Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Beach Story, Pillow Included

Items in the Jogo by Pooneh collection on display at Parker Boutique.

THE mannequin, Nykhor Paul, is giving a one-piece bikini with an exposed waist a thorough examination. She’s fingering the heart-shaped trinkets hanging from its ties, she’s pulling the fabric to gauge its tautness, now she’s pressing it against herself, trying to get an idea of the fit. She places the little orange affair against her ebony skin. Looks good. Finally, she takes its blood pressure. No, just kidding:)

This all happens in less than two minutes. The Sudanese beauty had just finished a gig at Dior and was quick, fast and in a hurry to get to the next appointment. But the bathing suits in the window at Parker Boutique slowed her roll. She'll be back, she says, when she has more time.

I relay this story to Pooneh Mohazzabi, the former banker and international woman of the world, who is debuting her Jogo by Pooneh beach and lifestyle line (www.jogobeach.com) at the Madison Avenue shop. She doesn’t appear to be surprised at NP’s reaction. In fact, one gets the impression that she expects it since her inspiration for the line was herself and other women who could not for the life of them seem to find a bathing suit that gave their bodies the love and support they deserved. “The whole line was about combining function and fashion and yet making it comfortable,” she explains. “It was, how to make the everyday suit more beautiful.”

Beauty in PM’s hands takes the form of charms and hardware (gold and glass rings) located here and there. The beaches she has known – Thailand, St. Tropez, Rio and, of course, the Hamptons, Nantucket – spawn color choices like coral, aqua and chocolate. The cotton lycra, with its lifting, firming and tucking properties … well, beautiful.

But suits are only part of the story. In Jogo, which means “game” in Portuguese, there is a larger narrative: dresses, sandals, hats, sarongs, fabric and beaded bracelets, beach totes, cosmetics bags, spa kits. EVERYTHING one can imagine and one little thing one cannot: a pillow on which to lay down your head to sleep. Game on!

Parker Boutique is situated at 1021 Madison Ave. b/w 78th and 79th streets.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Boston Plays (Fashion) Hardball in New York

Shoppers scan racks and mingle at Second Time Around boutique.

THE pièce de résistance is a single-breasted black wool Chanel maxi coat with a wing collar and an abbreviated, wool-paneled belt that buckles on the diagonal. The famous name is engraved in small, tasteful letters on the buckle. Darth Vader’s significant other might like it. The costumer for “The Matrix” would simply adore it. It’s a showstopper. And the show ain’t cheap at $5,000.00 or $4,998.00, if you want to mince pennies.

It is hanging on the new arrivals rack at Second Time Around, the chain that is bringing its brand – contemporary, designer, consignment clothing – to Nolita (262 Mott St.). This evening is its opening party, billed as “Second Time Around: From Boston to New York.”

STA, which has a heavy presence in The Hub, has a lot of chutzpah to take it to NYC, throwing open its doors in a quartier where shops – consignment and otherwise – proliferate and only the strong or well capitalized survive. Owner Jeff Casler believes he has a winning formula, though. “We truly offer value and a selection that is updated hourly and we are on target with what’s in fashion, what people want.” For insurance he has on the payroll young fashionistas who “know fashion and know labels.” Fifty percent off retail has to help, too.

So, what’s here besides the Chanel coat, which I’ll take off your hands, JC, if you move that decimal point one place to the left? Name what’s in fashion now, and it’s in here. On the rack at the window, there’s a Diane Von Furstenberg halter dress ($118) in frosty pink with black trim.

Walking around the shop and outside on the sidewalk in a Carlos Miele sleeveless asymmetrical dress ($ unknown) in salmon with ruching on the bodice, is one of several hostesses for the evening, Alex McCord. Name familiar? I don’t know it either, but AM is one of the stars of “The Real Housewives of New York City." Familiar? Don’t know it either, but it is no relation to “Desperate Housewives.” In any case, AM is a gracious hostess and looks smashing.

Speaking of smashing: Derek Warburton (DW). The stylist to the stars and benevolent ruler of a growing fashion empire (www.dereklovesshopping.com) is the force behind a line of T-shirts hanging near the back of the store. “They’re for people in the Midwest” (and apparently in Southeast Manhattan), explains one of the aforementioned fashionistas, who offers to introduce me to DW when he arrives so I can get the real skinny on the Ts ...

On a rack against one wall is a T-Bags multi-colored tunic dress in jewel tones with three-quarter-inch dolman sleeves ($86, plus 20 percent off). Eve, the shopper and I are admiring a number of colorful and irresistible tunics hanging here. “I like the selection,” she says ...

But do I have the opportunity to jaw with DW about the Ts and Tanks going for $32 to $42 in hues like pink, mint green, lilac and gray? And what of those slogans – “Cute Fab & Easy,” and “Save Energy War Fur” – that I suspect will play well in Peoria? By the way is that Anna Wintour on one T-shirt with a black band covering her eyes?

The Ts/Tanks do “fit the character of the neighborhood,” as CFO Howie Green pointed out earlier about every hip, happening stitch in STA. And with inventory turning over every hour or so, they may have a short rack life. But what of the Chanel coat on the rack next door.

After an hour of leering, I finally give it a test drive. It’s my size: 36 (4). The wool is ultra soft or is it cashmere? Whatever it is feels good. And it looks good, according to the fashionista. I prance and turn and pose. I draw a few stares. But I am too fabulous to care. Suddenly, I am transported to the runway at the tents of Bryant Park ...

Speaking of Bryant Park, DW takes one penetrating look at Yours Truly and informs her that he knows her. Soon enough, he pulls me up from his mental rolodex. He appears to have fond memories of me from Boston. While I am unable to pull up DW from my Boston mental rolodex, I do have a fond memory of Himself from the front row of the Barbie show during Fashion Week in February. He was turned out in a blood red suit with accessories that I believe included a scarf, chains and perhaps a cane or umbrella. On his feet, bodacious leopard-print boots. Not a hair, thread, fold or crease was out of place. He. Was. A. Vision. Or as we say down South, “Sharp as a tack.”

