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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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

“Holy Toledo” (yet again!)

(All photos: Randy Brooke)

"Tonight is about the creative side of fashion" - Bill Cunningham

I know I know…this phrase has been worked to death at this point, but there is no other heading that best describes how blown away I was by FIT’s brand new blockbuster exhibit, “Isabel Toledo, Fashion from the Inside Out”, (‘a Mid-Career Retrospective’, June 17 – September 26.) To say that Tuesday morning’s press preview “made my day”, is an understatement. ‘Made my year’ is more like it. The fact that it was preceded the night before by the CFDA Awards, (about which The New York Times’ Eric Wilson observed, "It would have been disingenuous to declare anyone a real winner this year, though awards were handed out for best designers in several categories during what felt, at times, more like a pep rally than a glamorous event"), made the 100+ items on display, look even more brilliant and served as a reminder of what true creative genius is, what well thought out and intelligent design looks like, how special and unique Isabel (and Ruben) are, and just how lucky we are to have them as part of our fashion universe. Oh, and I forgot to mention….how nice they are…yes, ‘nice’ as in, warm, open, and decidedly attitude free. How refreshing is that?

The exhibition is a must see for anybody who is interested in fashion, and for anyone who has become disillusioned and disenchanted with the overhyped, run of the mill, rather ordinary (if not positively demeaning and insulting) ‘stuff’ being pawned off as ‘great’. The name, “Fashion from the Inside Out” was born out of the fact that Isabel works so closely with her husband, all she has to do is “describe an idea or even a feeling to Ruben, and he’ll sketch it.” (Sounds like your husband, right?! No, not mine either).

I was happy I decided to attend the morning event, even though I knew I was going back to FIT for what would undoubtedly and unsurprisingly be a high spirited, festive, packed to the gills cocktail party later on that evening. The press preview on the other hand, was small, intimate, and low keyed (much like the Toledo’s themselves), and I had a chance to study images, sketches, illustrations, read press clips, and it provided a wonderful opportunity to speak with the unduly modest designer (who claims she never “thinks of herself as a designer” but rather a “seamstress”). When I asked about her design philosophy, she explained that her beginning “was very elementary, which was very modern for the times” (the 80’s) and it was and still is “all about 3 dimensional, amorphic shapes, circling around the body”. When I suggested that was her defining signature, she noted, “The work process of what it takes to make a garment- that is definitely what I have to offer”. “Many times I don’t know what it’s going to look like but I know that by working with the garment it becomes what it’s going to be because I work so closely with the fabric, and that speaks to me. It’s not as simple as just sketching a nice look; it’s how do I express this fabric emotionally.”

Isabel with the ensemble she created for Michele Obama

And of course, it’s always great to have an opportunity to speak with the Museum at FIT’s deputy director Patricia Mears and director and chief curator, Valerie Steele, the latter of whom was busy fielding questions from the press, especially with regards to the by now famous yellow ensemble (which Michelle Obama chose to wear on Inauguration Day and which has a special place in the exhibit- it’s literally the first item on display).

Everything about the exhibit is perfect, conceptual and informative: its location the vast high ceilinged space down in the lower level); Ruben’s utterly magical illustrations and drawings which decorate the ceilings and appear to ‘speak’ to the dress forms below; the corresponding patterns showing the thought process behind the designs; the way it’s divided and organized into groups representing the major themes that define Isabel’s body of work ‘Origami’, ‘Sculptural’, ‘Suspension’, ‘Liquid Architecture’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Shape’, ‘Manipulated Surfaces’).

