A Changing of the Guard – the New Ports1961, Still in Formation

6 Apr

Text, Vivian Kelly


I miss the old Ports1961. The Ports I’m referring to is the free wheeling upscale boho aesthetic former Ports designer, Tia Cibanni, channeled in her women’s collection and the engaging V.P of PR and Marketing, Tony Alcindor, got us editors to know and to love. The vibe was “gypset” ie: a well-travelled woman who needed beautiful clothes cut from interesting fabrics that she could wear in Milan, Paris, Miami, New York, or Tokyo. The Ports woman was a free spirited globe trotter and I identified with her and cherish my pointy silver and black silk lame jacket to this day.

Glenda Bailey, Harper’s Bazaar Editor in Chief liked it too. As a result, Ports consistently got a lot of play in one of fashion’s most important glossies.

Recently, there’s been a changing of the guard. Perhaps it’s due to the harsh economy, or just Management’s desire for change. In any case, there’s now a new head designer, Fiona Cibanni, Tia’s sister, a men’s collection, co-designed by Ian Hylton and Fiona, and a very different philosophy. The men’s, which showed in Milan, was  stream-lined, neutral, and expensive-looking in that wealthy Milanese gentleman-type way. Even if you’re a jeans and tee kind of guy, you’d enjoy looking pulled together like this when the occasion arose for “serious” dressing.

I learned a little more when I dropped into the Ports showroom downtown feeling energized and inspired after a tour of the Assouline offices and lunch in the cafeteria with Assouline‘s Mimi Crume, just a few yards away from the Ports showroom.

I dropped in and  Ports PR Manager, Samantha Frappied, filled me in and showed me some of the new designs.

Samantha described the new Ports as sleeker, more refined, and with more attention to fabrics. There was a stunning red day dress shot-through with silver threads. It was a shift – I breathed a sigh of relief. Ports would REALLY not be Ports without their shift dresses.

Change extended to the accessories. No more shoe and bag collaborations – Ports will be taking that in house going forward. No more big Tent shows, no more Lincoln Center. Indeed, the last show was moved from the previously scheduled big Tent to a much smaller  show with only 200 people on the list. Shades of the Tom Ford Women’s show…??

In the meantime, I take back my words to my friend, Mark Behnke of Fashion Tribes – this version of Ports IS different, but different can be as good or better. I’m looking forward to the cruise/resort collection to form a cohesive picture in my mind.

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