Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NYFF: 'Oz' Speaks to Us All These Years Later

Image courtesy of fanpop.com

BERT Lahr was a Leo, said the daughter of the actor who played the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.” His birthday was 13 Aug., and the film premiered 15 Aug (1939), Jane Lahr told the audience yesterday morning at “Approaching The Wizard: Flying Monkeys, Ruby Slippers and Yellow Brick Roads in American Cinema and Culture,” a panel discussion about the impact of the film, seventy years later.

BL did not attend the preview and would not see it until near the end of his life, JL said. “He watched it alone and liked his performance but thought Jack Haley was a bit of a show-off," she said, referring to Tin Man.

While a fan of “TWOO,” Yours Truly had never thought much about the film beyond its entertainment value. But I learned soon enough from the panelists about its enduring messages and power to inspire, not just Americans but people the world over.

Ned Price from the Warner Brothers restoration division pointed to the film’s message of optimism, stating that “Over the Rainbow” was an anthem of hope during WWII.”

John Fricke recalled the story of Winston Churchill remarking that when Australian troops marched against the Italian army in North Africa they sang, “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” And for many years, “TWOO” was the only American film allowed to be shown in Russia, said Fricke, co-author of the 70th anniversary book, "The Wizard of Oz: An illustrated Companion to the Timeless Movie Classic."

One questioner – recalling that at Saturday’s premiere several children were stuck by some of the film’s more sinister and scary scenes – asked the panel their thoughts on why the scenes would be remarkable to today’s young people who are fed a steady diet of violent, disturbing fare in our media-saturated environment.

Robert Sklar, author of "Movie Made America" theorized that it is because they care about Dorothy. “We believe and feel what Dorothy is feeling," he said. “She makes it seem real,” causing audiences to relate to and root for her. On the contrary he said, audiences don’t relate to characters in many of today’s scary films because the violent is gratuitous, creating a disconnect.

Price puts it down to the power of a strong narrative. “First, it’s good. And it’s a simple story, not that it’s not smart, but that it’s easy to relate to. Everybody knows what it feels like to be worried about a loved one. Or to want to protect a pet.”

Things turned political when JL reminded the audience about one of the film's messages that has just as much resonance today as it did in the late 30s: “Beware of the man behind the curtain. But the enemies are more difficult to discern today” than they were during WWII when the film was released, she said, citing various scenes that referecned the war, including the one featuring the flying monkeys as Hitler’s German warplanes. “The man behind the curtain is not the president but may be corporations,” posited JL.

On a lighter note, she said the film’s relevance 70 years later is its overarching message: “know thyself. The Lion realized he had courage. Dorothy realized she could get home without the ruby red slippers.”

The newly restored version of “The Wizard of Oz” will be released tomorrow on Blu-Ray and DVD. Also tomorrow evening starting at 7:30 are a free concert and screening of the film at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. For directions and more information, visit http://www.netflix.com/wizardofoz/liveEvent.html


In One Human Heart, A Great Love
AFTER the “Approaching the Wizard” discussion, Yours Truly approached an older gentleman standing outside of the Walter Reade Theater and asked him, very sincerely, why he was there.

“We’re a fan of the movie. We’re from Wisconsin. We kind of follow the munchkins around. This is our sixth “Oz”-related festival this year,” explained Fred Redtke who dedicates two to three months of travel a year to such business.

Fred and his wife of 30 years, Cindy, journeyed to New York City when they were able to confirm that the newly-restored version of the classic film would premiere Saturday (26 Sept.) at the 47th New York Film Festival.

What he saw made his trip: “It’s the best I’ve ever seen,” said a f/man who has seen it every year on TV and every format in which it has been created to date. “It’s fantastic! The detail …,” he exclaimed. “At the very beginning there is a stain on Dorothy’s dress. I noticed that right away. I’ve never noticed that in any other copy of it. It’s not very long, but there’s a stain there. It was very visible. Everything just shows up so much more. The detail was just unreal. Seeing it on the big screen, too, was a great thrill.”

His infatuation with a 70-year-old film is simple enough. “The idea that everything is gonna be OK. If it’s not OK now, it will be OK. You can go home.” And in the late 1960s when a teenage FR first saw the film, the idea of home had major resonance. “We had moved a couple of times in the same town – it was a small town – but we’d moved a few times. My parents did sell their business, started a new one. There was some stress in that there.”

Folks, FR is a serious “TWOO” fan and has the marks to prove it. On his left arm is a tattoo of the yellow brick road leading up to the Emerald City. Tattooed underneath is “OZ.” On his right arm is a tattoo of a publicity shot of Dorothy and the guys from the movie. In the ponytail that extends to the center of his back are rainbow-colored extensions. He’s wearing a T-shirt that he picked up at a 70th anniversary “TWOO” festival a couple of weeks ago in upstate New York.

The neighborhood kids who saw the film with him would eventually stop recreating scenes and mimicking various voices as jokes. But not FR, who “never grew out of it.”

By 1980, he’d started collecting memorabilia on the DL. “I was what I call a closet collector,” FR recalled. “I would buy a few things – plates and that type of ordinary stuff.” From there he ramped up to clothes and now he pals around with/chaperones some of the surviving munchkins. Incidentally, he has all of their autographs. His Wisconsin house is a shrine. Understand, the house is a “TWOO” shrine, not a single room in the house –the whole house.

FR is thinking about founding a museum, which may be the next logical step considering his latest purchase: a life-size porcelain figurine of “The Wicked Witch.” He keeps it in the garage because there is no space for it in the house. Cost: $2,000. His annual habit: RF says $5K to $10K; Cindy says $20K ... Hmm, the power of "Oz."

For a complete list of 2009 New York Film Festival entries and ticket/general information, visit: http://www.filmlinc.com

Friday, September 25, 2009

NYFF: A Classic Film and Film Maker


Sabine Azéma in "Wild Grass," above, and a scene from “Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire." "Wild Grass" photo courtesy of The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Sony Pictures Classics. "Precious" photo courtesy of The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Lionsgate.



FILM buffs can go west – to the west side of New York City where the 47th New York Film Festival jumps off this evening at Lincoln Center. Through 11 October screenings the main slate of 29 feature-length films and 13 shorts from the United States and as far away as Poland and South Korea will be shown at Alice Tully Hall and the Walter Reade Theater.

Also check out special programs during the 17-day festival – among them the "HBO Films Directors' Dialogue" and "(Re)Inventing China: A New Cinema for a New Society, 1949-1966," one of the film series in this year's Masterworks repertory collection, which annually pays homage to the history of cinema around the world.

Opening the film festival is New Wave member Alain Resnais (“Night and Fog”) with “Les herbes folles” or Wild Grass. This time the Frenchman explores the contretemps that ensue after a purse-snatching. Based on the Christian Galley novel, The Incident, “Wild Grass” stars frequent Resnais collaborator, Sabine Azéma, as well as André Dussollier, Mathieu Amalric and Michel Vuillermoz Chrwhen. Showtimes: 6 p.m./9 p.m. at Alice Tully Hall and 8 p.m. at Walter Reade Theater tonight (25 Sept.)

One of the most eagerly anticipated screenings during the festival is a 70th anniversary Warner Home Video release of that old chestnut, “The Wizard of Oz.” The yellow brick road and other colorful landmarks on the landscape en route to chez Wizard should be in brilliant color and clarity in this newly-restored version. As a bonus, “Wizard” connoisseurs can attend “Approaching The Wizard: Flying Monkeys, Ruby Slippers and Yellow Brick Roads in American Cinema and Culture, a panel discussion about the enduring impact of the film, 70 years later. Showtime: 11 a.m. on Saturday 26 Sept. at Alice Tully Hall. Panel: 11 a.m. on Sunday, 27 Sept. at Walter Reade Theater

Also creating buzz is Lee Daniels’ ("Monster's Ball") “Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire,” no doubt helped by a recent plug on "Oprah" (one of the producers, along with Tyler Perry). Here is the story of a young, poor, black, obese girl in Harlem circa late 1980s, who refuses to succumb to the humiliating and mortifying abuse that has defined her young life. That is the twist in this tale starring Mariah Carey, Paula Patton, Gabourey Sidibe as the title character, and Mo’Nique in what some believe is Oscar-worthy work in a horrifying turn as the mommy dearest. Showtimes: 7 p.m./10 p.m. on Saturday, 3 Oct. at Alice Tully Hall.

A good mother is at the center of South Korean’s Bong Joon-Ho’s “Mother.” When her mentally challenged son is wrongly imprisoned for murder, Kim Hye-Ja’s character is as dogged in her pursuit to clear him as a bear protecting her cubs. Showtimes: 6 p.m. on Friday, 9 Oct./noon on Saturday, 10 Oct. at Alice Tully Hall.

For a dose of whimsy with undertones of “Romeo and Juliet” is Manoel de Oliveira’s Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl/Singularidades de uma rapariga loura). Like a number of the year’s entries, it is based on a novel: de Oliveira’s Portuguese countryman, Eça de Queiroz. In this offbeat tale of unrequited love, a Lisbon accountant (Ricardo Trepa) recounts the story of the love of his life (Catarina Wallenstein), with some trademark touches from the centenarian, de Oliverira. Showtimes: 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, 26 Sept. and 9:15 p.m. on Sunday, 27 Sept. 27 at Alice Tully Hall.