I spent only a little over an hour yesterday morning, but when I left, I felt newly energized, and surprisingly upbeat and positive about the future of fashion, (especially the future of American fashion). I was so inspired, I found myself wanting to really get dressed up and celebrate at the party later on that night.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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Thursday, December 11, 2008


Left: Halston Evening dress Light blue silk jersey 1972-73, USA Right: Chloe (Karl Lagerfeld) Evening dress Off-white cotton knit, white silk chiffon Circa 1977, France

Just as “The Lookonline” commits itself completely to fashion, The Museum at FIT is the only museum in NYC solely dedicated to the art of fashion. Under the direction of Dr. Valerie Steele (chief curator) and the support of the Couture Council, FIT continually brings us creative and informative exhibits that are impeccably displayed and well thought out. Their newest show entitled “Seduction” opened yesterday and will be on display through June 16, 2009.

For her debut at The Museum, curator Colleen Hill (the museums youngest at age 25) takes us on a sensual journey through time covering the past 250 years. I was anxious to ask Ms. Hill what criteria she used to make her selections as I couldn’t imagine the difficulty in narrowing down 250 years into only 70 garments. But, unfortunately she was unable to attend her own premiere. Thankfully, Valerie (Steele) was kind enough to walk me through the exhibition and share with me Colleen’s perspective on the concept she presented to Valerie about a year ago. The process began that long ago and Ms. Hill started her research and the laborious task of reviewing the 50,000 garments in The Museum’s permanent collection!

Left: Irene Cocktail Suit Black velvet, pale pink silk Circa 1950, USA Right: Cristobal Balenciaga Cocktail dress Black lace, black silk, fuchsia silk Circa 1958, France

Seduction is subjective. In other words, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and what one person considers seductive may not evoke the same reaction in someone else. This is particularly applicable to fashion. While Colleen chose a fair amount of feminine styles (apparently very much a reflection of her personal taste), that’s not to say something more racy or even raunchy couldn’t be considered seductive as well. In keeping with the theme, one could understand Colleen’s desire to include lingerie. Of course, Valerie supported the idea and said, “I also encouraged lots of shoes!”

Left: Evening slippers Pale blue silk satin, ivory silk, ivory lace Circa 1850, France Right: Evening dress Cream silk taffeta, satin tulle, cording and tassles, black silk ribbon Circa 1865, Scotland

History depicts so distinctly through fashion what was considered seductive during a given period. For example, in modern times we may not consider demurely attired, covered-up bodies to be sexy or risqué but, as Ms. Hill refers to the nineteenth century in her narrative; “The flirtatious swing of a crinoline provided a brief but pleasing glimpse of the ankle and lower calf.” Clearly, seduction is very much linked to the forbidden. I’m reminded of the film “Memoirs of a Geisha” in which the Geisha was told how enticing it was for a man to see a sliver of the inside of her wrist, (should she allow it to be revealed), while pouring tea.

Left: Vivienne Westwood Evening dress Silver leather, silver metallic silk, white chiffon 1988, England Right: Jean Paul Gaultier "Corset" Dress Peach cotton/nylon blend, peach satin Circa 1987, France

Thankfully, we are no longer wearing crinolines or bustles (at least most of us) to enhance our shape but the corset, on the other hand, is timeless and has been utilized, modified and refined since its invention. The corset flattered and whittled the waist into the painfully exaggerated hourglass figure popular in the Victorian Era. McQueen, Westwood and Gaultier are a few current designers who continually draw inspiration from the corset. Fortunately, these styles don’t cause fainting.

Czech designer Sárka Sisková with her dress at right

I love Coleen’s simplistic, to-the-point statement in her narrative; “The proximity of clothing to the body is inherently sensual.” Body conscious apparel doesn’t necessarily need to be tight fitting to be sexy. This concept is perfectly depicted through Czech designer Sárka Sisková’s 2008 evening dress in pink silk chiffon. Apart from the bust, the fabric is draped so that it falls away from the body in soft voluminous folds creating a provocative package. I asked Ms. Sisková (who showed for the first time in NYC this past May at The Museum of Arts & Design), how she got involved with FIT. She responded, “The Museum at FIT is the most fashionable museum in the world!” She contacted Director and Chief Curator, Valerie Steele to ask if she would take a look at her collection and Valerie agreed. Apparently, the meeting resulted in Ms. Sisková’s donation to this exhibition.

