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Shanghai Express – Douglas Hannant’s Shanghai Fantasy

22 Jan

Text, Vivian Kelly

Sometimes a show is more than just a show. I reminded myself of this as I sat down [finally] to register for Mercedes-Benz NYFW, and to go over the list of shows on The Fashion List. The task is easier as I’ve already got a list of GO-TO shows – the ones Deborah Hughes Inc. and Paul Wilmot Communications are producing.

One of my favorites last season was Douglas Hannant’s Shanghai inspired collection, which gave me the opportunity to indulge in a historical fantasy – being present at one of those members-only soirees in the American Consulate in the 1930’s.

There’s a book in the works that will be published by another favorite – Assouline Publishing as well. Douglas got the inspiration for the collection by viewing the black and white photographs the author shared with him a few months before the show. The images of the author’s grandparents daily lives in the upper echelons of 1930’s Shanghai society got Douglas’s creative juices flowing and the resulting collection was nothing short of inspired.

Enjoy the video of  my interview backstage with Douglas.


Lyn Devon’s Spring 2012 Collection – Luxe and Classic With a Twist

6 Nov

Reported by Laura Wood

Text, Laura Wood and Vivian Kelly

Viv and I agreed that although we have very different body types [I’m petite and curvy, she’s lean and fine-boned],we have the same personal taste when it comes to clothing construction; simple shapes cut in beautiful fabrics. It makes sense that she pulls inspiration from icons such as: Audrey Hepburn, Claire McCardell and Geoffrey Beene.

Lyn Devon is the kind of designer who has what I’m looking for. My favorite dress from her spring 2012 collection was a modern take on a Forties’s dress – a gray tweed sleeveless with a plunging V-neck trimmed in yellow -an unexpected twist. It’s fresh, but not overdone. There are polka dresses too, that are fun and have a nostalgic twist that make them more than just a grouping of cute picnic dresses.

I spoke with Lyn at the presentation, and was immediately floored by the beautiful fabrics which the house has specially designed for them. The fabrics are beautiful and substantial feeling. Below, some of our favorites, but you need to get to a retailer that carries Lyn Devon and try a few on to see for yourself!

*Shopping: Neiman Marcus online,, Louis – Boston, Lyn Devon Studio – NYC and more.

For  a complete listing, visit Lyn

Farah Angsana- When Less Really IS More

10 Oct

Text, Vivian Kelly

A few weeks ago, while in Town [NYC] to check-out Douglas Hannant’s new PINK collection, I had a number of interesting conversations. One of these was with an industry insider, M, whom I’ve known for 20 years, and whose opinions I respect. We had been rehashing a few of the recent NYFW Shows. Farah Angsana, an eveningwear designer came up.

I remarked that I’d been following her for 4 or so years ago, starting back when I attended the now defunct Mercedes Benz LA Fashion Weeks at Culver City, CA. She and Kevin Hall were consistently among the best shows there. Ms. Angsana knew how to shape a beautiful bodice – which reminded me of Nineties designer, Donald Deal – who may have missed his calling. HE should have been working with movie costume designer Edith Head. Together, they would have designed some utterly unforgettable gowns for Grace Kelly, similar to the stunning aqua one she wore in To Catch a Thief (1955).

Prior to seeing the butterscotch ruffled ball gown in this collection, I had associated the words, “beading” and “bling” with Ms. Angasana’s evening gown designs. This gown showed her ability to deliver design that is understated and elegant and that whispers rather than shouts. Designs such as these play better in the Box’s Art Gallery setting rather than on a runway with blaring music in the big tent’s stadium-like venue.

“Sometimes less is more, said my friend, M. It really worked better for her  showing in the Box than having a big runway show.”

She’s right. I admittedly only saw a few of the looks before rushing off to the next show, but was impressed by the elegant looks I did catch. In our short interview, Ms. Angsana said that she was inspired by a recent trip to Asia and numerous visits to art galleries and museums in which she was sparked by the gorgeous fabrics and embroidery treatment she admired there.

Watch the video below, to hear the details.

Fresh New Talent at NYFW – Samantha Pleet’s s/s2012 Collection

1 Oct

Samantha Pleet – a Brooklyn Family Affair- one to watch

Text, Laura Wood & Vivian Kelly

“When you put it [a SP dress] on, it drapes and conforms to your body. It’s all about the designs conforming to peoples’ bodies and working with their figures.”

– Designer Samantha Pleet –

We obtained the above quote after Laura attended  Ms. Pleet’s s/s2012 NYFW event; a cross between a show and a presentation in a loft space. The models came out and posed on cubes for a while  to be replaced by a new group for the crowd to study and snap some pics.