Pedro Almodóvar closes the festival with Broken Embraces/Los abrazos rotos. What happens when a blind screenwriter learns of the death of a powerful industrialist: comedy, drama, tragedy, romance and so on. Another delectable-sounding soup starring the Spaniard's favorite femme, Penelope Cruz. Showtimes: 5 p.m./8 p.m. on Sunday, 11 Oct. at Alice Tully Hall.

Throughout the festival, Yours Truly will be offering comment on select films and events.

For a complete list of 2009 New York Film Festival entries and ticket/general information, visit: http://www.filmlinc.com

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fashion's Night Out, West Village Style



TWENTY 4 September. 24 retailers. 3 hours. 100$ (and hundreds hopefully) of shoppers. It must be the Lucky Magazine Boutique Crawl 2009!

Think of the boutique crawl as an accessible version of the massive Fashion’s Night Out nearly two weeks back. Tomorrow night, some economy-stimulating-minded West Village retail outlets, situated along Bleecker Street between Hudson Street and 7th Avenue, throw open their doors for spenders to “sip, socialize and score” good deals from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Satya is dangling as bait 20 percent off jewelry and free henna tattoos, plus tea and cookies. Free ice cream for just showing up from the Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Truck! And the anecdote for ice-cream smudged lips may be a free lip color reading at Castor & Pollux, where snacks and 20 percent off its delicate and sexy undergarments are sure to produce smiles. Happy faces can stop by Cynthia Rowley for tress relief, courtesy of Antonio Prieto Salon staffers at the Sebastian hairstyling station and 10 percent off dresses and other outergarments. To sweeten the deal, sweets and cocktails.

Wardrobe. Check! Makeup. Check! Hair. Check! Handbag? Thought not. Visit M Z Wallace and Lulu Guinness for a 20 percent subsidy on handbags/wallets/accessories. Do wet your whistle with Champagne.

What’s that smell? Exactly. Away to Marc by Marc Jacobs and Bond No. 9. At MbyMJ, drop at least $250 on some stock and qualify for a free bottle of Splash Rain perfume. Get a MbyMJ visor for buying anything, no matter the price. Bond will shake 10 percent off any scent and will raffle off Bleecker Street Perfume and offer Magnolia cupcakes.

At last, you’re ready for your closeup. Hustle over to Olive and Bette’s or Juicy Couture for a Style Spotter photo set (click, snap, click, snap!), plus drinks and eats. At Juicy plop down Lucky Bucks, that is a $50 gift certificate from Lucky mag, toward something Juicy.

And … that’s a wrap (for your head, neck or waist)!

Learn more about the Lucky Magazine Boutique Crawl 2009 and see a full list of participating shops at http://crawl.luckymag.com. Click on “DOWNLOAD MAP” to see gift certificates, as well as a numbered list of stores that corresponds to the numbers on the map.

Friday, September 18, 2009

FIN: Spaniard. Rains. Whimsy. Cashmere.


From the Spring 2010 Trias collection. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

HEAD'S UP: The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting Yours Truly witnesses, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. Mind, this won’t be a comprehensive list simply because I can’t be everywhere. But depend on it, I’ll do my best. Drum roll, please …

The end: Expected, yet surprising. Some confusion and rather quite a bit of rain at times. Holly likes the rain. It's very democratic and hardworking. But soft, too, like downy. And a few moments when art, architecture and beauty took a slow stroll.

LAST DAY
The Players (tent)
Allude, Isaac Mizrahi, Trias, Chocheng, Argentinean Designer Collections, Tommy Hilfiger

The Players (elsewhere)
Ralph Lauren, Norma Kamali, Calvin Klein threeASFOUR, Phi, Stephen Burrows

BEST INTERPRETATION OF A VISION
Ralph Lauren's – The designer's empire has not experienced the reverses that many have in this Great Recession, yet he has the economy on the brain. This preoccupation might speak to his compassion for the less fortunate or his savvy as a businessman/artist or his great relief, or all/none. Regardless, Lauren’s spring collection is an ode to the engine of the economy, that is working people: farmers, cowboys, pioneer women. He trades in the polos that have come to symbolize the leisure class who don’t work for money but rather has money work for them. Instead, he favors the overalls, prairie skirts/dresses, button-down collar/less shirts, worn-weary jeans, vests, caps, bandanas and pocket watches that symbolize the Great Depression proletariat – the group that works very hard indeed for, alas, very little money.

Lauren’s worker may be downtrodden but the clothes are upwardly mobile, the mannish navy suits with pocket watches that have rich, gold chains and spectator pumps, in particular. But the designer’s aspirations get a little too big for their breeches in a few evening pieces that are too decorative and smell a bit too, too much of money. That overreaching, notwithstanding, any Depression-era family – say “The Waltons” – would be delighted to have the designer dress the daughters in silhouette-flattering dresses paired with denim jackets or vests with pinstriped pajama shirts that double as dresses or slightly deconstructed jackets in black with denim overalls or the addition of a denim cap/fedora or cowboy hat, especially with the whites socks and dark brown/black brogans. And for the barn dance on Saturday night and church on Sunday morning, why not a chiffon pajama shirtdress and white silk vest? Perhaps, the sky blue overall pants in satin and/or an overall gown in stain?

BEST ACCENT
Allude – Founder/designer Andrea Karg’s body-conscious frocks – how about those hot hot hot! pants – are crazysexycool. And daring. To be sure, many of these getups are for the size 0s, 2s and 4s of the world, the ones endowed with few curves and no junk. But take heart, all ladies regardless of their size and shape can let the cashmere go to their heads. A la AK, wrap the noggin in a scarf, arranging the excess fabric in a neat chignon on its crown.

MOST CONVOLUTED VISION
Isaac Mizrahi — The designer’s show titled “Astaire Case” employed stairs, small soundstage, rain machine, man with an umbrella and golf cart. The models had to walk a gantlet to get to the end of the runway. Huh? Was IM channeling “Singing in the Rain,” Hollywood or a life of leisure? It was an enigma wrapped in a mystery, albeit a charming one ... Isaac, we will buy the jaunty tulle skirts, chiffon blouses, beaded dresses, the in-living-color b&w dresses/gowns and even that Lucite cuff and the lobster thingy. But, Dahling, we’re just not buying it (the vision).

BEST ENCOUNTER
Georgie Baddiel – Chatted to the SuperMod and Uptown Girl backstage following the bewildering Mizrahi show. Understandably, she was tired after walking for IM, her pal Phillip Lim and Chado Ralph Rucci among others. It is normally her custom to retire to her pad in the Bronx after such busyness. “I love it there because the people are so friendly,” she said, comparing them to the folks in her native Burkino Faso. And many don’t know who she is, allowing her leave to have the run of the place unruffled. But there is no rest for the weary. GB was due on an afternoon plane across the pond for London Fashion Week. Her services are required by House of Holland et al.

BEST BOW, IF YOU WILL
The Argentinean designers who each led their procession of models after the close of the final show, not after the close of each individual show. The postlude had the feel of a parade/carnival Olympics. Naturally, the besotted crowd showed its appreciation with thunderous catcalls, whistles, yells, and a partial standing ovation.

BEST END TO FASHION WEEK
Vanity Fair/Hermes – The soiree was at Spin, the Gramercy ping pong joint partly owned by Susan Sarandon. Herself was there, by the way, looking every inch the hostess with the mostest in a sleevless shift and pumps. Meanwhile, I talked much trash and backed it up with victories at the tables after more than a decade’s absence. It was a good bridge between the close of a supercrazybusy week and a reintroduction to my supercrazybusy life.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 7: All Together Now – In One Go

From the Anna Sui Spring 2010 Collection. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


HEAD'S UP: The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting Yours Truly witnesses, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. Mind, this won’t be a comprehensive list simply because I can’t be everywhere. But depend on it, I’ll do my best. Drum roll, please …

It’s enough eye candy to make one dizzy, and that’s a good thing.

DAY 7
The Players (tent)
Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Milly by Michelle Smith, Alexandre Herchcovitch, Anna Sui, Doo.Ri

The Players (elsewhere)
Maria Pinto, Koi Suwannagate, Marchesa, Oscar de la Renta, Peter Som, Proenza Schouler

BEST OVERALL SHOW
Anna Sui – It’s more than a notion to work in prints year after year and keep it fresh, yet Anna Sui manages to do so to great whimsical effect. For spring, the designer is in the mood for a parade or a visit to the circus. That, in part, may explain the huge numbers of prints she is bringing to bear on individual pieces and ensembles – a parade, if you will. And she uses metallic on tweeds, plaids and jacquards to express the mood of such spectacles. Sui’s coherence is palpable in a series of babydoll dresses, tunics, cardigan dress/skirt/shorts ensembles, vests, jackets and cropped skinny pants. It’s a wonder she and her seamstresses did not become hypnotized putting together the turquoise metallic tweed and indigo madras cotton plaid and violet hologram sequins jacket and royal circus border print metallic stars jacquard dress. Or did they?

BEST INTERPRETATION OF A VISION
Michael Kors — In these tough economic and environmental times, the designer has urbane renewal on the brain. It has myriad permutations: transparency, utilitarianism, sharp angles, architectural shapes and so on. In one of the best Kors collections in some time, he effortlessly captures this spirit in T-shirts, V-necks, blouses and shifts. He makes these ordinary garments extraordinary by his placement of silver zippers, transparent stripes and cut-outs, while maintaining their user-friendliness and versatility. A white leather shift with standup/fold down collar, w/one diagonal zipper extending from the left breastbone to the waist and the other from just below the waist to the thigh, sets the tone for the show.