Manolo Blahnik Mules White silk brocade, burgundy ostrich feathers 1998, England

Other designers on display (not pictured)include: Azzedine Alaia, Balenciaga (Nicolas Ghesquiere), Calvin Klein (Francisco Costa), Pierre Cardin, Jean Desses, Dolce & Gabbana, Jacques Fath, Galliano (for Dior), Rudi Gernreich, Gucci (Tom Ford), Lanvin (Alber Elbaz), Rick Owens, Jane Regny, Rochas and Arnold Scaasi. There is even a Playboy Bunny costume (ears and all) as well as a few menswear pieces featured (including an ensemble by Ennio Capasa for Costume National Homme). The garments, shoes and accessories are accompanied by photos (one of which is a gift of the Estate of John Rawlings), vintage drawings (such as the black and white Harpers Bazaar sketches from the late 1800’s) and patterned fabric wall hangings. Ms. Hill did a fantastic job on her first show and I look forward to more.

-Stacy Lomman (article & photos)

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Monday, May 19, 2008

F.I.T. Museum Opening Exhibition - Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion
May 21 to November 8, 2008

Press Preview May 21th 10AM- 12Noon

Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion celebrates an array of female creators, promoters and clientele who have shaped the course of fashion. This fashion exhibition features work by female designers as well as clothing and accessories worn by female department store executives, influential clients, magazine editors, muses and models. Women have played a significant role in the history of fashion and they continue to be a driving force as tastemakers and industry leaders.

Featuring over seventy looks from the Museum’s permanent collection, Arbiters of Style includes designs by Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, Sonia Delaunay, Jeanne Lanvin, and Claire McCardell and features clothing worn by influential women such as Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, photographer Louise Dahl Wolf, and actresses Lauren Bacall and Rosalind Russell. The historical importance of these women and many others will be revealed in the display of garments from the eighteenth century to the present.

Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion is organized by Molly Sorkin and Colleen Hill, along with Fred Dennis, Clare Sauro, Harumi Hotta and Lynn Weidner.

The exhibition begins with objects that illustrate how women were active as designers, stylists and promoters of fashionable trends as early as the eighteenth century. Included will be a gown circa 1770, made from a sumptuous Spitalfields textile designed by Anna Maria Garthwaite. Historic trendsetters such as Empresses Josephine and Eugénie will be represented by dresses that reflect their influence on the fashions worn by women in Europe and America.A gown designed by leading Parisian couturiere Jeanne Paquin and donated by Mrs. William Rockefeller exemplifies the increasing influence of female designers in the early twentieth century.

The exhibition also will feature a suit by the English couturiere Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, known professionally as Lucile, and will introduce the Oregon-based dressmakers May and Ann Shogren, who brought elements of Paris couture to their American clientele.Female designers, such as Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin and Elsa Schiaparelli, dominated fashion between the two world wars. A Chanel suit worn by legendary fashion photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe will be shown alongside several of her original photographs from the Museum’s collection.

Dresses from museum donor and Vogue editor Despina Messinesi exemplify the role of the industry woman as an international style setter.By the mid-twentieth century, female American designers and department store executives played increasingly prominent roles in the fashion industry. Designer Claire McCardell, retail pioneer Hattie Carnegie, and fashion executive Rose Marie Bravo will be featured, as will a dress by Irene of Bullocks Wilshire, a designer favored by the Hollywood elite.

Donations from Diana Vreeland, Isabel Eberstadt, and Lauren Bacall highlight their roles as fashion leaders, while designs by trendsetters such as Vivienne Westwood and Rei Kawakubo emphasize the continued importance of female designers.

