Thursday, September 30, 2010

Miners and Principals Impress a Cynical Soul

A scene from "Why I am not where you are," above, one of three ballets in New York City Ballet's new "See the Music" series. It is on a program with "Estancia" and "Luce Nascosta," below. Photos by Paul Kolnik.

Head’s Up: Please welcome another contributor to the fold. The multi-talented Tamara Beck will occasionally offer comments on ballet, theater and concerts.


NEW YORKERS lead a tough life: In one weekend, I saw a Doo wop show and Sheryl Crow in concert. I also made time to take in a Broadway play and a ballet.

I arrived at the Manhattan Theatre Club for a Saturday matinee performance of “The Pitmen Painters” with low expectations. I thought it would be rather lame.

Direct from a sold-out and well-received run at London’s National Theatre, this production from Tony award winner Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot”) concerns the real-life pitmen of the title. They are coal miners who take an art appreciation course and become renowned folk artists – The Ashington Group after the mining area from whence they hailed.

Christopher Connel, Michael Hodgson, Ian Kelly, Brian Lonsdale, Deka Walmsley and David Whitaker portray the men and their instructor. Lisa McGrillis appears as an artist's model and shocks the men by taking off her clothes to pose for them. Phillippa Wilson plays a rich art lover who offers one of the artists, Oliver Kilbourn, a stipend to spend his days painting. "No" is his answer. He is a pitmen.

The staging is simple and chairs are moved around to depict the hall where they meet, the galleries where they exhibit. Slides projected on a screen mid-stage show first the works of Titian and Michelangelo, then the works of each of the men.

The play also addresses what it means to be creative and anchored in your real life. The painters know who they are and develop a vocabulary of art and creativity that matches that of their more educated teachers and mentors. “The Pitmen Painters” has lots of meat and potatoes to it and, plenty of heart.

Meanwhile, New York City Ballet makes its debut at Lincoln Center this season. Also new is the seemingly annoying series, "See the Music," which offers glimpses of the ballet’s musical repertory and 62-piece orchestra. Initially, it felt a little like going to school – but not in a good way. The series continues in repertory through June 2011. The next one is 20 Jan. In the end, though, it proved very educational. (See we are always jumping to conclusions.) Fayçal Karoui, NYCB’s charming music director, explained the movements in great detail, contributing to my understanding of the three ballets on the program I saw.

“Why am I not where you are" was Benjamin Millepied's premiere last season. I was indifferent to it then. BM, an NYCB principal dancer and choreographer, has created a number of dances over the years. Although I still find it a little creepy – there is a mild stalkerish quality to the dance although it is more about visibility versus invisibility – I must report that it is brilliant. Dancers are in the same space but are unseen unless they are wearing brightly colored outfits. Once I "saw the music" as explained by FK before the curtain rose, it enhanced the experience of this distinguished piece. Suddenly, it had elements of familiar ballroom dances and each encounter was part of those dances. The set design by architect Santiago Calatrava added to the poignancy of this work, too. The structure for “Why am I not …” served as a platform for the dancers to "hide" from each other, to disappear and to be in another space, but behind each other.

The second of the three dances is Christopher Wheeldon's exciting “Estancia.” The story is based on a poem about a city slicker who falls in love with a country girl, loses her when he is unable to hold onto the wild horse she has captured and wins her back when he tames the wild horse. It is both realistic and fantastic. What could possibly be uninteresting about a dance with wild horses? Loved it in it premiere last season; adore it still.

I dismissed the final piece of the afternoon, too, as unimpressive. How wrong I was! Mauro Bigonzetti's “Luce Nascosta” (“Unseen Light”) has a fierce verve and terrific, complicated energy. Bodies move in a tangle; there is noise and silence; the stage is dark and light. Star turns for all the ballerinas whose pointe work made me gasp. Bruno Moretti's score is dazzling and enchanting! It is romantic and energetic – modern and classic – at the same time, with grand sweeps of sound to match the grand sweeps of movement and mood on the stage.

Visit for tickeets and more information about “The Pitman Painters”; visit for tickets and information about the New York City Ballet season, including “See the Music.”

Tamara Beck is President, Clean Lists Associates, Inc, an association management firm. And an avid theater-goer.

Friday, September 24, 2010

NY Film Festival Sheds Some of Its Stodginess

The 48th New York Film Festival opens today and has a lot on offer until it closes on 10 Oct. Among the film offerings is "Black Venus" with Andre Jacobs and Yahima Torres, above. In descending order, Edgar Ramirez as "Carlos," Carlos Villar and Lupita Tovar in a Spanish-language "Dracula," a scene from "Pale Flower," as well as Bryce Dallas and Matt Damon in "Hereafter." Photo credits: "Black Venus"/MK2 Productions; "Carlos"/Film en Stock; "Dracula"/Universal Pictures; "Pale Flower"/Courtesy of The Criterion Collection; "Hereafter"/Warner Bros.

HEAD’S UP: Welcome to the debut of “Reel Bits.” It is to be a twice-/ thrice-monthly digest of goings-on in film. While Yours Truly will usually publish Reel Bits on Friday – ditto for standalone film stories/reviews – it may from time to time appear on another day of the week as breaking news dictates. It is fitting that the start of Reel Bits coincides with the opening of a major film festival.

ONE of the most infamous, heart-wrenching atrocities that emerged from the barbaric African slave trade is that of the so-called “Hottentot Venus,” lesser known by her actual name: Saartjie Baartman. SB was the well-endowed woman/slave who was taken from her homeland of South Africa and deposited in European capitals for so-called civilized folks to prod, paw and peep at.

In “Black Venus,” from French-Arab director Abdellatif Kechiche (“The Secret of the Grain”), Cuban actress Yahima Torres imbues the pitiable character with dignity and determination in the face of humiliation and certain doom. The film, shocking and graphic, has been generally well-received and was nominated for the Golden Lion award at the 67th Venice International Film Festival earlier this month.

“Black Venus” (screening at 6 p.m./7 Oct. and 8:30 p.m./9 Oct. at Alice Tully Hall) is one of 28 feature-length films from 14 countries showing in the 48th New York Film Festival, which this year is presenting a number of higher-profile, less esoteric works.

A festival screening and gala screening of “The Social Network” this evening officially opens NYFF. (NYFF shutters on 10 Oct.) Interest in this one (screening at 6 p.m./9 p.m. at Alice Tully Hall) about the rise and fall of Facebook founders Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg - aka the 35th richest person ($6.9B) on Forbes’ latest 400 list - is intense. It seems that MZ is not cast in the best light in this allegory of sorts from the pen of Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men”/“The West Wing”), about greed, over-privilege, social ineptitude and gross behavior. Not to be one-upped by an unflattering film, MZ disclosed yesterday that he has pledged $100 million to the Newark, NJ school system. The official announcement is to be made today during an appearance on “Oprah,” provoking praise and pillorying.

Creating just as much buzz for its nearly 5-1/2 hour-length as its pace and muscular performance by Edgar Ramirez in the title role is “Carlos.” Ilich Ramírez Sánchez aka Carlos the Jackal attained international infamy after he led a 1975 raid on OPEC headquarters in Vienna that resulted in the deaths of several, including some French intelligence types. From French director Olivier Assayas, the film is told in three parts and is airing that way on French television. Reportedly at Cannes, there was not an intermission until the 3-1/2 hour mark. It will be interesting to learn where that plumb line will be dropped for American audiences taking in this roller-coaster ride, described by some as a cross between “The Bourne Identity” and “Munich.”