From a human-interest angle, we loved the “family affair” aspect of this collection. The designer’s Father enthusiastically greeted guests. It was obvious that this young designer has her Dad’s unconditional support. That, paired with the flowing champagne gave the whole thing a fun, bubbly upbeat vibe, which suits the clothes we saw to a T. The family theme goes further. Samantha’s husband designed the fabrics, all of these original prints are exclusive to the Samantha Pleet line.  Our favorites were pieces that used the unique prints with traditional silhouettes.

The trompe d’oeil prints made the already small model’s waist look as if it were two inches wide in the “feather suit” – a stylish one piece maillot. Other favorite were the sleeveless fly away dress, immortal dress, shadow cape and the chronical blazer and novel shorts. The overall effect was eye-catching without being costume-y.

Shortly after NYFW, we walked the Capsule Trade Show and got to meet Samantha, who was showing the collection to an enthusiastic crowd of buyers. Despite the non-stop pace she’s been keeping over the past few months, she took some time out to talk to us one on one about her design aesthetic and unique fashions.

Click on the Video below to hear our interview.

For more information on this exciting new designer and her designs, visit her stylishly indie website, Samantha Pleet.

Gwen Stefani’s s/s2012 L.A.M.B. Collection – When Fashion by a Celebrity is a Good Thing

29 Sep

Text, Vivian Kelly

Celebrities have a bad rap in the fashion business. I’d taken a skeptical stance on the idea of the notion of celebrity as fashion designer, since the days when Kathie Lee Gifford “designed” a line for Wal-Mart, followed by legions of demi celebs such as Paris Hilton who capitalized on their fame to produce shoddy garments they themselves would never actually wear. The fact that THEY themselves wore Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Oscar de la Renta etc etc. said it all.

There are exceptions however, that show that celebrities CAN [in conjunction with the right team] produce a credible fashion line. The first time I witnessed this was while attending a Justin Timberlake concert at Mohegan Sun, soon after his “Future Sex/Love Sounds” tour hit. Joe Zee did an amazing job styling him and Justin carried that white suit as well as John Travolta did his in “Saturday Night Fever”.

IT wasn’t William Rast, but I recall being stupefied when mid-way through the show, he sang a ballad in a plaid William Rast shirt and jeans. That night, I began reconsidering the celebrity as fashion designer issue and resolved to actually READ the WWD articles about Celebrity X designing a fashion line to see if others besides Justin were getting it right.

Good news. In the ranks of the “getting it right” are Justin Timberlake/William Rast, the Olsen Twins/Elizabeth and James, and the subject of this post, Gwen Stefani/L.A.M.B. Until this NYFW, the closest I got to Gwen’s line was seeing pieces at Nordstrom’s on the floor. I liked what I saw and longed to see her next collection in its entirety to see if she continued to follow-through on her branding message ie: herself  = a fun yet sophisticated version of cool.

A key ingredient for a brand’s success is to create an identity and to stick with your DNA. Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana hit gold early in their career with the severe look of elderly Italian women clad in black crossed with sexy corsets and animal print that showed their idealized woman; one who possesses an intriguing angel-devil personality.

Gwen Stefani has similarly created a believable personality for her L.A.M.B line. She is known as a pop star who mixes classic glamour with funky contemporary clothing resulting in a mix that is the modern equivalent of Eighties’ pop star, Cyndi Lauper. Although physically these two don’t resemble one another, they share that irresistible “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” spirit that I’ve loved since Ms. Lauper debuted it in 1983 on MTV.

This season was my first L.A.M.B. show. I’m calling it a “show” even though technically, it was a presentation, set in the “Box” space – my favorite of the Lincoln Center Fashion Week venues as there’s usually little to no waiting, you can get as close as you want to the clothes and the models obligingly pose for shots.

The presentation was scheduled to start at 2:30p.m, but you wouldn’t have known that from the crowd assembled in the holding area when I arrived at 2:20. Normally tardy editors were in line waiting, snaked around the length of the tent to get what I guessed would be only a very quick glimpse of the latest L.A.M.B. collection and hopefully a look at the chanteuse cum fashion designer herself. [Ms. Stefani was not there, sigh.]

