Monday, May 26, 2008

Blass is Past.

How do you take an American Fashion Institution such as Bill Blass and destroy it in less than 7 years? A house that has flourished and lead the pack for over 30 odd years.
You cash in (Bill did exactly that) and put in place a sketchy designer , hand picked by Blass : Steven Slowick and watch the clients and press turn their backs, enmasse.
When that placebo fails to take, and for Blass' sake he dies, you have a president of a co. who just starts flailing in the dark. Ah ,hell, let's hire that swedish guy , the one that can't keep a job anywhere in Europe.......Lars Nillson. He even hires Lars' alter ego, the one who actually has a tad of talent,Herve Pierre. Herve will go on to do the heavy lifting, though most will unknowingly credit Lars. Word in the back alley is that, yet again, Anna Wintour orchestrates that hire, like EVERY major hire here and across that standing water filled ditch. Vogue declares it a brilliant match but the clients and collective press again find this double dose too prickly to swallow ; Something about it's being too esoteric.
By now the president is grabbing at straws and hires Michael Vollbracht. This match is so spectacularly unsuitable that the clients and press stand with their mouths open like watching a car crash in slow motion. Too awful to turn away , but with the hope that something or someone will survive. Water is rising and a flood is sure to come, but maybe a dam can be built just in time...... Michael works valiantly towards this end but that dam is built on the bones of too many broken promises , broken backs, and too few solid bits of ground. He is smart enough to exit stage left.
Now for the denouement everyone knew must come. The last ditch hire is a long tediously drawn out affair with the pathetic result of Peter Som named Creative Director.This one has a track record that resembles a 3 legged horse entered in the Kentucky Derby. The reasoning for this choice/mistake is that Peter had been an INTERN during the last years of Blass' life. He did a short stint as an assistant designer just before Blass retired. Ironically, he was passed over for Slowick when the position needed filling. So he gets the brass ring! The darkness is so dense it's a wonder that anyone saw anything. Whatever they saw of his first and most likely last collection was a bit of this and not much of that. No one was surprised.
Last week the papers were filled with the collective weakening health of NexCen , the parent company of Blass, Athlete's Foot,etc. I think that Blass was not protected from the fungus that runs rampant in companies like NexCen and is now hopelessly infected. So what does a co. like them do when a limb is gangrenous? Why they do the only selfless thing they can...they cut it off at the knee. Blass which sold for 54million is now on the chopping block for 17million and change. Why not just give it a decent burial and be done with it?
Blass deserved better than he got. Legacy's used to have value, but then again Washington has shown us what a hopelessly out of date sentiment that is.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Costume Institute Balls. From the Sublime to the Redundant.

What happened to the PARTY of the year?????