One also wonders what the Jackal – so named by The Guardian, legend has it, after a copy of “The Day of the Jackal” was found amongst some of his personal items – thinks of the film chronicling his fascinating life. At the moment the Venezuelan's home is a French prision. (Screening at 11 a.m. on 2 Oct at Alice Tully Hall)

In addition to the festival’s Main Slate are several other categories. One of the Special Events screenings is George Melford’s 1931 Spanish version of “Dracula” accompanied by Gary Lucas’ live guitar. One interesting bit of trivia: this version was filmed on the same sets and at the same time as the Bela Lugosi vehicle. The English-language version was filmed during the day; its Spanish-language counterpart at night. (Screening at 9:30 p.m. on 9 Oct.).

Another with a must-see pedigree is the documentary, “A Letter to Elia,” directors Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones’ tender tribute to one of MS’s major influences, the great Elia Kazan. It will be screened with EK’s epic and deeply personal, “America, America.” The 1963 film was nominated for four Oscars and won one: Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (Screening at 6:15 p.m. on 27 Sept.)

“Elegant Elegies: The Films of Masahiro Shinoda, is one bookend of the Masterworks section (shown at the Walter Reade Theater). Here are 12 films, mostly classics, from the Japanese New Wave member, including “Pale Flower (Kawaita Hana).” (Screening at 7:30 p.m. on 25 Sept. and at 4 p.m. on 27 Sept.)
Masahiro Shinoda himself is expected at several screenings: “Pale Flower,” as well as “Melody in Gray aka The Ballad of Orin (Hanare goze Orin)”/5:45 p.m. on 26 Sept., and “Double Suicide (Shinju Ten no Amishima)”/8:15 p.m. on 26 Sept. … “Fernando de Fuentes’ Mexican Revolution Trilogy” is the other bookend. The seminal works are “Prisoner 13 (El prisionero trece)”/6 p.m. on 29 Sept; “El Compadre Mendoza”/ 7:35 p.m. on 29 Sept., and “Let’s Go with Pancho Villa (Vamanos con Pancho Villa)”/6:15 p.m. on 30 Sept.

A festival-within-a-festival of experimental films falls under the rubric, Views from the Avant-Garde (30 Sept.-3 Oct.). Mainly shorts, the offerings are grouped under themes such as “History is Homemade at Night: The Crazy, Beautiful World of Jeff Keen” (3:30 p.m. on 1 Oct./Walter Reade Theater) and “Visibility Unknown" (at 5:30 p.m. on 2 Oct./ Walter Reade Theater)

Finally, HBO Films’ Director Dialogues rounds out the last noncompetitive category. One submitting to an interview is director/designer Julie Taymor. The two-time Tony winner for “The Lion King” and Oscar winner for the lush “Frida” will jaw about her career influences and creative process, including the joys and challenges of applying a modern gloss to “The Tempest,” the festival’s centerpiece. With Columbia University professor James Shapiro (5 p.m. on 3 Oct./Kaplan Penthouse)

Closing the festival is “Hereafter” from Clint Eastwood aka Rowdy Yates/Man with no name. The octogenarian last had a presence at NYFF with “The Changeling" in 2008. “Hereafter” finds Matt Damon, Cécile de France and others in intersecting storylines that ponder whether we can communicate with those who have passed on, in some alternate portals between life and death. It’s supposed to be more profound than a Ouija board experience. (Screening at 7 p.m./10 p.m. at Alice Tully Hall).

Stay tuned, I'll be making comments on films, etc. throughout the festival.

Visit to learn more about the 48th New York Film Festival.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coming Soon ... To Your TV Screen

Idris Elba, above, in a poster for "Luther"; Will Arnett and Keri Russell, middle, in a poster for "Running Wilde," and creator/star Al Thompson, below, in "Baby Daddy Memoirs." Photos from

HEAD'S UP: Yours Truly cannot be EVERYWHERE. To that end, she finds that she must rely on reliable contributors. The multi-talented Daralyn Jay is the first to join the fold. Drum roll, please ...


IDRIS Elba. He of “The Wire” and “The Office” may be the reason I upgrade my cable subscription to again include BBC AMERICA. In “Luther,” he stars as a brilliant, tormented detective. The miniseries premieres next month on the British cable channel. However, you and I can catch the first episode (with premium tickets) during the New York Television Festival when it screens Wednesday.

In its fifth year, the NYTVF showcases independent television pilots in competition categories, as well as hot new network and cable programming. In addition, daytime panels feature industry insiders holding forth on nonscripted television, digital and web programming and show development. The festival closes Saturday with a red-carpet premiere/second-episode preview/Q&A and reception for Fox’s “Running Wilde," which happens to have its network premiere tonight (9:30). From the brains behind “Arrested Development,” this story told from the perspective of a 12-year-old (Stefania Owen) concerns rich playboy (Will Arnett) willing to undertake any means necessary to woo childhood sweetheart (Keri Russell).

"Baby Daddy Memoirs," also concerns itself with a young man - albeit one significantly down the socio-economic ladder - with sweetheart complications. Poor Slice has 28-plus “baby mothers” on his hands and unimaginable drama. Al Thompson is the show’s creator/star and an independent television veteran who won last year’s Audience Award for another comedic show, “Johnny B. Homeless,” which found a home on Comedy Central’s ( “Baby Daddy Memoirs” (screening Wednesday and Thursday) is his third Web series and one of 42 NYTVF official selections in the Independent Pilot Competition.

“It was just something I kind of created for fun.”

Lest he be known only as a comedic series creator, AT also offers Lenox Avenue. The stylish, sexy Web drama revolves around the lives of 20-somethings living and loving in his native Harlem. It debuts on the Internet this fall. Starting out as an actor in such films as “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “A Walk to Remember” and “Love Don’t Cost A Thing,” AT turned his attention to the Web to fill what he saw as a void in quality programming.

“I want to continue to make quality entertainment in the vein of old-school television – when we didn’t have reality shows,” he says.”

With good reason, AT has been compared to both megafilm and TV producer/director J.J. Abrams and pioneering filmmaker/producer Robert Townsend. On Friday, he will participate in a panel titled “The Straight Dope on Web TV.” Reflecting on his current medium of choice he mused, “You have such a vast audience on the Web.

"People from Sweden love my stuff. I have no idea why, but I’m happy to be there."

“Luther” will be screened at 8:30 p.m. on 22 Sept. at SVA Theater 2; “Baby Daddy Memoirs” will be screened at 6:30 p.m. on 22 Sept. at Tribeca Cinemas Theater 1, and at 7:45 p.m. on 23 Sept. at Tribeca Cinemas Theater 2; “Running Wilde” will be screened at 7 p.m. on 25 Sept. at SVA Theater 1.

Learn more about the New York Television Festival at

Daralyn Jay is a writer, actress and singer. Visit her online at

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Story Told With Heart, Soul and Style

From Rebecca Moses, a desert-colored raschel knit draped dress with African beaded yoke, left, for a visit to The Pyramids of Giza. Below, at the Tour Eiffel a leopard ikat mid calf shift. Photos by Yours Truly.

Just like last time, 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 …

Last Day
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): J. Mendel, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein Women's Collection, Isaac Mizrahi, DavidElfin, Argentina Group Show, Oscar de la Renta, Elene Cassis, Rolando Santana, Naeem Khan, L.A.M.B, Ivana Helsinki, Andy & Debb, Rebecca Moses

– Rebecca Moses admits that she loves to tell a story. For Spring 2011 it begins thusly:

Once upon a time, there was a magical girl who lived for stylish adventure.

She is also elegant, spirited and glamorous. She wants to break free from the pages of her life and she does and sets off to explore the world in her own magical way with all her Heart, Soul, and Style.

One of the first images that visitors to the Box tent see is a model reclined insouciantly on the first page of a huge open book. She is not dressed for traveling, but she is dressed for fantasy and adventure in a mauve matte jersey midi slip dress with plum suede shirred jacket. It is an arresting image.

