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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.

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Papillon Pups Work their Doggie Couture His-N-Her Outfits

6 Jan

Text, Vivian Kelly

Introducing… Phoebe and Pepito!

I used to be one of those people who did some major eyerolling when I read in WWD that fashion designer x, and fashion designer y were expanding their global brands to include doggie couture. Really? A bleu marine [navy blue] leather Hermes collar with palladium hardware sells for $390 on luxury-shops.com. It’s beautiful yes, but rather austere, and not to mention, expensive.

My attitude adjusted after doing some shopping with my Mother for her 1st dog, a sweet black Pomeranian named ‘Mona’. She had an outfit for every occasion. There were even mini Wellington boots, but my favorite was a hand knit shocking pink sweater which looked Steven Sprouse-ish.

That was nothing. The REALLY fashionable dog wears made to measure couture. Shockingly, it’s not nose-bleedingly expensive. This weekend, after a couple of cups of java, watch my interview with Wendy Curran and her two Papillons, Phoebe and Pepito aka Pete. In it, Wendy discusses the history of the breed and reveals a few of her sources to get adorable outfits for the duo. Wendy sourced Phoebe’s flirty dress on Ebay [@ $30] and Pepito’s Country Squire coat is from Fox&Hounds [$40]. The theme for the gear they’re wearing in tomorrow’s video is “holiday” but it could also work beautifully for Valentine’s Day next month.

Warning: Once you start cruising Fox&Hounds, you may get sucked-in as it’s part of the Sherpa Pet Group, which consists of 8 collections.

In case the sky’s the limit, you could look into the $3million+ necklace featured in The National Enquirer, modeled by a very lucky Papillon pup. As someone who follows the ‘Columbo’ [Peter Falk’s iconic detective], I’ve got “just another question, please”. HOW, does a tiny dog wear this 52-carat necklace that consists of 1,600 hand-set diamonds AND a 7 -carat centerpiece stone without toppling over on his/her little nose? If money is no object, as it was [not] for Marie Antoinette, and you and your Papillon pup can share, then maybe Ava’s necklace is something your precious needs to have too.

* Check-in tomorrow for my video interview with Wendy, featuring Phoebe and Pepito featuring their chic yet eminently accessible couture duds.

What’s With “Fairness in Fashion”? Answer – Douglas Hannant’s PINK Collection

12 Oct

Text, Vivian Kelly

As of late, the World of Fashion is obsessed with the notion of “fairness”. Prior to the Eighties, this notion did not exist. You could either afford a Louis V. bag or you could not. Many did not KNOW WHAT a Louis V. bag was, or meant.

The first time I heard of a Louis V. bag, I was 13 and reading Jacqueline Susann’s Book, “Once Is Not Enough”, at night, once my parents were in for the evening. In it, the ill-fated heroine, January Wayne, carries a Louis V. She is fabulous – has long center-parted hair, is tall, slim and gorgeous, in jeans and classic cashmere, toting her Louis V. Growing up, January’s typical forms of transport are her Daddy, legendary playboy and producer, [Mike Wayne’s],  private plane, expensive sports cars – you get the picture.

Although at the time the film begins, Mike’s career is in the toilet, he can’t bear to let his daughter not continue to live her Park Avenue/Palm Beach lifestyle. Mike marries Dee, a super rich bi-sexual socialite who’s having a secret affair with “Carla” – probably Greta Garbo, and collects husbands as a hobby. January’s only friend is “Linda”, aka Helen Gurley Brown, Cosmo’s ballsy editor.

The story line is trashy and addictive, but my real fascination was with January and her perfect clothes. January was nineteen, a bit too young to wear proper socialite clothes such as Douglas Hannant. Had she lived, this young heiress would doubtlessly have grown into it, but had Douglas Hannant’s PINK collection been around in 1975, she would have loved the classic pieces that are a little less serious but completely suitable for her jet set lifestyle.

The good news is that DH Pink is not exclusionary. To give it a more modern spin, as PR maven, Melanie Holland, President and Founder of The Project, said “This collection is for women like us too, who work and aren’t traveling around on private jets.”

This statement summarizes the seismic shift that’s taken place in fashion and society in the years between the 1975 release of Once Is Not Enough and Douglas’ PINK debut. The day has come were we can ALL have a bit of this upper-class look without actually being jet-setters.

Below, looks from the Douglas Hannant’s 1st PINK Collection.

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.

READ ON, TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CLOSING DAYS OF THIS CONTEST AND HURRY UP AND ENTER TO WIN!

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 Assouline.com

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 http://www.assouline.com) 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 judithripka@assouline.com. The winner will be judged on creativity and originality and will be informed the week of October 9th by email.

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.

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.