Saturday, January 18, 2014

Golden Globes and Oscar: Red Carpet is a River of Blood

The Globes actually took me by surprise last week. All of my energy was directed to the National Figure Skating Championships and who would get named to the US team. The more time passes the farther away from the fray I've drifted. I remember the days when the award season was all that any self respecting designer thought about. This year's Globes limped along like last year and the year before with a red carpet that resembled a river of blood quite literally before air time when some water sprinklers got too hot next to artificial lights spewing filthy dirty water onto the carpet. The maintenance crews jumped to it mopping and drying it as best they could before the first regrettable train dragging gowns appeared. Tuning in for the pre-show fashion parade was not on my list but Anton suggested I might want to see first hand and not hear about it the next day. To give you an idea of the degree of my enthusiasm, I would rather have packed the car, gotten out of E Hampton and onto a Long Island Expressway traffic jam than listen to the inane people they've dragged the river to stand and ask the stars who/what they're wearing and little or nothing about why they were there.

I was neither surprised or disappointed watching the stars herded to the waiting mikes like animals going through a station by station check-in with an eventual neutering at the end (Fashion Police). It was a grim march that seemed completely lacking in excitement, surprise, wonderment or humor. A horror show in broad daylight without so much as a drop of elegance. From the moment I saw Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine", I knew the award for best actress was Cate Blanchett's to lose and ditto for her appearance on the red carpet. No one has the ammo like she does with the exception of Charlize Theron.

Instead of drawing the whole spectacle out I thought I'd just say whom I thought looked best which includes everything: manners, grace, attitude, carriage, dignity, mystique, elegance, humility and humanity. That's a lot to cull from just a woman in a dress but hey, that's my criteria... Cate didn't disappoint. Not only was her Armani Prive couture dress beautiful and appropriate, it was unlike any of the other dresses there. Light, dignified and provocative in the same breath and fit like a second skin. If you noticed whenever the camera rested on her seated at her table she was a vision of self possession and an object of real beauty. Her static quality was like a still figure in a charging mass. But when she collected her Best Actress award she was as alive, unexpectedly candid and excited as a kid at Christmas. It was impressive. It was a classy moment.

Not so much the rest of the proceedings. The party line for the evening for the press and fashion hounds was that this year's key word was Haute Couture. The press starting with (maybe) the NY Times stated that any actress worth her weight in star power was ONLY being given couture to wear and they along with their savvy, brilliant stylists were"working" directly with the best fashion houses to make that couture gown uniquely and only one-of-a-kind-ish-ly JUST for that star. Sounds like a big deal only that's been going on for years. Sorry nothing new in that story except that it was the "official" story of the season. Still there were so many actresses that looked ok at best and awful in the cold light of a late Hollywood afternoon.

I loved the "homages" that kept me and  I'm sure many of you guessing. The first red flag were the pictures in the Times of Tom Ford's designs for Gwynneth Paltrow (white cape over white column) and Julianne Moore ( black and white gown in geometric wedges of contrasting color). One of the first dresses I saw was the red off the shoulder strapless gown with attached cape on the actress starring in "12 Years a Slave". It seemed so obviously Ford's design, but why when it was so identifiable with Gwynneth last year at the Oscar's. Even though it was more dramatic in red and strapless on this actress, it seemed lazy. Then the same thing happened moments later when another forgettable actress gallumphed up to the commentator in a halter that had almost the same lines as Julianne's Ford minus the sleeves. The halter was in fact Ford's, not a wise move. But the red was Ralph Lauren. Not such a wise move to copy so carelessly on a telecast that the world watches. So much for haute couture. for this league it should be termed " Ote Koo-chur".

Dresses fit the stars like skin for the most part. The lengths and trains were awkward and their ability to walk was seriously hampered. Lena Dunham of "Girls" fame should give Zac Posen a rest. He may be her friend and past classmate at Saint Anne's in Brooklyn Heights, but friends don't make friends look like shit on a global telecast. Just saying. And as far as the Haute Couture issue goes, 99% of the clothes worn can be seen in the collections of all of the designers from Spring14, Resort 14 or the couture fall 13 collections. So much for one-of-a-kind-ish-ness.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2013: More S%#t I loved...