All of the girls in this story – at Biarritz, the Guggenheim Museum, Les Tuileries, The Pyramids of Giza, the Tour Eiffel – are wearing outfits inspired by their location. Even a visit to the library and beauty parlor is reason to dress stylishly. This is a fantasy after all.

The pieces are competent and engaging, if not showstopping. But what does catch the eye and clutch the heart are the open pages of huge book/ prop for each stop on this girl’s travels. It is magical.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Suitable Uniforms in an Uptown World

An ensemble, left, from the Spring 2011 collection of Milly by Michelle Smith. Models on the runway, middle, after Zang Toi's Westerns-inspired show. Below, Richard Thomas as John-Boy in "The Waltons." Top photo from Getty Images. Bottom photo from

Just like last time, 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 …

Day 7
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Milly by Michelle Smith, Reed Krakoff, Eva Minge, Odd Molly, Anna Sui, Stanley Adams, Proenza Schouler, Zang Toi, Bill Blass, Adrienne Vittadini, Marchesa, Loris Diran, Gant by Michael Bastian, J. Sabatino, Mackage

BEST COLLECTION FOR UPTOWN GIRL TYPES- If Vera Wang designs for the sophisticated downtown gallerist/dweller, then Michelle Smith with her Milly by Michelle Smith line provides the same service for her uptown sister.

MS takes as her inspiration for Spring 2011 Peggy Guggenheim (of the Guggenheims), a gallerist and Uptown girl with a downtown, bohemian sensibility informed by living in Paris and Venice. It is an energetic collection of headturning florals, prints, geometrics and solids. Colors and shapes contrast/compare like the ebb and flow of the surf, but always complement. The luxuriousness of the fabrics is palpable from the third row. No doubt, MS takes her training in Paris to heart – one does not submit fabrics to rigid cost-benefit analyses

What is most apparent from this collection – shown with MS’s fanciful new handbag and jewelry line, however – is that these are pieces for Uptown girls around the world and the whole of Middle America that has fashion-forward pretensions. Here’s an opportunity to have fun with colors and shapes that one does not always associate with each other without coming off as weird in a conservative milieu.

The tomato silk herringbone jacquard wrap dress will play in Peoria whereas VW’s obi or just about anything from, say, the uber talented Rodarte, duo would be utterly lost in translation. Both the executive woman and the executive housewife will be admired for stepping out in the linen Masai print (brown/orange/white/gray) coat over the olive cotton grasscloth Ikat print (green/brown/white) sundress.

MS is not reinventing any wheels, but it is wholly unnecessary when one adds little adornments to the spokes such as the Kelly green tropical wool coat w/a black/green/white lining. Underneath are a silk ladybug print (white background w/black ladybugs) and Kelly green cotton Tate check (black/green/white)pencil skirt. Completing the ensemble is a tiki wood (black or dark, dark brown) tortoise teardrop necklace orange/sky blue/yellow) tie blouse.

The runt of the litter is the bland and dowdy navy cotton Biella crosshatch peplum pencil dress and ecru silk porcelain disc beaded top. It’s lost in translation. Obviously something Peoria thought the height of fashion before the intervention of myriad makeoverists, from Oprah show experts to “What Not to Wear.”

Most of the bunch, though, tend toward the self-possessed geranium cotton embroidered Barcelona plainweave coat. It’s terrific with a dress that has a silk twill chevron print (purple/navy) top w/sash and navy bottom. Accessories include a sunflower Costa Brava resin wool necklace and navy/geranium chevron print handbag.

One did not have to catch an episode of “Law and Order” or watch the local news to see a perp walk in New York City. It happened in the lobby tent a little after 8 p.m.

I have just returned from the Stone Rose Lounge in the Time Warner Building after the Tamara Pogosian show in which colleague, Tia Walker, was one of the ... er ... walkers. (More on that show later). In any case, the first thing I clap eyes on is a passel of New York’s finest outside one of the men’s rooms inside the lobby.

What is going on, I ask the detective. He is a little coy but I keep pressing.

DETECTIVE: (Answering my question, while not answering my question). It’s nothing to disrupt Fashion Week; go on and have a good time.

YOURS TRULY: But I want to know why all of those cops are in the men’s room.

DETECTIVE: (Cheshire cat grin) There are doughnuts in there.

YOURS TRULY: What’s really going on. If you want me to make something up, I will.

DETECTIVE: Someone tried to steal an I-Pad.

YOURS TRULY: (Rumor has it that a few days earlier someone successfully made off with one from the Maybelline lounge) Was he caught in the act?

DETECTIVE: No, but he was observed and it was brought to the attention of one of the guards.

YOURS TRULY: (Interesting, I am thinking. They were on higher alert after the first one went missing). Did he run into the men’s room with the I-Pad?
DETECTIVE: No, he was taken in there.

YOURS TRULY: So, you’ve turned it into an interrogation room?

He doesn't say yes or no, but there is an almost imperceptible movement of his head that I interpret as a nod. Most people in the lobby do not know what is going on right under their noses. It is all very low-key, unlike on TV.

One of the officers tries to politely wave me away, encouraging me to go on with the enjoyment of my evening.

I do not budge. This, I gotta see.

A few minutes later several policeman emerge from the men’s room with a young man whose hands are handcuffed in front. Alas, I am unable to get the camera on my phone working fast enough to capture the image.

He resembles a marionette. His head is hung low and his shoulders are slumped for obvious reasons. He is being taken toward the exit away from the crowd on the south side of the tent. The cops are almost carrying him, forcing him to literally shuffle to keep up. They are moving briskly. He's got up in a b&w loose-fitting pinstripe suit ... How interesting to be wearing stripes when one is on the way to the big house.

YOURS TRULY: They’re taking him to jail?

DETECTIVE: He’s in trouble.

– “Did you say hi to Richard Thomas,” a colleague asks.

I have just walked into Zang Toi’s show and am in search of my seat before the guards roll back the plastic off of the runway – a cue that the show is about to start in seconds. Somehow, I have overlooked RT aka John-Boy Walton. I require no further directions after he is pointed out to me.

I am actually gushing, and I am not a woman who gushes. Who didn’t love John-Boy? He was just the sort of boy all of us girls wanted to marry when we grew up. He is so gracious when I introduce myself. He is smiling that John-Boy smile at me, and introduces me to his son, Montana, one of his seven children. “Montana is a designer,” I am given to know by a very proud papa who is explaining what in the Dickens he is doing at a fashion show.

“But I design women’s clothing,” Montana explains, though no explanation is necessary.

He’d attended the Odyn Vovk show Tuesday night. “It was kind of confusing ... He showed a lot of pants with dresses. I liked the jackets, though. There were a lot of jackets.”

Meanwhile, RT, who was born and raised in Manhattan and now lives in Midtown West, is just having some downtime after a critically acclaimed turn in David Mamet's “Race” on Broadway. “I’m just taking it easy now. It was a year and a good experience and a great cast.”

To Montana, I explain that before he was born and when I was a child I watched a certain show and was in love with a certain character on said show.

He smirks. “Turner Classic Movies is my favorite channel.”

It is one of my favorites, too, I say. But my most favorite favorite, I tell father and son is the Westerns channel on the premium cable channel, Encore.

“Really,” RT asks, trying to understand how this can be.

I explain that after I outgrew cartoons – when I was a little younger than 14-year-old Montana – I started watching old westerns i.e., Roy Rogers/Dale Evans, “The Lone Ranger.”

RT must find this amusing because he laughs, or perhaps he is a fan of Westerns, too. “What channel is that on,” he asks, clearly making a mental note to either call Time Warner Cable himself or get one of his people to do it.

