Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Screw Wall Street, Look Good!

TODAY’S TIP: One of my favorite young designers, Shin Choi, just launched a contemporary line, Yarnie, featuring trendy, cool modern fashions for the budget-conscious Gen X customer.

Crap and Couture Adores Coleman McCartan

Now on a personal note, I must single out my favorite folks (at the Coterie/Accessorie Circuit, et al.), led by the trade shows dapper pr honcho, Coleman McCartan (who incidentally always looks as if he's just stepped off the cover of GQ), and his very able team. Why? Because he never fails to extend the same courtesy and attention as he does to the top editorial guns that show up at the press office for coffee, chat and info on the vendors. He's a class act and I only wish there were more like him.

As an example of "how it's done," check out ENK'S Coterie/Accessorie Circuit's website. C&C loves you, Coleman!

Pick Six

The next best thing to winning the lottery (well, maybe not) are these six terrific spring collections I checked out at the Coterie. AN ORIGINAL PENGUIN by MUNSINGWEAR’s vintage-inspired contemporary RTW collection was spot on. My personal faves include the "mod" ¾ sleeved coat in a khaki geometric print cotton, the coated linen/cotton swing trench jacket, the twill blazer with contrast piping and the cute plaid dress and Bermuda shorts. Believe it or not, the latter preppy style looks fresh and new again!

I must recommend BYRON LARS BEAUTY MARK, an affordably priced line of feminine dresses and separates. Byron has probably single-handedly revived the wasp waist with his iconic shapely silhouettes (first spotted on his fabulous runway shows many moons ago). Now his latest incarnation doesn't disappoint – only the price points are better. He offers a fabulous crisply tailored, yet still feminine stretch cotton coat with flirty bow back, a chic stretch twill group and a darling black and white gingham, full skirted sleeveless dress.

And You Shall Know Beauty By Its Mark!

So there you have my top six picks. Check them out these hot designers and their spring 09 collections in store around mid-February and remember, when times are tough, the tough go shopping.

After a week's much needed break from fashion, I trotted over to the spring Coterie trade show at the west side Piers and the Jacob Javits Center. Talk about fashion over kill. However, this is one show that I never pass up as most of the top RTW and accessory collections show here. OK, so what did I absolutely love this time around? In no particular order: BEN-AMUN's fabulous over the top and right on target aurora borealis star necklace, the branch coral on "gold" necklace and all the oversized chunky jet pieces blew me away.

On Your Neck and Out of this World!

Next up, I got a nostalgic thrill when I came across STEPHEN BURROWS WORLD. This was a name I remember from my swinging '70s days. Not one to rest on his vintage laurels, Burrows offered some terrific, easy summer dresses and separates in khaki, sand and stone cotton broadcloth.

All Grommets and No Wallace
Stephen Burrows Makes a Smart Dress

image by Paul Van Ravenstein

A newcomer to the show was a terrific, tongue-in-chic line called CA$HMERE where I found witty trompe l'oeil "Birkin bag" designs on sweaters and dresses and an oversized pink clutch bag with the words, Les Must de Counterfeit lettered across the front in gold. Tacky, but what a hoot!

Chinese Sweatshops Are Banging Out Fakes of These

More over the top were the dramatic rhinestone on sheer oversized necklaces from BONNIE STRAUSS repped at the Niche showroom. Finally, I was intrigued by the number of "vintage" type lines, in particular, WHAT COMES AROUND GOES AROUND. What this actual vintage dealer did was produce a RTW collection with a youthful retro vibe aimed at those who want the look of vintage but not the actual stuff which can be pricey.

That's all for now, I'm all “fashioned” out! Time to switch my closets and get out the fall stuff… that could take days. C&C.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I’m back with more inside info on the spring ’09 fashion shows. So why do I refer to this as notes from the back row? Because, that’s where I usually get seated or as close to the back where there’s no view at all. Forget seeing the model’s feet as they parade down the runway. I couldn’t begin to tell you what type of shoes they wear. Mostly it doesn’t matter all that much except when only the first two rows get goody bags and the rest of us working stiffs look on in envy (and wonder if there’s anyway possible to grab a bag on our way in).

