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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.


Hal Rubenstein and his 100 Unforgettable Dresses- Spotlight on Elizabeth Hurley in Gianni Versace’s Safety Pin Dress

15 Dec


Text and Video, Vivian Kelly

I’m still reading 100 Unforgettable Dresses and using it as a “time out treat” from grading and teaching. The section that kicks-off the book is one of the best written and informative pieces of fashion history I’ve read in a really long time.

In the video below, author Hal Rubenstein talks to The Fashion Examiner about Elizabeth Hurley, Gianni Versace and the magic they created together with the infamous “safety pin dress”. In the book, Hal dissects the WHY part of the magic these dresses imparted on the women who wore them. The closest most women get to that “magic feeling” is when they step into their wedding dress and are transformed.

Hair Heaven – Leonard Zagami’s “Camelot at Dawn” Coupe

1 Dec

Text, Vivian Kelly

Anne Garside’s coffee table book, Camelot at Dawn delivered a sorely needed fashion moment in the midst of the disheartening 8 day power outage. The photos shot by Orlando Suero, were ones I’d never seen before.


Most of the photos we see of Jacqueline Kennedy are of her as as the First Lady or in her later incarnation as the mysterious “Jackie O”, dodging paparazzo  Ron Gallela.

The images of  Jacqueline Kennedy and her husband, shot in May 1954, in Georgetown, have that “easy” American style that put US fashion designers on the map. I related to Jackie’s khaki capris, striped shirt and flats, because that’s my daily uniform, but that hair! The short wavy haircut she had combined with bubblegum pearl necklaces and large gold clip earrings got my heart racing.  Like turned to love when I got to the image of her lighting the candles for her first formal dinner party. The white strapless evening gown was stunning combined with the famous three strand pearl necklace and the haircut. I could get the necklace at Carolee but the hair – not so easy.

Jackie, before her first formal dinner party, Georgetown, 1954. Photo by Orlando Suero.

The only two guys who would really “get” this obsession were Anthony Palermo and Leonard Zagami. Off to New York I went to go show them the book and hopefully to walk out with a modern day version of this cut. If you’re not familiar with their work, have a look at their blog, and you’ll see what I mean by “editorial”.

While sitting in Leonard’s chair, getting my so-so short coupe transformed into a modern day version of Jackie Kennedy’s 1954 cut, Anthony [Leonard] came by to chat in between a barrage of color clients. I come to A-L for the outstanding hair services but even more so for their company; we share a mutual passion for hair that can transform you and can make you feel like your favorite fashion icon.

and Leonard [right], my go-to editorial hair gurus”]“Have you seen the Vogue covers book” asked Anthony. “Uh, no…” I confessed, feeling decidedly out of it but happy I had something new to get inspired about, while getting the haircut of my dreams. An added bonus was that Leonard told me about his Uncle, Salvatore Zagami, a noted sculptor/artist who brought works from his personal collection for the Salon’s FNO party back in September. Luckily for me, he left some of them in the salon and I enjoyed them as Leonard worked on my hair.

A Salvatore Zagami Sculpture, photographed by Anthony Palermo.

Considering my hair is finer than Jackie’s the cut I walked out with was as close as I could get. Leonard suggested playing with a strong mousse, such as Nexxus Mouse Plus Volumizing Styler. The key was to scrunch my hair to create the waves I wanted. Perfect, AND easy.

Leonard's modern version of Jackie Kennedy's 1954 Hairdo

Hair is like fashion. As with fashion, as soon as a collection is done, the question  “what’s next?” arises. As I got up, I asked Anthony about “the next step. Maybe the Lady Diana cut?” His eyes lit up and he said, “and maybe blonde too?”

Princess Diana's Short Haircut


Over the Holidays, we’re going to Foxwoods. While the others at the poker tables, I’ll be at the Lady Diana Retrospective, studying her hair and style. On a world tour, the exhibition “Diana, A Celebration” stops Sept. 16 through Jan. 15 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket. Graeme Murtonand Nick Grossmark, art handlers for the Althorp Estate in England,  installed the iconic gown worn by Diana at her 1981 wedding to Charles, Prince of Wales.

Art handlers Nick Grossmark (black gloves) and Graeme Murton (white gloves) travel to each tour stop for "Diana, A Celebration," responsible for setting up the exhibition (wearing gloves to prevent damage). The duo are standing next to Diana's iconic ivory silk and lace wedding gown.

After that experience, I’ll undoubtedly have  a Lady Di moment and head back to the A-L Salon to make my vision a reality, with a lot of help from my friends there.


Assouline + Judith Ripka = 1 Great Combo and Contest You Need to Enter

4 Oct

Text, Vivian Kelly

Contests. Been there, done that. Right? Wrong. Walking out of CVS early last Friday morning on a milk run, I scanned my receipt as the register belched out a sheaf of coupons for stuff I don’t want or need: Pampers, box hair color, Doritos – ugh and a come-on of a contest:

“WIN $1,000 – CALL 1-800-998-4396”.