Now, I feel that I really must take my seat so I say goodbye. I shake hands with Montana but I ask RT for a hug. He gladly grants it.

Though I am on Cloud 10, I resist the urge to say, “Good Night … "

A Legendary Lensman, Clothier and Store

WHILE one may not know the name Douglas Kirkland, one very likely knows his work: Marilyn Monroe for Look’s 25th anniversary issue, Stephen Hawking, Morgan Freeman, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol and on and on and on …

Some of these famous faces may be amongst the photos in an exhibit of his work this evening at Bloomingdale’s. The man himself will be there, too, signing books to celebrate the 180th anniversary of the outdoor lifestyle clothier, Woolrich John Rich & Bros. Is this a book of photographs featuring Woolrich ad campaigns over the years? Or a photo book Woolrich has sponsored of the Canadian's works over the years, including film work as diverse as “The Sound of Music” and “Titanic?”

That’s not quite clear, but all confusion will be settled soon enough.

Invitees can see the exhibit and leave with signed books from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Bloomingdale's (59th street between Lexington and 3rd avenues).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

East and West Make Nice at Wang Center

A killer piece, left, from the Vera Wang Spring 2011 collection. Below, Fat Jew in some of his glory after the Tony Francesc show. Top photo from Getty Images; bottom by Yours Truly.

Just like last time, 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 …

Day 6
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Ellie Tahari, Badgley Mischka, Karen Walker, Vera Wang, Rodarte, Matthew Ames, Rosa Cha, Lavuk, Max Azria, Dennis Basso, Dress Reform, Luca Luca, Yigal Azrouel, Tibi, Narciso Rodriguez, Tony Francesc, Alice + Olivia, Improvd, Rachel Roy, Mulberry, Bibhu Mohapatra, Jason Wu for TSE, Pamella Roland

– Surely, Vera Wang did not have murder and carnage on her mind when she took as her guiding spirit “Kill Bill” for Spring 2011. Of course, not. She uses Part 1 of Quentin Tarantino’s two-part tour de force to explore “the fusion of East meets West with a mixture of boyish urban sophistication and romantic otherworldly sensuality.”

She sheds the more spare look she adopted for fall to return to what she's mastered – sophisticated, artsy and intricate. The things she manages with the obi are jaw-dropping, amongst other feats. Stay tuned for more on what is sure to be one of the top two or three collections of the week – if not the best.

– As the saying goes, “when you find a good thing, stick with it.” Rosa Cha took this sage advice to heart in her choice of fabric. The black floral is the leitmotif in her Spring 2011 collection of bathing/body suits and little dresses/tunics. The eye treament, too, is one note – perfectly in sync with the magenta, yellow, aqua, etc., of the pattern. The aqua bleeds from the inside of the eyelid onto the top of the bridge of the nose. Some models looked possessed as if they have multiple eyes making contact with each other. Others looked dazed or confused. A few look dazed and confused. It is weird but somehow also wonderful.

– Sitting insouciantly on the front row of the Tony Francesc show w/ generous belly exposed underneath a sky-blue jacket. Gi-normous ‘fro he’s constantly raking his hands through like a nervous twenty-something female. Blocking the view of several people sitting behind him. One eye on him and one eye on TF’s enchanting “Urban Forest” exhibition. It’s Fat Jew – lewd, proud and straight outta the Lower East Side.

After the show, I elbow my way through the crowd for an audience. “May I take your picture?”

“Sure,” Fat Jew says, gently moving his petite companion out of the sight of my puny phone camera lens.

I get three decent shots and ask an obvious question. “Who are you? Are you a designer?”

On me he fixes a Cheshire cat grin and issues a challenge. “Google me.”

Like the man said, and some things I learned:
1, Fat Jew is more than a name: Funky Angry Tender Joyous Equalitarian Whimsical;
2, According to his Twitter bio, “I’m not a man, I’m an idea. And you can’t kill an idea.”;
3, He’s aka (self-anointed) “The King of Brunch” because he has brunch every da;y
4, He a member of the electro-rap” group, Team Facelift, “a mix between Barbra Streisand and Wu Tang Clan.”;
5, He’s a Mets fan and has appeared on SNY’s Mets Weekly;
6, Once upon a time he lived in a U-haul;
7, He’s reportedly a guest at some of the hottest parties in the world;
8, And finally, from his mouth to your ears. “I’m New York City’s fanciest, sleaziest, hunkiest, ruggedest, bummiest, and sauciest. I’m the ugly Rob Lowe …,” he gives all who have eyes to know.

“I’m into pedicures, Tony Danza, honey mustard, ribbed turtlenecks, loofahs, not giving a fuck, frenzied behavior, tasteful floral arrangements, Jewish girls from Long Island, making poor decisions, shrimp in baskets, depression, cheap champagne, penny loafers, and watching drunk white girls at bars singing ‘Juicy’ …
You’re welcome.”

Thank you, FJ.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On a Grand Tour With a Girl at Heart

Betsey Johnson, left, has New York travel on her mind for Spring 2011. For a visit to the Seaport, at least two recommendations, below. Jaclyn Smith, bottom, celebrates a special anniversary with a certain discounter. Photos from Getty Images.

Just like last time, 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 …

Day 5
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): William Tempest, Jenny Packman, Carolina Herrera, Carlos Miele, Diesel Black Gold, Tracy Reese, Donna Karan New York, Monique Lhuillier, Yeohlee, Herchcovitch Alexandre, Betsey Johnson, Leifsdottir, Perry Ellis

- Is there any doubt that the incomparable, irrepressible, irresistible Betsey Johnson will not put on a good show? For Spring 2011, BJ goes on “Le Tour de Betsey.” It starts in Brooklyn, winds its way to The Met, then swings west to Central Park and into Betsey’s New York stores for appropriate traveling clothes. This is a grand tour of New York City, after all. To look one's best, some must-haves: bike shorts, belly-bearing cropped tights, bustiers, ball gowns, tutus, tiaras, prairie dresses w/hoop skirts, striped thigh-highs, garden party dresses to put Scarlett O’Hara to shame, cinched-waist black coat with batwing lapels, leather and lace, this and that.

Tricked out in a sailor's uniform (short or trousers), for instance, the tour winds southeast to the Seaport before journeying north to the final destination at Times Square. The lavendar, strapless mermaid gown w/tulle hem is just the thing to wear to see the ball drop on New Year’s Day. All along the tour music is blaring: “Ride Me Hard,” “Double Trouble,” “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’, Babe in a Barrel, “Lacey Lynn,” “Officer,” “Gentleman” and so on.

As a finale, not only does BJ do a cartwheel, she cruises down the runway on a bike to where her daughter and granddaughter are seated to the beats of “Slow Rider.” The crowd erupts into applause and whistles. It rises up again when the models return to the runway waving b&w checkered flags and wearing yellow – a la a certain other tour – dresses bearing “Le Tour de Betsey” logo.

What a party!

– “No alcohol, no cigarettes, no drugs – clean living.”

From Jaclyn Smith’s mouth to your ears, ladies (and gentlemen). That is the secret to looking good at 62. That is the secret to looking 35 at 62. That is the secret to having the body of a 20-something at 62.

“I’m also a ballerina, and you never loose that need to be moving,” she gives me to know. “You are always taking two steps at a time.”

Ladies (and gentlemen), exercise is also a key to looking good at 62, and just about any age.

JS, my favorite of “Charlie’s Angels" – and I tell her so – is at the new/sleek/swank Gansevoort Park Hotel for Conde Nast’s reception honoring the 25th anniversary of her Kmart clothing line.

