about daily in the press. One day the stock market is up up. The next several days it's down down, and down some more. The downs are outdistancing the ups. Do the math.

In former times, this sort of thing scorched those of us unlucky enough to be solidly stuck in the middle and others less fortunate. This time around everyone in some way is getting singed or fried. People I know at the top of the heap have lost large chunks of their fortunes, others don't feel a thing. Most people I know are suffering in ways they never have. From a lost sense of control, to a lost job, home, and worst of all, hope. When you add these factors into the volatile daily markets and then look at the place that the luxury market inhabits you start to see that there will be inevitable fissures that must form.

Today Oscar de la Renta opened a new boutique in Madrid. Smart move. The Euro still has buying power. Thank god the dollar is starting to crawl back and narrow the exchange rate gap between the two. Nevertheless, there are whispers that he will downsize his operation here. Namely, the design studio will be trimmed with several positions terminated. Oscar is one of the most successful houses on 7th Avenue. That isn't a good thing. Granted, it's probably prudent when you have more than you actually need, but this is a company with the means to carry some fat.

Bill Blass is all but a memory. It's not even news anymore. I saw Michael Groveman on the street the other day and said hello. I wished him well and he gave me a brave smile, but his eyes spoke volumes. The same could be said of several people exiting 550 7th on any given day. That used to have an aura of Mecca. These days people don't look quite as sure. The smokers smoke with a sense of urgency and unease. Expressions which were once blithe are more grim. One doesn't even see the phalanx of town cars and drivers double parked in front like 6 months ago. It's more ghost town than hot spot.

J.Mendel has layed off almost it's entire design studio. When you consider the beauty and exquisite collections of evening clothes they have developed over the last 5 years and consider that they have basically shut off the power , that's not a good thing. They have been one of the most visible and luxe collections on the scene and giving the old guard a run for it's money. So now what? Back to fur ,only? That's even more expensive and less accessible than their ever more expensive gowns and cocktail dresses. The spring collection was notably spare and looked cobbled together in retrospect........

There are persistent rumors that Ralph Rucci has been on the brink for months. No more couture presentations in Paris for 2 seasons now. Suppliers suggesting that bills are not being paid. Still these are some of the most expensive and extraordinary clothes to be found anywhere.

Most unsettling is the prospect of a powerhouse like Dolce and Gabbana pulling back the reins.I hear that they have not rehired the CEO who was let go. The NYC showroom is being seriously downsized and is moving to much smaller digs downtown . There is talk that the company is headed for a serious restructuring. Not good news.

What could be considered good news in all of this is that a reality check is finally in the air. Everyone is starting to rethink how life and work should function. Up Up Up is the Icarus theory. Fly too close to the sun and SPF2000 isn't going to protect you. The wake up call is ringing and Snooze control no longer functions. We all better rethink and regroup and re prioritize while we have the luxury of very little time to do it. I for one want to weather this storm. I would imagine most people would. Responsible decisions and actions were never more important as they are this very moment.

One would do well not to heed the siren's call and step away from the cliff's edge.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fashion UN-Reality TV: The Undoing of an Industry

Tonight Fashion TV,which is hyped as reality television, scraped bottom. I've seen it coming for quite a while now with shows like Project Runway and America's Top Model and that bottom most feeding show til tonight, Kimora,Life in the Breakdown Lane. Tonight an all new low was dredged with STYLISTA. This is probably the biggest embarrassment of all. Elle Magazine has decided to cash in and flush their credibility down the collective Fashion Ave. john. Ann Slowey, editor in chief along with Joe Zee and other celebrity judges have decided to put a series of ego maniacal wannabe junior editors to the test. The grand prize being a job for a year at the magazine and an all expenses paid apt. and a years worth of uber- stylish duds from H&M.

I warmed up by watching the Top Model Tyra Banks and a bevy of unqualified "models" vie for a chance to become America's TOP model. That was enough to put me off cable for good. But Stylista made me want to toss my flat screen out the window. These shows prove that nothing is for the benefit of the misled contestants and all about self promotion for some questionable leaders of this suffering industry. Appalling doesn't begin to describe the 6 ring circus that ensued. It is embarrassing and depressing to see how these people who's success has been built in this business take it and toss it to the dogs. Fashion is or was an honorable profession. Not anymore if this is the new barometer.

Ann Slowey pretends to be the Anna Wintour of the Devil wears Prada. What was so pathetic from the very first, she was ridiculously overdressed, totally unable to walk in her heels in EVERY scene and acted cold, harsh and absurd. The criticism and qualities pronounced by her and her cohorts as to what makes a fashion editor was vapid, empty headed and false. What is most disturbing is this is the KOOL-AID the public now drinks. Scripted junk with naive sheep going to slaughter. As someone who is and has been apart of this industry for many years, I was in a complete state of disbelief. Actually, that isn't any longer true. I do believe what I witnessed and it made me want to get as far away from this business as possible.