BEST ACCENTS
Phillip Lim – Every outfit in Lim’s heavily b&w collection of edgy after-5 and evening wear has an extra quotient of cool and accessibility, thanks to the red barrettes in the models’ chignons. Thanks to the red runway, too.

MOST CIVIC-MINDED
Nanette Lepore – Anybody at the Lepore show who bothered to read any of the information on the seat before gawking at the striped cardigans and wildflower shorts would have been given to know that the designer is a soldier in the fight to preserve the city’s Garment Center, an area from 34th to 40th streets between Broadway and Ninth avenues. Among the literature was a copy of The New York Times op-ed piece written by Lepore and Robert Savage, her company's president. It stresses the importance of the Garment Center and suggests that others can learn more about what they can do by visiting http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html. New Yorkers can also dial 311.

BEST GIMMICK
Several people standing just beyond the steps at Bryant Park were passing out napkins and wearing T-shirts with a provocative message: “Feed the Models.” On closer inspection, though, Yours Truly learned that they are not yet another protest group, but were promoting the forthcoming Oxygen network show, “The Naughty Kitchen with chef Blythe Beck.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 6: She’s Come Undone and Through

Models in pieces from the 2010 Rodarte Collection. Photo by Rob Loud/Getty Images.

HEAD'S UP: The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting Yours Truly witnesses, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. Mind, this won’t be a comprehensive list simply because I can’t be everywhere. But depend on it, I’ll do my best. Drum roll, please …

Folds and drapes and prints and cut-outs and puffed sleeves and skirts. Has spring anything else to offer? Thankfully, yes.
DAY6
The Players (tent)
Badgley Mischka, Brian Reyes, Dennis Basso, Pamella Roland, Max Azria, Narciso Rodriguez, Tibi, Tony Francesc

The Players (elsewhere)
Betsey Johnson, Christian Cota, G-Star, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Halston, Malandrino, Matthew Ames, Philosophy, Rodarte, Temperly London, Vera Wang

BEST OVERALL SHOW
The models in the Rodarte show are walking down a runway through green fog wearing vacant expressions on their faces and on their arms tattoes that resemble both musical bars and cut velvet. Did they just survive the end of the world as we know it? Did God really set the whole thing (Death Valley) on fire, only sparing them – not even sparing the vultures? Did they just emerge victorious over unseen evil forces or surprisingly so over Narciso Rodriguez and Marc Jacobs as did Rodarte sibling designers, Kate & Laura Mulleavy, to capture the designer of the year award at the CFDA ceremony – hence their hypnotic state?

What’s sure is that they’ve been through it and the Mulleavys deftly convey it in one of the best and most imaginative collections of the week. The muted solids and prints intersect, crisscross and envelop each other in a series of pants, dresses and gowns (if they can be called that, as it is only strips of fabric that create the length) to recreate a landscape that has been ravaged by fire. One can almost smell the ash in the grey windowpane, plaid and animal prints. Patches of grass (pea green) not singed dot the landscape as does filthy water (polka dots and prints in white grey, yellow, black). The effect is a mesmerizing gothic quilt, not your mother’s. The snaking black and brown stripes (innards) that appear to be chiffon for day and leather for evening help complete the tableau, which looks very much like a flat landscape seen from the vantage point of an airplane. It’s a controlled fine mess, a really fine mess. WARNING: It’s not for everybody.

MOST FAMILIAR SHOW
Tibi – It’s a party as the models sashay down the runway in familiar frocks with familiar silhouettes and named for familiar folks: Evangelista/Naomi/Schiffer. It’s Great Expectations, set in the ‘90s with that familiar cast and familiar soundtrack: Guns N’ Roses.

MOST EXCITING OPENER/CLOSER
Toni Francesc – The bespectacled, curly-haired Spaniard opened his show with a nearly five-minute prelude of the sound of dripping water and he ended with water, his inspiration for a Bryant Park debut collection heavy on white, khaki and taupe, ebbing and flowing. But the finish that got the crowd excited was his walking to the end of the runway and posing for the photographers and sending the models back down the runway after their initial march. It was a good note on which to end Day 6.

MOST FANTASY-INDUCING SHOW
Dennis Basso — While Dennis Basso was showing fur vests and boleros, his friends from NYC Animal Rights (www.nycanimalrights.com) were protesting outside. One was carrying an embalmed fox. The designer, however, showed only a little fur, focusing mainly on after-5/evening dresses and gowns in chiffon, silk jersey and reptile. The series of bubble skirts, though, were transportive, evoking a night at the ballet where you are the dancer or audience member. The little taupe affair with multi-colored sequins and paillettes – ah!

BEST HAIR
Narciso Rodriguez – To match some of the flowing silhouettes that appeared to be riding the wind was hair pulled back and tucked at the lower crown. It looked aerodynamic, sort of like the helmets of the Lance Armstrongs.

BEST EAVES-DROPPING MOMENT
Behind Yours Truly in the crush of well-wishers going backstage at the Rodriguez show is Courtney Love whose purse is stabbing me in the back while she waxes thusly: “I have to sell a lot of records. I have to get the German market; I have to get the Japanese market.” Don’t know what that was all about, but that’s what the lady said. Incidentally, for those who may be wondering how she looks, I think that she’s looking the best she can be looking, considering. And I will leave it at that.

COOLEST STAR SIGHTING
Mickey Rourke, my favorite bad-boy actor, going backstage to give his regards to Max (Azria) after the show. Did he ask to be whisked by us mere mortals as if we had stink on us? No, he waited his turn like everybody else. Welcome back, Mickey!

BEST SPECTACLE
Brian Reyes — BRINGING SEXY: After showing a collection of bras, bodysuits, dresses and shorts, Brian Reyes passed out condoms. The young designer was killing two birds with one stone: helping his clients practice safer sex and, promoting his collaboration with Proper Attire condoms.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 5: Taking Cues From Sun and Cyclones

A dress from the Carolina Herrera Spring 2010 collection. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.



HEAD'S UP: The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting Yours Truly witnesses, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. Mind, this won’t be a comprehensive list simply because I can’t be everywhere. But depend on it, I’ll do my best. Drum roll, please …

Beauty, fun and creativity – sometimes inspired by the Great Recession, others a memory, object or determination to do better this time.

DAY5

The Players (tent)
Carolina Herrera, Carlos Miele, Tracy Reese, Tadashi Shoji, Tony
Cohen, Gottex


The Players (elsewhere)
Jill Stuart, Donna Karan, Rad Hourani, Victor de Souza, Barbara Tfank, Yeohlee, J. Mendel, Julian Louie, Loris Diran, Sophie Theallet, Zac Posen, Marc Jacobs, Epperson, Logan Neitzel, Malan Breton, Lutz & Patmos

BEST OVERALL SHOW
Carolina Herrera – The designer chatted easily and breezily with journalists on the red carpet at the premiere of “The September Issue.”In fact, she was almost giddy – only in a refined Carolina Herrera way, of course.

I wonder now whether her mood had anything to do with her pleasure with her collection. It is a wonderful tableau of color, fabric and shape – an example of beauty and refinement, like the lady herself, including the short shorts, not a Herrara signature. A few pieces are a bit rococo, but overall the collection informed by the Japanese basket is another Herrara triumph. Rather quite a number of successes here: the weave of a tea ceremony basket in a cotton/linen cream dress with asymmetrical neckline, three-quarter inch sleeves and corded belt. There appear to be all over the dress shards of a pale salmon fabric, creating a “cut velvet” effect. The many undertones of color in baskets are lushly recreated in a brown, silk brocade gown with straps that form an X-shape from the shoulder to the hip where they fall into a sash on either side. In Herrera's hands the bamboo strip materializes in several rust/orange outfits of silk/satin strips alternated with muted stripes, giving them added texture. In other places, strips (perhaps a linen blend) are crisscrossed, bunched, gathered and puckered, creating a pleasing bamboo floral pattern.

BEST INTERPRETATION OF A VISION
Loris Diran – The designer is saying “Goodbye and Thank you” to Coney Island, which he describes as his childhood playground. This “time of constant fear and anxiety” is responsible for his happy retreat to a time when life was only fun and games, and it translates well in this collection. The first four outfits are in eye-catching poppy (bright orange), and immediately lift the mood in the room at the Altman building. These are the happiest oranges I’ve seen all week. And the strong draping on a silk/cotton Voile blouse speaks to being overjoyed, while the formfitting cashmere sweater in navy and cream with a plunging V-neck suggests a man who has not only loosened his tie but tossed it and the shirt to allow for some breathing room, all the better to enjoy his leisure time. A black silk chiffon and chain Cyclone dress with silver, spaghetti strap shoulders and pleats suggest both waves and the undulating motions of a rollercoaster. Waves show themselves to good effect in the petals of a yellow, silk chiffon gown. Obviously, for Diran life’s a beach.

BEST USE OF PRINTS
Thakoon Panichgul – Remember Thakoon (From August, see "September 'Issue' of the Devil"). Well, here he is again. Here he is using eye-catching jaunty prints to create hobo dresses and little after-5 numbers. And he is not afraid to mix four or five different florals at once in a combination of green, purple, black orange and so on in an unconstructed wrap dress that is a good companion for both doing errands and dinner.