As for actually getting in to the actual venues inside the tent itself, that’s a whole ‘nother story. We all look terribly glam as we saunter our way up the steps and oh so casually pose by the guards in hopes of getting our pictures snapped by the onlookers (and there are many, not including the wire service photogs). The fun stops there! Once inside and it’s a veritable free for all, as even for those of us who actually got seat assignments in advance, the crowds of editors, reporters, store buyers, celebs and society types all try to crowd in at once and you take your life in your hands trying to duck the camera equipment, flying elbows and giant size – but always on trend – handbags and stilettos as everyone makes a mad dash to their assigned seats. However, that does not mean that the big shots actually sit down once inside. Nooo, they stand around gabbing and preening for the cameras, all the while blocking the aisles for the rest of us poor schleppers who really, really want to just sit and read the daily or WWD until the show finally starts. This can run anywhere from a half hour to an hour later than the actual starting time. Ah, the glamour never ends!

Another reason to get there early is to grab the (scarce this season) goody bag on our seat before someone else nabs it – and given half a chance, they will. This happens most often at Anna Sui’s shows as her bags are coveted and usually contain a cute sample of her latest perfume, some makeup and maybe a trinket. This time around, we got a darling charm bracelet and a pair of Spanx control panties. An interesting combination, I thought.

So much for the actual show venues, now I’ll tell you about the goings on inside the BIG TENT itself. The week got off to a good start with a cocktail party hosted by the Italian Trade Commission and the Italian Footwear Association to showcase Italian shoes natch. We the select few who got invites were treated to a roped off area around the Bryant Park fountain where drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served buffet style. To watch the starving hordes grab, one would think that the press never saw food before. Anyhoo, the event was fun and some of us actually looked at the shoes on display.

For those not interested or not invited, there was a stunning Mercedes sedan parked inside (it is, after all called Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) , plus a jewelry display by designer Judith Ripka, free supplies for the taking from the Office Max booth, and a café (with the most uncomfortable, but terribly stylish chairs) and tables where people could sit out between shows or sip FREE cappuccinos or Bawls high energy sodas all week.

Now you know what goes on inside the tent, besides the usual primping and last minute adjustments and craziness behind the scenes where designers, makeup people, dressers and models congregate, all for a show that lasts on average less than thirty minutes. However, those thirty minutes can make or break a designer!

In addition to the tent venues, shows were held all over town, usually in totally inaccessible places to those of us without limos or unlimited cash to pay for cabs to places like the meat packing district, SoHo, and every obscure place you can imagine.

Undeterred, your intrepid reporter schlepped to a few off the beaten track places including Varick Street (way over on the west side) where I checked out the spring collections from Sears/Kmart. Don’t laugh, this blog is called Crap and Couture after all. By now, I’m sure that I don’t have to explain my definition of “crap” to you. Frankly, I saw some adorable stuff that will hit the stores in February. I plan on buying the Apostrophe line’s chic dark denim crop jacket with ¾ sleeves and a terrific khaki belted dress. Jacqueline Smith’s green/white shirtwaist could hold its own with Diane Von Furstenberg or Tory Burch any day and her crisp white eyelet button front sundress and geometric print tote in shades of red were equally on target.

And speaking of Target. Boy do they know how to throw a party. This was to celebrate Target’s latest crop of in-store exclusive designer offerings from some hot names like Anya Hindmarch (very chic, and normally expensive handbags from a top Brit designer), Scottish RTW designer Jonathan Saunders, Aussie makeup guru Napoleon Perdis and more. The event was held at one of Target’s temporary pop-up stores – there were four in all, but only open to the public for the following four days. We the select “many” were treated to a red carpet, blasting music, fab eats like mini cheeseburgers and quesadillas and drinks served in paper coffee cups straight out of a Greek diner. We were there to shop and shop we did for two straight hours. At recession prices, why wouldn’t we?

Portable Target - Who Knew?

