Thursday, June 26, 2008
First up was the Swedish Midsummer Cocktail party, ostensibly to celebrate the best in beauty and fashion on the eve of midsummer. So where did this great concept go wrong? First of all, WHERE WAS THE FASHION? A colleague and I expected to see gorgeous Swedish blonds drift across the room dressed in the latest designs or at least have a set-up where the merchandise could be checked out. No deal. Instead we waited for something, anything to happen. Again no dice. The country's pop singing group's (who were slated to perform), sound system went on the fritz so no entertainment for the first two hours (this was a three hour party) and not much in the way of traditional Swedish food. While we didn't expect a whole smorgasbord, the skimpy hors d'ouvres and "traditional" cookies just didn't cut it, especially with the Svenska vodka as the only drink. Note: Every event needs white wine, sparkling water and a choice of sodas. To top things off, there was no press kit, a huge no no. To me what could have been a great opportunity to showcase the best in Swedish fashion and beauty – not withstanding the gorgeous Swedish kids who attended – fell short of its intentions. Better luck next time.
Thinking back a bit, we'd have to compare this event to one we attended in May for the skincare launch of Blue Lagoon at a breakfast held at the Cornelia Day Resort. For anyone familiar with Iceland, the famed Blue Lagoon is a natural thermal spa set in an otherworldly glacial setting. Not only was the consul general of Iceland on hand, we were treated to breathtaking video clips of the lagoon itself, complimentary hand massages with the brand's latest product and a comprehensive press package/goody bag. In short, I wanted to catch the next plane to Reykjavik. And going even farther back, my colleagues and I still talk about the Montreal Fashions on Ice event held at the Rockefeller Center skating rink which featured professional figure skaters gliding around in the latest fashions from Quebec's top designers and sponsored by the Quebec trade commission.
Now for the good. I totally enjoyed the Sears/Kmart holiday press event. Held in a huge loft space in Tribeca (just getting there was a trip), this was my kind of event. When I talk about crap versus couture this is what I'm getting at. Clothes and accessories that offer MORE BANG FOR THE BUCK and the merch on display offered the fashion savvy shopper just that. I fell in love with a gray flannel pea coat, the antiqued leather bomber jacket and a deep plum dressy crop sleeved jacket and skirt – very Vera Wang-ish at a much better price point. Don't get me wrong, these clothes are extremely well made and I plan on making a pit stop to the Sears Center in Rego Park in November when the holiday stuff comes in. This event was so much fun I even got excited about the Kmart tool display and the Martha Stewart bedding. Let me just mention that scattered throughout the loft were fully decorated Christmas trees that set the mood and a lots of pastries to nosh on. As you can probably tell by now, the way to my heart is through my dessert-loving stomach.
My last foray was to that celebrated toy store, F.A.O. Schwarz and its annual holiday press preview. What kid doesn't dream of getting a gift from this iconic retailer? I sure did growing up, and still do after checking out this year's must-have goodies. What I especially took note of was the emphasis on eco-conscious and environmentally-friendly toys like the certified organic cotton plush Patrick the pup, the recyclable EPA foam building set and a Santa Claus plush doll dressed in environmentally-friendly green on one side, which is meant to be worn all year except for the red suited side which is only worn on Christmas. This is a terrific way to make kids aware of our planet's fragile eco-system early on. And what could be more fashionable than being an environmentalist? On another note, in keeping with the kid theme, F.A.O. Schwarz set up a mini ice cream parlor where the press could indulge in cones or sundaes with all the trimmings. In addition, waiters passed around trays on mini cheeseburgers and teeny cups of French fries. Perfect!
Now, back to the Good, the bad and… are they kidding? Did you happen to check out the latest issue of Vogue? The one where the mag's editors rave about the affordable must-have fashions under 500 bucks? On what planet is a wispy three or four hundred dollar top considered affordable, or the overpriced shoes that will look dated next year? By the time I mentally put together an outfit, I figured I'd need a small bank loan to pay for this stuff. And honey, we all know that fashion editors never pay retail (if they pay at all), so what does this article prove? That anything under 500 bucks should be considered a steal for folks in the "real world." Like hello?
Therefore, in no particular order, I'm passing along a few fashion suggestions. If you live anywhere near a Forever 21 boutique, don't be afraid to go in. Forget about age as there are plenty of great bargains that us over 21 year olds can wear. Just the other day I noted a great looking cotton safari shirt and a button front tunic. Both came in khaki, that accessorized with either fab animal pattern or vintage chain belts could easily pass for a version of Saint Laurent's iconic '60s safari jacket. Remember Marc Jacobs' trendy mouse shoe? Well his vinyl version retails for around $125. I happen to think that's highway robbery for a summer jelly. However, for those lucky enough to shop the main floor of Montreal's fashion savvy boutique Simons, they imported their own version in clear white and pink. We snapped it up on sale no less for a whopping ten bucks, down from twenty- five. The Canadians were too smart to pay full price. With the money I saved, I could have (but didn't) buy one of Holt Renfrew's gorgeous enamel bangle bracelets, which at around ninety bucks segued into my couture category.
Back on my home turf I wandered into my neighborhood Sloan Kettering thrift shop to scope out its just-in shipment of new Chanel rtw. While this designer naturally falls into my couture category, don't let the name scare you, as there are were some great albeit relatively expensive pieces worth investing in, such as the classic black boucle jacket to wear forever and with anything in your closet. This is real investment dressing for the price of a pair of designer shoes and much more tongue-in-chic.