BEST USE OF COLOR
Donna Karan – In a season of prints galore and bright colors, Karan, in her higher-priced line leans mostly on grey and white in linen, silk and chiffon. Happily, the result is fresh, sophisticated and simple. In other words, easy. These are not basic silhouettes, for Karan uses folds, cinches, huge necklaces, fringe, color gradation, deconstructed collars to make the demure colors stand apart where they might otherwise not. The silk grey/white color-gradated spaghetti strap gown with a sensitive and delicate fold on the breast, asymmetrical waistband and bias cut is a beauty. Yet, it looks utterly wearer-friendly and low maintenance, despite all of the bell and whistles. I’d forgotten until this collection what a sure, deft hand Karan has when she chooses to use it.

MOST EYE-CATCHING HAIR
Marc Jacobs – I do not understand Jacobs’ point of view for spring. At first, I thought he was thinking about the circus – the white-face makeup and intricate eye shadow got me to thinking about mimes. But could it be a ballet? Broadway play? Then I just stopped trying to interpret military jackets paired with peasant dresses/and satin bras over cropped shirts, multiple layers a la a bag lady, and ruffles on shorts and dresses that looked like fish scales – well-done incidentally, if not some times overdone and over the top. Instead, I concentrated on the hair, which is gathered up on the models' head in a knot and the knot is encased in a kind of scrunchi. With all of the confusion about the clothes, one needn’t pull her hair out overthinking hair.

BEST PRESENTATION FORMAT
Barbara Tfank – The designer took a page out of Richard Avedon’s playbook and infused the spring collection with a joi de vivre that existed in some quarters of the country in the late 50s and early 60s. The A-line shapes, collared necklines and off-kilter colors strongly evoke that age of innocence. But what’s also striking here in this space at the Milk Gallery is that the models are presenting the clothes – in a continuous loop – for almost two hours. I am reminded of art show video presentations. It works there and it works here, all the better to see the intricacy of the trompe l’oeil lace.

BEST USE OF MAKEUP
Julian Louie – The sun from the seat of an airplane is a lovely sight and as good an inspiration as any. Artistically evoking the sun in its many moods and guises, Louie’s makeup team uses splashes of orange and a white (clouds) streak painted on the models’ noses and placed here and there on other parts of the face, including the hairline. The collection, too, is in a series of colors (soft orange, rust) evoking the sun. Some are all white, perhaps a reference to a cloudy day.



BEST SPECTACLE:
These fashionistas are wearing black T-shirts, tank tops and hooded shirts. They’re not on the catwalk but standing on the steps leading into the tents at Bryant Park. They are silent but their clothes are not: “The audacity of war crimes”; “Arrest Rumsfeld”; Arrest Cheney First” and so on. Meet some of the models, er, people from We Will Not Be Silent (info@wewillnotbesilent.net).

Why are they here, at Bryant Park, of all places, Yours Truly asks? Simple: “Because fashion is beauty and war is ugly,” one WWNBS member explains. And, of this they want to remind people, lest they forget while gawking at celebs and frocks. Another member explains that their presence here also represents a fusion of fashion and politics. By the by, they are not protesters. They are simply Americans exercising their right of assembly. This they gently explained to the guards who tired to shoo them – and them only – away from the steps. A bold fashion statement!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 4: They Just Wanna Have Fun!


An outfit from the Spring 2010 Custo Barcelona collection. Photo courtesy of Getty Image.

HEAD'S UP: The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting Yours Truly witnesses, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. Mind, this won’t be a comprehensive list simply because I can’t be everywhere. But depend on it, I’ll do my best. Drum roll, please …

The message on this bright, sunny day seems to be, relax and have a good time. Everybody seems to be in a good mood and it is expressed in exuberant collections.

Day 4

The Players (tents)
Lela Rose, Derek Lam, Thuy, Herve Leger by Max Azria, Diane von Furstenberg, Rebecca Taylor, Tuleh
The Players (elsewhere)
Araks, DKNY, Toni Maticevski, Oral B Pulsonic, Alexander Berardi, Y-3, Custo Barcelona, Vassilios Kostesos, Behnaz Sarafpour, Elise Øverland, Erin Fetherston, Karen Walker, Rebecca Taylor, Reem Acra

BEST OVERALL SHOW
Custo Barcelona – The designer does not earn this distinction because of any great innovation or technique, but simply because he is so true to himself and has a helluva lot of fun being him. “Witness the most high energy show of the season as Custo Barcelona transforms The Tent into a Mediterranean paradise,” said the onlilne invitation.

He delivered. There is the opening (read more about that below under “BEST SPECTACLE”), but there is also the color. Barcelona loves color – orange, ocean blue, pink, green, etc. – and does not apologize for it. Every hue the Mediterraean offers is represented on the runway – bright/bold/loud/happy/free. It’s wonderful. And you gotta love a designer who will dress a man in a ocean-blue/multi suit and add matching athletic shoes. Or a woman in pink/navy/grey/purple tank with fringe bottom, conch shells on the bodice and feathers on the breast, kept in place by feathers that are also on a matching skirt with fringe hem. Strangely, it works.

MOST BODY-FRIENDLY COLLECTION
Rachel Roy — Both a size 2 and a size 16 can look confident, sexy, feminine and beautiful in just about all of Roy’s latest, which is heavy on wrap dresses and suits, though there are other goodies, too. While cropped, the high-pocketed, double-hemed jackets do cover the hips and the flat-fronted pants and skirts with military buttons won’t create unsightly bunching in the tummy area. The one outfit to own, though, is the black body-hugging shift and matching jacket. It is simple, easy and can go from day to night without a hiccup. For night, a bit of bling or sparkle is optional.

BEST INTERPRETATION OF A VISION
Karen Walker – Stripes galore: bags, rolled-up pant hems, on socks, shirts, blouses. And, here, too, are the nautical-themed prints of a resort. Walker’s inspiration: a British TV show from the ‘60s called “The Prisoner,” about an Edwardian resort that happens to be a jail for spies. In the hats and sunglasses is a disguise that James Bond might wear to foil the latest attempts by Spectre to destroy or take over the world. And there are hints of rebellion (boat shoes paired with even the most dressed up looks, including an Edwardian-era cropped dinner jacket, which incidentally has a stripe on each lapel), for isn’t that what spies do?

BEST USE OF ACCENTS
Reem Acra — The princess jewels are so well-matched that they look like a design drawn directly onto the bodices, waists and necks of these mainly chic day wear and after-5 ensembles in interesting prints and bold silk solids. The fashionable ladies of Acra's Beirut would be pleased; so, too, would the Halles and Angelinas.

BEST USE OF FABRIC
Elise Øverland – She made a name for herself dressing musicians, and it clear from the way she handles leather in her first formal show. It is rich, supple and moves well. Gotta love those folds; they look like they will go where you go, rather than just stand their like a stick in the mud.

MOST FUN SHOE
Rebecca Taylor – The woman loves florals, and animal prints. For spring, though, she puts the tiger back in the cage. Meanwhile, the florals are everywhere – hanging out with each other, with solids and best of all with polka dots. But it is the floral sandal in sky blue, cream and taupe shown with just about every jaunty ensemble that makes me smile and just kick up my heels. It’s spring, after all.

BEST ADVICE
Moments before I arrived at the HauteLook Fashion Week Lounge where Tristan Coppersmith was talking up her book, Menu Dating: Taste-test Your Way to the Main Course,” a man to whom I’d just been introduced, out of the blue asked when we were going to dinner. Brain-frozen, I said something like, “Are we going to do it virtually,” since at the moment he had no way to contact me.

TC, who has gone on hundreds of dates and is now married thought that was a good answer, but she had an even better answer: “As soon as possible,” explaining that it didn’t matter that he didn’t have my contact details at the time he asked me out.

TC, who wrote “Menu Dating” with her good friend and vetter, Todd Johnson, also imparted other pearls: Women can remain in control by taking a guy’s telephone rather than giving theirs. And sobriety is a huge element of control. “We’re all allergic to alcohol,” she said, noting that when we’re tipsy/drunk/plastered it causes us to do “stupid things.” A bit of advice that some may find, if not stupid, counter-intuitive or simply bad: every woman should have a single one-night stand in her lifetime. “I tell you how to do it responsibly, though,” she stressed.

Just what the marketplace needs, right, another book on dating? Friends convinced TC to write a book, but she was reluctant, thinking that the marketplace had quite enough, thank you very much. “But what I found,” she said, “is that all the books out there were telling women how to change themselves” to get a man. On the contrary, she encourages women to be themselves, because if you’re not you’ll be found out soon enough. And we all know where that leads. “I call that the padded-bra syndrome.”

BEST ENCOUNTER
After the DVF show, I escorted Lee and Marvin Traub (retired Bloomingdale’s president) backstage to say hello to their good friend. Beforehand, not knowing who I was helping, I simply put my hands on the shoulder of an elderly lady to prevent her from being knocked down and trampled. My good deed for the day!

BEST SPECTACLE (tie)
Tuleh and Barcelona – There is a tie in this category because both events are tied a controversial issue of our day: discrimination. Tuleh’s Byran Bradley is a designer who always has a cause up his sleeve. For spring, it’s California’s Proposition 8, which is an edict that recognizes that only people of the opposite sex can marry each other. His response: Seven – count them, seven — bridal looks both feminine and masculine. As an aside, his show was also inspired by a shortstory in The New York Review of Books. Would that be the explanation for the abundance of shorts and above-the-knee skirts and dresses? … Barcelona’s ethos needs no explanation: He opened his show with 13 – count them, 13 – African Diaspora models. Clearly, what was on everybody’s mind was the hoopla a couple of years ago about the dearth of black models (and any other that were not of Eastern European extraction, for that matter) on the runways. And Italian Vogue shamed the fashion world by publishing an issue featuring black models exclusively in its July 2008 issue. Incidentally, it sold like hotcakes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 3: Creating Butterflies in the Stomach


Models line an elevated, slanted plank on the runway after the Chado Ralph Rucci show. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.




HEAD'S UP: The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting Yours Truly witnesses, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. Mind, this won’t be a comprehensive list simply because I can’t be everywhere:o( But depend on it, I’ll do my best. Drum roll, please …

Creativity must have heard the plaintive cry of Yours Truly, for it returned to catwalks and runways around the city on the third day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Day 3
The Players (tents)
Lacoste, Georges Chakra, Andy & Debb, Academy of Art University, Christian Siriano, Chado Ralph Rucci, Vivienne Tam

The Players (elsewhere)
Adam, Jeffrey Chow for Poleci, Richard Chai, Alexander Wang, Jeremy Laing, Ohne Titel

BEST OVERALL COLLECTON
Chado Ralph Rucci – The Philadelphian is the only U.S. designer allowed to show at the Paris couture collections. Is it any surprise, then, that his would be the best collection of the day, if not the week. An honorable mention, however, goes to the uber-talented-for-his-tender-age, Christian Siriano. More on both collections later. For now, learn who distinguished themselves in other categories:

BEST INTERPRETATION OF A VISION
Vivienne Tam — Tam is captivated by “Butterfly Lovers,” a poem (written for the collection?) by Martha Huang. In the universal story, two young would-be lovers possibly are reincarnated and united as butterflies in a way that they could not be as humans. “Were they lovers dreaming they were butterflies, or butterflies dreaming they were lovers,” Huang asks/teases.

How this translates into frocks is a series of pink/green/yellow/purple – butterfly colors! – blouses, shirts and long and short dresses with butterfly and butterfly-inspired prints (including an HP netbook, a plug to Tam’s association with Hewlett-Packard; ditto for the projection showing the collection in real-time). A fetching taupe dress – the only solid – has a butterfly design on the left shoulder created by puckering the fabric. Though transfixed by the prints, I am baffled by the suede and denim, which are so out of place – there reference in the poem, notwithstanding – that I wonder whether they are included inadvertently. The hobo bags are also a bit of a curiosity, but can be explained away if one imagines that even dead lovers traveling to another life would need a tote in which to put their things, perhaps a clutch-sized computer.

A close second in the vision interpretation category is Alexander Wang who has football on the brain. It is September after all. Wang cleverly covered his bases by sending out models wearing the knee-high socks worn on the soccer pitch – football in most of the rest of the world. But there is no doubt that, in the main, he's paying homage to the NFL or, say, the Big 10 – visible in stripes along the side of pants, flaltfront, string ties shorts, sweatshirts that look to have shoulder pads underneath and so on. Touchdown!/SCORE!!!!!!!!!!!!

BEST USE OF ACCENTS:
Georges Chakra – The versatile sterling silver band used alternately as a belt, shoulder strap and bustier nicely compliments the after-5 dresses and evening gowns in appealing hot and pale pink/yellow/white/ocean blue. One imagines that the frocks would look just fine without embellishment, but why would one, especially since some come with a perfect little bow?

BEST USE OF SHOES
Richard Chai – The gladiator sandal with covered vamp/exposed toe adds the “full stop” to ensembles from Chai’s new lower-priced “Love” line. The pieces are very relaxed but not too casual. Shorts and tanks and blouses are given a few more extras, say a ruffled bodice, rendering them too fine for a Starbucks run. Jackets may have a cap sleeve or a pointed hem, signaling that the one wearing them is not a bureaucrat who must hew to an office dress code. The sandal lends the dresses/skirts/shorts a sexy-cool quotient; the pants insouciant chicness.

BEST HAIR
Rucci – Slicked back, so as not to distract from the clothes, and looking sleek in the process. Smell the jell!

BEST ARRANGED COLLECTION
Jeremy Laing —If I had done better at geometry in ninth grade, I could say with certainty whether the models in Laing’s show are standing at a perfect 45-degree angle. To a significant degree, however, the two lines in which the poker-faced models stand to present his collection meet at a perfect angle for showing the easy pieces in mainly neutral colors with the geometric accents that the designer has a jones for.

MOST SHAMEFUL MOMENT
A photographer is about to tear my head off because I can’t get totally out of his way at the end of the Rucci show. I try as best I can to explain the situation calmly: There are two photographers directly behind me moving a huge case. I can’t move, lest I stopple over the case, taking the aggrieved photog and, his camera with me. When my explanation falls on deaf, unsympathetic ears: “F_ _ _ you,” I spit. I was mortified. Did those two words actually come out of my mouth? Yes, they did. I didn’t even know they were in there. At the first opportunity, I apologized. He accepted ... But for the grace of God there go I.

BEST DIRECT MARKETING PLAN
A street vendor selling umbrellas outside the Union Station train station as people without umbrellas pass him in a light rain: “New York, it’s raining.” And so it was.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 2: It Ebbs, Flows and Sprouts Wings


A digital riptide and silk twill asymmetrical shoulder dress from the Nicole Miller Spring 2010 line. Photo courtesy of Imaxtree.


HEAD'S UP: The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting Yours Truly witnesses, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. Mind, this won’t be a comprehensive list simply because I can’t be everywhere:o( But depend on it, I’ll do my best. Drum roll, please …

"It’s a famine of beauty. It’s a famine of beauty, honey," a distressed Andre Leon Talley (Vogue editor-at-large) says to Vera Wang about the fashions on the catwalks at the Bryant Park tents in a scene from "The September Issue."

This could also be said of the fashions shown on the second day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, where also lacking in too many quarters was any real creativity. Relief, however, did come.

Day 2
The players (tents)
Cynthia Steffe, Yigal Azrouel, Twinkle by Wenlan, Charlotte Ronson, Monarchy Collection, Nicole Miller, Arise: Africa Promise Collection, Erin Wasson x RVCA, Venexiana

The players (elsewhere)
Costello Tagliapietra, R'Chipervers, Rag & Bone, Cynthia Rowley, Miguel Antoinne, Genetic Denim, Luca Luca, Leifdottir, Phillip Lim (men)

BEST OVERALL SHOW
Tiffany Amber — Yours truly had to wait until almost 8 p.m., but at last I saw a show that lifted me out of doldrums brought on by the rain. Or was it the result today of seeing too many underwhelming collections. Regardless, after the Tiffany Amber show by Nigerian designer Folake Folarin-Coker, I still had that tinkling sensation that signals that something exciting has just happened. Folake-Coker, who showed as part of the Arise Promise of Africa Collective – which debuted at the tents in February – took as her guiding spirits the great Nigerian painter Kolade Oshinowo and the greatest diva of them all, Diana Ross as “Mahogany.”

She does not lose sight of her vision in a dozen stunning pieces that seamlessly mix Oshinowo’s bright and muted color tableau of blue/brown/ orange/yellow green with the silhouettes (long dresses, gowns, billowing sleeves) that reigned in the 70s. Folarim-Coker maintains their modernity with metallic weaves, abstract prints and reinterpreting touchstones like the sleeve. Here is a happy meeting of East and West. The metallic weave minidress with super-billowy bat wing sleeves and kaleidoscopic jewel piece on the waist reference the bustling scene in, say, a Nigerian marketplace, while in the larger-than-life batwing sleeve is the story of both Mahogany’s ascension toward the stars and crash toward earth. One also doesn’t have to look too hard to see an afro-wearing, revenge-seeking, gun-toting Pam (“Foxy Brown”) Grier. The shift with aquamarine Chantilly lace overlay is a pleasant little surprise, like that gleeful feeling that overcomes us when we find pieces in our closet that we’d never put together, yet when we accidentally do ... ah! Such is the case with this little affair. That’s a lot of lace to be using in such a bright color, but it is well-balanced by the muted print on the bodice. Indeed, it would be perfect for a city night or luxury resort living, as Folake-Coker imagines. And do not leave for the resort without packing the aquamarine and orange silk chiffon halter w/orange cubed-necklace. The model looks like a goddess who’s just stepped out of the Atlantic. This, you can try at home.

BEST USE OF PRINT
Cynthia Rowley — For spring 2010, the designer believes things are falling apart, and so they were in fourth quarter 2008/first quarter 2009 when she was probably sketching and sewing and generally looking for inspiration. She lets the ink stains show on some dresses, which suggest disorder but also lends them a polished tie-dyed quality. The muted prints may speak to depression but also appear to be channeling impressionism. The dresses and few skirts in low-key blues/pinks/reds/greys look rather like walking-around art. Save yourself a trip to the museum and grab the loose-fitting, dropped waist spaghetti strap dress.

BEST INTERPRETATION OF A VISION
Nicole Miller – I could feel terror rise up in me as I imagined being caught up in the turmoil at sea as illustrated in the aqua skyblue/grey/white/seafoam green print on shifts and skirts. It ebbs/flows/cascades/backflips/jack-knifes. Here is massive undertow. Even Michael Phelps would be in trouble. Miller’s experiment with new technology as manifested in the digital riptide print is an evocative success. Ditto for the ocean-blue tidal wave pleated short and pants. Quick, grab your surfboard.