I  wiggled to the front of the 4-deep crowd huddled around the models posing on the white blocks, to scan the 23 looks. There was herringbone plaid, a leather moto jacket, some fun Ikat prints and quite a bit of Noir Jewelry; in short, no huge deviations from the brand’s DNA. Just an hour earlier at lunch with Scott French and Meredith Garcia of The Fashion List at Pain Quotidian, we all agreed that the best designers like writers find their voice and stick with it. Their customers appreciate this; can count on them to deliver the goods. Make no mistake – consistency is not boring, it is an asset.

A few months ago, a stroll on the floor at Nordstrom’s Westchester Mall verified this. Marc Jacobs Mark by Marc and L.A.M.B. stood out, because they didn’t need any store signage to identify them. That odd but adorable tweak like a teeny tiny print on a puff sleeve blouse- must be Marc. Black and white herringbone jackets and red accents? Must be L.A.M.B. – it was.

With all of this in the back of my mind, once finally, inside the Box, my first glimpse revealed black and white, this time as an Ikat print top worn with brown herringbone shorts accessorized with a skinny red belt, and towering platform sandals in black, red and cobalt – very Eighties!

The rock and roll portion of the brand was most apparent in the accessories, hair and makeup, namely a leather and gold shark tooth necklace heavily kohled eyes, straight black brows and a two- tone “Pebbles” from The Flintstones hairdo.

Many of the editors in the Tents were wearing this same up-do, minus the volume and two-tone.

Ms.Stefani hit the preppy trend square on with a v-front cream tennis sweater but unlike the one from your parents’ country club, this one is minus the unflattering bulk. The L.A.M.B sweater boasts fine knit gage stitching, which make it an ideal transition piece. These days, transition pieces are where it’s at. What could be better than playing a set of tennis, taking a shower, putting on the same sweater that you walked on the Courts with and getting-on with your day? There’s something for everyone here, and even one piece will up the fun quotient of your spring wardrobe.

Sebago’s Artisan Collection – Tradition Meets Innovative Style

26 Sep

You say “Tomatoe” I say “Tomahto”. The same goes with the shoe brand name, SEBAGO. No matter which way you elect to pronounce it, Sebago is a great brand. Sometime during NYFW, I fell into a huge clothing rut – I no longer knew what I wanted to wear, and despite a stuffed walk-in closet at home, nothing looked right. As I sat in Robert Verdi’s Luxe Laboratory, looking at the Sebago display, the answer came to me- preppy dressing.

By this, I mean how we used to dress in the late Seventies in Middle School and at Greenwich High. There was a uniform and it transitioned me into my freshman year at Duke. The early Eighties were a throwback period to conservatism. Ronald Reagan had just been elected President, and it was good to look WASP, ie: subtly rich. At this same time, Lisa Birnbach’s Preppy Handbook came out and served as the how-to get the look of affluence.

Key to the look is the boat shoe and the penny loafer. Anyone in Middle School who didn’t have Dock or Top Siders was a social outcast. One had a rounded toe, the other a square toe, and either was acceptable, as long as they were by Sperry. Only those most tuned into fashion back then knew that the ORIGINAL boat shoe was actually manufactured by SEBAGO, in 1946.  Friend, R. Scott French, fashion designer and co-owner of The Fashion List, was one of the few who KNEW. Little good this did him as his less enlightened Baltimore classmates kept insisting that his Sebago docks were “wrong” and their Sperrys were “right”.

Once at Duke, I swapped my topsiders for penny loafers in cordovan and wore them with jeans and some of my Mother’s tweed blazers and a prize Diana Vreeland red tweed blazer [with suede elbow patches]through fall and early winter.

Years later, I remembered my beloved topsiders and loafers while flipping through the September 2011 People’s Special Fashion Issue, with the blaring headline, “Kate’s Style Secrets!”. On p. 51 lay the answer to my “Whatever Do I Wear?” crisis. There, at the top of the page, were a pair of Sebago “Bala” mocassins, with an oily wax finish that looked great with Kate’s J Brand jeans and a simple button down shirt.

Years later, at the Luxe Lab, I learned from Tracee Yang, Harrison & Shriftman’s PR Rep, that today’s Sebagos are all hand made in the Dominican Republic.  They’ve kept the original designs we love but they’ve added some great fashion twists, by collaborating with artists such as Stash, an innovator in urban design who exhibited alongside the late Keith Haring, when he was 17 years old. Since then, he’s added a commercial aspect to his work, by collaborating with Nike and A Bathing Ape. We loved his short moc/boot that laces up and has a bit of spatter treatment to toughen up this beloved preppy staple.

Another noteworthy collaboration is with the Filson, a “better outdoor clothing company” that was established in 1897 in Seattle, by C.C. Filson, a former railroad conductor. His fledgling outdoor clothing store took off thanks to the Great Klondike Gold Rush [1897-9].