“It is a culmination of everything we have been doing for 25 years,” she says of the inspiration for the approximately dozen on-season pieces. “We went back and looked at what we’d done and pulled them together to make them look modern … “Isn’t this great,” she asks, gesturing to the (faux?) leather skirt and sleeveless top w/(faux?) silk blizzard top she’s wearing. “And it’s all under $100.”

From Jaclyn Smith's mouth to your ears.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Glorious Fusion of Color/Shape/Texture

Custo Barcelona, above, explores dichotomy and geometry for Spring 2011. Photo from Getty Images.

Just like last time, 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 …

Day 4
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Derek Lam, Lela Rose, VPL, Simon Spurr, Malandrino, DKNY, Rebecca Taylor, Elise Overland, Herve Leger by Max Azria, Diane Von Furstenberg, Carmen Marc Valvo, Cynthia Steffe, Y-3, Trias, Designer‘s Collective, Thakoon, Custo Barcelona, Tommy Hilfiger, Vassilios Kostetsos

His program notes say the Spring 2011 collection is “quintessential CUSTO.” In some ways - namely exploration of color - yes. For Spring, he explores the dichotomy that is ornamentation and functionality. An overarching theme is music festivals.

The result is an extraordinary tête-à-tête between colors bright and colors muted; textures hard and textures soft; volume and streamlining. What a wonderful ode to geometry! - another element that informs the show.

Here’s an opportunity for CB to lose all discipline and present something loud, proud and cartoonish. He did not fall into temptation. Instead, he overlays a white satin boat neck shift w/cap sleeves with taupe fringe. On the hem he uses sequins. He shows the dress with a three-quarter-inch white skinny jean w/a charcoal geometric design. Both pieces can be worn separately. Even with color he exercises control as in the sleeveless multi-pink/green striped shift. It has trapezoid-shaped strips of floral patterns strategically placed about it and fringe on the hem. Over it is a red/white striped cardigan with a blue floral motif.

The various dichotomies are palpable, comprehensible and wowderful. He only seems to confuse on one or two points. Take the men’s jacket, pants and jewel-neck shirt trio. The b&w stripe/tye-dye pattern comes across as more old-school prison stripes than music festival garb or as geometric commentary, unless the meaning is that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

- “This is the way I came out for the show and this is the way I am going back in,”Andre Leon Talley bellows at the guard.

The Vogue editor-at-large had moments before left his place on the front row of the Diane von Furstenburg show to go backstage by way of the door behind the last row of seats. Apparently, the guard had strict orders to not let anyone re-enter through that door.

“I’m trying to work here,” ALT declares, scattering several DVF minions about in search of someone who can override the guard’s orders.

“You obviously don’t work for Diane,” he gives the guard to know. “I came through this door with Anna Wintour and I am returning this way,” he declares, smoothly dropping his supervisor’s name.

It became too painful to continue to witness such an unfortunate episode. I left to enter backstage through the mouth of the runway, which is where the guard politely asked ALT to enter. When I came back after my wild-goose chase for pictures of the hot sandals, I exited where the guard was standing.

In answer to my query, he indicates that he is OK. “He’s a big man,” says he of YouKnowWho. “He has fame and money, but he’s not happy ... He will die a painful death.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Away From the Center/Embracing Sleek Curves

Nicole Miller, left, has more edge this season. Below in descening order: Georges Chakra's vision is impressive. BCBG Max Azria cleans up nicely. Nautica knows it's man, while 3.1 Phillip Lim swings both ways. Nautica photo by Yours Truly; all others from Getty Images.

Just like last time, 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 …

Day 2
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Peter Som, BCBG Maz Azria, Duckie Brown, Rag & Bone, Michael Angel, Jason Wu, Edition by Georges Chakra, Costello Tagliapietra, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Ports 1961, DOO.RI, Alexander Berardi, Nicole Miller, Risto, Academy of Art University, Josie Natori, Tadashi Shoji, Lorick, Buckler

NICOLE MILLER – One gets the impression that the last few seasons Nicole Miller has been strategically inching her way toward the edge. For Spring 2010, she experimented with riptides successfully. The spawn of the riptide could be this latest collection. The designer has arrived at the edge and is in her element. The color scheme of b&w and various shades of gray evokes a moodiness. It is brightened, however, by generous use of chiffon and linen. Now and again georgette invokes itself. Themes of S&M in the form of black bands/straps complete an engaging tableau, including white linen jacket, chiffon trousers and white boat-neck shirt with a series of black bands on front. A winner is a white chiffon shirt w/b&w rounded bands over a black linen high-waisted skirt. Underneath is a black bra w/black halter straps and a connector strap. In the office, one will want to wear a blazer. On the town, sans blazer, it is eye-catching, with showstopping potential. The line is sexy, sophisticated and in good taste Only a very few pieces seem to belong elsewhere. Perhaps, the self-conscious black vest/shorts/dropped shoulder blouse and also the dowdiness that is the belted black dress with slouched bodice with chiffon underlay represent a moment of panic and indecision, for the edge can be intimidating.

– The Absolute World 1 tower, a residential development in Ontario, Canada, has been nicknamed Marilyn Monroe because of its sensual curving design. It is a beautiful building, and it is no surprise that it has the power to capture the imagination of a designer as it has that of Georges Chakra’s for his Spring 2011 Edition by Georges Chakra collection. He hits the mark in a collection of evening dresses and gowns in the season’s most popular colors. They are heavy on folds and panels that evoke the balcony overhangs on the tower. Here and there are a few panel combinations that are simply too busy.
And as someone who knows about such things wisely pointed out, more thought should have been given to how some of those panels about the hips will treat the physiques of those who wear double-digit sizes. In the main, however, GC hits the mark. A few gowns are constructed to create a flow that shows the imprint of the walker’s leg from the very top to the very bottom. It perfectly captures the curve in the tower that extends outward from its top before cascading into a slight twist.

– An argument can be made to not credit Michael Angel with the nod for best prints since graphics is his strong suit. True. A valid counter-argument, however, is that he should not be penalized for doing well. I concur with the latter. MA’s prints for Spring 2011 are simply wonderful. A standout is the demure sleeveless gray/burgundy/graphite dropped waist dress (w/thigh reveal) w/white shirt collar. He wanted to use prints, and to keep it simple, too. His solution was to use asymmetrical thigh-revealing skirt – many in solid colors. He also uses layers of leather, twill and in some cases latex to create a peekaboo effect, cleverly obscuring the more sensitive body parts. Mostly, he succeeds, though it may be useful in future to employ other minimalist elements besides thigh-revealing asymmetry to obscure any repetitiveness.

– Is it one’s imagination or have recent BCBG Max Azria collections been a little too close to trashy than sassy? If that is the case, Max and Lubov Azria have atoned for their shortcomings. For Spring 2011, things are more chaste – symbolized perhaps by the profusion of white dresses that opened the show. A side note: There is not much color here, and what appears is from the yellow, pink, and of course, black families ... One of the first fashion lessons that many young women in the West learn is to have at least one little black dress. It’s time that she’s also taught the merits of adding a white one to her wardrobe – one of BCBG’s. Fetching little affairs mainly in silk and chiffon with little embellishment apart from asymmetry, sleeve treatments or a subtle print.

3.1 PHILLIP LIM (Men’s)
– Does Philip Lim even need present his women’s show on Wednesday? It would be almost pointless to do so, no? Women who don’t have need of another dress/gown can easily shop the men’s line with perhaps only minor adjustments. The color story is mainly black, white and sky blue. Without a doubt, the jackets are bisexual. Loose-fitting shirts have a flow that lend them a blousey-feel. Some shorts are above the knee; others are or longish, but tapered enough to attract a woman’s attention ... Something to think about, ladies.