The Museum at FIT is located on the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue at 27th Street. Exhibition hours are Tuesday through Friday, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Sundays, Mondays and legal holidays. Admission is free. For museum information call (212) 217-4558 or go to For further press information, contact the Office of Communications and External Relations at (212) 217-4700 or Visuals are available upon request via mail or e-mail.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

FIT Annual Symposium
Friday, March 14 and Saturday, March 15, 2008, 9am-5pm
Fashion Institute of Technology
Haft Auditorium, Seventh Avenue at 27 Street
Marvin Feldman Center (C Building), 2nd floor

In conjunction with a major exhibition on Madame Grès, The FIT annual fashion symposium will focus on the theme of great designers. Pre-registration deadline is March 1, 2008

Download: Registration Form (pdf)
For more information or to RSVP, call 212 217 4585 or email

List of Speakers:

Andrew Bolton is curator at The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. His recent exhibitions include Poiret: King of Fashion and AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion.

Boudicca is the London-based design duo of Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby. Named after the English warrior queen, Boudicca designs both couture and ready-to-wear.

Hamish Bowles is European editor-at-large for Vogue and editor-in-chief of Vogue Living. His latest publications include contributions to Carolina Herrera: Portrait of a Fashion Icon and Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People.

Maria Cornejo was the recipient of the 2006 Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award. The Zero + Maria Cornejo collection is presented biannually during New York Fashion Week, and in Milan and Paris.

Kaat Debo is artistic director of the Mode Museum in Antwerp, where she has conceived numerous exhibitions and publications. She recently became editor-inchief of A Magazine.

Caroline Evans is professor of fashion history and theory at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Her recent books are Fashion at the Edge: Spectacle, Modernity and Deathliness and the co-authored The London Look: Fashion from Street to Catwalk.

Linda Fargo is senior vice president and women’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman. She is also a member of the Couture Council Advisory Committee.

Michael Fink is vice president and women’s fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue. He is a member of the Couture Council Advisory Committee, Fashion Group International, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Jessica Glasscock is a writer, college instructor, and independent curator. She is currently curating a retrospective on Stephen Sprouse at Deitch Projects. She is the author of Striptease: From Gaslight to Spotlight.

Pamela Golbin is curator-in-chief at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile of the Palais du Louvre. Her most recent exhibition, a Balenciaga retrospective, opened July 2006. She is author of Twentieth Century Fashion Since World War II and Balenciaga Paris.

Timothy Long is curator of costume at the Chicago History Museum. His most recent exhibition, Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum, was co-curated with Dr. Valerie Steele.

Patricia Mears is deputy director of The Museum at FIT and author of Madame Grès: Sphinx of Fashion.

Clare Sauro is assistant curator of accessories at The Museum at FIT, where she co-curated Dutch at the Edge of Design: Fashion and Textiles from The Netherlands.

Valerie Steele is director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT. She is also editor-in-chief of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture.

Anna Sui designs exuberantly original clothes, which are sold in 30 countries around the world. Often inspired by rock and roll, her runway shows have been a highlight of New York Fashion Week since 1991.

Isabel Toledo is one of fashion’s true innovators. She received the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in 2005, among other honors. She will be the subject of a major retrospective at The Museum at FIT in 2009.

2 days $75
1 day $50

FREE to ALL students and FIT faculty and staff.
The symposium is free to all students, and FIT faculty and staff. A copy of your school ID must be submitted with the registration form. “Great Designers” is free to all students thanks to a Coby Foundation grant.

Payment Methods
Check or money order: Please make check or money order payable to The Museum at FIT. Register by mail or in person at the address below.
Walk-in hours are Monday-Friday, 10 am-5 pm.
The Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27 Street, Room E301
New York City 10001-5992

Credit Card: American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted.
Mail the registration form to the address above or fax to 212 217.4531.

Scholarship Opportunities
A limited number of scholarships are available for those who cannot attend “Great Designers” without financial support. Those interested in applying should submit their requests by March 1, 2008, to the Museum at FIT

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Clothes" Encounters of an Excessive Kind

Luxury inspired lingerie by Pacquin & Chanel

Luxury (noun from Latin, luxus and its derivative luxuria, excess, indulgence), can be defined as 1- The habitual enjoyment of or indulgence in the best and most costly things; 2- An inessential and desirable item that is expensive or difficult to obtain. See also: luxury brand. Other definitions include: “great comfort: expensive high-quality surroundings, and the great comfort that they provide; nonessential item: an item that is desirable but not essential, and often expensive or hard to get; pleasurable self-indulgent activity: an activity that gives great pleasure, especially one only rarely”.