Sebago has mixed Filson’s oil tint cloths with Sebago leathers, most notably in a ruggedly handsome bag that’s also very practical. The bags are available exclusively in Bloomingdales’ selected NYC, Santa Monica, LA, and 59th Street.

Sure to be an editorial success are the women’s collection with Kimmie Smith, who’s known for her “nuvo glam style”. She’s already done a small collection for fall that’s being well received, but lookout for the spring collection, which will be available online in February and March. You’ll have to wait until then to pickup her irresistible colorful docksides.

For now, if you’re a guy, or shopping for one, you’re in luck. There’s a nice assortment of styles at the Sebago popup store at Saks 5th Ave. on the 7th floor. The salesmen there couldn’t be nicer. Seeing I was near tears after slogging through the rain to discover Saks isn’t yet carrying the Plaza and Bala Sebagos I wanted, they directed me to East 34th Street. It was there, thanks to them, that I finally scored, at Orva Shoes, just like they said, at 34 West 34th Street.

Now, I just have to wait until late October, for my pair of “Balas” to come in. I’ve just put in my order for the first tall boot I’ve bought in years – the Saranac, which has a stylish tweed panel offsetting the rich light brown leather and a practical lug sole.

The Tibi Spring/Summer 2012 Collection Show at Lincoln Center

16 Sep

Text, Carey Reed Zamarriego

Images of Front Row and two Runway Looks, CRZ

Individual Runway Looks, from Vogue UK

“I think women should dress in a way that’s effortless but never lazy,” Amy Smilovic, the American designer behind the Tibi label has said. Naming the ladies of Charlie’s Angels as the epitome of chic style, Tibi strives to provide pieces that take the effort out of creating laidback, modern looks. A feat that’s easier said, than done. I know I toiled away in front of the mirror the morning of the show agonizing over my outfit and trying to piece together an effortless, yet contemporary. In the end, I settled on a billowy red and white striped tank, navy boyfriend cardigan, gray skinny jeans and black booties. However, when placed under the bright lights of the runway show, my cool, collected appearance quickly began to melt.

Diagonally across from me though, were three ladies who seemed to beam in the heat of the show lights and represented the crisp, effortless modern style of Tibi to a T.

Socialite and part-time reality TV star, Olivia Palermo sat flanked by a male companion on one side and TV actress Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill). On the other side of Bush was Emma Roberts, tween actress (Nancy Drew) Julia Roberts’ niece. Olivia looked fresh and classic in an oversized gauzy cream blouse, a skirt so short it disappeared when she was seated, and animal-print pumps. Sofia opted for a strapless rouge leather dress, paired with a python clutch and Emma was decked out in a deep shade of plum.

The show began with a series of shorts, pants and tops in cream and pale hues of pink, green and blue, exuding Tibi’s effortless chicness. Next, there were pops of color with mustard and outfits pairing royal blue and black. Different textiles played off one another, some more successful than others. I didn’t really care for the short-sleeved leather tops, which awkwardly flared out at the models’ waists. There were several textured pieces: an eyelet black ‘nude-illusions’ dress and shorts, and several dresses that looked like they had been pressed with prints. Well-constructed, wide legged trousers and long cargo skirts were paired with sleek, feminine tops and represented Smilovic’s desire that “a woman should dress in contradictions – youthful and sophisticated, masculine and feminine, bold and muted colors.”

The show closed with a series of tops, shorts; and my personal favorite, a strapless, pocketed genie jumpsuit, which all had the same delicate white Asian flower print atop an emerald green and black background. The look was possibly inspired by Smilovic’s time spent living in Hong Kong. My other favorites included a strapless dress in mustard and Tibi’s gauzy halter neck dresses in baby blue and cream, all of which would easily roll up and travel nicely in a bag to the island for a day on the beach and transition, with heels, for an evening out.

Trends for spring/summer:

Return to long, cargo-style skirts

Wide-legged trousers

Royal blue and black; mustard and cream; slate blue and blush

Trends for fall (as seen in the crowd):

60’s styles a-la Mad Men

70’s boho chic: large, floppy velvety hats, oversized clutches, bellbottoms and hair left long, wavy and parted in the center.

80’s preppie style a-la any John Hughes film from the time

To view the collection and for more information on the Tibi brand, visit

If you’re in NYC, drop into their  SoHo Location, at  120 Wooster Street, to browse.

Carey is the Editorial Director for (W)anderlust Writing. To see more of her work and current project, visit: