Monday, May 12, 2008

‘Fur’ Sure

Design by Chris Benz

To say that Fur Fashion Week ‘aint’ what it used to be is an understatement. But then again, what is? Having covered the fur market for Harper’s Bazaar decades ago, I can remember jam packed fur weeks that easily spanned one week, were comprised of ambitious runway shows (many of which took place in elegant hotel ballrooms), and were attended by editors-in-chief like Anna Wintour. That was then and this is now. But still, notwithstanding Global Warming and the downward turn of the economy, furs are still going strong: the customer (men and women alike) continues to embrace fur and recent runways (for fall winter 2008) which were filled with innovative and creative ways to use fur, were a testament to the designers’ continued interest and their ongoing desire to view pelts as, well, just ‘another’ fabric.

This year, fur fashion week, organized by FICA (Fur Information Council of America, will take place over the next two days, May 13 – 14, during which time there will be 17 presentations, including those by Michael Kors, Bill Blass, Ralph Rucci, Isaac Mizrahi, Peter Som, Zandra Rhodes, Zac Posen, Angel Sanchez, Carmen Mark Valvo, Kati Stern for Venexiana. (Other fur houses to show: Cassin, Orlando New York, Saga Furs, Helen Yarmak, Byte).

To kick things off and to name the winners of the first annual Emerging Fur Designer of The Year Award, I, along with other members of the press, designers, and manufacturers, were invited to a lovely champagne luncheon at Sapa, 43 West 24th Street. (Speaking of Global Warming, it was so cool and damp on this late spring day, that the idea of looking at furs, or even wearing one, did not seem so far fetched. And in fact, one of my colleagues wore a short vintage astrakan coat with a fur collar to this luncheon and just recently, I’ve spotted many of this city’s best dressed social figures, wearing little fur pieces over their cocktail dresses and evening gowns to brave off the chill as they arrived at soignée events and galas).

Winner Chris Benz with FICA Director Keith Kaplan

There were opening remarks from Keith Kaplan, the FICA executive director, a short video which introduced the 12 nominated designers (96 editors received ballots and voted, factoring in creativity, wearability, and salability), and still another highlighting furs shown at designers’ shows. At the end, two winners were named: one for ‘Accessories’ (the honor went to Doo.Ri who was not present), and one for ‘Full Garment’ (the winner was Chris Benz who was there to pick up his award).

'Future of Fashion' winners: From Left, Paulina Bui, Sara Shahbazi, and Alisha Moten

In addition, there were three dress forms featuring the innovative fur designs of three young designers representing the ‘future of fashion’ (Sara Shahbazi and Paulina Bui from Parsons and Aisha Moten from Virginia Commonwealth). I was particularly impressed with Ms. Shahbazi, (she graduates this month), who handed me a very professional booklet which was filled with black and white photos (which she took) of her ultra modern, luxurious yet streetwise fall/winter 2009 collection, which is “based on her fascination with Richard Serra’s sculptors”. She explains that she was “inspired by the modern lines and curved hems of Richard Serra’s sculptors”, and to that end, she concentrated on an urban and neutral palette of shades of gray, silver, teal blue, and black.

Sara Shahbazi with her blue iris coat

Her work emphasizes fabric mixes and rich textures through the use of fine wool, cashmere, sequins, knitted stitches, leather, and of course, fur. In fact, two standouts in her collection which speak volumes about her talents, are the black lamb leather cropped jacket with over the shoulder curved panels and quilted detail, and the blue iris coat with mixed sheared and long hair curved pieces which was on display at the FICA luncheon. Mark my words; Sara is a name to watch.

Sara Shahbazi's black lamb leather cropped jacket

In the meanwhile, (while I’m on the topic of furs) it’s ‘that’ time of year again. If you are searching for the best all inclusive fur storage company, one that offers a wide variety of services, expert leather cleaning and conditioning, top notch customer service, and will help you to restyle or transform any of your treasured pieces, look no further than Anne Dee Goldin’s GoldinStyle, For more information, call 212 239 0512 or email,

-Marilyn Kirschner


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Adrienne’s ‘Bright’ Ideas

Upon entering Adrienne Landau’s light filled sprawling 8th Avenue showroom to view her ready to wear and home fall 2007 collections, a hot pink feathered hat displayed on a statue of Buddha greeted me as I entered, and I was immediately struck by the abundant and surprising use of color all around. This couldn’t have been more welcome given the positively beautiful spring like day which automatically made hot pink seem more appealing than wintry dark brown or black.

Hanging from racks and displayed on tables placed all around the sprawling, sun filled loft were fur coats, jackets, scarves, cuffs, hats, sporty hooded vests, as well as non fur items, many of which were literally transformed from the predictable and ordinary by virtue of their eye popping shades. In addition to red (which was all over the recent runways), there were hits of decidedly 80’s acid brights like emerald green (Adrienne’s personal favorite), fuchsia, bright blue, and canary yellow.

And though Adrienne was quick to observe that “it’s all about color this season”, this was not the only message. She also told me that “it’s all about Global Warming”. Yes, we had some frigid days this past year, but in general, it was pretty darn warm (not exactly to a furrier’s delight). And let’s face it, women don’t need big bulky, cumbersome furs any longer: they need lightweight, versatile, pieces that travel well and can be layered as one desires according to needs and temperature.

The fur veteran and pioneering innovator (Adrienne got involved with accessories and fur pieces long before anyone else) sees to it that she changes and evolves with the times, and always keeps her customer’s needs in mind. And so in addition to offering that customer the option of perking up their dark and somber wardrobes with colorful pieces, she has also made her furs as lightweight as can be (truly weightless actually) and has concentrated on smaller pieces.

Adrienne Landau wearing the white Mongolian lamb scarf

In addition to her new fur hoods, Adrienne is enamored with a fur scarf which has pockets and can be worn in many ways (belt it and it becomes a vest). The hot pink fox version was arresting for sure, and in white Mongolian lamb, it is the epitome of sporty ‘Aspen Chic’. I can easily imagine either one worn for day or night, over a floor length gown for a glamorous black tie event.

Another idea AL has up her sleeves this time is transforming furs so that they look like something else. And so fox resembles sable, rabbit looks like vintage mink, Rex Rabbit appears to be chinchilla and mink looks like broadtail. Taking the hotter than hot shiny patent look, Adrienne used a high quality synthetic vinyl in black, red, and white to fashion a belted short trench coat with a leopard printed (what else?) lining.

And speaking of leopard, that all time favorite, what would an Adrienne Landau collection be without leopard? There was an entire group done in leopard printed furs and standouts include a sporty ¾ length leopard printed mink trench coat and another short coat made from leopard printed goat which was trimmed with Rex Rabbit and coyote and lined in menswear inspired herringbone wool. It could ostensibly be worn on either side (talk about chic).

As for the home collection, a group of amazing fur rugs were spread around the vast wood floors so that all could see, and my favorite was made from three shades of Australian shearling inlaid to resemble a glorious arabesque pattern.

By the way, Adrienne told me she is collaborating with famed interior designer Charlotte Moss on a small group of pieces for her exclusive new jewel like shop, 20 east 64th street. (She was sworn to secrecy as to what the items will be - but stay tuned). The preview party is tonight (for more information contact HL Group, tel: 212 529- 5533, ext 228).

And for more information on the Adrienne Landau collection, contact Nicole Abbatemarco, head of Public Relations, (

-Marilyn Kirschner

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