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Tadashi Shoji Fall 2012 Backstage- “Shanghai” Collection”

19 Apr

Text and Videos, Vivian Kelly


This City served as a source of inspiration last season for society designer, Douglas Hannant. This season, designer Tadashi Shoji drew inspiration from past and present Shanghai to deliver a beautiful collection that stars such as Olivia Spencer, will continue to love and wear.

For more Tadashi Shoji,

To read more and to view my backstage video interview, click here for the full story on my new URL.



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.

Shiseido’s Foundation Brush – One of the Stars of s/s2012 NYFW

16 Oct

Text, Vivian Kelly

One of the stars of the spring summer 2012 NYFW was Shiseido. There’s too much to report on in one post, so this one is dedicated to one of their new MUST OWN tools – the Foundation Brush.

We were able to catch the lead artist backstage and video’d her demoing the brush on a model she was busy applying foundation on. [BTW -The model loves the brush, as it isn’t scratchy like some of the others]. I was particularly interested as I’ve come to appreciate the value of a good foundation such as Shiseido’s Perfect Refining Foundation SPF 16, which I dab on my t-zone area every day and carry in my purse.

Watch the video, below, to learn more about this great tool.

Brush and Foundation, available for $30 at

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.

The Callula Lillibelle s/s2012 Show at the Box, Lincoln Center

19 Sep

Text, Vivian Kelly

It was early in the morning, mid-way through NYFW, and in the dash from our West 56th Street hotel to the Lincoln Center tents to go backstage for Callula Lillibelle, no time for some sorely needed coffee. The lobby at Lincoln Center was weirdly empty, but Neiman Marcus’ Fashion Director, Ken Downing was there, Starbucks in hand, and we stopped by to chat and to get a bead on what one of fashion’s sharpest forcasters thought of the New York s/s2012 season so far. I mentioned we were on our way to chat with William Calvert, backstage at Callula Lillibele.

“Is it Neiman’s?” Ken asked us as Mark [Behnke, of Fashion Tribes],whiled- away those few pleasant moments before hitting backstage.

Good question. I replied, “Hm, well there was a great coat I saw last time.”

“Honey, it takes more than one coat to be in Neiman Marcus” he joked. It struck me then, how hard his job is. I kept that question in mind a few minutes later, as I watched the models get into their looks and pose on the white backdrop backstage, presumably for the lookbook that would be in stores for spring.

I finally actually “met” the designer, William Calvert, after an aborted attempt to record our phone conversation a few months earlier, in which he told me that C.L. had a few winning silhouettes that worked well from size 2-12 and that he worked on tweaking the winning formula each season. I botched that interview, but this describes Callula’s mission – to make women look good and to as the French so aptly put it, “look comfortable in their skin”, and to be proud of their curves.

During our backstage interview, that took place in front of the scrim where the models were posting for the look book, William said “Callula Lillibelle is primarily a dress collection” and in answer to our other question, “it sells at Saks”. Unsurprisingly, the strongest looks were dresses such as the lemon/silver stretch tweed boatneck one that would look as good on a curvy woman as on the size zero models posing in the Box presentation.Best in show was the white “Penelope Cruz” – that had a beautiful wrap front bodice, that was both glamorous and practical.

While pointing to the models posing in front of him , he told  us that he was inspired by strong curvy fashion icons such as Sofia Lauren, Penelope Cruz, Beyonce and Rihanna. Clients and fans include curvy ladies such as Oprah and Gayle King.

There were though, non-dress looks that stood-out, such as the right-on-trend pink jacquard jacket over an ivory dot lace tank and ivory pin dot slouchy shorts. It seems that grown women really WILL be wearing shorts to work, after all. Both looked great with a pair of chic Stuart Weitzman pumps.



To answer Ken’s question, [“Is it Neiman’s?”], we concurred that Callula is a solid collection that is perfectly placed at Saks, rather than Neiman’s which houses cutting edge design and where shoppers go to find what they expect to see on the pages of US Vogue. The Neiman’s woman is one who counts fashion and her wardrobe in her top three life priorities. Neiman’s top customers have Ken on speed dial.