Second Time Around opening was 23 June.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The King and I

“IF Elvis is King, then James Brown is God,” Amiri Baraka waxed poetically at a Boston reading years ago. What would he say about the other King, I wonder. Michael Jackson (1958-2009) provided the soundtrack for my formative years into young adulthood. I don’t remember a life that was not Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous.

The most affecting memory of The King is his appearance on the Motown 25th anniversary TV special, “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.” And to date, the best live concert I have witnessed was The Jacksons (Victory Tour). At the Motown anniversary, The King has just finished performing a medley of Jackson 5 hits with his brothers (including Randy). Now he has the stage to himself. Anticipation is high. He says something like, “That was the old, now for the new.” Then those famous beats from “Billie Jean” kick in. In the auditorium there is riotous applause. This is also the debut of both the white sequinned glove and the moonwalk. After he lands on point after that first moonwalk, I gasp. EVERYBODY is on his feet. I’d never seen such a feat outside the context of ballet. That was special. THAT, folks, was AMAZING. I cried into my pillow.

My friends and I, mere wisps of girls, thought we’d seen the zenith with “Off the Wall” because “Off the Wall” was Off. The. Charts. Nobody. NOBODY saw “Thriller”coming. It’s still the best-selling album of all time. And it’s a record that will hold because of the revolution in music delivery and sales. Who's gonna sell 100-plus million albums in this environment? The hits were relentless and endless: “Thriller,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”, “The Girl Is Mine,” “Human Nature,” “P.Y.T. “Pretty Young Thing,” “Billie Jean.”

This music consoled me through puberty, pimples, periods, crushes, angst and awkwardness. It was made more palpable and relevant because I could listen and watch. Yes, videos. “Billie Jean.” That video MADE MTV. The same MTV that didn’t want to air the videos of black artists because some suits didn’t feel they were rock enough. (The phenomenal success of "Billie Jean" was instrumental in opening up MTV to other nonwhite artists.) Weren’t rock enough? Clearly, these bozos didn't know the roots of rock.

The King elevated videos to an art form and revolutionized morphing. I’m reminded of the “Black or White” video from “Dangerous” when he morphs from a panther into himself. I’ve yet to see a video that employs morphing better. “Black or White,” like most of his videos, were really short films. No other artists were doing this at the time, not even Prince or The Rolling Stones. There was a narrative. Dance routines. Special effects. And famous guest stars.

The 14-minute long “Thriller” was an EVENT when it debuted. My friends and I congregated in my bedroom and watched on my old hand-me-down-from-the-living-room RCA color television. We had popcorn and Pepsi, and you could hear a pin drop under the drone of the beat, so rapt was our attention. A by-now repentant MTV aired “Thriller” twice an hour to meet demand. I watched every chance I got because I could not get enough. The “Thriller” video was the talk of the school, of the town – at the beautician, barbershop, corner store, even in church. All these years later, if I catch it while channel-surfing I pay my respects.

Of course, every king has his peccadillos and this one is no different: chimps, midgets, a Calvin Klein jeans spokesmodel, daughter of another king, excessive surgeries, boy toys and court cases, but none of this diminishes his majesty – at least not for moi.

As with that aforementioned other King, the Johns Kennedy and Lennon, Martin and Malcolm, most will remember where they were when they learned the fate of this most beloved and imitated royal one. I was at the benefit party of the Edeyo Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of Haitian children (more on that in another post) in the Meatpacking District when someone informed me. I had to sit down or else I was going to collaspse into a heap where I stood. It took me half an hour to compose myself enough to get up and leave. I think I would have been less shocked if someone had told me I’d won $500 million in the lottery.

“It always happens in threes,” said my informant. “Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and now Michael Jackson.”

Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, who hosted the Edeyo party, said her husband called her in her hotel room to tell her the news, “and my son texted me. I was shocked,” said the actress who cited old-school J5 “ABC” and “Ben” as some of her favorite songs.

For Ibrahim, the owner of a falafel cart at 14th Street and 8th Avenue, "every Michael Jackson song" was a favorite when he was coming of age in Egypt.

“I was watching NBC news when they showed a breaking newsflash,” said Joe Barnes, an attendee at the Edeyo event. In what will no doubt become a subject of grostesque speculation, he said he believed The King died from over exertion in preparation for his world concert tour.

Regardless of the cause of his death, in The King the world has lost a monumental figure whose influence and reach are still being tabulated and calculated. Me? I have lost an important piece of myself.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Art is Alive, Beautiful and Walking Around

Zac Posen with buy at I ♥ Gen Art benefit. (Photo by Hal Horowitz.)

IT is not the art on the walls (or celebs i.e., Zac Posen above) that first grabs the attention of Yours Truly at the I ♥ Gen Art: 15th Anniversary Benefit (the party arm of the Gen Art Foundation)tonight. (It is the mission of the foundation(www.genart.org) to make the world a better place by throwing money and other resources at promising painters, photographers, filmmakers and designers so that they can bring a bit of beauty and culture to our dreary lives. Tonight, there are creations by more than 60 artisans for direct sale and through auction.

No, I am struck by the sight of so many handsome men in one place outside of a casting (I have reason to attend castings because in the last year I have been doing … er … a bit of modeling and acting). These stylish Adonises appear to be of every sexual persuasion, height, color, creed and slim body type. Living art, including the duo Ebony (Alain) and Ivory (Micheal). An acquaintance drags me over to meet them. Alain who is no doubt the spawn of an Egyptian/Roman/Ethiopian god is also a mortal and CEO of a Paris-based mobile phone marketing company. He’s in the New World to raise awareness and money for his concern. Michael who walked off the cover of a romance novel is a “leisurepreneur.” He gives me to know that a leisurepreneur is someone who carves out a lot of time to have fun while simultaneously making his millions. And he would have thrown some of his millions at one of the pieces on the wall if some other Moneybags had not gotten there first.

