Sunday, October 11, 2009

RIP Irving Penn

Princess Ira Von Furstenberg in full regalia, photographed by Irving Penn.

Sorry Oscar!

So my friend Oscar has been on me for a minute about having not posted anything lately.
Unfortunately, I cannot come up with an original thought! LOL!!

I have been so busy lately with so many projects, that my creative juices for writing or personal expression are stymied. I can't even get my thoughts together to plan my birthday party for goodness sake!! And planning a soiree is usually the most effortless of endeavors pour moi!

In my absence from blogging, I have designed my next collection. It is an amazing fall collection that I am hoping I have the wherewithal to actually begin to produce. I am sorda at a "build it and they will come" place with it, because I don't know exactly how or what to do with it after it is made. But it felt good just designing it... playing with the fabrics, editing the ideas, doing the croquis. Its been too long. I'm glad to know I still got it. But the common sense, logical, "man" side of me makes me hesitate in going into production until I have a clear vision of where to take it from there. And because I am stymied in my personal expression, as aforementioned, I can't quite get that clear vision I need to go forth.
I feel as Diana Ross would sing/ask "Do you know where you going to?? Do you like the things that life is showing you??" Which makes me think I should write a blog about Diana Ross...
Excuse me for rambling. But isn't that kinda what blogging is about?

In the meantime, here is a pic I found that makes me warm inside. I just love Sable!!!...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Inspiration: Erica Kane

A digital collage I made back in 8th grade.

I was talking to a new friend the other day (shout out to Oscar!) and he asked me what was my seminal fashion moment. I told him several things. But the one that I left out that I think had more impact than anything else at a very young age was daytime television, particularly the character Erica Kane on All My Children, played by Susan Lucci.

As a child, I worshiped Erica Kane. My face would light up every time she was on screen. I replayed her scenes over and over til I could quote them line for line. I had her picture in a frame in my bedroom. She was the epitome of glamour and allure. Even today, I still have a very special place in my heart for Susan Lucci and Erica Kane. I even have that same picture, in the same frame, in my sewing studio.

The picture I have framed. I actually have a signed one and a copy that is framed.

Erica was always so stylish. From the opening credits that ended with her looking over her shoulder in a red, crinkled silk blouse with that kilowatt smile, hair feathered back in her own late 80's version of a Farrah Fawcett.

Before she spoke a word, her presence in the scene was known by her stunning wardrobe. When I first met Erica Kane it was 92 or 93, and she was the Founder and CEO of a multi-national cosmetic conglomerate called Enchantment, thus there were plenty of power suits and major evening gowns. The hair was always big...only challenged by the size of the clip-on earrings. Mmm, such good times!
But as I became a fan, not only of her but the show, I'd find older episodes from the 70s and 80s. (and thanks to that wonderful place called YouTube, there is no end to my pleasure!) As I unearthed this rare treasures, I really began to understand not only how Erica Kane became the cultural phenomenon she was/is, but how the character became a fashion icon. That lithe, petite figure of hers wore everything beautifully and that thick long, black, shiny hair was so full of body and life. It seemed that she had 2 or 3 wardrobe AND hairstyle changes an episode! All the while she is seducing every man who looks her way and is making her way to the "pinnacle of success" in the fashion industry. How on earth could a young boy who loved all things beautiful NOT be totally mesmerized by someone like Erica Kane?!?!


This clip shows Erica at the peak of her modeling career, but the beginning of her career as fashion icon...
(forward to 3:50 mins)

This next one is one of my favorite episodes and a STELLAR example of Erica Kane at full Ericanity! And the gown and jewelry is so dead on right now...looks like something Rhianna might wear. Even the hair seems like it would appropriate today, but maybe not all together as a look...

When I first saw this episode a few months ago, I sent it to my friends Aaron and Caroline along with this message:

"This is what living in NY and being in the fashion industry is supposed to be...or at least what I thought it would be! Watching this makes me so nostalgic and it makes me see how much Erica influenced me as a child! The way she was sitting on her couch telling Mark all about her dreams and plans, despite how unrealistic they were, was and is so me. I used to do that all the time with that same Erica gleam in my eye that I could conquer the world and no one could persuade me other wise. How things have changed... I still have a bit of that, but the sheer naivete that goes with it that makes it real, that makes it all seem within reach, is gone. :-(
But I will always, always have Erica! "

Erica: 1970s

Erica: 1980s

Erica: 1990s
Erica: Today

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Four Leaf Clover...

One of my all-time favorite pieces: Charles James' "4-Leaf Clover" Ball Gown in white silk satin, black silk velvet, and white silk faille. Besides being absolutely gorgeous, its an architectural marvel. The book "The Genius of Charles James"- long out of print, but thankfully at the public library- details the 20+ layers of lining, interlining, interfacing and boning, necessary to achieve the pure form of the undulating waves that make this gown truly a remarkable example of garment design and construction.

To accompany this work of art, I am showing it to the melodic tune of on my favorite Quiet Storm classics, appropriately titled "Touch A Four Leaf Clover" by Atlantic Starr...

~Semper Chic!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


My fall 09 look. Wait for it...