That soiree of truly magnificent proportion has morphed into an over priced, un-appetizing deb ball for the crass and ignominious. Watching the swells, swollen and decidedly UN-swan like emerge from their black Suburbans and stretch white Hummers took me on a nostalgia trip from glamourous days thence. I honestly don't dwell in the past when the present is so jammed with excitement, change, innovations in science,society,fashion, fun and cell phones. But that party was the benchmark of each successive year. The raising of the style bar, as it were. It was the barometer for the state of chic.Perhaps it was just a fever dream , something that wasn't real only seemed so. The cool of that event was writ LARGE in every ones collective consciousness. Now, one needs to call in a specialist, most likely a Crassiologist, to take the temperature of this shindig . To get a proper reading of this thing, he wouldn't be helped by using these up to the minute computerized thermometers. No ear inserted or temple testing job could possibly get an accurate reading. This procedure calls for the good old fashioned ,tried and true, never off by so much as a 10th of a degree mercury laden little glass rod..
When the GAUNTLET is peopled with celebutants, both would-be, won't-be,used to be and never-be's, add in Musicians, Stars and starlets (out on day passes from too many rehab institutions worth naming) one witnesses a stew never meant to see the light of day, let alone a cameras' flash. I was always told by my mother it was not nice to stare at dead bodies, car wrecks on the side of the road or the truly insane. She thought it ill mannered , disrespectful and unseemly. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to thank god you were less F****** than these other unfortunates. This fetid dish being served up was like a stew with a most unsavory smell. Kind of like vegetables gone bad. It is a jolt to the senses when you see the Chairperson of the evening, Anna Wintour,actually looking her age .This year, without a thread of irony, she looked outfitted to pay homage to that recently deceased patroness and philanthropic LIONESS of this great town, Brooke Astor. The thought was sweet but the reality of such a risky choice fell short of the mark. Ok, so someone needs to pick up that Diadem and run with it, but that's what we have Ivana Trump who-ever for...or Jayne Wrightsman, also not so warm or cuddly. A bad dress choice does not a pillar of society make. Bea Schaeffer, looked appropriately over-dressed. One can only imagine her and Hamish Bowles fighting over who would get to wear that ruffled, train wreck of a gown. I hear Bea is a tough cookie. The apple rarely falls far from the shopping bag.
So again we have some key players who failed to inspire. Beyond them was a roster of tabloid ruffage that too clearly resembled hash: the corned beef variety. There's an old joke that goes: What do you get when you have a hot tub filled with lepers? .....STEW. Well, that night was a bling- filled can of B List DINTY MOORE.
There was a time when the event was hosted by such luminaries as Ms.Vreeland, Pat Buckley, Mica Ertegun, Chessy Raynor and Annette de la Renta. Babes like Lynn Wyatt,Deeda Blair, Slinky Carolyne Roehm Kravis,and beautious mannequins such as Iman, Carla Bruni,Linda, Christy,Shalom, etc. When these girls descended the grand staircase after dinner there was a moment of silence. Glamour, chic, beauty, style ,everything was in the HOUSE. There were no phalanxes of beefy security, cordoned off VIP sections or defined have/have-not areas. Everyone just mingled.People left that evening feeling like they'd experienced a truly NEW YORK moment.
I remember a really sweet Tom Ford fresh off his Gucci success, shaking hands with everybody and humbly accepting congratulations from absolutely everyone there. He looked like the proud Bar Mitzvah boy just after getting through his 45 minute journey to manhood.
Crazy things could happen too. Some fortuitous and others were just down right FABULOUS.
One glittering night near evening's end, my date and I glided into the wing which houses the Temple of Dendur. The first cluster we saw was Pat Buckley, that years' Chairperson, with a gaggle of walkers. With the ubiquitous cigarette dangling from those clever lips, she was the epitome of high voltage cool. A posse of walkers were so busy hanging on her every word, they must have lost track of their Poodles. Pat had done her job and was letting her freak flag fly.
She looked up from her circle and smiled. Next thing we knew she took a step towards us and called over a waiter to bring us a couple of flutes of champagne. We stood rooted not knowing what to say or do beyond a "thanks, great party Mrs. Buckley". Then she says to Bernie, my date, "Honey you are the loveliest woman here this evening. And you're wearing a divine dress. Who designed it?" That was a truly fantastic moment.(I'd done the dress. ) Believe me , her charm ,manners and grace along with countless priceless treasures are buried deep in the basement of that venerable institution,never again to see the light of day or night.
The most fortuitous moment occurred at another years celebration. Bernie and I turned up for drinks and dessert with the rest of the plebes. Mingling and taking in the circus is the point of being there. This particular night an editor from a big magazine was following us around. Finally, the junior editor stopped Bernie and asked who did her dress. She pointed to me and I pointed to my # on a cocktail napkin. The editor wanted to pull some LOOKS for an upcoming cover shoot so who was I to say no? Long story short, I SCORED. Not bad for 150 bucks and no dinner.
Nowadays, that electricity no longer crackles in the air.The BALL comes along with almost a whisper until you read about it the next day. When you look at what the cat dragged in(no;DOG) you're glad you saved the $500 dessert ticket and put it towards 2 seats for the Little Mermaid on Broadway. At least that's amusing and they know how to act.
Maybe the question isn't what happened, but why?