Also “doing their thing” store-wise was the Gap in temporary co-branding partnership with hip Paris retailer, Colette. Open only for a month at Gap’s teeny Fifth Avenue store, the stock featured a selection of over priced novelty tees, candles, jewelry and a few other blah offerings. One item I did find relatively affordable and unique was a tan cotton belted trench coat updated with the addition of a quirky design randomly scattered. It had just enough edge to make it interesting.

Closer to midtown in the Bryant Park Hotel, I checked out the luxury handbag line out of Germany, MCM (Mode Creation Munich), making its comeback in the States. While this premium accessory brand was on my radar, the styling has been reinterpreted and updated for a more modern cosmopolitan customer. There’s going to be a store opening cocktail party at their new digs in the Plaza Hotel which I plan on attending. Also closer to civilization was the loft space showcasing Expose, a pr collective, featuring the collections of twelve RTW and accessory designers. While I and a colleague liked many of the lines (which I’m amazed to say I even remember as the champagne was flowing), the ones that stood out for me were the black and white offerings from Aussie-based firm, Shadows & Dust, French Canadian Jerome Rousseau’s beautifully sexy luxury footwear, Priestess NYC edgy, constructed street wear aimed at the totally hip chick and Yansi Fugel’s perfectly edited TravelJersey separates.

I must mention a fabulous show held at the Park Avenue Armory uptown. G Star Raw, a denim brand out of Europe, put on a show to end all shows hosted by Alan Cummings and Heather Graham who came out and spoke about the firm’s commitment to end world poverty by 2015 through its foundation and with the efforts of individuals and the government. After a heartfelt speech, the show began and what a show, models both male and female briskly strode out in pairs to a great soundtrack and froze mid step – very effective. Even the runway rose up and down in the center like steps, which added to the fun. Even from my perch, high above the crowd (and the huge space was packed), I had a perfectly unobstructed view, not to mention a terrific goody fabric zippered shoulder bag filled with a silk scarf, funky tee etc. After the show, we filed down to a party where the champagne was flowing, canapés came out and a five - piece band played their hearts out. What better way to end fashion week? C&C.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Same Tent, Different Circus

O.K., I can’t take credit for this headline – I took it right off a Full Frontal Fashion t-shirt. That said, Fashion Week really is a circus and the Spring ’09 shows only served to reinforce my opinion of the hoopla in and around the Bryant Park tents.

I’ll give it to you straight – you don’t need me to give you a complete rundown of all the clothes since everybody and his brother covers them in print, on the web and cable. What I will give you are my impressions of this past (and I mean long) week from my fave designer pieces and events, to my impressions of the whole “scene” inside the tents.

Let's start with what you should buy for Spring if you want to be a true fashionista! First and foremost, you really need to have a social life since most of the collections focused on stuff to wear after dark to a trendy club (unless you really want to go out on a limb and look ridiculous), or fancy schmancy social event. It’ll also behoove you to drop a few years as most of what I saw will look best on the twenty- somethings who don’t eat. Failing that, try to go out only when it’s really, really dark. For those occasions I’d suggest investing in Monique Lhuillier’s gorgeous wave-print organza cocktail dress with jeweled front (perfect for the uptown social scene), or Cynthia Steffe’s cute wallpaper floral jacquard bustier dress (to hit the downtown club scene). For that upcoming movie awards show you’re invited to, order Carlos Miele’s sexy shadow-print silk chiffon gown with stone embroidery or his gorgeous aqua chiffon number with Brazilian stone neckline embroidery. Oh, and it would help if you look like Giselle Bundchen!

Next up, it will come down to the choice of either buying some of this stuff or paying rent. If you choose the former option, I suggest you buy everything Vera Wang showed. Her collection was pure perfection and in my not-so-humble opinion her absolute best! Listen, Wang even made walk shorts look fabulous and don’t even get me started on her jewelry. Personally I would kill for the multicolor embroidered dress veiled in blush silk organza accented with a rose opal crystal beaded belt. Whew!