BEST USE OF ACCENTS
David Tlale — South African designer's recipe for a showstopping outfit: Take one jacket in black and one pair of leather skinny pants in black. Make the jacket short and sleeveless. Bunch up the material on the shoulder of the jacket to create the look of an innertube. Next, give the jacket a standup collar and add enough fringe so that it looks like boa feathers or the feathers of a bishop bird — the kind that would adorn the headdress of a Zulu chief. Now add fringe to the pants, eh voila! … Also add fringe to the open, dropped back of a cream gown that captures the essence of Old Hollywood. And to the cowl neck of a short cream dress. And to a black skirt. And a black pleated top to make it look like “cut fringe” a la cut velvet. Wear them in good health.

BEST HAIR
Twinkle — Three words: Bouncing and behaving.

BEST ENCOUNTER
Before the start of the Nicole Miller show, the photographers are furiously snapping pictures of a contestant from "America’s Next Top Model” whom I’d met a few months ago at an audition (go-see) for a Target commercial. We chatted about her sandals, which I had admired. Nice girl.

Backstage at the Miller show (exchange between Yours Truly and Girl):
YT: Hello
Girl: You look familiar
YT: I’ll tell you exactly where we met – at a Target audition a couple of months ago. We talked about your sandals, remember?
Girl: No, I haven’t been on a Target audition.
YT: (Pause …) You haven’t (as the seeds of recognition grow)? OK, I know: You’re from Law&Order.” What’s your name?
Girl: Jill (Hennessy aka ADA Claire Kincaid). I’m so flattered (laughing) that you thought I was a model.

JH left “L&O” years ago after her character died in an accident. (That’s so Dick Wolfe.”) Another series (“Crossing Jordan”) has since come and gone. In this chapter of her life, she’s concentrating on her music – at the moment promoting a new album, “Ghost in My Head,” which she describes as folk, alternative rock. “It’s Tracy Chapman meets Sheryl Crow,” she explained.

BEST CATFIGHT THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN
Yours Truly is still talking to JH when this woman rolls up, interrupts and starts talking to JH. She doesn’t even look in my direction. I say, somewhat in jest, “That’s OK, don’t say anything to me. I’m only standing here.”

Immediately, she apologizes, and I am smirking. Then I realize that she, too, looks familiar. “Are you from TV,” I ask.
“Yeah, ‘American Idol',” she says, helping to sow those old chestnuts – seeds of recognition.

It’s the lovely and talented Kara Doi Guardi. She gives me to know that Paula Abdul left “Idol”; she’ wasn’t pushed. Am I surprised that she would say that? No, but I had to ask. And in the sing-off, she said “Bikini Girl” did not know that KDG would finish her number and reveal that underneath her clothes was a hot body in a bikini. (That was a catfight.)

MOST THREATENED RESOURCE
For most of the day, I am unable to grab a computer at the sleek HauteLook Lounge (www.hautelook.com) because the rain has driven seemingly every journalist covering the shows to its penthouse suite at the Bryant Park Hotel across the way from the tents. Yesterday, the good people at the HauteLook lounge stayed open after hours so that Yours Truly could write her Day 1 coverage and make it available to you. An instant bond was created with this relaxed atmosphere — created for media covering Fashion Week — where there is an element of pampering: computers, makeup applications, the latest in scents, edifying programs/products, smoothing of ruffled feathers, daily gift giveaway, receptions AND continental breakfast, lunch and complimentary beverages (including spirits).

BEST SPECTACLE
The Africa Collective afterparty at the Park Plaza is swinging when the bartenders run out of Champagne (Veuve Clicquot). They get more Champagne, then run out of glasses, creating a little island of pandemonium. Close your eyes. Open your ears. Imagine the scene on the trading floor of the stock exchange. That!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Best of Show, Day 1: Bold Colors and Draping

Mauve silver sleeveless dress with folds on front and back from the Ports 1961 Spring 2010 collection. Photo courtesy of RTW.


HEAD'S UP: The plan each day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is to give a roundup of the best (and worse where applicable) and most interesting Yours Truly witnesses, from shows to trends to sightings to the rather unusual/bizarre. Mind, this won’t be a comprehensive list simply because I can’t be everywhere:o( But depend on it, I’ll do my best. Drum roll, please …

DAY 1
The Players (tents)
Michael Angel, BCBGMaxAzria, Davidelfin, Duckie Brown, Mara Hoffman, Nicholas K, Whitney Eve, Ports 1961, Rosa Cha

The Players (elsewhere)
Tiffany Koury, Cesar Galindo

BEST OVERALL SHOW:
Ports 1961 — Perhaps it stood apart because it is a collaboration of shoe designer Julia Lundsten, fabric maker Ritsuko Hirai and designer Tia Cibani. Carl Sandburg's "Flux," in part, informs the show:

Sand of the seas runs red
Where the sunset reaches and quivers
Sand of the sea runs yellow
Where the moon slants and wavers.


The trio seems to be working from the same storyboard, and they are clearly at peace, for an acute sense of serenity is the strongest message seen in the folds, draping and diaphanous silhouettes. The draping and folds are impeccably executed and breathtaking, particularly on a mauve silver dress, with a maze of folds in front and back. It has about it the look of a piece of sculpture. Difficult to achieve, yet it doesn't look fussy. The North African-born/Vancouver-bred Cibani doubtless was influenced by Hirai's fabrics. She's from Tokyo, and it shows in the kimonos and kimono-inspired pieces, but many of the looks are infused with something that speaks of a place other than Japan, particulary in some of the bold colors: orange, coral and lemon yellow, perhaps North Africa (perhaps not). There is also a smattering of bamboo — vests, purses, belts, necklaces — adding a welcome textural element, which ties in organically with the shoes, many of which look to have bamboo heels. In this collection, beauty, artistry and wearability live in perfect harmony.

MOST YOUTHFUL COLLECTION
Whitney Eve — WARNING: If you are not, say 25 or 28, steer clear of the maxi-mini dresses, skirts and shorts. These are for the young woman, the type who would rock a ponytail like those of the models. Like the hair, the collection is pert, flirty, girlie and as cute as a button. It has no higher aspirations. Need I add that it really helps to have good legs? Even if you are 22!

BEST USE OF FABRIC:
Tiffany Koury — In her first couture collection in a year, the North Carolina-born designer, true to form, did not skimp on quality in her choice of fabrics. The satin duchess dresses, silk organza mini dresses, w/petal skirts, the silk taffeta dresses with bodacious puffed sleeves, as well as the strapless jade gown in silk charmeuse with an ovelay of silk chiffon and gentle pleating, and accents of antique gold brocade look supple and rich — like a million bucks, but cost a tad bit less.

BEST USE OF COLOR:
Rosa Cha — In what may be a trend for Spring 2010 — bold colors — the designer indulges herself, which she can afford to do with swimwear without fear of overkill. The oranges are so bright and sharp, sunglasses are required. The chartreuse is both brilliant and muted.

MOST INTERESTING HAIR:
Nicholas K — The male models wore bouffants, which are puffed-out, but tapered; conversely, the clothes are loose-fitting: slightly oversized jackets, unfitted T-shirts, wide-legged shorts. Here is uptight hair (one could almost see the product keeping each strand in its proper place) and relaxed, carefree clothes — even down to the fabrics: what appears to be cottons and linens, even down to the colors: mostly muted hues. Point. Counterpoint.

BEST USE OF PRINTS:
Mara Hoffman — The geometric shapes, beach motifs, forest scenes and florals bring an attitude of exuberance and lightheartedness to familiar silhouettes.

BEST QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sean Paul on the Rosa Cha show, “I like swimsuits.” Full stop ... Pressed for more details, the singer expressed an appreciation for “the polka dots,” referring to the darts and crystal appliques.

BEST ENCOUNTER
Heather Tom — Yesterday, I ran into "The Bold and the Beautiful" actress at the FIT's Couture Council lunch in honor of Dries van Noten (See post below, " A Designer's Artistry Does Not Go Unnoticed") and today she was sitting on the front row at Tiffany Koury, wearing Diane von Furstenberg at who's table she sat at the DVN lunch. Small world.

BEST SPECTACLE
A man outside the tents painting a print pattern on the body of a woman who looked naked, except she was wearing a flesh-toned (pink) bra and panties. It's fashion, baby!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Designer's Artistry Does Not Go Unnoticed

DESIGNER KNOWS BEST: Dries van Noten and client, Maggie Gyllenhaal. Photo by Nick Hunt/patrickmcmullen.com.

“OH, my God,” was Maggie Gyllenhaal’s reaction when she first saw her wedding dress, a Dries van Noten design. She was surprised, but not pleasantly. Heeding her friend’s advice, she let herself get used to the dress.

“It actually often makes me feel more like a beautiful, sexy adult woman … more than anything else,” she told the crowd of several hundred at Cipriani 42nd St. this afternoon. DVN instinctively knew best, she said.

It is this quality, in part, that made DVN a natural to receive the FIT’s 2009 Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion, which MG presented to the Belgian designer.

DVN gave a very brief acceptance speech before a crowd that included Iman, Diane von Furstenberg, the friendly/lovely/shy Heather Tom (“The Bold and the Beautiful”) and my new BFF-in-the-making and fashion diplomat, Alyson Cafiero (turned out in a hip and sophisticated DVN ensemble from the Spring 2009 collection: black top with w/exaggerated jewel neck, bangles on the bodice and small slit in back and skirt w/panels of metallic-colored cubes.

DVN thanked the Couture Council and “those people who made my dream come true and made my dream come alive.” He said he would be brief and he delivered – in about 25 seconds. Perhaps he is preserving his voice for tomorrow’s hourlong Q&A with FIT students.

Doubtless the Couture Council is pleased, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether its annual award ceremony could have a little more substance, with several speakers – something along the lines of the tribute to Walter Cronkite, which was in progress at Lincoln Center during the DVN lunch. A series of speakers, including Jimmy Buffett, former president Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama shared touching and humorous anecdotes about the legendary newsman ... Just a thought.

Anywho, DVN today joined a select group: Ralph Rucci, Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, and last year’s recipient, Isabel Toledo, who was in attendance and is most famously know outside the fashion world for designing the Inauguration Day costume of First Lady Michelle Obama.

Learn more about the FIT, FIT Museum and the Couture Council at www.fitnyc.edu/

LET’S GET THIS FASHION WEEK PARTY STARTED
The Couture Council Luncheon, at a tender four-years-old, is such a hot ticket that it is billed as the first event of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which gets going in earnest tomorrow (10 Sept.-17 Sept.). Of course, the tents at Bryant Park are the main venues for the Spring 2010 collections under the umbrella of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America),with a number of shows off-site.

During Fashion Week, designers not associated with CFDA have always presented their collection. However, the number of collectives is growing. A select list:

In Brooklyn, Brooklyn Royalty presents “A More Perfect Union” Spring 2010 Runway Show and Afterparty (today at 7 p.m) at The Arsenal, 153 Roebling St.,Studio 4B, Williamsburg. (www.brooklynroyalty.com)

In Queens for the second year, The II Long Island City Fashion Week Show (12 Sept. ) at Evandro Motors, 10-01 45th Ave., Long Island City. (www.sumietachibana.com; RSVP: rsvp@subboutique.com)

From ifashion network at various venues in Manhattan, “ifashion week{end}” (10 Sept.-19 Sept), billed as a weeklong unveiling of innovative designs, trends and style. (ifashionnetwork.com).

At venues around Manhattan, including the Bohemian National Hall at 321-325 E. 73rd St., Nolcha Fashion Week, (14-18 Sept./www.colemanentertainmentgroup.com)

At the Waldorf Astoria, Couture Fashion Week, 11-13 Sept(www.couturefashionweek.com/).

Also tomorrow (10 Sept.) is Fashion’s Night Out (www.fashionsnightout.com/), the global initiative to promote retail, restore consumer confidence, and celebrate fashion. In New York from about 6 p.m to 11 p.m./until, according to the p.r.: "Fashion's Night Out will encompass festivities galore— from inventive window displays to model and celebrity appearances. Champagne may flow; hors d'oeuvres may be passed. Rumors of musical performances, downtown barbecues, shoe capsules, limited-edition rings, and sweepstakes abound. Apparently there will be makeovers, brow bars, and haircut stations at sundry spots, too."

Stay tuned to VEVLYN'S PEN for Fashion Week coverage.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

400 Years of Friendship Call for a Big To-Do


Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Orange and Princess Máxima, as well as Frans Timmermans, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs (above and at left) on the deck of the Intrepid this morning for the welcome ceremony for NY400 Week. Photo by Julienne Schaer/courtesy of NYC & Company.


MAYOR Michael Bloomberg rattled off some impressive stats as a flotilla of ships passed behind him on the Hudson River:

“It’s a heritage that persists today in the names of the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island, in communities known as Harlem and Midwood, streets named Flatbush, Stuyvesant and The Bowery and, in the name of our hometown basketball team, the Knickerbockers.”

MB was referring to the enduring legacy of the Dutch, who laid claim to New York City 400 years ago September when the English navigator and sea explorer, Henry Hudson and crew arrived on the shores of what is now New York Harbor on the ship, Half Moon aka Halve Maen, financed by the Dutch East India Company.

The city’s weeklong celebration – NY400 Week – of that fateful voyage started this morning (through 13 Sept.) with the welcoming ceremony on the deck of the former battleship, Intrepid and included a 21-gun salute (I counted) and performance by the Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy. In addition to MB, in attendance were Secretary of State and former New York senator Hillary Clinton and special guests, Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Orange and Princess Máxima of The Netherlands, whom MB presented with a Tiffany vase depicting iconic scenes of the city.

“New Amsterdam lives on in the distinctive, inclusive spirit of our city,” said MB noting that in 1660 the Dutch colonial governor proudly disclosed that the inhabitants of New Amsterdam spoke 18 different languages. “Even then when we were little more than a frontier outpost we were already in the process of becoming what we are today: The world’s most international, city, open to all those who seek northwest passages to their own heart’s desires,” he said referring to HH’s route that did not take him to the Orient, as planned, but to the New World.

A huge number of events and activities — arts, expertise, history, lifestyle and travel-related — is planned to celebrate that happy accident, some associated with what has been a yearlong celebration by all Hudson River communities of HH's arrival in the state. Boating enthusiasts may get a thrill from “The Flying Dutchman Sailing Race” (regatta) scheduled each day at New York Harbor. A glimpse of how a Dutch American family may have lived in Brooklyn aka God’s country, is possible in “When Brooklyn was Breukelen: A Celebration of the Schenck Houses”(through 31 December). Couch potatoes or those who don’t/can’t leave home could potentially enjoy “The Live in Your Living Room NYC Festival” (13-20 Sept), which brings live music by artists from both New York and the Netherlands into the intimacy of the homes of New Yorkers.

In Battery Park, it is possible to get an upclose and personal look at the “Replica of the Half Moon” (9 Sept.) and meet the captain and crew. Battery Park is also the site of the “Peter Minuit Plaza/New Amsterdam Plein,” a gift from The Netherlands to mark several centuries of friendship. The Royals will be there for the presentation ceremony (11 a.m. on 9 September.) From noon to 6 p.m., the public gets a preview of what may be yet another lovely place for New Yorkers to gather. Governors Island is the venue for the “New Island Festival” (10-13 Sept. and 17-20 Sept.). Not all festival events are free, but if it lives up to its billing of concerts, deejay sets, theater, visual arts and so forth, it may be worth the price of admission. NY400 Week wraps with Harbor Day, essentially events at six waterfronts in the city – the Battery, Battery Park City, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governors Island, Hudson River Park, and Snug Harbor.

Seemingly, the city is pulling out all of the stops for NY400 Week, sparing little expense, which may raise eyebrows and cause some to wonder whether in this economic environment taxpayer money should be spent on such a party when a simple anniversary card would do. No worries. The Dutch are footing a good part of the bill, and some private money has been thrown into the pot.

Incidentally, Madame secretary Clinton in her comments also shared an impressive stat, courtesy of the mayor: If the Dutch paid $24 for New York, that $24 invested 400 years ago would be more valuable than all the real estate in New York. “I’m glad they did invest. I’m glad they took that risk and very honored to be here to be part of this ceremony,” she said to the crowd of about 200, many of them Dutch citizens, including supermodel, Frédérique van der Wal (See post below, "'Dutch New Yorker', Frédérique van der Wal.")

In reflecting on HH’s journey, she remarked, “The anniversary of the arrival of Henry Higgins and the crew of the Half Moon gives us a chance to celebrate all that New York has been, is today and will doubtless will be in the future, not only the greatest city in the world — which the mayor does not overstate when he says that — but still a beacon of freedom, of diversity of excitement and dynamism, in the extraordinary collection of those who have called this great city their home over all of these centuries.”

Visit www.nycgo.com and www.ny400.org for a complete list of NY400 events. New Yorkers can also phone 311.

'Dutch New Yorker,' Frédérique van der Wal

Welcome back home, Frédérique. Photo courtesy of Frederique.com


A tall, blonde woman passed my row of chairs as Yours Truly sat waiting somewhat impatiently for Hizzoner Bloomberg, Madame Secretary Hillary and the Dutch royals to show for the NY400 Week welcoming ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Where do I know her from? After wracking my brain for a few minutes – ding, ding, ding: she’s a former Victoria’s Secret model. But what of her name? Alexandra? Francesca? I couldn’t bring it up. The p.r. person was no help either …

After the welcome ceremony, I discreetly made in pursuit of my target: Her name (of course! of course!) is Frédérique (van der Wal). She’s Dutch – from The Hague, so that explained her appearance on the Intrepid.(See post above, "400 Years of Friendship Call for a Big To-Do.")

Incidentally, she's only recently returned to the city where she made a big name for herself. “I’m back,” she almost gushed. “I spent for the first time in 18 years a year in Holland, so I feel very Dutch; very connected.” But she also feels very connected to Gotham: “I love New York; once you’re a New Yorker, you’re a New Yorker ... I’m a Dutch New Yorker!”

The Dutch New Yorker returned to her first home for a very important cause. “I wanted to show my daughter what it was like to be really Dutch – to ride a bicycle,” for instance, she explained, referring to 9-year-old Scyler.

Now that she’s back in New York, Frédérique has a number of projects on her plate. Of course, she'll celebrate NY400. In fact, tomorrow she will join the Dutch royals for lunch. And while she won’t be walking down the catwalk during Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week, which starts Thursday (10 Sept.), she will see shows by a couple of Dutch designers.

The model-turned-businesswoman will also be working on behalf of her show, “Cover Shot, ” (formerly on TLC) for which she is home-shopping. “We are actually entertaining different offers. We’ve been talking to Bravo but I don’t think we want to go as obnoxious as some of their shows,” she said laughing and no doubt alluding to housewives. But, “there’s something in the process.”