My Favorite Things

C.Z. Guest in Mainbocher at her home Templeton in Old Westbury,NY

Opera Coats

There is nothing so elegantly extravagant in a woman's (or man's) wardrobe as an Opera Coat.
As is true of all design (being differentiated from art), the opera coat is essentially a utilitarian concept: a cover-up long enough to protect the wearer and their fine evening garments from the elements. But the beauty of the coat is how it goes about protecting. It does its job while retaining its own unique air of regality and decorum. And nothing makes for a grander entrance than a voluminous sweep of duchese, faille, ottoman, petersham, gazar, radzimir, brocade, matelasse, or tussah.

Far better than just a top coat and even more preferred than a fur (Hell just froze over!), an opera coat is so beautiful it can really stand on its own merits. But combined with a gorgeous evening gown or a man's or woman's tuxedo, it makes a striking complete evening look. Unfortunately, we don't see nearly enough of the opera coat these days. I hope to rectify that by including an opera coat in every collection I do. Its an essential for me, without which a collection would be incomplete.

Here are some of my favorite stylistas in some of my favorite examples true couture opera coats...

Deeda Blair in Chado Ralph Rucci in 2004

Hamish Bowles at the Met Costume Institute Gala

Andre Talley at the Met Costume Institute Gala

The Leontyne Opera Coat from Charles Lord's Principessa Collection (left) and Audrey Hepburn in a similar Givenchy number fromt he mid 60s (right

Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy

Marella Agnelli in Balenciaga

If One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

I have nothing to add, just look:

Friday, July 31, 2009


Sometimes I feel redundant. Redundant isn't the right word. Repetitive maybe?

What I mean is I keep coming back to certain things as a designer and a passionate observer of all things stylishly aesthetic. In this instance, I am referring to my obsession with the trapeze line and the shift.

I keep trying to move past it, but every time I see it I become intoxicated allover again with it. There is such a purity of line that, to me , compasseth all understanding (as the Bible would say). Its so effortless, so serenely elegant. I feel like fashion today has lost that completely. Yes, there is a panoply of easy to wear clothes out there, but the say NOTHING! As Kay Thompson said in DV style in Funny Face, "It doesn't SPEAK! And if doesn't speak to me, it won't speak to anyone." They maybe simple, but its not emphatic. I LIVE for emphatic simplicity in design. Even if there is a degree of exuberance, there still must me a simplicity about it. Like a Pucci shift or a jewel encrusted swing dress.

The opposite of this, which is also very prevalent in the market, is fussiness. I remember Polly Mellen in Unzipped saying "Fussy. Finished." LOL! And its so true. All the ruching, wrapping and furbelows...its just too much sometimes. There is no cleanness to it. Now don't get me wrong. I love the extras and the excesses of fashion. Anyone who ever saw a picture of me dressed up, would know that. But there has to be a balance in the market and in the consumers' wardrobes. For every ruched sheath,with epaulets, blouson sleeves, and asymmetrical neckline, and for every cotton t-shirt dress, you need 2 or 3 utterly simple, but strong shifts. I guess I feel there's not enough of that out there for me.

So even though I find something interesting about most of what out there today, and get tingles when I see something new that resonates with the inner "vainglorious vanguardist" in me that is always on the hunt for something marvelous and new, when I see the ineffable glory of a Norrell or Mainbocher or Balenciaga or Simonetta, everything else falls away and disappears from view and I want only it. What I am learning is to, as a designer, be ok with that. To do what feels right, what resonates, what speaks to me on that deepest, truest level and not worry about being a sensation or giving them the latest. To just do what I know and what I do best. And if that means I can't dress everyone, ok. The few I will dress, will be stunning and will be fulfilled by what I bring to them.

My Favorite Things

I am currently obsessed with the music of Gino Vannelli. He's a genius.

This song is so damn funky! It evokes a louche SEXUAL feel like that of a Helmut Newton photograph.

This song has an equally louche, but more SENSUAL feel, more reminiscent of an Author Elgort.

My Favorite Things

Shoulder Pads!

I know it UBER-trendy right now to rock shoulder pads. But those of you who know me, Know I have been pinning shoulder pads inside any garment I could since at least 2001!!!

Its not about a trend for me. Its about the perfection of silhouette. For me it gives a strong foundation for any garment. Everything falls from the shoulder. If you want a smaller waist , broaden the shoulder. I naturally have a strong shoulder, but the heightened perfection of additional half inch to 2 inches of height (not necessarily width), makes a great look sublime. And it makes my less than minuscule waist seem significantly smaller, without being femininely waspy.

The only problem with shoulder pads- in the vintage sense- are the ones of the late 80s, when the trend had reach literally gigantic proportions. If you pay attention, the shoulder pad of the late 70s to mid 80s focused more on height. The did not extend the width of the shoulder beyond its natural end. But somewhere around 85-87, the shoulder became exaggeratedly wide, extending the shoulder OUT another 3 inches or more. Granted, this did give a FIERCE wasp waist to the ladies and the guys looked like Gary Cooper on steroids, but it was a bit much and really cannot be re-applied to today's trend for a strong shoulder. (The exception being someone so aesthetically driven that they can work just about anything... read: Myself!!!)