If your lifestyle doesn’t exactly run to galas, movie premieres, hip club openings, or dinners with the Brangelinas then you want to focus on actual clothes which you can wear during the day. This season it’s all about the trench coat/dress. Almost every collection I saw featured at least one, so better get that waistline in shape as they were all belted. Personally, I loved G-Star Raw’s cute white trench with giant cargo pockets and Nanette Lepore’s belted military-inspired belted khaki jacket, Tracy Reese’s satin-back linen trench shown over her leather stove pipe pants and Erin Fetherston’s metallic linen trench coat in blush over matching linen slit-front skirt and georgette blouse in rainbow wash.

And speaking of leather, it isn’t only for Fall anymore. Designers treated skins like the softest, supplest fabric. I crave all of Andrew Marc’s lightweight glazed or soft glove-lamb short, shaped-close-to-the-body jackets.

Moving on, we turn to ruffles! I mean everybody and his brother showed them. Some more successfully than others. Carolina Herrera offered a pretty white cloque gown with black organza ruffle appliqué and a rose-print lurex chiffon gown also ruffled in black organza.

While we saw lots of pants on the runway, my advice would be to stick with the slim versions and definitely skip the drapey zouave cropped versions. I won’t name names, but frankly when 90 pound teen models look awful in them, what chance do the rest of us have? Think about it.

As for the rest of the trends, go for the pattern-on-pattern mixes, one-shoulder cocktail dresses, subtle metallics, embellishment, that whole retro ‘50s and ‘60s ladylike styles. Nobody captured this mood better than Michael Kors with a sensational line-up that offers shoppers the most (high-priced) bang for the buck. However, his collection will only work if you want to look like a Wasp-y, high-society version of Grace Kelly or CZ Guest.

There’s more to tell, but you’ll just have to wait for my next installment where I’ll dish on the parties, press events I attended and what circus really goes on inside the tent. To be continued…C&C.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Couture at Christie's

You know that vintage couture has become a big deal when a venerable auction house such as Christie's decides to hold its' first ever clothing/jewelry auction. We members of the press got a preview peek at what is billed as "the finest collection of 20th century avant-garde fashion in private hands."

Lovingly amassed by noted vintage dealers, Resurrection, the collection represents pivotal designers from the 1960s to the 1990s and includes some very rare pieces such as a Paco Rabanne aluminum riveted plate mini dress, a stunning Hermes leather coat from the '30s that looked utterly of the moment and a bright red plastic bubble cape with bulls-eye detailing by Pierre Cardin. Target should bid on this one! In addition to the afore mentioned designers, I fell hard for an Ossie Clark floral chiffon number from the 70s that's the epitome of boho chic and Saint Laurent's iconic, laced front safari shirt and Rudi Gernreich's timeless, black jersey evening column that flows from a curved silver collar.

The collection comprised of over 250 meticulously assembled garments, headwear and jewelry – from pop art and the space age of the 60s through the iconoclasm of the 70s and the architectural revival of structured couture of the 80ss and 90s – is sure to draw a crowd of fashionistas and serious collectors. Only one teensy problem – the actual auction will be held in London at Christie's South Kensington saleroom on October 30th. So start adding up those frequent flyer miles now.

Can't get to London? Then be sure to check out the preview in New York on 3-6th September at Christie's Rockefeller Galleries. In London the dates are 25-29 October. The sale itself will be held on October 30th. All lots from the sale can be viewed online along with full descriptions on Lotfinder® which also allows you to leave an absentee bid. Estimates range from 500 to 10,000 pounds in case you were wondering!

Another auction house that's gotten back on the vintage bandwagon (they previously held some terrific twice-yearly sales) is Doyle Galleries New York. Upcoming is an auction devoted solely to designer costume jewelry to be held on October 7 with public viewing the 4th to 6th. No press preview yet but we did find out that two of the highlights of the sale will be collections from socialite Ann Getty and Andy Warhol muse and confidante, Brigid Berlin. Property from other noted collectors will include designs by Chanel, Gripoix, Christian Lacroix et al.

For more info check out Doyle's website costumejewelry@doylenewyork.com

Next up, the spring 2009 fashion shows and all the attendant hoopla. Talk to you soon, C & C.

Crap and Couture, Notes From the Back Row