I tossed the receipt out on the way out.

Me, I’d rather pay attention to a contest that gives me a shot at something I care about – like the one posted here. This contest involves beautiful coffee table books that speak of my lifestyle and love for travel and culture [Assouline] and insanely beautiful fine jewelry [Judith Ripka].

A decade or so ago, I had the honor of interviewing Judith herself, on the phone, for a trade jewelry publication I was writing for. What impressed me was her passion for her craft and how sure she was that what she did was “right”, whether or not it happened to be [or not be] “in fashion”. Her jewelry is at once understated but spectacular with a tiny unexpected twist to it.

Since then, the Judith Ripka company has expanded and become a major player at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, has a beautiful shop on 61st and Madison, another in Bal Harbour and at Saks Fifth Avenues nationwide. There’s even a nicer priced Judith Ripka for QVC line.


Who WOULDN’T want these delicious “Eclipse” earrings – candy to jewelry-holics such as myself.

There’s a consolation prize, if you don’t win, you can still pick up a copy of her new book, Judith Ripka by Judith, now available at  Assouline stores and online at

HERE, are the contest “deets”.

WHAT:  an exciting Social Media contest where we will be giving away a pair of Eclipse earrings ($625 value) and a signed edition of the new book.

ABOUT THE PRIZE: Ripka’s dazzling Eclipse earrings were featured on Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things episode in November 2010 and are the perfect gift for any special woman in your life, or for yourself.

WHEN: The contest will launch on Friday, September 30th (the same day that the book will be available on and run through Friday, October 7th.

WHERE: It will live on Assouline’s Facebook Page and Judith Ripka’s Facebook Page.

*Don’t forget to  ‘Like’ both pages to be qualified!

HOW [to win]: Contestants are asked to answer, “How do these earrings reflect your personal style?”

Submit  YOUR answer to The winner will be judged on creativity and originality and will be informed the week of October 9th by email.


Lisa Perry’s Modern Take on the Iconic Pan Am Stewie

22 Sep

Text, Vivian Kelly

The Right Time and the Right Place: “The Pan Am Era”, circa 1963

My NYFW mates, Mark Behnke, Men’s Editor for Fashion Tribes and “Video Vixen” Lisa Johnson, Editor in Chief of Lisa Johnson Fitness, couldn’t wait to meet the crew of “The Real Stewardesses of Pan Am”. Unfortunately, by the time we raced over from the Donna Karan store and the Marissa Berenson Book signing, our targets had flown the coop. We still got our Pan Am Stewie fix though, as there were models dressed in the blue retro uniform handing out airplane snacks and beverages. Once we fueled-up, we settled in and started exploring the all white store. I was transported back to the early Sixties, a period in time I’m utterly enamored with. I actually DID fly Pan Am in 1963, but as an 11 month old infant, sadly I don’t remember much. Ten years later, I caught the end of the “Pan Am Era” jetstream, when I flew Pan Am , New York to Paris, and had one of the best meals of my young life -on a plane! What I remember even more than the food was how utterly beautiful the stewardesses were, with their little hats, perfect figures and immaculate hair and makeup. Barbie couldn’t hold a candle to them. Years later, when the airlines changed their title to “flight attendant”, the glamour left the building. They may as well have called them “air waitresses”.

The Lisa Perry store is a like a very cool apartment you want to spend the day in so you can look at all the coffee table books, [such as Airline], study the Roy Lichtenstein prints on the wall and try on each and every one of the colorful Sixties’ style dresses hanging on the fixtures. For a fashionista who’s enamored of this era, it’s like being deposited into a wonderful penny candy store where you want to try everything on but don’t know where to start.

A Japanese businessman was holding the last Pan Am logoed bag Lisa had designed. He couldn’t decide if he should buy it. It wasn’t leather, but it was “a great design and a wonderful piece of retro. My wife will kill me if I buy this, but…”

I encouraged him, “If you don’t buy it tonight, you’re going to kick yourself later. There won’t be any more, and you know that once you see the show, you’ll want it even more. You can tell your wife you’ll share it with her.”

He bought it.

On our way out, my initial disappointed on missing the cast evaporated when we got to chat with Lisa Perry herself about the Limited Edition bags she’d designed for FNO and to commune about our shared love for this legendary time in history.

Ms. Perry told us her collaboration with the highly anticipated TV show, The Real Stewardesses of Pan Am was suggested to her by Vogue magazine. When I asked if she would design a Pan Am suit she laughed and said she could design a whole collection based on that but only after researching the original suits. Stay tuned for the upcoming show episodes and for Ms. Perry’s Pan Am inspired suits. If the limited edition bags she put out are any indication [most were snapped up on FNO] of the success of this future collection, then she’ll have a gang-busters hit on her hands, as will ABC.