And then there’s Duncan Quinn. I clap eyes on him while my acquaintance and I are standing at the bar trough (where there is no wine – still or sparkling). I raise my hand in hello and he waves back. I know he’s wondering, “Who is that?”

DQ is a Brit who has made a name for himself designing men’s suits with a nod to both Rock ‘n’ Roll and Saville Row. DQ is also a huckster. Last year he threw what, on the surface, was a party at the Classic Car Club in Soho (owned by a DQ friend/associate). There was a deejay (DQ friend) rocking the house. And shutterbugs (DQ friends) whose cameras were ever ready. Even the people behind the bar and hor d’oeuvres were DQ friends. The joint was jumpin’, and commerce was taking place: In a corner of the showroom that is home to some exotic and classic sports cars, he’d set up a haberdashery shop (men could be measured for suits on demand). A few weeks ago his Soho joint and the adjoining sidewalk were jumpin’ when he announced the bits of pink in his new collection. Pink was the dress code at the Rosé Party. “No pink. No drink.,” threatened the words on the invitation. The drink: an fabulous and endless Rosé d'Anjou. It costs a lot less than a DQ suit.

OK. Enough about men. Back to the art. One piece in particular draws me in. It’s a huge photo of Fidel’s face, an over-the-shoulder shot. Haunting, mysterious, intimidating, resolute – all enhanced by the graininess in the image. I move in closer. Still closer to see who snapped it and what they’re asking. At $5,000, it is one of the most expensive pieces hanging. And it’s not Fidel. It’s DeNiro. Men!

The I ♥ Gen Art: 15th Anniversary Benefit was 24 June.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Cool Getaway

Tamarama rocks the house at M2. ( Photo by Daralyn Adams.)

SEE LL Cool J in the photo (above)? Sure you don’t. That’s the band Tamarama from the MTV series, “The City.” I’m not going into the genealogy of “The City,” except to say it’s a spinoff of “The Hills.” "The Hills?" Google it.

In any case, if Yours Truly had not been played, that would be a photo of LLCJ instead of a potentially promising band that you likely never heard of or don’t care about because you already have your favorites and are not in the market for new ones. Your I-pod is full ...

Here’s how it happened: I (and one of my peeps) show fashionably late at the nightclub, M2, for the Fashion Delivers second annual Pay It Fashion Forward benefit tonight. LLCJ – husband, father, songwriter, rapper, actor, designer, possessor of a killer six pack – is the host for an evening I never quite wrap my brain around. Great cause, though: (http://www.fashiondelivers.org/).

Tamarama is doing its thing, and few people notice. Many are drinking, chatting, chewing, posing and profiling. I try to pay attention but have You Know Who on the brain. I flip through the complimentary issue of Gotham (the same one – featuring cover girl Jessica Biel – that I paid $7 for a week earlier). Then I start eating the complimentary and copious all natural barbecue-flavored Popchips. Officially bored now. Looking around, I spot a couple of people from IMG Fashion (the machine that stages the various fashion weeks in the States) who seem dazed and confused. Soon enough I look up and see it: the balcony! Himself is there holding court and posing for photos while his bodyguard keeps the swarm at a reasonable distance.

I give the bodyguard to know that I’d like to get a photo of LLCJ. Bodyguard gives me that rapid-fire nod thing his species does that means, "OK, wait a minute." After a few minutes, though, I am not plucked from the swarm for my audience. Instead, the swarm is pushed back and parts like the Red Sea and LLCJ walks through toward the stairs down the stairs, but not to the stage to do his job. He continues over to the other side of the room up more stairs with the swarm on his heels. I lose sight of him. And I lose more time when the security guard doesn’t permit me up the stairs, despite my important business, because I am not wearing the VIP bracelet. After a few minutes and some fast talking, his manager waves me in. I continue my pursuit, weavng around clusters of people, but no LLCJ. I walk around to the other side of the balcony where he was moments ago. Nothing. I return to the area where I’d just been granted access. Still nothing. I express my disappointment to the security guard. He's smirking and looking over my shoulder. I follow his gaze – to the EXIT sign. Me: “You knew he went through that exit, didn’t you?” Security guard: Still smirking, nods.

There’s only one thing to do now: Leave. But before I do, even before I realize my folly, I see a man doing his business in the men’s room. His back is to me, but his mission is clear. He’s assumed the position. I quickly avert my gaze.

Being a Belle, I cannot pursue the matter further. For instance, out of the question is inquiring whether this open access is part of the design or whether a door has inadvertently been left open. Of course, this young suit could be an exhibitionist, but I will never know. Belles aren’t even supposed to share such unmentionables – unless they're actors, dancers or writers. And have a waiver. Which I do.

I missed LLCJ (and the point of the evening), but I did not miss a show.

Fashion Delivers second annual Pay It Fashion Forward benefit was 18 June.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kokin Has B-a-a-a-a-d Hat-titude

Mercedes and Blu wearing hats by Kokin. (Photo by Daralyn Adams.)

ONLY in The Big A can A Boy from Buffalo start out to become an actor and end up a milliner. Not just any milliner – one with international renown.

Meet Kokin in case your paths haven’t crossed the last almost 26 years. He didn’t … er …pull it out of a hat; he comes by his trade honestly. His mother and grandmother were mad about hats. Besides, he was ISO a gig that would facilitate his getting to auditions without hassles from a boss. It’s Hard out Here for an Actor!

Tonight, Kokin is hosting a little do-gooder party at his boutique on the Upper East Side (3rd Avenue @79th Street). Ten percent of hat (and accessory) sales are going to the Make A Wish Foundation (http://www.wish.org/), the outfit that plays fairy Godmother to children with life-threatening illnesses.