Sounds like boatloads, but actually, there was just enough to fit into a long boat, the sort you see going up and down the Chao Phraya river that runs smack through Bangkok. Travel was a big exciting blast. It seemed every time I should be writing a post for this neglected blog, instead I was packing a bag and heading to the airport. I think I shared one account as I left the apartment to head for a flight to Amsterdam and some idiot locked her car doors from inside as I crossed the street to the sidewalk next to her parked car. My reaction to her actions was less than polite (I think I said F*** You), but it was so galling and uncalled for. Umm, life in the big city?

Still, I headed to Amsterdam, Belgium, Northern Germany and Denmark in search of the perfect dressage horse of international quality (competitive quality) with and for Matt. That trip of 8 days driving all over the Low Countries, visiting countless farms, trying out endless horses, many of outstanding beauty and talent, and staying at different hotels in out of the way places each night, was a wanderer's paradise.

We were rootless and in hot pursuit of the thing both of us love more than most everything in our lives; extraordinary horses. We didn't find the right one on our first attempt, coming home after a couple of very interesting and long nights in Amsterdam. That's a fun town. No one gives a damn about fashion, its simply a "quality of life town". To my mind, that's supremely stylish.

4 weeks later we were back on the plane and back to the task. That was a blast! To go and come home and just as suddenly, get back on the plane and go back for more. Punishing at times, so much driving and so many horses not meeting his standard. I was blind at a certain point and would have said yes just to get it over with.

One morning Matt sat across from me at breakfast weeping from frustration, exhaustion and fear that it was a pointless, self indulgent quest, but at that moment I could see how important it was to him. I was over it in a way, but that moment got me back to the point of the mission and I carried us both back out to the car and to the next barn in the next country hours away.

Sure enough in Aalborg on the far northern most tip of Denmark we found him: Qasanova, a 4 year old stallion with incredible bloodlines and as sweet as a puppy. But watching him move was like watching a preview of a great champion. So another memorable night back in Amsterdam, no shopping necessary, and we boarded our separate flights to return home. The horse would follow on his own flight about 6 weeks later. He's happily eating yummy grass in Wellington, Fla., just outside of Palm Beach, the horse capital of the U.S.

I was in Qatar in the late spring for 8 weeks in April and May. That was a fantastic experience. Between playing professor, lecturer and artist in residence I had a fabulous time. My function was to help design students from freshmen to seniors create and complete their final projects for the all important fashion show at the end that also happened to be the big social event of Doha.

I was invited to show a collection as the guest designer, an enormous honor and challenge as I'd put away my scissors almost 4 years before. Teaching was lots of fun and an opportunity to share almost 30 years of experience with young designers just taking their first steps. Hugely satisfying, if only because as a designer you rarely articulate what it is you do and think when you have a team so in tuned to you that much is communicated silently or with the simplest of words. Putting together a collection that was part archival pieces and a group of new things was  something I didn't realize I missed so much. I fell back into the process but with unforeseen hurdles, like always every season, but these due to work needing to be completed in Doha where I knew no one as far as a technical team able to work in a couture capacity. This wasn't about a few seams and a zipper. But I found them and they were every bit as good as my team finishing the last 6 pieces in a record time of 4 days, including the complete removal and re-embroidery of thousands of crystals on a hand made lace column created in India. The collection was a hit, I was on TV 3 or 4 times, interviewed on the radio twice and featured in the newspaper  6 times or more. Then the fashion magazines got into the game with a few profiles and images of the clothes from the runway. After such a drought it was like a flood and I loved it. Then home and back to the quiet life.

All along I've been working on a book. A lot of start and stop but over the last few months its been a steady flow. That has taken me away from writing here, but it is what it is. Its a pressing project that needs finishing, but easy it ain't. Memory is a curious thing. Mine can be spotty and selective. The stuff you'd rather forget is too often the stuff that needs to be shared. Otherwise, the story is a joyride and no one wants to read another story of a designer's glory days and nights romping from one success to another. My career didn't work quite like that, so it takes time to excavate. Maybe my story will resonate with your stories. No path from point A to point B is a straight line.

There's more great shit from this past year like my trip with Anton to Thailand (Bangkok and Krabi on the Adaman Sea) and stopping off in Qatar to say hi for a few days, but I'll break for now. Thanks for your indulgence.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

2013: S&%T I loved last year....