Needless to say, there are many ways to view luxury and many ways to define luxury. (In addition, one person’s luxury is another’s necessity). Luxury has been with us through the ages and it’s a topic of fascination and yet it’s never been the focus of an exhibition…until this week.

Yesterday morning, I attended a press preview for “Luxury - A Close Encounter with Extravagance, Vanity, And Excess” at the Museum at FIT’s Fashion and Textile History Galleries, which runs through November 10th. It could have just as easily been called, “Clothes Encounters of an Excessive Kind”. (Only kidding of course, not all of it was excessive as you will see).

As if to prove just how vast a subject this is, it was curated by museum director Dr. Valerie Steele, with a “little help from her friends” - a veritable supporting cast that included associate research curator Tamsen Schwartrzman, associate curator of costume Fred Dennis, associate curator of accessories, Clare Sauro, in addition to Harumi Hotta and Lynn Weidner from FIT’s textile department.

The 150 garments, accessories, and textiles spanning 250 years, from the 18th century to the present, were selected in order to show how the social climate and cultural influences have impacted on the notion of luxury, and to illustrate the many ‘faces’ of luxury.

Aristocratic fashions like the voluminous, floor length floral yellow brocaded silk taffeta dress from 1735 (photo above) and the 1889 jeweled velvet ball gown by Emile Pasquiere illustrate the obvious, more is more, over the top, in your face opulence and excess of it all.

On the other side of the coin is the softer, paler, more subtle trio of knee length dresses by couture legends Paul Poiret, Edward Molyneux, and Coco Chanel from the 1920’s (photo above). Along those same lines, the exquisitely delicate lingerie and lingerie inspired pieces (Pacquin’s two 1930’s slip dresses and Coco Chanel’s 1932 Couture lingerie inspired evening gown) are proof of lingerie’s appeal as “a personal sensual indulgence”. “Private luxury for your own satisfaction and pleasure” is how Dr. Steele put it. Displayed alongside, is a quote from Coco Chanel, “Luxury is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside”.

"Subway Ensemble"

Speaking of which,Traina/Norell for Nan Duskin’s deceivingly simple (yet not so) camel wool knee length coat lined in gold sequins and shown over a matching gold sequined dress (from the 60’s) was inherently modern (and truly relevant for today) in that the luxury was personal, private, hidden, and safely out of sight, making it ‘urban’ friendly. I knowingly laughed at the name “Subway Ensemble” since it would indeed be a good choice if one were taking a subway to get to that chic, dressed up evening soiree. (Hey, I don’t have a limo or town car and I’ve done that many times. This would undeniably come in handy).

Cristobal Balenciaga’s 1951 black silk jersey, silk faille, sequined and jet beaded lace beauty, (which most of the women in attendance oohed and aahed over since it would obviously be as perfect today as it was back then) is proof positive that certain things never change - such as the luxury of owning a shapely little (or not so little) black dress.

Romeo Gigli’s signature olive cotton velvet cocoon coat and menswear inspired cotton shirt, pinstriped vest, skinny suede trousers were selected to show the haute bohemian, rich hippie side of luxury, while Yeohlee’s 1997 luxury ensemble, comprised of a tunic trimmed with mink cuffs worn over pants, displayed another, surprising side of this architectural and minimalist designer.

Maggie Norris’s white cotton lace up the back elongated “uber luxurious” white shirt, 2007, shown over Acme’s skinny black stretch “uber premium” jeans were indicative of the way in which couture elements can be used to add a luxurious touch to the most simplified basics and classics.