Who knew so many hats could fit into such a small space? There are cloches, caps, crushers, visors, berets, fedoras. In the display window is a replica of the number that Andie MacDowell wore in “Four Weddings and A Funeral.” Nearby is the audacious lampshade hat in hot pink with feathers galore. Ascot (where his hats have gone), here we come! And the hats have gone to the racetrack in Kentucky, the runways of good fine folks like Oscar De La Renta, Bill Blass, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Zac Posen and Catherine Malandrino. They have graced the pages of major mags and famous noggins. In other words, they’ve been around.

Feeling a bit neglected, a gentleman nearby who is squiring the Duke’s grand, Mercedes Ellington (pictured above with Kokin mannequin, wife and accomplished photog, Blu), laments the fact that there are no hats for men. Hmm … Yours Truly plucks a fedora from its rack and hands it over. Voila!, he’s transformed into Gordon Parks

When I manage to snag (a second time) Kokin from one of my media betters, I ask, of all the gin joints in all the towns … why Make A Wish Foundation? “I love children,” says the father to be (August). “It’s a great charity. It’s not a specific cause other than humanity … If you can make someone’s final days happy, that’s a good thing.”

Dare I say it? Why not: Hats off to Kokin!

The Kokin event was 18 June.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Seen & Heard

Head’s Up: Welcome to the debut of “Seen & Heard." It is to be a compilation of incidents – quirky, tender, shocking, telling, surprising, funny, etc. – that Yours Truly witnesses or experiences. Expect to read “Seen & Heard" a couple of times a month or so, usually during the weekend. Drumroll please …

A woman is walking along First Avenue in the 70s with two boys who may be her sons. The boys, about 12 and 10, respectively are walking on either side of her. She and the 10-year-old are holding hands until she frees her hand to adjust something in front of her. When she returns it to her side, the boy takes it in his … In two year’s time, will he rather be found dead than holding the hand of a woman who may be his mother? …

One minute we’re standing in the checkout line at CVS, the next we are watching a fistfight between two women. Two middle-aged women: Woman #1 and Woman #2. It started, methinks, when the cashier calls for the next person in line. Woman #1 is still collecting her purchases when Woman #2 pushes her, presumably out of her way. Woman #1 doesn’t take kindly to it. Words that I cannot hear are exchanged. Then Woman #2 pushes Woman #1 again. Woman #1 answers with a right hook to the face of Woman #2 who retreats, demanding that someone call the police. More words are exchanged, then spit when Woman #2 sprays the face of Woman #1 who responds with a flurry of objections and punches. At this point several CVS employees materialize and stop the brawl. Woman #1 has some parting words and leaves in a hurry. Meanwhile, “You’re an animal; you’re an animal,” the guy standing in front of me is chanting loudly and repeatedly to Woman #2 who clashes with him verbally while the flustered clerk rings up her purchases. Out Woman # 2 rushes, and a CVS employee informs no one in particular that she is in hot pursuit of Woman #1 who has reached the next intersection. The police are called, then called off when it is determined that there is going to be no further altercation ... This incident taught me two things. First, eyewitness testimony can be unreliable. It’s one thing to hear this from defense attorneys and their clients; it’s quite another to experience it one’s self as a witness. Almost immediately afterward, I was having difficulty recalling the sequence of events. Did Woman #2 actually push Woman #1; did Woman #2 spit at Woman #1 or on her? Second, I learned that shock (and fear) has the power to immobilize. My instincts were to stop the fight, but I could not move. I could not believe my eyes. One now has a lot more sympathy for victims in horror movies …

A dog is wearing a Fanny Pack. It looks like a horse saddle. Hats, socks, sweaters, strollers, umbrellas – sure. But a Fanny Pack? Do dogs have that much gear? ...

Outside at Luke’ Bar and Grill on East 79th Street and Third Avenue, Téa Leoni (pictured above) is speaking baby talk to a newborn. Not her own. … Digging those crocskin cowboy boots, T ...

It’s raining when I come out of the metro at Herald Square en route to Eighth Avenue. To stay dry and avoid being stabbed in the eye by an errant umbrella, I detour through Macy’s. Whew! One has to run a gantlet of Father’s Day shoppers (the sale is on!) to get to the next avenue. There are far more people herein than there are on the sidewalk … Anecdotal evidence that the Great Recession appears to be receding, if only for a day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Naturally, Doing Good

I’M in a garden. Not one teeming with trees, vegetables and flowers. Small trees and shrubs dot the perimeter. In the center, toward the back, is a piece of sculpture; I can’t quite make out what it is. On the west end is a long, squat wood bench. On the east end is a group of wooden seats and benches. Framing the seating area are pillars on which a canopy might be arranged to provide cover. The garden floor is pockmarked with large rocks of various shapes. The garden, in the Japanese style, is elevated, as if it’s on a roof. Yes, a roof. In the West Village. Of Manhattan. An island of peace and tranquility in a sea of chaos and strife.

I am not dreaming. I am upstairs at the Stephan Weiss Studio. The sculptor-painter and late husband of Donna Karen used it as a his work and exhibition space. Now, the designer uses the cavernous rooms for her Urban Zen shop and as the venue for events dedicated to making the world a better place. On the card tonight is the 6th Annual Wayúu Tayá Foundation Gala (http://www.wayuutaya.org/) co-chaired by DK and Wayúu model-actress Patricia Velasquez (above). And folks showed up for them: honoree Christie Brinkley, honorary benefit committee member Russell Simmons, singer Billie Myers and Oprah’s favorite interior designer Nate Berkus.

Wayúu Tayá means (pronounced Y-U Tie-Ya) “I am indigenous.” The Wayúu Tayá region is in South America, hemmed in by coca-plant growing Columbia and oil-pumping Venezuela. The foundation’s aim is to holistically improve every aspect of the lives and preserve (rather than destroy) the ancient culture of the Wayúu people. Working with an organization in the region – folks who have a clue – the foundation does the usual good deeds of building schools and installing plumbing, but also sees to it that there is, for instance, a nutrition center, nutrition education, and money management seminars (get Suze Orman!). Indeed, women are taught how to make some dough (not for bread) from those beautiful one-of-a-kind handbags they have been making by hand for centuries – and they cost a lot less than an Hermes Birkin.