Just because our economy and values in this country have gone due south doesn't mean we need to sell out , but sell out we have. The only reason for this vile display must be money. These editors and judges are already very well paid. They command the highest salaries in their fields, but still the greed is uncontrolled. The in fighting between contestants, their total lack of self respect or sense of proportion is out there for all to see. I for one can't watch. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Saddest of all is there will be no survivors. A deserted island is what Seventh Avenue has become. A dark,dangerous , booby trapped ditch filled with poisonous snakes and quicksand.

Not my idea of fun and certainly not anything with any redeeming value. My cable bill just got a lot less expensive. I cancelled my subscription to fashion hell. The reality is challenge enough without TRUMPED up offal to add such a nauseating stench.

CNN is looking better every day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sofia Coppola to design Shoes and Accessories for LV

This appointment was something almost has heart stopping as Obama getting the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. Marc Jacobs , all the folks at LVMH and it's fearless ,feckless leader Bernard Arnault hit pay dirt when they signed on the would be design director and film maker .

I vaguely remember she ran a t-shirt stand with one of her girlfriends, Zoe Cassavettes or Paris Hilton, or someone highly placed. It was called Milk, or something viscous and white. If I remember correctly ,she didn't exactly hit that ball out of the park. Now as first friend of Marc Jacobs, the plummy assignment goes to her. One must wonder what the studio staff of assistants, let alone the design director of shoes and accessories must think. Kind of a puzzling turn of the screw.

It seems to be enough to be best pals ,show up at most photo ops dressed in Marc/LV and be somewhat mysterious. But I have friends like that who I wouldn't appoint as key players in my business or life's work. Even the ones who have a touch of notoriety.

Surely, this rant sounds mean spirited and petty, but these are huge responsibilities which people devote years of training and experience, then a celebutant walks out of the dressing room and smack into the front office. Marc Jacobs has become someone with somewhat skewed judgement. The Galliano factor has infected him, with Tom Ford complications. The main difference is that they remained extremely professional in their executive choices. Unlike them, Marc will appoint his dog walker,Colonic therapist and Vortex Healer to take on more of his responsibilities in just a matter of time. Already the collection shows signs of randomness. Guzzle enough non-alcoholic kool-aid and you'll be seeing stars.

The ad with Sofia and Big Daddy laying in the tall grass of Argentina with a Vuitton bag in the foreground, is so trite. Daddy's little girl laying at Pop's feet as he instructs her on writing a complete sentence. I fear he is giving her tips on what a shoe REALLY is....what the idea of what encompasses an ACCESSORY. The most disheartening thing in that photograph is that she wasn't taking notes. These are important details she NEEDS to remember.

Considering no one in these large organizations actually designs,only approves, tweaks and gives the green light....nothing seems to get the red light anymore, it's a pretty simple task. Lay on the pavement in some picturesque Parisian park with a pile of shoes tossed around and a film crew .
There you have it. Broad footed Francis trying on a few platforms and peeky-toes to show his approval and you've got SUCCESS writ LARGE.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Who needs Forever.

As much as we love to have really fantastic clothes,accessories, objects,shoes, toys and more toys, what is the real value? Well there's lots to value. Nothing is sweeter than the most perfect fitting suit or the most luscious alluring dress.Or a drop dead pair of shoes for that matter. I personally go crazy over a beautiful painting or pieces of ancient Chinese porcelain. I'd kill for an Egyptian Ibis with bronze legs, jeweled eyes and a body carved in wood ,still intact after a few thousand years. I'd take that to a coop on Park any day of the week. A flawlessly bred German or Dutch dressage horse less than 10 years old might induce me to sell some of the other goodies. But nowadays with things looking a little gray and not terrifically hopeful,why not settle for some of the simpler , less expensive pleasures?

For instance, how about taking maybe $200. and see how many steals there are at UNIQLO? That store was designed for hard times. I have the greatest cashmere sweaters in about 5 colors, a PERFECT Pea coat, the best fitting jeans and a couple of dress shirts . I swear I spent 2-225. tops. You can't buy a decent pair of good shoes for that. Now assuming you have a decent pair of shoes, everyone of those pieces will look like you spent a fortune. People will actually ask you where you got it. Quality does not have to come with a price tag that gives you chest pains.

Shopping is one of those things that give a lot of people a lift. Out of control shopping is not the answer , but after a particularly shitty week like this one was, it's nice to get yourself a little somethin' somethin'. A good long hot bath does it too, but once you're dry, what a treat it is to slip on something cool.

Shops like Uniqlo,Zara,Club Monaco and the great bastions of the MARKDOWN like Lehman's, I mean Loehman's and Filene's Basement and Daffy's have some amazing finds. Sure it's not glamourous like the A list but there is HOTNESS to be found. Just the act of the hunt takes your mind off of how much you sucked wind this past week,month...year. I am not a shopper as a rule. I know it doesn't sound like it, but when you eat ,breath choke on fashion as I do, stores are not always that appealing. I'm much to analytical and impatient in most. I want a zen my higher power led me to a pair of Prada loafers for 140 marked down from 425. Dealing with the bullshit of shopkeepers who think they are their clients is an exercise in annoyance. Finding things on my own is much more fun, and when it's a deal, then all the better.