The ‘luxe sportif’ Spyder USA ski ensemble was testament to “experiential luxury”….luxury as lifestyle (“it’s not just about material objects but spending money on interesting experiences…travel, sport, etc.”)

A duo of handbags, one by Hermes and the other by Coach were indicative of the ‘old/new’ luxury as Dr. Steele put it. “Hermes is the absolute classic old luxury brand. It became prestigious in the mid 19th century, it was instantly prestigious and became associated with the best in European craftsmanship, artistry, and aristocratic clientiele And then you have the ‘new luxury…which is more style driven, more American, and more accessible”. She mentioned that Coach is setting up a whole new luxury line.

Marc Jacobs

Two pairs of statement making shoes: the Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton 2004 gilded leather, silk, and mink oxfords, displayed in a glass case next to the very “cool” yet awkwardly heavy black leather platform booties from Nicolas Guesquiere for Balenciaga, made the point about the dichotomy of luxury: that which is materially obvious vs. that which is trendy, of the moment, and a flash in the pan.

Rodarte’s spring 2007 customized confection of a dress, decorated with chiffon roses, was selected as a nod to the growing trend in contemporary luxury towards the “demi-couture”.

Viktor & Rolf’s highly publicized ivory silk organza and satin wedding gown created for the chain H & M, was included (it is in the first display area) because it’s symbolic of another growing trend…the democratization of fashion. Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the idea of luxury being made accessible for the masses, without discussing all the inexpensive knock offs and counterfeits which abound (many of which are so good it’s really hard to tell which is which). And as if to prove the point about fabulous fakes, Dr. Steele, accessorized her authentic Dries Van Noten embroidered skirt, with a pair of vintage (and large) ‘paste’ drop earrings that looked just like diamonds. She also admitted that the fascinating subject of counterfeits might in fact be the subject of a future exhibit somewhere down the line.

By the way, joining me at the press preview was The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan. I asked the Pulitzer Prize winning writer (and soon to be recipient of CFDA’s Eugenia Sheppard Award for Fashion Journalism on June 4th) who she thought exemplified the notion of modern luxury. She almost immediately cited Hermes (specifying that she’s not referring to Jean Paul Gaultier’s designs but the House of Hermes) and Rochas (when Olivier Theyskens was its creative director). When I asked if that means she also thinks Nina Ricci (Theyskens is now its creative director) is in the same category, she said no; she sees that more as more ‘ready-to-wear’.

When I mentioned the soon to open Hermes store on Wall Street, she voiced some skepticism observing that “luxury is supposed to be rarified” and exclusive, but since it’s become “more accessible”, there is a “growing contradiction”.
Ms. Givhan is also “skeptical” about “limited editions” and questioned if in fact that necessarily signifies “better”.

Getting back to “modern luxury”, for me that implies a certain subtle, downplaying of it all (adding a touch of throwaway chic). I’m all for the tendency to offhandedly mix the very high end with the very low end: as in the common practice of hi/low (you didn’t see gals mixing their ballgowns with motorcycle boots or their tiaras with blue jeans in the 1800’s but today, women routinely pair their favorite jeans with Chanel jackets or furs). It’s a more realistic, more accessible approach.

Speaking of which, luxury items are far more accessible on a global level (just a click away); and they are being made far more accessible to the masses. So, like everything else in our mass produced culture, it’s even harder and more challenging to find ways to personalize and individualize even the most luxurious and rarified of items.

Perhaps that’s why I agreed wholeheartedly with Agnelli scion Lap Elkann’s take on luxury. (I guess you can say he is well qualified to tackle the subject). Considered to be “possibly the best dressed man in the world”, according to Vogue magazine, he routinely mixes grandfather Gianni Agnelli’s custom suits, which he inherited, with his own “more contemporary pieces” and was the focus of a sprawling 20 page spread photographed by Mario Testino for the June issue. In it, he observed, “I don’t believe in imposed luxury. I believe in built luxury...something you refine with your own taste”.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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