Before the crowd goes downstairs to the benefit dinner (which includes three courses + musical performances, honors and an auction), it is content to enjoy the garden and adjacent indoor lounge. Weaving his way through groups in the garden is Renaissance man and honoree Henry Buhl, and people are staring. Later, he quipped that he had been “offered a massage and received two dinner invitations." He is a delightful man and is entitled to such solicitude, but he could BE Anthony Hopkins – even at around five inches shorter.

Seated at a long, dark wood table in the lounge chatting up a friend while eating what looks to be carpaccio is author, model and "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi, who will host tonight's event. She likes it (the carpaccio); she really likes it.

Jewelry designer Judi Kupermann, who has put her talents (judithkupermanndesign.com) to work for the Wayúu foundation, is sitting on a sofa on the east end of the lounge whetting her whistle with prosecco, though Moët & Chandon is on the premises. “I like my sparkling wine a little sweeter,” she explains. JK is giving her feet a break from what I estimate are 21/2 inch heels. TWO-AND-ONE-HALF inch heels. I know. I have no sympathy for her either.

Meanwhile, back in the garden is a crusader in a red cape (and jacket) who introduces himself to Yours Truly as Sir Ivan. According to the bug put in my ear moments before I had the pleasure, SI always wears a jacket and matching cape and owns a Long Island castle (that I verify) where everyone walks around naked (that I do not verify). “Sir” Ivan Wilzig, Wikipedia, gives me to know is a former banker and current musician who is best known for techno remixes of 1960s songs such as "Imagine" and "San Francisco." Continues Wikipedia, he is also founder of the nonprofit Peaceman Foundation (hoping to make the world a better place by stamping out hate crimes and post traumatic stress syndrome) and appeared as Mr. Mitzvah on season two of the reality television show “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” On SI’s arm is an ebony-hued woman (looks familiar) wearing a dress in matching red. Dynamic! Duo!

The 6th Annual Wayúu Tayá Foundation Gala was 17 June.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Uptown. Downtown.

THE few pieces in his latest collection are placed with great care on their hangers. A violinist is playing unobstrusive European classical music. Coat check girls magically materialize to relieve guests of their drapes, bags and anything they don’t want to hold. Well-wishers, including Bebe Neuwirth, socialite Lucy Sykes Rellie and a woman introduced as a friend of Nancy Reagan, are chatting quietly and sipping Veuve Clicquot. Servers thread their way through the assembly bearing miniscule finger foods that most are refusing. This is the scene at the new Cho Cheng boutique on the Upper East Side at 51 E. 63rd between Madison and Park avenues, a long narrow den of Zen with pale celadon walls and a chandelier that can’t keep its tentacles to itself.

Meanwhile, at the year-old Tory Burch boutique (shown in photo above) in the Meatpacking District at 38-40 Little West 12th Street, the joint is jumpin’. The walls are hard to see because the clothes, accessories and shoes filling the two squarish showrooms are obscuring them. It’s not cluttered, but it’s not spare. Guests can probably drop their gear right where they stand and no one would object too much. The deejay, the biggest name in the room at the moment, is rocking serious techno and House – Deep House. The crowd is young and hip; it is animated, with a spattering of full-throated laughter. Servers offer sparking wine (the name is not important). On tables placed between two white sofas, a few cookies lie insouciantly on white plates.

Of course, the parties are products of their environs and they are Exhibit 5,234 in the case that speaks truth to the social/political/artistic phenomenon that is Above 14th Street and Below 14th Street. The occasion: Good causes both. Uptown is the much anticipated opening of the atelier that bears the name of the young superstar-designer-in-the making. No longer will his celebrity and society clients be reduced to trudging up and down Fifth Avenue to find such exquisite pieces as the silk wine jacket (and matching skirt) with a bouquet of ruffles on the lapel. Downtown, TB once again is throwing some money (10 percent of sales from the evening ) at Girls Quest (www.girlsquest.org) to help with its mission to give low-income girls the opportunity they deserve to be the best they can be academically and socially. After all, these are not privileges. They are rights.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fashion Has Its Rewards

TRACEY Ullman, turned out as an Upper East Side lady who lunches, gives the hoi polloi (well, not exactly; seated attentively is the crème de la crème of U. S. fashion) a glimpse of how the Great Recession is affecting the wealthy.

It includes being picked up by her driver (in a Smart car) in an alley after a shopping trip on the DL to Louis Vuitton. Before he arrives she takes the pricey purchases out of their original shopping bags and places them in plastic bags, including one that reads, “I ♥ New York.” A further compromise is her noisemaker trench coat purchased at a famous UK clothier. This clothier, if you care to know the name, recently opened a store on the Upper East Side at Lexington Avenue and 86th Street. "That's the sound of cheap fabric," she informs her friend who hears the coat racket over the mobile phone microphone. TU ends the skit by disguising herself with a brown, bobbed wig and Jackie-O sunglasses, sending up a very famous magazine editor. Hint: The name of the magazine rhymes with rogue. And the editor is a big fan of a certain tennis player who recently won a grand slam tournament that had eluded him for years. Incidentally, after his victory she was standing and cheering from his friend’s box, an act that has yet to be witnessed at a fashion show.

This is the most interesting moment tonight (Monday 15 June) of the somewhat dry CFDA Awards. For the uninitiated, the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards are to the apparel industry what the Oscars are to film, the Tonys to theater, the Emmys to television, the Grammys to music.

The biggest surprise of the ceremony at the Star Theater in Alice Tully Hall may have been the award of Womenswear Designer of the Year to Kate&Laura Mulleavy for Rodarte. Their competition was Narciso Rodriguez and Marc Jacobs. The sisterly duo began sewing four years ago in their parent’s Pasadena, Calif. home and would make a name for themselves by dressing Hollywood starlets and famously, First Lady Michelle Obama who in the last almost-six months has become a tastemaker. For her meteoric rise, she claimed the CFDA Board of Directors' special tribute. Alas, she accepted via taped video feed.