Until next time, C&C.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I'm back! Yours truly had a fabulous time in Montreal. We scoped out the fashion scene at some of the offbeat boutiques and some major retailers as well. But first things first, where to lay our weary (from too much shopping) body. Sure we could have chosen to stay at one of the city's trendy boutique hotels. You know, the ones where the bathroom fixtures can double for sculpture and it takes forever to figure out how to turn on the taps. I preferred to skip the hip factor in favor of my favorite hotel, the Queen Elizabeth, which boasts the friendliest, most efficient staff around. A special thanks go to my "friends" in the President's Gold Club. It's true, Canadians really are the nicest people around.
Enough about the accommodations, I'm really here to tell you about the fashion scene. Number one on our list was the special exhibition of Yves Saint Laurent at the Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibit ends on September 28th so do whatever it takes to get there, it's that fabulous. We were given insight into the master's innovative creative process and body of work that encompassed a 40 year career at the forefront of fashion. In addition to over 160 fully accessorized garments, there were also videos of Saint Laurent's final runway show and a behind the scenes look in the couture workrooms. Some of the standouts: a gorgeous black velvet coat with red sequin "lips" embroidery made for Marisa Berenson in 1971, the iconic black wool crepe Le Smoking tuxedo from 1970, a black suede tunic with gold sequined mesh sleeves atop a jersey dress ordered by the Duchess of Windsor in '67 and a timeless ivory and black shantung cocktail dress worn by Princess Grace in '64. We could go on and on about the exhibit it was that breathtaking. One caveat however, THERE WAS PRACTICALLY NOTHING TO BUY! If this exhibit was put on at NY's Metropolitan Museum you can bet there would have been tee shirts, tote bags and line-for-line copies of the jewelry/scarves for sale. When it comes to marketing, Canadians are just too laid back.
That takes care of the "couture" portion of my blog, now for the "crap" which as I've already explained refers to more wallet-friendly prices. One of Montreal's trendiest streets is St Laurent Boulevard crammed with graphic design houses, hip boutiques and chic coffee bars. Preloved was a boutique I sought out. What the design team does is recycle vintage garments to create terrific one-of-a-kind pieces. Kitsch 'n Swell's window caught my eye. This funky store is a treasure trove of vintage stuff, from clothes and accessories to '50s kitsch. For more upscale vintage shopping I headed over to Sherbrooke Street and the Styl Gallery. Owner Eva Jamroziak's tiny jewel box boutique was filled with vintage designer jewelry, antiques and collectibles at prices to match. For true bargain hunters nothing beats the vintage stuff found at the variety shop in St. James' church on St. Catherine Street. Held every Wednesday from 10:00 to 2:00, it can be hit or miss but this time around I scoped out a sleek camel suede tunic with rib knit sleeves and turtleneck from the '60s for a song. Other trips have yielded a white gab coat, a beaded evening purse and a leather jewel case. Worth checking out if you're into vintage.
That's it for now. Signing off, C&C.
Friday, June 6, 2008
So what are my credentials? I've been a fashion editor and illustrator for more years than I care to count and I'm still going at it on a free lance basis. So why did I call my blog Crap and Couture, Notes from the Back Row? It's simple. During fashion week in New York's Bryant Park only the very top fashion editors, socialites, and celebs get front row seats. The rest of us working stiffs get relegated to the back rows or nose bleed section as we like to call it. And since I'm not in the social register (although I actually have a title that just might get me a better table in some snobby European restaurant), or a page six flavor of the month starlet, I sit five rows up if someone hasn't already grabbed my seat and hopefully, goody bag.
And while we're on the subject of goody bags I have a pet peeve. Either give everybody one or don't give any out. Oh no, some designers leave goody bags on the front row only where the likes of the mucky mucks at Vogue etc could care less about getting another useless gift while the rest of us seethe with envy.
But enough bitching. Back to my heading, Crap and Couture. I use the term crap loosely. To me it simply represents my philosophy on spending. One doesn't have to be a brain surgeon or even a podiatrist to realize that the cost of dressing well – or even badly – has gone sky high. Don't know about you but I'd rather not spend a month's rent on a pair of shoes (that were probably manufactured in China with a made in Italy price tag attached) so I mix it up. Cheap can be cheerful if you know how to shop and have taste and that's one area that I consider myself an expert on. When I die, my epitaph will probably say, DAMN, I WAS THE BEST DRESSED WOMAN, PERIOD!
Let's face, nobody's born with taste but you can learn, either as I did, with parents who taught me to appreciate the best in every price range. Their motto was, buy less but buy quality and I've stuck to that through the years. It's a lot easier now with stores like H&M, thrift shops, church bazaars, resale shops and flea markets. For me it's all about the thrill of the hunt. Sure I can also hit designer sample sales and go wholesale, but really the best sources for fab couture fashion comes from unexpected sources like vintage boutiques and auction houses.
So this is what my online diary will attempt to do – give you the inside info on what I think is hot, or not in fashion and basically an insider's view of my world no holds barred. For example, last night I attended a terrific "patio party" given by one of my favorite designers, Tia Cibani, creative director of PORTS 1961. The reason for the party was to showcase the resort '09 collection, and it was a blast. While we swigged "healthy" honey spiked booze and hors d'oeuvres, models sauntered down a makeshift runway complete with "grass" and palm trees, to the running commentary of famous and gorgeous drag queen, Lypsinka, we were treated to some terrific clothes inspired by that iconic '50s housewife, Lucille Ball. Sounds campy? Hell no. These were really great clothes and I wanted to grab every outfit, from the full-skirted cotton dresses to the ladylike brocade sheaths and the terrific upholstery textured in a retro wallpaper print coat and, and … Let's just say that I get heart palpitations just thinking about the clothes. Best of all, Ports isn't stratospheric in price either. You won't have to mortgage your house to buy one of Tia Cibani's frocks so keep on the lookout for this label. That's all for now. I'm off to Montreal next week where I hope to scope out some hidden treasures. Talk to you soon, C&C.