By contrast, Saks and Callula are more mellow in their approach to fashion. This brand offers an excellent fit and the fact that the designs do not vary radically from season to season is reassuring to women who want some style but who don’t want a whole new wardrobe each and every season. This collection fits her lifestyle, as while she enjoys her fashion, she doesn’t want [or need] it delivered at warp speed. She paces herself with easy to wear fashions such as Callula. Fashion and her wardrobe are important but rank lower on the priority list, and like Saks, there is a sense of decorum in her attitude. Despite the year-round throng of tourists and buzz, the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship continues to maintain the air of stately dignity when well-to-do ladies shopped there on their way to lunch and their choice of gloves was an important matter. Similarly, Callula also possesses that gracious sensibility but there’s no better way to experience it than to slip on one of William’s dresses and to see for yourself.

>Backstage Beauty: butter London and Manicurist/Nail Trend Spotter Nonie Crème at Yigal Azrouel s/s2010

21 Sep


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One of my favorite beauty finds this fall was butter LONDON. My friend, Mark Behnke of Fashion Tribes, has been a long-time fan of Brit’s nail queen, Nonie Crème, who’s butter London’s Creative Director and was slated to do a bunch of shows, including Betsey Johnson and Yigal Azrouel. Mark’s one of a handful of American straight guys who’s secure enough to wear color, whether it’s a purple shirt or
OPI’S ‘Linkin Park After Dark’ or more recently, ‘British Racing Green’.

That makes for a refreshing change from yuppie guys who think it’s a radical step to wear a pink shirt [gasp] in lieu of a starched white navy one to work. Mark turned onto butter London nearly two years ago, when he met her at the Vena Cava when she debuted British Racing Green. Over dinner a few nights earlier, Mark told us that he’d permanently quit his OPI habit for his newer one – butter London. He explained, “Butter doesn’t chip, Nonie’s got cool colors unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere [true, why do we need OPI’s seemingly endless riffs on red that are practically indistinguishable from one another?] He knew she’d be backstage at Yigal; so we made a point of seeking her out there, pre-show.

A few days later, after speaking with YIGAL backstage about FASHION v. CLOTHES, we spotted the diminutive NONIE CRÈME, off to the right, custom pouring and blending nail color for the upcoming show.
Nonie is London’s leading manicurist and nail trend spotter. She joined butter LONDON as its Founding Creative Director to help founder Sasha Muir develop a new brand of hand and nail care products that combined high fashion and health and set about building what is today, a premier British fashion brand of hand and nail care products without chemical nasties. Their motto, “3 Free is what we do and it means No Formaldehyde, No toluene, and No DBP (Phthales). Ever.”
At Yigal, Nonie took the time to chat for a few minutes, and sent me off with two bottles to try – “Minger” –
which is THE perfect color to wear to Halloween parties, after I oohed and ahed over it. “Minger” by the way, according to the UK Dictionary of slang means, “a physically undesirable, smelly, or ugly person.” So perverse, so tongue in cheek – I was in love with this woman I’d just met and her cooler than cool polishes.

She also suggested I try her newest, “ALL HAIL MCQUEEN”
which falls neatly into the gray nail polish trend, which I didn’t think I’d be trying anytime soon, because it seemed every fashion editor in Lincoln Center was wearing some variation of gray, and I was already tired of gray. In rebellion, I opted to wear nothing at all until if and when something irresistible came down the pike. Luckily for me, along came butter London, to shake me out of my beauty slump.
I went from indifference to longing for “ British Racing Green” Mark and Nonie spoke excitedly of – just to do something different and to match my new “classic green” SWANKINI swimsuit
I’m planning to inaugurate later this week at a friend’s pool. I say “in a few days”, because I just hit the “send” button and have to give the UPS guys a few days to drop it at my gate. That got me thinking of my dream car, a vintage MG in British Racing Green

with a camel leather interior – yum.
As I waited for my order to arrive, after rereading the February 11, 2010 article in, on the late great Alexander [McQueen], I decided to try “All Hail McQueen”. It took three coats and I eat my words about “boring gray”. I love my sparkly gray-beige nails that are on trend but do NOT look like everyone else’s nails. Nonie and butter London – you have a new fan.