Visit www.frederique.com to learn more about what Frédérique is up to; for more on NY400 Week, stop by www.nycgo.com and www.ny400.org. New Yorkers can also call 311.

The Sweet and Savory Side of Tennis

Bethenny Frankel created a drink epecially for Andy Roddick, above. Think he likes it? Below, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Taste of Tennis hostess Hannah Storm get some culinary pointers from Carla Hall. The crowd, bottom, at the W Hotel sampled the fare of top restaurants and chefs. Top photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for AYS World. Bottom photos by Donald Bowers/Getty Images for AYS World.


WHO knew tennis could party in such grand fashion?

It jumped off last week at the 10th Annual BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis at the W Hotel in midtown Manhattan just days before the first balls were served at the U.S. Open.

Here we are on the “green" carpet leading into the swanky hotel. There’s Brad Gilbert. Lumbering his way down the carpet is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Flashbulbs go into a tizzy. His expression seems to say, “Where am I and what am I doing here?” Himself looks even more like the spawn of Muhammad Ali in the flesh.

Inside, where J-WT is going, is where the real party is. The setting is a huge space comprised of various lounges, nooks, crannies and one large room. One’s olfactory senses are working overtime. This is the TofT, after all. Culinary stars partner with tennis stars to serve up some powerfully good chow for a powerfully good cause. This year it is the Food Bank for New York City.

With Pete Daversa’s Barbecue Beef Sliders with Confetti Cole Slaw and Sweet Pickles onboard, Yours Truly almost collides with Carla Hall (“Top Chef”). “Don’t I know you,” she asks.

She does not, I assure her, then introduce myself and declare my esteem for her culinary skills and curly hair. “I’m a huge fan,” say I. Speaking of huge, I tell her how slim she is. In person, she looks like a 4 or 6, not a 12 or 14.

“Yeah, the TV adds weight and the chef’s smock is baggy,” she says, indicating her get-up.

She should have won the season, I declare.

Thanks me humbly, she does, and I promise to come by to sample her dessert. Or is it a savory? Now, though, I must scurry over to the bar to see what Bethenny Frankel (“The Real Housewives of New York City”) and Andy Roddick are up to. En route, I pick up a conversation between a man and woman who do not know each other. In one hand, the man has a cocktail; in the other Scallops with a Blood Orange Reduction (by Chai Trivedi/Pranna Restaurant):

Man: (Bumps into woman). Excuse me.

Woman: (Affronted) This is an expensive dress.

Man: This is an expensive drink.

Touche.

Meanwhile, BF and AR are tending a very busy bar. Over the den of noise and deejay El Debarge's pulsing rhythms, BF discloses what is in the drink she named for AR. Alas, all I can make out is vodka.

I can hear AR better, though, because I’m standing right across from him. He’s in a fine mood. “I’m looking forward to the U.S. Open,“ comes his semi-answer to my query about how he feels going into the tournament.

Quickly, I switch my tactics. I congratulate him on his performance in the Wimbledon final against my favorite active male player, Roger Federer, assuring him - as thousands probably already have - that there was really no loser in that match. “I liked you OK enough,” I volunteer, “but I became a fan of yours during that final. Never have I seen you play and comport yourself so well.”

“Thank you,” he says extending his hand for a shake. “I appreciate that.“

And I’m off because the bar patrons are becoming annoyed with me. No worries, I see my buddy, Brad, again and I’m going over to jaw with him.

Yours Truly: Hi, Brad. My name is Vevlyn Wright. I run the art/culture/fashion/food blog, VEVLYN’S PEN. May I ask you a few questions?

Brad: Are you gonna be able to record me with that thing (referring to my digital voice recorder)?

YT: Yes, it’s small, but it’s very powerful. What are you eating?

Brad: (Chewing) It’s lamb; it’s the best lamb I ever had. My wife would love this.


YT: (Smiling because I think it’s funny that Brad mentions his wife. Does he think I’m flirting. I’m not.) Where’s it from?

Brad: (Looking at one of his people and pointing). Yeah, it’s from The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro. “It’s delicious.” (Tim Love’s Grilled Game-rubbed American Lamp Chop w/Yuzu Aioli).

YT: (Watching Brad chew and thinking fondly of Adrian Richardson‘s [La Luna Bistro] “Lamb Bisteyah” Middle Eastern inspired, Australian Lamb and Filo Pastry Pie, aromatically spiced and served with a Mint Spice Labne and Baby Herbs) So are you excited about the U.S. Open?

Brad: Of course. It’s a great roster. We’ll see some good tennis.

YT: (Nodding in agreement) For sure. So who are you rooting for? No, who’s your favorite on the women’s side and the men’s side.

Brad: (Smiling/smirking/tempted).

YT: Brad, come on. You know you want to tell me. Look, it’ll be between you, me and my 5,000 readers. Brad, I knew you when you were winning ugly. I remember the book. We go back a long way. You gotta tell me!

Brad: (Devilishly smirking). Serena and Roger.

YT: Thanks Brad, EUROSTAR!

Learn more about BNP Parisbas Taste of Tennis at www.bnpparibastasteoftennis.com; Food Bank for New York City at www.foodbanknyc.org.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

At Flushing Meadows, Many Fallen Women

Victoria Azarenka is the latest top-seeded women's player to lose at the U.S. Open. Photo by Philip Hall courtesy of usopen.org.



THE seeds are falling! The seeds are falling!

There is an epidemic of top-seeded female players being upset at this year’s U.S. Open in the early rounds. At the end of Day 5 yesterday, the number stood at 10. Count them, TEN, of the top 20 players out.

It started with beleaguered former World No. 1 and last year’s French Open champion Ana Ivanovic of Serbia (11) who was sent packing in the first round by Ukranian, Kateryna Bondarenko. The latest casuality came yesterday afternoon when the No. 8 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was eliminated in the third round by No. 25 seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy.

By comparison, on the men’s side, only two of the top 20 players are out – No. 18 Dave Ferrer of Spain in the second round to Jose Acasuso of Argentina and No. 19 Stanislas Warwinka of Switzerland in the first round to Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador. In fact, on the men’s side, only two Top 10 players have dropped a set – No. 2 seed Andy Murray of Scotland, and Spaniard (3) Rafael Nadal, who last night got a minor scare from 32-year-old Nicolas Kiefer of Germany in the most electric match featuring a highly-seeded player all tournament.

On the women’s side the highest ranked players in the top 20 to go are the fourth and fifth seeds, Elena Dementieva of Russia and Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, respectively. In the top 10, the number is three, including Azarenka. Also out: Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland (12), Marion Bartoli of France (14), Samantha Stosur of Australia (15), Virginie Razzano of France (16), Amelie Mauresmo of France (17) Patty Schnyder of Switzerland (19).

There is even trouble at the very top. No. 1 seed Dinara Safina has struggled all tournament, needing three sets to beat both opponents so far, providing more fodder for those intimating that she is not qualified to be the No. 1 player in the world. Will she be in better form today when she meets Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic? Venus Williams looked so rickety in her first round match that the commentators were calling for the record books to ascertain whether a No. 3 (or Venus herself) seed had ever exited in the first round of a Grand Slam. To her credit, Venus has pulled it together for the moment. She'll need to be in top form for her next match.

What’s going on in women’s tennis. Is it nerves? Serves? Lack of belief? Conditioning? State of mind? I think it’s a bit of all of the above, and some intangibles that a name can’t be put to. One can only hope they will be addressed straightaway for the good of the players, the game and the fans. Yet, this turbulence does have an element of excitement because it suggests that there are a number of strong up and coming players – future champions, perhaps – who will keep the women’s game interesting, attractive and, lucrative. On the otherhand, did the spoilers just get lucky? Of the 10, four lost in the next round; six will play today.

Does the turbulence also say something about a damning lack of consistency at the top of the game? Heretofore, the results of this week on the women’s side – in professional tennis, period – were unheard of in Grand Slam tennis. It is on these stages that players typically bring their A-game. Once upon a time, you could go your own way the first several days of a Grand Slam. When you tuned in on the weekend, you knew you would see Chris and Martina and Hana and Pam and Zina and Steffi and Monica and Gaby and Lindsay and Jennifer ...

ED fans who have not been keeping up with the U.S. Open, will be in for a surprise if they tune in today to see that it is not she who will be playing Maria Sharapova, but the 17-year-old Georgia peach, Melanie Oudin. Dementieva’s upset was shocking really. Of late, she’s been one of the most consistent players on the tour, particularly during the U.S Open series. She’s worked extremely hard on her serve and it has paid off. She was impressive in her wins over Serena Williams and MS to take the Rogers Masters last month. But MO took the match from ED. The match stats show that it was close, and ED’s serve did not let her down, though she did have nine double faults to MO's three. MO will be way out of her depth in her third-round match against MS this afternoon, who no doubt prefers her to ED.

Some of the upsets were technical only. Kim Clijsters prevailed over 14-seeded Marion Bartoli, but Clijsters is unseeded only because she has not been playing. The former world No. 1 came out of retirement after motherhood and being bitten by the tennis bud. This is the 2005 U.S. Open champion. Incidentally, she beat Venus in the fourth round on her way to that championship and she meets Venus in the fourth round tomorrow ...

It may be frustrating, humiliating and discombobulating, but the women’s game is not a snoozefest, a claim that some don’t believe can be made for the men’s. “Let’s go back to the boring, predictable men’s tennis,” Pam Shriver almost spat as she finished calling Azarenka’s loss yesterday.
 
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