MJ didn’t win the biggest prize of the night, nor did he leave empty handed. Bestowed on him in recognition of his fanciful work for Louis Vuitton was the International Award. More surprising than his showing was his low-key (ho-hum?) acceptance speech. Other major winners (visit cfda.com for a full list): Scott Sternberg for Band of Outsiders and Italo Zucchelli for Calvin Klein who tied for Menswear Designer of the Year; and Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez (not a tie, a team) for Proenza Schouler (another MO fave) in the Accessories Designer of the Year category. The new popular vote award went to Ralph Lauren.

And so goes the awards and now comes the party: What would a fashion event be without models whose stars are rising, with designers in tow? Georgie Baddiel is sporting long hair and Phillip Lim (who has his reservations about Fashion Week at Lincoln Center, but will nevertheless show). Georgie looks fabulous and is as gracious and humble as one would expect a girl from Burkino Faso to be … Ditto for the Dominican Barbie doll Arlenis Sosa (above, with Esteban Cortazar), who speaks in the most delightful Spanish-accented English. And she is fidgeting with the hem of a very short gray Ungaro (linen?) dress with a gather in front and a cut-out in back. EC, who may soon be leaving Ungaro, has his back to her chatting up some folks, so he's totally unawares. I assure her that she’s trying in vein to pull it down. She smiles sheepishly ...

“Excuse me, ma’am,” Yours Truly says to the petite lady with busy blond hair and a rocking get-up (including a black tutti and hot pink wrap belt that forms a huge bowtie in the back) whom she bumps into coming out of the theater. It’s Betsey Johnson who enjoyed the show and now needs some refreshment ...

Remember Dirk “A-Rod” Standen from last week's “The Cocktail Dress” book party at Club Monaco (9 June/"Frock History") ? I relay the story of my contretemps, which the Style.com editor had heard through the grapevine. Now he wants to read my humble blog. Perhaps, he’s doing so this second. If so Dirk, I am a writer at your service …

After receiving his statuette, RL pronounced it heavy. "Wimp," I thought. I take it back. I had the opportunity, under the watchful eye of their friend, to fondle then hold the one belonging to the Mulleavy sisters. Weighing in at approximately 25 pounds, it would make a great bookend and free weight ...

In her latest film "Stringbean and Marcus," Kerry Washington stars as one-half of an ex-Black Panther couple trying to put their past behind them while raising their daughter in Philadelphia, circa summer 1978. She is reunited with her "She Hate Me" costar, Anthony Mackie. Filming starts this summer ... Meanwhile, notice anything about KW and Angelina Jolie? You see it, too? Watching "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," I could focus on nothing but their similar mouth, nose and cheekbones. KW does not say whether she notices one way or the other, but she agrees that we are all related regardless of how alike or different we look. To my actor buddy who has been feeling a tad discouraged of late and who admires the actor’s work, KW says: “You have to go through a lot of nos to get to the yeses,” so keep on keepin’ on. Said well.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One Bill. Multiple Acts.

THE gorgeous tie-dyed dress in black and white (right) from Calypso offered on 25Park.com brings to mind one of those affairs that women wore at cocktail parties in the ’60s and ’70s. It is divine and it does not cost $115. It’s actually $250, heretofore the price of the much smaller matching tunic. A simple case of the wrong price tag. Alas, alas.

Most of the items at the opening reception for the shopathon, “Pop Shop: Sewn Together” (Friday, 12 June – Monday, 15 June), are 10 to 30 percent off. Besides 25Park.com, the others pushing their product are Edité, Emily Clare, the artist Helena Kubicka De Braganca, the Bzoo Gallery and Little Brooklyn Private Boutique.

This group promotion scheme, I think, must be a new trend informed by the Great Recession. On at least two occasions in February during New York Fashion Week – excluding the “Project Runway” show – several designers appeared on the same bill. A couple of months back, a real estate company with the chutzpah to slap $1 million price tags on petite one-bedroom apartments in a high rise in the E. 20s with virtually no storage space teamed up with a painter who was offering his work for much less. Thursday night, of course, it was the Saks Fifth Avenue Men's store, GQ magazine and Mont Blanc troika.

On Friday, these acts are sharing a tiny stage – the hot, cramped, crowded basement of the Bzoo Gallery in Soho. I pore over the wares, certain there is more here than meets the eye. But frankly, I am hot. And bothered. Before I quite the basement, though, my eyes alight on an oversized black and brown snakeskin clutch from Devi Kroell for $2800 (formerly $3,000). It is not nailed down or chained, and no doubt will prove a great temptation for someone. Then I give the wide-eyed Georgia peach studying at SMU (Dallas) who’s spending the summer in New York City a primer on asking for a lower price for her NBF (new best frock), a clover-green floral silk skirt that ties at the waist. “Simply ask, ‘Is this your best price’?” “Thank you, ma’am,” she says with that mellifluous twang that marks one as a child of the southeast.

Ma’am now removes herself from the basement to the sidewalk where benches are set up to accommodate shoppers and those who have given up any pretense of being buyers and are boldly sipping a mysterious orange-red liquid and Champagne, including one of my favorites, the unsung Lanson. Santé.

Hail to the Queen

IT is not the Mont Blanc Nicolas Rieussec Steel Chrono watch ($9700.00) that captures my imagination. This foggy and gray Thursday (11 June) in the Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s store it is my chat with a twosome – I’ll call them S. and D. At such a do as this, where GQ magazine, Saks and Mont Blanc form an alliance to sell product in a sleek, slick package to a techno pop soundtrack, one expects rather a lot of posing and peacocking. Chatting about anything of substance can be a buzz kill.

