Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Museum at FIT’s
Annual Couture Council Summer Party

Cocktails being served in the garden

A cocktail party was held last night at the upper East Side home of decorator Charlotte Moss. This party kicked off the fundraising drive that culminates in the annual Couture Council luncheon where Dries Van Noten will make a rare trip to New York to receive the 2009 Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion.

Over a hundred people showed up on a warm and muggy night. A lot a familiar faces were out in the garden enjoying cocktails. They included Ralph Rucci, Hamish Bowles, David Chu, Christian Cota, Somers Farkas, Amy Fine Collins, Cece Cord, Arnold Scaasi, to name just a few. And quite a number of photographers were on hand, including Bill Cunningham and Patrick McMullan to record the event.

Co-hosts for the evening was FIT museum director Dr. Valerie Steele and deputy director Patricia Mears. We also ran into Charles B. Froom, the exhibition designer responsible for setting up the museum's exhibitions and who we interviewed for our Masters of Fashion series.(see article)

The Couture Council is a membership group of fashion enthusiasts that helps support the exhibitions and programs of The Museum at FIT, a specialized museum of fashion. Previous recipients of the Couture Council Artistry of Fashion Award are Isabel Toledo in 2008 (a prescient choice made before Michelle Obama selected Toledo's design to wear on Inauguration Day), Alber Elbaz of Lanvin in 2007, and Ralph Rucci, the recipient of the first award in 2006.

Currently on exhibition at The Museum at FIT, Isabel Toledo: Fashion from the Inside Out, a mid-career retrospective displaying approximately 70 iconic looks from the mid- 1980s to the present, including the ensemble worn by First Lady Michelle Obama on Inauguration Day. Also on exhibition, Fashion & Politics, a chronological exploration of over 200 years of politics as expressed through fashion.

-Ernest Schmatolla

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Isabel’s ‘Fans’

Isabel Toledo

Not all the major ‘fashion moments’ over the next few weeks will take place on a runway or necessarily be in conjunction with Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Approximately 380 celebrated ‘fans’ of Isabel Toledo (many wearing her creations) assembled yesterday at a glam benefit luncheon at the Rainbow Room. And I mean ‘fans’ literally, as some of the invited guests cooled down and paid homage to the talented designer with their black, white, red fans, (originally given out about a month ago at a cocktail party ‘chez’ Toledo in celebration of the upcoming award), which were hand painted with the likeness of Isabel by husband Ruben.

Hand painted fan by Ruben Toledo

The occasion? Ms.Toledo, whom Dr. Valerie Steele labeled as “a designer’s designer”, was the recipient of the Couture Council of The Museum at FIT’s 2008 Artistry of Fashion Award. (By the way, Dr. Steele also admitted that “the smartest thing” she ever did was to “start the Couture Council”). Talk about ‘three times is a charm’; certainly it is for Ms. Toledo. The Cuban born New Jersey native is not only the third recipient of the prestigious award (the first was given to Ralph Rucci and the second, to Alber Elbaz), but it took place on the third of September. And because in Isabel’s case, it seems as though good things come in threes, the culmination of this award will be a major retrospective of Ms. Toledo’s work at The Museum at FIT, entitled “Holy Toledo! Isabel Toledo and the Art of Fashion”, opening June 19, 2009 through September 26, 2009. According to the press release, “The exhibition will feature more than 75 looks dating from 1985 to the present, including fluid jersey dresses, seductive lace, and architectural denim. Illustrations by her husband, artist Ruben Toledo, will also be featured, as will films of Ms. Toledo’s fashion shows and other visuals that explore her creative process. A lavishly illustrated catalogue, written by co-curators Dr. Valerie Steele and Patricia Mears and published by Yale University Press, will accompany the exhibition.”

Simon Doonan, creative director for Barneys New York

Getting back to Wednesday’s event, once again, FIT’s highly anticipated annual gala luncheon (which was sold out and raised approximately $400,000) was hosted by its founding Couture Council chairs Liz Peek, Yaz Hernandez, and Sarah Wolfe, with Honorary Chairs: Harper’s Bazaar’s Editor-in-Chief Glenda Bailey and Nadja Swarovski. (FYI: all invited guests will be mailed a cameo necklace designed by Ruben Toledo with Isabel’s silhouette and signature etched onto an oval Swarovski crystal, specially created by Swarovski for the Couture council). Andre Leon Talley, American Editor-at-Large for Vogue, presented the award, and Simon Doonan, Creative Director for Barneys New York, served as the highly entertaining and irreverent emcee of the event.

FIT's Patricia Mears wearing a Isabel Toledo dress

Talk about fashion star power. Among the bold face fashion/social luminaries who turned out were Narciso Rodriguez, Cathy Hardwick, Kim Hastreiter, Fabiola Beracasa, FIT President Dr. Joyce Brown, FIT Museum Director Valerie Steele, Patricia Mears, Kelly Bensimon, Hamish Bowles, Cecilia Dean, Stephen Gan, Julie Gilhart, Linda Fargo, Cathy Horyn, Jeffrey Kalinsky, Derek Lam, Boaz Mazor, Paul Cavaco, Josie Natori, Candy Pratts Price, Arnold Scaasi, Peter Som, Dennis Basso, Howard Socol, Stephano Tonchi, Max Vadukul, Michael Vollbracht, Eleanor Ylvisaker, Iris Apfel, Joey Arias, Christine Suppes, Serena Boardman, Sandy Brant, Dawn Brown, and Dr. Patricia Wexler, among others.