– It says something about Alexander Berardi that the inspiration for his Spring 2011 line is Jean Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless” (1960) also starring Jean-Paul Belmondo. The two are a bad boy and a good girl on the run from the law. Note that his inspiration was not the 1983 remake starring Richard Gere and Valérie Kaprisky. One thing it says is that he appreciates history, an important and often overlooked one in fashion. An admirable trait in one so young. The 24-year-old designer’s understated, girly pieces do good by JS’s Patricia Franchini. It is the hair, though that is most evocative. Patricia sports a pixie with an invisible side part with her hair styled in a backward sweep. AB pays homage while keeping it modern by giving the models a side part and a side ponytail.

– Nautica used the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center to introduce its new line in a presentation format. Spring 2011 is informed by both the spirit of water and the people/architecture of the country’s Southern coast. Guests are warmly greeted by the Nautica people and two nice spreads – 20-something of the most handsome men on earth and, healthful and welcome tables of eats: hummus, pita, crudite, tea sandwiches and sweets. Here, too, are passed foods in the form of veggie samosas and, salmon-wrapped asparagus (or were those haricots verts) and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. On a fuller stomach one can really see the line and chat amicably with the young men wearing it. Like Nicholas K, Nautica is not attempting to reinvent the wheel. It knows its core customer and wishes to give said customer more of what he likes to wear on land and sea. He can choose from any combination or stripes and solids/stripes or solids. That taupe, ribbed cardigan will come in handy on cool coastal nights. For dress up there are crisp, low-maintenance suits, as well as jackets and slacks that complement each other rather than match. A colleague and I agree that both straight and gay men will shop the line, though they most definitely will put things together differently.

– With so many Fashion’s Night Out parties where is one to start? Counting on being tired, I decided that I would stay close to home on the Upper East Side. For me that meant the shops on Madison and Fifth avenues from the high 50s up to the low 80s. I spent most of my time in the 60s. I boarded the Fashion’s Night Out bus and was deposited at Columbus Circle. From there I strolled the short distance to Bergdorf Goodman. As BF was hosting the whole of Fifth avenue, I kept it moving toward Oscar de la Renta. There I could not be received because I did not receive a special invitation. I licked my flesh wound and turned south and east toward Dennis Basso where I was warmly received and handed a glass of Veuve Clicquot to calm any frayed nerves. From there, things only got better.

EMPORIO ARMANI – Lauren Hutton regales the crowd at Emporio Armani, including Beverly Johnson (smashing in red) with tales of her times with Himself whom she met in the 70s. Some observations/claims/declarations. He was the first designer to dress stars outside of the Hollywood costumers. Remember “American Gigolo.” Remember how well Richard Gere was turned out. Remember the scene during which he lays out his clothes on the bed. LH mistakenly thought Armani would be designing her wardrobe for the film. The designer, LH declares, also created the red carpet, though “it was crappy linoleum.” And he was one of the first – if not the first – to introduce the world to fashion that didn’t originate from Paris. “Back then, there was no fashion in the United States; there was barely any in Italy. Of course, there was Valentino but he was showing in Paris … back then I was wearing jeans and T-shirts.” Armani did not like the status quo. “Don’t regular people deserve to wear clothes that look good and are well-made,” she recalls the designer saying.

CAROLINA HERRERA – Gail Simmons just blew through the doors at Carolina Herrera. Immediately, I introduce myself and congratulate her on “Top Chef: Just Desserts,” her new show debuting Wednesday (15 Sept.) on Bravo. “Thank you. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s about time we had a dessert show.” She assures me that I will become more excited about desserts after watching, and I believe her. She’d just come in from some foodie event – where did she say? Don’t remember. In any case, I ask whether she finds that when she is out at such events she is judging the food. “No,” she declares. “I’m off the clock and I just enjoy the food.” Later she buys a dress for herself and for me. Strangely, though, she leaves with both of them. Easy come, easy go … My running partner and I, along with a buddy of mine, are cooling our heels on Miss Herrera’s sofa right off of the dressing rooms. We’re watching the caricaturist and regaling each other with stories of where we’ve been the night. The highlight of Buddy’s evening is meeting/shaking hands with Naomi Campbell at Dolce&Gabbana. One is lead to make such a deduction because he retells the tale about three times in 18 minutes.

CALVIN KLEIN – The first face I see when I walk through the doors at Calvin Klein is Cynthia Nixon's. She’s chatting to some interviewer. I listen long enough to hear her jaw about how wonderful FNO is for the city. After I hear enough I venture over toward the photos on the wall by Bryan Adams,who will be performing at both 7 and 8:30. A concert might put some in the photo-buying mood, since some of the proceeds go toward charity. CN is one of the photo subjects. Dree Hemingway, daughter of Mariel, is another. And there’s Kerry Washington. Desiree Rogers. I know the name but can’t recall from where until a new acquaintance at Miss Herrera’s reminds me. “She used to work for [President Barack] Obama,” she says of the former White House Social Secretary. My acquaintance used her little sidebar with DR at CK to do some chiding.

"I told her, ‘how can you screw up a job like that’.”

Friday, September 10, 2010

Strange, Wonderful, Bizarre & Funny Start

Supermodel Ellen DeGeneres, above, doing her thing at Richie Rich. Below in descending order, a pretty model in a pretty dress with a lipstick malfunction at Farah Angsana; Kate Ciepluch as a good model for wearing lace at Mara Hoffman, and Yours Truly and Apollonia catching up in Verrier's urban oasis. Top two photos from Getty Images; bottom two by Yours Truly.

Just like last time, 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 …

Day 1 cont'd.
(SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Nicholas K, "Project Runway," Richard Chai, Ruffian, Anne Bowen, Bensoni, Mara Hoffman, Candela, Concept Korea, Christian Siriano, Farah Angsana, Verrier, Daniel Vosovic, Richie Rich)

In her updo are flowers. On her face pancake-white makeup. Her blond eyelashes go on forever. She walks serenely down the runway in a salmon mini shift in organza with a lace back and organza train that ties in front into a passel of sashes.

See her there, a white veil pulled away from her face. Is that a black leather bustier over a sheer taupe tank? Her salmon harem pants are tapered from knee to ankle.

Here's a pink silk blouse with an enormous bow at the neck and three-quarter tulip sleeve.

It’s a strange and wonderful business that is Korean designer Lee Jean Youn’s latest collection. He was the last of the three to show under the rubric Concept Korea. He’s shopped “The Strange Wedding Ceremony”around the world, including Paris, and has received good notices. They are well-deserved.

In their unexpected get-ups the models walk ghostlike down the runway and take their place where they remain until the last model comes out. A huge screen projects their images. It’s simply arresting. No other collection on the first day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week - not even Christian Siriano in another strong turn - made such an impression.

It seems that in part LJY has deconstructed the traditional Korean costume, the full-bodied hanbok to create cropped tops, bottoms and cutaways. The collection is strange in that it is unexpected to see organza and leather hanging out together and black leather bustiers under sheer silk tops. To create the many intricate folds, bows, pins and tucks is massively difficult, yet in LJY’s hands it appears effortless. The workmanship is impressive. About the clothes is a quiet pride and dignity; they are peaceful and serene.

So many pretty after-5 dresses and gowns from Farah Angsana. Very feminine and classy. Sequins in just the right quantity and placement. What is dismaying, though, is the pink lipstick on the model with skin the color of rich, dark chocolate. Is this a minstrel show or a fashion show? The makeup person should know better. Shame!

Silver tentacles extend around the crown and over the heads of the models like rabbit ears. Others wrap around the head and shade the eyes like eyeglasses or bangs. A few wrap around the head and appear to protrude from ears. The Borg comes to mind. Meanwhile, the tentacles tap foreheads and temples in the manner of fingers on a telegraph machine. Behold, sculpture for the head. Sure to set tongues awagging at Ascot. Dreams inspired the collection of “Project Runway” Season 8 contestant Andy South. Another inspiration is statues brought to life, possibly by the tap tap tap of tentacles.