An aside: Not knocking anyone else’s spending habits … If Yours Truly pays almost $10,000 for a watch, it better wash the dishes, walk the dog, cook the food, feed the cat, answer e-mail, pick up the dry cleaning, gimme 50 pushups and have a glass of sparkling wine chilled just so when I return home from a hard day. But that’s just me.

Anywho, a conversation that begins with Queen Noor (above) and her cosmetic interventions quickly moves to weightier topics. D has just arrived from a panel discussion at the New York Public Library about the media's role in shaping perceptions that Muslims and Westerners have of each other. The Queen was a panelist and asserted that Muslim Americans need a “Cosby Show” to change negative perceptions of them as she believes that ‘80s show did for Black Americans (Of course, there are some who would beg to differ.)

The Queen's statement is the catalyst for a conversational stew: religion and racial oppression, ethnic stereotypes, prominent Lebanese Americans, colonialism and its harmful side effects, President Obama, Three-Fifths Compromise, the Chinese role in the building of this country's railroads. And in a surprising and wonderful twist, we play a game of “Who Are You,” guessing each other’s ethnic background (not ommitting any group) as best we can. “We’re all mutts,” D says afterward. “We’re hybrids,” I maintain, which D. and S. cotton to immediately.

After all, hybrids are good for the environment.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Man on the Seat

YOURS Truly can’t get Beau out of her head. No sooner than I sit next to him when a spot opens up on a Downtown Manhattan express train, he gives me to know that he would beat down the guy sitting across from us, also heretofore standing, if he (Beau) weren’t so tired. It’s Thursday (11 June) morning.

A few moments earlier, the guy and I had some words because we’d staked claim to the same spot, but did a little maneuvering that made us reasonably comfortable standing next to each other, holding onto the bar hanging over the bench were Beau is sitting.

This is not necessary; I have bigger fish to fry. Besides, I say, the guy was more annoyed than rude.

Beau does not agree. The guy was disrespectful. "No man should disrespect a woman,” he says resolutely, barely above a whisper.

Beau’s (not-so unfamiliar) story: His parents were a mess. He grew up with no discipline and no direction. No proper schooling. He raised himself on the mean streets of Gotham. “I did what I had to do, you know what I’m sayin’.” His impressive resume included robbing banks, leading to a life behind bars – roughly half of his. A year or so ago he walked through those oppressive iron gates. Now, he’s rebuilding. He’s the father of a 13-year-old daughter he’s raising on his own because Baby Mama split a long time ago and as a parting shot she cleaned out his bank account and took his truck. (Girlfriend, have you no mercy?) …

Beau hates Thursdays. HATES. THURSDAYS. On T-Day, he has to go see The Man (parole officer). “I’m a grown man and I have to give account of myself. I don’t like it. This ain’t no way to live.” But a man’s gottta do what a man’s gotta do ...

Even if the guy were disrespectful, the solution would not be to respond with violence. I suggest that Beau, in these situations, could simply remind the man that there’s a better way to talk to a lady. I even dust off that old chestnut, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Beau hears me but he doesn’t feel me. His father beat his mother. A LOT – producing in him a lot of anger. Anger at his mother. Anger at his father. Anger at himself. Anger at the world. And anger and disgust at the police, who in their Keystone Cop bumbling, always arrived, “after my father had beat my mother black and blue and kicked her under the bed. When it’s too late.” In fact, his anger is so great that he is obliged to attend anger-management classes. All too well he knows that if the anger morphs into violence he’d be on the first bus back to the Big House.

Of course, I don’t want that to happen on my watch. I remind Beau that he is living through a personal Reconstruction: “Freedom. Freedom. Freedom, Oh Freedom!” Besides, when one person is acting out someone has to be cool. Imagine, I say, if we were talking at the same time. It would be total confusion. There’d be some sort of combustion.

For the first time since I sat, he looks over at me, peering through sleepy eyes from underneath a baseball cap hung low on his head. He’s nodding as if he gets it.

Emboldened, I launch into psychospeak: When people are being rude or otherwise acting out, perhaps he can say something like, “Are you OK; may I help you?” Unless the person is out of their minds on meds, those questions will often have a calming effect. These are people who are acting out, out of their brokenness. Those gentle words will disarm them because they are not accustomed to compassion. It is judgment, disapproval, anger and dismissal with which they are too often confronted.

Are those signs of life emanating from Beau, as if a light has been switched on? “Wow. Are you a counselor or something,” he asks, shaking his head incredulously. “I never met nobody like you. I don’t know nobody who talks like that … I’m gonna meditate on that.”

I’ve learned from my own mistakes and the mistakes of others – mostly the mistakes of others, I inform Beau. Further, I submit, there are more people out there like me. I encourage him to talk to more people he doesn’t know and people who don’t live in his immediate neighborhood ... The train doors are about to open. We quickly shake hands and wish each other a good day. I dash out of the car ...

Sadly, those of us who live in metropolises that are served by mass transportation are alienated from our fellow man rubbing shoulders with us because we are reading, playing electronic solitaire, listening to i-pods and looking the other way. On this dreary morning I simply sat and as a result spoke some wholeness into Beau’s world. I believe in a very small way I helped make his world a better place. He certainly had that effect on mine.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tinsley to the Rescue!