Some of us do not feel the crunch.Those fortunate few can still shop on the street of dreams, no matter how nightmarish the expense, but more and more, folks are taking it a bit easier and slower, and cheaper. Fabulous investments, just fewer at a time. Shopping directly from designers is one route. It's a perfect marriage, really. Total selection from a collection at a fraction of retail. Second hand designer shops are a juicy treat . I just like my clothes to be mine, first and last. I don't love wearing something that already housed another soul. Who knows if they were nice people,smart people or even stylish people. You could be donning some tainted crap that looks fine to the naked eye. I'll stick to new, whether it's grade b,c or d.

So this little missive is just a suggestion. Don't get bummed if the 1200. Jimmy Choo isn't in the cards this week. take your shoes to a great cobbler, have the soles cleaned up, the uppers refreshed and cleaned and put together a new look. Something old , something new, something stolen, something GREEN! The party is far from over, it just switched location for a bit. A hot, sexy you is a happy beautiful you.

Forever is a silly idea with little variation. Let's keep shakin' it up. Who knows who or what we'll find?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Growing Pains: Narciso Rodriguez

How is it that so few medium sized design houses grow to the so called next level? I don't know. Do you?

Last week in WWD and the Wall Street Journal a story ran on the break up of Liz Claiborne and Narciso Rodriguez. This was a bit of a surprise. When they got into bed together,I think it cost them about 12 million to get him into said bed, the whole industry crowed over his great good fortune. Words like SYNERGY and DNA and HUGE GROWTH POTENTIAL were tossed around like usual in these "marriages". Narciso couldn't have been more happy and Claiborne was thrilled to have some prime designer beef on their menu. The talk was all about growing the brand and branching out into areas of great revenue building products. Licences for a bevy of things, the collection having strategic financing behind it so that it could blast off into Retail heaven and other parallel universes. Everyone seemed so satisfied with their brilliant business plan.

What I found confusing was why would a company so corporate and so totally devoid of creativity and imagination beyond dreaming up Haute Spread sheets, want to get naked with Narciso. The language barrier alone should have caused some concern. He doesn't speak CORP and they don't speak anything other than CORP. I don't think they have even decipherable hand gestures that could be used for communication..... Yet they got married before the first date and declared it a marriage made in Big Biz heaven.

I have always loved is work and think he's by far one of the greatest contemporary designers in NYC and the world for that matter. His business like many has it's financial struggles. NO CASH FLOW seems to be the malaise of just about every design house in New York unless you are an Oscar,Carolina,Donna,Calvin or Ralph. A few more roll along like Proenza Schouler with the infusion of 4 million or so from Valentino and Zac Posen does pretty well with the help of P.Diddy,aka Puffy,aka Sean John,aka Sean Puffy Combs, aka the Gangsta Designa!. Otherwise, everyone else for the most part struggles. Oh, Marchesa does ok with Daddy Weinstein at the rudder...... But Narciso was doing a pretty respectable job with a co. bringing in 4 or 5 million a year in revenues. So why get tied up with a faithless lover like Liz?

That is a rather facetious question. If you're offered 12 million for 1/2 your company,about 8 million more than it's actual worth , and you're tired of sweating the cost of overhead every week, you'd probably say YES, too. So I figure that that is what happened. The problem arises when you wake up the next morning and realize you've just been had by the big bad wolf. These realizations don't take months to become get the drift after the first kiss. I'm a strong believer in the efficacy of the first kiss. It better be great, it should be like sticking your finger in an electrical socket or no deal. Anything short of that and I'm up and out of there. Taste and technique , not to mention a pleasing smell count for a whole lot. Any of those components missing or all of them no where in sight signals a NO GO. Something tells me a company like Claiborne is not gifted in the art of romance. They are probably masters in the school of FRISK and CAVITY SEARCH.

That said ,I was not surprised to hear of the sudden divorce. The reasons were what knocked me over. I don't mean the lack of SYNERGY(duh) or missing chromosomes of the all important DNA(double duh), but the amount of money that was blown over this match. The numbers still boggle my mind. Claiborne lost 15 million dollars on 4 million dollars of revenue. What kind of Business Model is that? Sounds almost REPUBLICAN, even BUSHISH. What did they spend it on? Do you remember unusually noisy press on the branding of Narciso over the past several months? Did the collections seem anything extraordinarily different than before? Did anything about the 2 parties resound in your consciousness? Not mine.

So another brilliant marriage heads south. It's harder to get married than it is to get divorced. It's tougher to grow a business even when you're a star.. Fortunately he got his business back 100%. Liz may even have to pay him more money in the settlement. For that, I'd have to say, well done! Quick fixes just don't seem to work. Nothing easy comes without a huge price.
what is the lesson in all of this? If you're entering into an arrangement with a behemoth like Liz Claiborne or another industry GIANT, make sure you get in touch with the same lawyers Narciso has.

It will be a PAY DAY you'll never forget.