Enter the annex of the Box tent and take a glass of Champagne. Venture farther in and indulge in the serenity of a space dotted with trees, hydrangeas and wild flowers. Allow upbeat tunes from the Great American Songbook to wash away the stresses of the day. Breathe in. Now out. Observe the beautiful, young women strategically placed around the area, standing atop low pedestals, complementing the greenery. They are well-dressed in the pieces that comprise the 2011 collection of Verrier. Yes, lovely. “It’s a garden party” the designer says of the inspiration for her show. “We decided to make it an urban garden party. I was thinking about “The Great Gatsby.” We wanted to make it really nice and welcoming. We even brought the flowers.”

After keeping his guests waiting for his Popluxe show, Richie Rich calmed them down with ballerinas and a little Vivaldi. Once the lights went down and up, out came a few primas. One was packing a violin, while another was at the keyboards. And others pirouetted hither and yon. If that didn’t smooth over ruffled feathers and frayed nerves, the dominatrices would surely have slapped someone on the butt.

Very special guest star Ellen DeGeneres channeling her countenenace from CoverGirl’s Simply Ageless Foundation commercial. Therein she muses that it should be no wonder that models look so mad because they are wearing expensive foundation - unlike you know who. What can one say? EG, tricked out in a miniature hat, white seersucker suit w/colored Lichtenstein-esque T underneath, brought it. The crowd erupted into applause and laughter and went near-ballistic when she was joined by RR.

She’s being photographed near the models in Mara Hoffman’s presentation at Pier 59. Clearly, she is not one of them, though she can be a model. What gives Kate Ciepluch away is that she is not got up in one of the laidback, devil-may-care “Military Gone Native” affairs that informs the collection. The buyer for Shopbop does Victorialand proud in the label’s black lace shirt. Underneath she sports a black bra, flat tummy and no muffin top. Her bottom is well covered by gray, drawstring shorts. She’s kicking it in a gray pump with a sensible heel. It’s not too fat, too thin, too high or too low. It’s just right. And so is she.

I’m doing lightweight eavesdropping on a rather long interview Ashleigh Verrier is giving a reporter from an outfit called Fashion News Live. The interviewer is peppering her with interesting questions about her creative process. The designer is fully engaged and giving thoughtful answers. It makes waiting a little less painful.

After I lock down my interview, I complement the interviewer on her questions. She thanks me profusely. "I didn’t know whether I was asking good questions or not,” she confides.

I assure her that she did a fine job. A conversation ensues; introductions are made.

“I know an Apollonia,” I say when she tells me her name.

“I am Apollonia,” she says.

“You are Apollonia from “Purple Rain;” you don’t look like yourself,” blurts I before I can stifle myself.

“That was 25 years ago,” she reminds me.

And so it has been. The hair is different - smaller/shorter, more polished. The face seems somewhat familiar; perhaps it has been refreshed. In my mind she was a woman around 5’7” instead of the 5 feet plus a little change (in heels) looking up at me (in heels). Common sense should have told me that she must be shortish to be cast opposite Prince, with whom she's out of touch. Only her eyes seem familiar.

After our little reunion, I cross paths with Verrier again and inquire whether she knew who was interviewing her. She did not. “Really,” she said trying to wrap her brain around that piece of information. “That’s intense.”

And what has Apollonia been up to besides fashion journalism?

“I’ve been doing a lot of mentoring - mentoring young actors and doing some producing.”

In the works on the production side is “Food and the Single Guy,” an upcoming Bravo show. “It's the day in the life of a chef,” she explains.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fashion Week at Lincoln Center ... It's ON!

Nicholas K, above and below, opens Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week with familiar fare. "Project Runway" Season 7 contestants Jay Nicolas Sario and Mila Hermanovski have clearly kissed and made up. Top photos/Getty Images; bottom photo/Yours Truly.

HEAD'S UP: Just like last time, 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 …

Day 1 (SOME of the players at the tents and elsewhere): Nicholas K, "Project Runway," Ruffian, Anne Bowen, Bensoni, Mara Hoffman, Candela, Concept Korea, Christian Siriano, Verrier, Daniel Vosovic

WITH Nicholas K's chill, urban, easy world view, Spring 2011 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week kicked off from its new home at Lincoln Center. Designers Christopher and Nicholas Kunz's uber hip collection fits nicely at Lincoln Center, if it is a little casual. But this is casualness with sophistication and edge and without a bad attitude.

The color scheme is vintage Nicholas K: mainly grey, muted brown/green khaki and creme. While they are not the colors most readily associated with spring, the shapes are definitely on-season. No reinventing any wheels here, but the Nicholas K customer will be pleased and can shop the line with an eye toward enhancing what's already in the closet/drawer.

Next out of the gate: "Project Runway." The excitement in the Stage is palpable. Several contestants are in the house. There's the loquacious Anthony Williams (Season 7) charming and wowing the worshipful crowd with his Southern hospitality vibe. We take a bad picture together, and he informs Yours Truly that he is working on a new line and has a number of projects in the loop, "but I can't talk about them because they're not official. I don't want nobody comin' after me talkin' about plagarism," he confides, referring to my previous query about whether he was just signing his name to copies of Tim Gunn's new book, "Gunn's Golden Rules" inside the rather heavy gift bag.

I am promoted to a seat closer to the front - right next to Jay Nicolas Sario. I ask Himself whether I know him. Then the light turns on, but not before he gives me to know that I may know him because he looks like some other Asian - because, of course, all Asians look the same. I assure him that he is wrong and explain why I know that all Asians or blacks or blondes don't all look alike.

"Most of the time we just scan over people," says JS. He's flying back to the West Coast to continue working magic on his Spring 2011 line, which will show in Miami, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon and a few other points - but not New York. "But when we really look at them we see them for the people they are."

Sitting next to Jay is his former nemesis from Season 7 - Mila Hermanovski. She's wearing a (of course) b&w dress and a smashing silver YSL collar necklace. It costs some people $1,000.00, but MH copped hers at an outlet for a lot, lot less. Not surprisingly, she is also working on her Spring 2011 collection. Naturally it is b&w.

"There's also a little color - some chartreuse and aqua to shock people who think I only do black and white." And a shock of color in honor of spring, she concurs to my leading question.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

At Lincoln Center, Fashion Week Will Rock

The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York Spring 2011 banners, above, hang outside David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Below in descending order, under construction, now but the entrance to the tents, as well as two views of the tents from 62nd street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues will be complete by 9 Sept. for the start of fashion week. Photos by Yours Truly.

FOR the last few months there has been a fair amount of anxiety and trepidation about Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week moving to Lincoln Center after more than 15 years at Bryant Park. It’s a reality in the making, and Godwilling and no more union troubles, the New York Spring 2011 shows jump off next Thursday. They shutter on 16 Sept.

The most commonly cited concern has been that old chestnut, “it just won’t be the same.” Naturally, there are going to be differences for the obvious reason that the shows are moving location. Another big concern is that Lincoln Center is not as accessible as Bryant Park. Others have a more nostalgic and socially conscious reason for their concern: fashion week is moving out of the Garment District. Regardless of their genesis, all of these expressions are borne of the dread of change. It is human nature to dread change - even it’s for the better. Change also brings with it the unknown - as good a reason for dread if there ever was.

Sure, this is a first, just as it was when the action moved out of the designer showrooms into Bryant Park in the early 1990s. Man, the hue and cry! Fashion survived it - and I’m not suggesting it did for the better, because some things that won’t be named at this time, are not - and fashion will survive this.