NEXT to fashion, Tinsley Mortimer (left) has two great loves: Bebe and Bella, her two Chihuahuas, ages 8 and 7, respectively.
“My dogs are my children,” she says like she really means it, and Yours Truly believes her. “They are my heart and soul.”
The personable and media savvy socialite, wife and fashion/accessory designer is very much in her element Wednesday evening (10 June) at the Samantha Thavasa store on Madison Avenue. In progress is a fundraiser organized by the Japanese handbag company, which has made a name for itself using young, famous American spokesmodels – Beyoncé, Solange, Paris, Nicky, J. Lo and Tinsley – to hawk and design its product. Ten percent of handbag sales, including those bearing Tinsley’s name, will help NYC Shiba Rescue (http://NYCSHIBARESCUE.ORG/) improve the quality of life of full- and mixed-bred Shibas in metro New York by any means necessary.
While Tinsley does not plan to adopt a Shiba – really small dogs are her thing – she promises that “for my third, I’m definitely going to get a rescue,” despite the travel quota of one dog per human. Under the two-canine system, she and hubby, Topper (Squash to the rumors of a split that marked January.), have things covered. I volunteer to chaperone the third, and Tinsley doesn’t decline my generous offer. There may yet be some first-class frequent flier miles in my future.
Speaking of future, Tinsley informs me that she is NOT pregnant; she’s “fat.” Yes, fat. That bump I encountered when I touched the front of her black lace Alice + Olivia baby doll dress is the fallout from dunkin’ doughnuts at Disney World. Yes, doughnuts. Yes, Disney World. Repeat after me, “Tinsley is NOT …”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Frock history

AH! the cocktail dress, that unassuming frock that has a way of making the woman wearing it feel feminine, powerful and beautiful. It seems to have been with us forever. It’s like a relative we’ve always known, but in actuality know little about. Indeed, what’s its history? How has it evolved since its creation in the 1920s. Who has designed some of the most memorable? Style.com senior features editor Laird Borrelli-Persson explores these and other questions in a petite, new picture book fittingly titled “The Cocktail Dress.” The book's cover art is a publicity photo from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" featuring Carrie Bradshaw's spiritual girlfriend, the irrepressible Holly Golightly and Cat. “It was an interesting challenge to say something further about something so simple,” said Laird-Borrelli, who is deftly handling well-wishers and media types at Tuesday night's (9 June) book publication party at Club Monaco’s Prince Street store. “The cocktail dress is a short, simple dress but it encompasses so much.” ... Meanwhile, it was not the Prosecco or poor eyesight or bad lighting in Club Monaco. Put it down to the fact that all handsome men bear a striking resemblance. Why else would I confuse Style.com editor Dirk Standen with A-Rod (above)? Thanks to the Style.com shutterbug, I did not approach the slugger for a quote ...

Pst! Pst! Guess who's having a do right around the corner from Club Monaco on Greene Street under the cover of darkness and the threat of rain? It is nearly 10 o'clock and it looks like this party is just jumpin’ off from my (disad)vantage point at the bottom of the stairs where I can see several impossibly handsome, black-clad servers standing erect like sentries – as they do at all of these affairs – holding trays of drinks. Rather late for this sort of soiree in this quartier. None other than Louis Vuitton. The very cordial p.r. mave’s story: it’s a “very private” shopping event for special customers. Umm hmm. No media allowed she informs Yours Truly as an earnest look of sorrow scrolls across her beautiful, lineless face. She didn’t yield one inch, not even after I shared my witty, little anecdote about how at a certain time of day one can always count on that long line of Japanese tourists waiting outside the Paris store at the corner of the Champs Elysees and George V to drop beaucoup euros on anything bearing those famous initials. No media, not even my former employer, Who Won’t Be Named. It all seems rather fishy – likely some Franco scheme to takeover the fashion world and bar belly-bearing garments. Still, I don’t make a fuss. By now the Prosecco is imposing itself. And my feet, propped up on 4.253-inch heels – need I say more? I’ll live another day, I reason, to challenge LV the Great.


Jocelyn Wildenstein aka The Cat Lady. Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images

DEX New York wants to do it all, or as much as possible. Founded by former stylist Dexter Phillip, it is a mineral-based, camera-ready makeup line. And hair salon. And photography studio. And casting studio. And fashion showplace. And meeting space. And all at the tender age of 2.

And naturally, Dex (dexnewyork.com) wants to be a destination, which is why Tuesday evening (9 June) some 50 or so fabulous folks were enticed to the chic, sleek fashion district address by the promise of getting “The New You.” The New could be achieved through a complImentary makeup application from the all-hue inclusive Dex line, carrying names like Sutton Place, Harlem Nights, Hell’s Kitchen and Rockefeller Center. What else is New is a little facial juvenation as put forward by plastic surgeon Neil Gordon. The good doctor (one hopes!) put on quite the show of plastic surgery over the top. Included in the Hallway: Joan Rivers, Kenny Rogers, Burt Reynolds, Liza Minnelli, The Cat Lady and The King (you know the one).

Me? I say pass on the nose job or brow lift – at least as long as you can – and instead get your hair and makeup done. Or just get a room.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Indy Style: Missing stars be damned, the launch goes on

IT'S Monday night at the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Plaza and the preview of the newest and third installment in the "Indiana Jones" game franchise, "Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings," is on!

But there seems to be some stars missing. Sure, there's Debra Winger near the top of the staircase looking every inch the New Jersey soccer mom. And to my right is Elizabeth Vargas, looking like a resident of Wisteria Lane. My companion, though has a Christiane Amanpour jones – CNN's Barbara Walters of the Middle East – wondering where in the world is she and what exactly is her connection to gamer culture. I haven't a clue, but do weigh in on M.I.A. Al Roker. I deduce that he's a no-show because he is likely home having a low-calorie, high-nutrient dinner or getting ready for bed – lest we miss the weather in our neck of the woods Tuesday morning. And where is Himself, H.F.? One of the marketing people from LucaArts cited a scheduling conflict, which sounded credible enough.

A few less stars than promised didn't seem to put a damper on the festivities on the second floor of the store. There are merchandise tie-ins galore, and "Staff of Kings" is the main attraction on a number of TV screens being hogged by people who are definitely under 12 years of age. This explains the separate bar that has several jucies and Pepsi – not Coke, along with the cupcakes, rice crispy rectangles and brownies. No doubt the under-12s are very influential gamer bloggers.

For the adults who aren't in the mood for games, there is an awesomely cool Indy fedora in chocolate and steel gray. And Catwoman would definitely envy that cool, black whip. As an extra bonus, there is a parting gift of "Staff of Kings," which rolls out to the masses Tuesday. It's set in 1939 and concerns Indy's search for the staff of Moses. Let my Indy go!
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