It's 2014 and time to gird our loins for what could be a very interesting Fall season to come. As 2013 limps off to the place where bummer years go, the collections are just a matter of weeks away. For the diehards out there who just showed Pre-Fall a month ago, this spitting up of more, new and even more editorial stuff must kind of suck. There's no time to enjoy the fruits of ones labors before heading back to the delivery room. Last year was on the whole a very tame, monotonous period with lots of uninteresting clothes, tepid shows and high profile entrances and exits in the international HR offices. If anything it was the gaffes that were more interesting. Design has taken a back seat to banal PR for banal characters in the fashion business. Like a slow day in the newsroom, that day stretched for almost a solid year. When there's nothing to celebrate then you elevate the 2nd and 3rd tier and try to make the most of it. With that said, I do want to take some time to share the things I liked and the shit I loved. There were some shows that were outstanding.

Ralph Rucci staged 2 fantastic shows, spring and fall, and both were jaw droppingly beautiful. These are not clothes to look at on a video, you need to be up close just to take in a shred of his design brilliance. I know, big words for Ralph but hey, when it rocks, it rocks.

Valentino was consistently fabulous. Chiuri and Piccioli have taken that house to a new level. One that no one in Europe at this moment is able to touch. From evening clothes, amazing accessories to their budding daytime vision that's so smart and straight forward Perfectly illustrated in their Resort 2104 collection above, you wonder why no one else thought to do it. Unfussy, unstudied sportswear that oozes sophistication and ease. But their couture collections last year were splendid. Its so romantic and at the same time spare. Like a perfect meal it's all delicious and leaves you sated, not stuffed.

Maison Rabih Kayrouz (above) in Paris was a big surprise to me. He is so creative using the most basic shapes, combined and cut in sumptuous fabrics and eye popping knits. His Spring 2013 collection was full of inventive clothes incredibly modern and alluring. If I were a girl with an axe to grind I'd be covered in his clothes. Look and see what I mean. YUM!

Balenciaga by Alexander Wang was also a surprise. Chic, sleek, faithful and young, these clothes made Wang, the boy, a man. From the presentation of Spring2014, the mood of the show and the clothes were so assured, sophisticated. Its like Paris forces one to up his game or get out. I have to admit that as far as Wang/Balenciaga goes, "game on". Oddly, this new stage he inhabits has unfortunately upstaged his namesake gig. There was no pulse. Not everyone can juggle a ping pong ball and beach ball at the same time.

Carolina Herrera's Spring2014 collection (above) was a huge departure. Gone was the seriousness of hyper luxe and in its place beautiful simple sheath dresses and columns in graphic prints like angular Spirograph drawings in cream and brown among other chic color combinations and shapes. It was so easy and so rich it left you trying to figure out how she and her team did it. In a moment, they changed the mood of the house from self conscious to self possessed. There were lots of great clothes. I stood in the nose bleed section and still got chills. Just sayin'.

With the exception of some way beyond suits, jackets and some evening clothes and styling to make your toes curl, Lagerfeld at Chanel is starting to show his age. Sure, it's still the hottest ticket but more of that is built on hype and ancillary bits and bobs that somehow distract us enough to keep cheering. The show is the thing. Conceptually and scale-wise, Chanel is still the Queen but I'm not as curious as I used to be. The prospect of the future and the replacement doesn't keep me awake nights. Resort 2014 in Shanghai or Singapore, wherever, was pretty incredible. The girls with their 2 toned hair like a boy's cut with long unruly bangs made me wish I could throw my hair. It was very, very sophisticated. So worldly and knowing that it made you a good way.

As far as extravaganza shows, one can not ignore Marc Jacobs staging of his Louis Vuitton collection delivered by escalator. That was in a class all its own. So beautifully choreographed. An army of checks in a myriad of soft compelling colors came and went in pairs, with matching shoes and bags. I didn't want it to end. That's saying a lot for Jacobs who too often leaves me cold. His Spring collection here in NYC for his namesake collection was also very interesting with a theme of bold stripes. Though it seemed a warm-up or afterthought in regards to LV it still had a nice kick to it. Very Edie Sedgwick, but Edie before the fall. Happy before the sadness.

 I'll share some more things I loved from this past year. Books and scents were a large plus and travel was maybe the best of all.

* Images courtesy of
** Image layout courtesy of Garnet Spagrud