To put any of my own low-grade anxieties to shame, I journeyed cross town early this morning to take a look-see. The tents are going up as you can see from the pictures. Never do I cease to be amazed by the appearance of things as close as one week before showtime and how it always comes together. Depend on it, all will be ready for Nicholas K to open at 9 a.m. in the Studio tent. Construction has been ongoing 24 hours a day since it started approximately two weeks ago.

By the way, the tents are located between west 62nd and 63rd streets on the north and south, and Columbus and Amsterdam avenues on the east and west. The entrance is on the mall at Lincoln Center behind the David H. Koch Theater. It is next door to The Metropolitan Opera and across the mall from Avery Fisher Hall.

They are just as accessible as Bryant Park. The nearest subway is the very busy 59th Street Station at Columbus Circle, and there are any number of buses coming through from all four points. Certainly travelers from Harlem and other neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan will find it a closer, slightly more convenient commute. Ditto for many coming down from Westchester County and Connecticut. Upper East Siders, too. The 96th street Crosstown bus and 96th street No. 1 line conveyed me to Lincoln Center in approximately the same amount of time as one bus and two trains had delivered me to Bryant Park. But, there were fewer stops, fewer people and less hassle.

I won’t argue that Lincoln Center is nicer than Bryant Park because I am a park lover. Across the street, however, is the charming Dante Park. Also, greenery will be present in the lobby of the entrance tent, as well as in the annex of one of the show tents. And while the tents are supported by a concrete foundation instead of God’s brown earth, they are a backdrop for some lovely man-made structures

Just a few ways that things will be better: There are more shows because there is more space. Whereas Bryant Park had three show tents, Lincoln Center has four that pay homage to their surroundings. In addition to the Studio, there are Stage, Box and Theatre. Visitors will sit/stand/mill in a more spacious lobby where they can see and be seen. An assortment of healthier food choices is in easy walking distance. For instance, there are the eateries at Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle, including Whole Foods. Those with the dough and a taste for good Mexican can dine at Rosa Mexicana. A few blocks north is a Food Emporium. A little farther north is Trader Joe’s, which will be open for future iterations of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week if not for this one. Further, there is farmer’s market around 65th street between Columbus and Broadway on Thursdays. It will be doing business on both the opening and closing Thursdays of the week.

All in all, it’s a nice set-up. My prediction is that this is going to be one of the best Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks in some time - if for no other reason than it is a novelty. And Lincoln Center is happy to have the fashion industry.

“The Lincoln Center people have been good to us,” a source who requests anonymity gives me to know. “They’re good people.”

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week hasn’t moved down or up in the world; it’s made a very good lateral move.

Mix Right Ingredients/Call It a Strong Debut

The Degenhardt, above, from Aldo's Call It Spring line is a keeper. Below, in descending order: Guests at the Call It Spring store opening spending down their gift card, while DJ Reach provides some suggestive shopping tunes. A black loafer w/a white sole may have gone home with someone I know, but what will be the fate of the open-toe trellis boot on that rather long leg? Photos of Degenhardt and DJ Reach by John Simon. All others by Yours Truly.

CALL It Spring knows how to open strong.

Here’s the recipe:
1 hip city and location
1 whopper of a gift card
1 jamming deejay
2 signature cocktails
Several foods that complement cocktails
Any number of shoes and a few handbags
1 nifty gift bag
Yield: A ton of fun

Yours Truly should be ashamed to call herself a fashion journalist if she must confess that she was wholly ignorant of the Manhattan Mall in Herald Square until yestidy (1 Sept.) when she presented herself at said location for a special occasion. So that’s where JCPenney is? Who knew?, indeed!

Here I am at the opening of the Call It Spring shoe store, which is supposed to be a shop-within-a-shop – that shop being JCPenney. Only it’s outside the shop on the first floor of the mall. Straightaway, I am handed a gift card. The pr maven-in-the-making gives me to know that it is valued at $150.

“What’s the average price of your shoes,” I inquire, eyebrows raised, skepticism on red alert and ears well-trained to hear $300, which means I won’t be availing myself of said card.

She smiles winningly. “No, they’re around $50. You may be able to buy three pair of shoes,” which is no doubt what uber dealmaker JCPenney had in mind when it threw in with Aldo to offer the latter’s less expensive line. Call It Spring is geared toward young people – now defined as those persons between 15 and 30. No doubt, anyone at its 200 stores in Asia, Canada, the Middle East and the United States who plops down the equivalent of $30 to $70 for shoes or $25 to $30 for a purse will be given leave.

“Really," I ask. “I can buy shoes today?”

She fixes a smile on me to put the sun to shame. "Yes!"

In I stroll into a joint that is jumpin.’ Toute le monde seems to be under the influence of the gift card and DJ Reach who combines both Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson et al. in a supreme mix, among other musical feats, during his set. The white sangria and that vodka drink, too, may be bringing their influence to bear. On one side of the longish, narrow space are the women’s shoes. The men’s shoes take up the other. Naturally, there are more shoes for the girls. Purses hold it down in the back.

I strut down the women’s side populated by sandals galore, boots (high and low) and a few nerdy-hip pumps. ISO that one shoe that will speak to me, much like those Manolo Blahniks did to Carrie Bradshaw during an ancient episode of “Sex in the City.” Don’t yet hear anything, but here comes a server with a tray of drinks. I pluck a white sangria from the bunch and continue my stroll up and down the aisle, stopping here and there to see who’s trying on what and to chat up acquaintances/colleagues. Right now, I am allowing a black-bean quesadilla to flirt with my palate. And I discover that I can resist neither the miniature chicken burrito or a square (of beef) tending toward medium-rare, just as I like it.

Who goes there? At the exact second that I am about to take another turn down the aisle to have a second look at that red pump with a fat heel, because I thought it whispered something. Just as … I hear a voice. It’s calling my name. I turn and walk in the direction of the voice. It’s beckoning me. My caller is a forest green, leather/suede ankle boot with wedge heel. It has granny-boot laces in front and zips on the side. A built-in ankle warmer enclosed in its suede cuff ensure warm feet. The turned-down leather shell with stitching and silver hardware add another layer of coolness. Degenhardt looks like a million bucks instead of $60-something – which, of course, is what JCPenney/Aldo intend. Check out that urban swagger. Put D with shorts or a short skirt/dress – and watch out world! With some over-the-knee socks and mini anything, and hurt will be done. It is the embodiment of the Call It Spring mandate: young, hip, citified and affordable without looking cheap.

In the middle of our tête-à-tête, a sales associate literally almost takes it out of my hand. Apparently, it has been talking to someone else, too – hmmm, a player. I step aside. If it’s meant to be …

It’s a man’s world and it is populated by a diversity of combat-like books with various levels of true grit and utter stylishness. I peep out a fair number of Beta loafers/slippers. Involved in a serious conversation with a pair of black loafers with a white sole and white cording on heel is a colleague and sometimes adviser. He informs me that he’s
confident that he has just the right escort for his new tuxedo. He makes introductions, but I forget the name of the prospect. About this Alpha male is the air of a man pleased with himself, and it only increases after the trial period with the loafer. I excuse myself, as they are about to embark on serious negotiations for what I am sure is to be a beautiful relationship.

Meanwhile, it turns out that my forest green admirer is a little too small. It won’t work. I need my personal space. I can’t be crowded. To my delight, however, I learn that such a size-appropriate one can be located for me and shipped to my door free of charge. No strings attached.

It’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Now, I will take my leave and the gift, bag, too, containing a tie and small pocketbook with a little (Call It) Spring in my step.
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VEVLYN'S PEN: The Wright take on life by Vevlyn Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .
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