Isabel Toledo with Narciso Rodriquez

Dr. Joyce Brown kicked things off with her welcoming address and enthused, “We are the only museum specializing in the art of fashion”. She also observed that there were “too many of fashion’s brightest lights” in attendance, for her to even begin to mention. Simon Doonan wasted no time in heaping praise on the talented designer, referring to her “magical creativity” and putting her in the same category as “the Balenciagas, Alaias, McCardells, and Charles Jameses of the world”. He couldn’t resist noting that while Isabel was born one year after the Cuban Revolution, “the luncheon we’re enjoying today is incredibly Un Communistic”. He narrated a video montage showing Isabel’s life from the time she was a little girl (she began sewing her own clothes at 9) and concluded, “this girl knows more about fashion than anyone, anywhere”. When he came upon an image of one of her earlier lace creations, he said “everyone is talking about lace but Isabel has been exploring lace forever!” He made mention of the “prescience of her clothes” which he labeled as “astounding” in that even decades old designs could easily "jump off fashion pages today”. “The great thing about working with Ruben and Isabel is that you get both of them”.

Right: Glenda Bailey, Editor-in-Chief of Harper's Bazaar

Andre Leon Talley took the stage and announced that “Isabel makes clothes women want to wear” and noted that a “childlike wonder defines both Isabel and Ruben”. He admitted telling Isabel, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” (Perhaps someone should tell ALT that he has indeed grown up!). Isabel was gracious and to the point when she accepted her award and said that the most rewarding aspect of being a designer is that “I make a difference; I’m affecting my time.”

Not only was this a glorious affair, which perfectly set the stage for New York Fashion Week, but it was filled with symbolic gestures. Sunflowers (Isabel’s favorite flower) decorated the tables and the menu, (yellow gazpacho followed by Cuban style sea bass with warm mango sauce, coconut rice, and black beans), was Cuban inspired and delicious at that. Joey Arias kicked things off with his rendition of the Billie Holiday song, “You’ve Changed,” dedicated to Isabel. I guess there’s no escaping the word ‘change’ these days, whether it relates to politics, fashion, or life.

Oh, and by the way, speaking of the connection between art and fashion (which is by definition, inherent in everything the Toledos do), the winner of a luncheon raffle will have his/her portrait painted by Ruben, and after the meal was over, all guests were invited to take home the laminated white, black, red placemats on the tables (boasting the face of Isabel) which were handpainted by Ruben.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

FIT's Couture Council Honors Susan Tabak

From left, Jade Dressler, Susan Tabak’s publicist; Patricia Mears (deputy director, the Museum at FIT), Susan Tabak, author; and Vanessa Vasquez (The Museum at FIT)

(Press Release) The Couture Council of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) held a luncheon and book-signing recently at Doubles Club in the Sherry-Netherland hotel honoring Susan Tabak, author of CHIC IN PARIS - Style Secrets and Best Addresses. In her book, she reveals the style secrets and favorite places that enable eight glamorous French women to achieve their special elegance.

Herself a style icon, Susan Tabak, born in New York, has long admired the French sensibility and love for life, “Parisians have more imagination. They play with fashion and they are themselves not just a walking advertisement from a magazine—the total look from one label is out.”

Patricia Mears, deputy director of the museum, hosted the event, which was attended by Couture Council members and guests, including journalist Elizabeth T. Peek, Cece Black, Mariana Kaufman, and Coco Kopelman.

Formed in December 2004, the Couture Council is a membership group designed to help enhance museum exhibitions, conserve FIT’s extensive, world-class costume and textile collections, fund acquisitions, and improve facilities.

Benefits of membership include invitations to exclusive events and private viewings, admittance to museum educational programs, acknowledgements in exhibition galleries and printed materials, and complimentary publications.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for those with a passion for the fashion arts to support the only museum in New York City dedicated entirely to fashion,” said Dr. Valerie Steele, museum director and chief curator. “It’s also an excellent way to meet and become part of a circle of informed fashion enthusiasts.”

The Museum at FIT houses one of the world’s most important collections of fashion and textiles. It is the first museum in the United States to offer a permanent exhibition of 250 years of fashion and textile history. Every six months, approximately 100 new objects are chosen. The museum’s costume collection encompasses 50,000 objects dating from the 18th century, with particular strength in 20th-century fashion. The textile collection includes 30,000 textiles from the 6th to the 21st centuries. The museum also presents changing thematic exhibitions, both scholarly and artistic.

For more information about joining the Couture Council contact:
Brenda Pérez
FIT Director of Media Relations (212) 217-5967.