In The Market Report: “Puff Piece”

Happy New Year!

Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garcons duvet puffer jacket

Like everyone (or almost everyone) else, I have begun the year with New Year’s resolutions. Unlike many, losing weight and getting in shape is not one of them (actually, if anything, I have the opposite problem as I am thin to begin with and I run every day). But I would love to shop, buy, and spend less (yeah well, let’s see how that works out. Hope springs eternal). In any case, two purchases I made in December, both “puff pieces” (literally),  turned out to be saviors. Especially now as the holidays are over, the weather has abruptly turned miserably cold, and it will be a long wait until Spring. We all need a little jolt to keep us highly energized and upbeat, and just adding a bright scarf is, well, too banal and pedestrian as far as I’m concerned.

Kate Spade Pump-It-Up Puffer Jacket

After seeing pictures in New York and Lucky Magazines, I immediately placed an order for the Saturday Kate Spade ( Pump-It-Up Puffer jacket. Reasonably priced at $250, its minimalistic shape and clean lines are the perfect ‘foil’ for the metallic silver exterior. I surmised it was THE perfect thing to throw on over all black. What better thing to wear in a snowstorm or cold rainfall?

Junya Watanabe Vintage Duvet Skirt

As you know, I am an avid vintage aficionado. I stopped by Resurrection Vintage (217 Mott Street) around Christmas time. Unsurprisingly, one of the first things to grab my attention was a vintage Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garcons color block (bright red & yellow, lined in orange) duvet puffer jacket. Because (like almost everyone else in New York), my underpinnings are almost always basic black, (as they were on that particular day when I tried it on), it was easy to see how great that piece would be to throw on a dark depressing cold winter’s morning. I did a search and discovered it was from fall 2004, and I was lucky enough to find the same jacket and a matching skirt on, through Anastasia Boutique ( in Laguna Beach, California (where it had been reduced).

Longchamp Jeremy Scott Limited Edition Paradise Tote

I actually wore it on the day of the first major snowfall of the year and it did wonders for my spirits. Ah yes – the impact of color! While I generally love the cold weather, right about now I am dreaming of being someplace warm and tropical. So, short of actually hopping on a plane, I decided the next best thing would be to take out my prized limited edition Jeremy Scott for Longchamp Paradise Tote. It was from 2011 and one of the best pieces created: so over-the-top in color and graphics, it never fails to put a smile on my face (the back side is a replica of a postcard complete with Jeremy Scott on the stamp). Sadly, it is not available anymore, but I did find a colorful Jeremy Scott for Longchamp limited edition Clavier Travel Tote, ($355) on

Tory Burch raffia and leather Molly Tote

And while not tropically hued, Tory Burch’s oversized Molly Bucket Tote, $250, in clear water resistant plastic covered with layers of raffia fringe and trimmed with leather, (it reminds me of a hula grass skirt), can instantly transport you to the beach, if only in your mind. It may be the perfect beach tote, but I kind of love the idea of carrying it with a fur in the winter. So unexpected.

 Vera Wang fall 2011 Vogue Magazine

And speaking of New Year’s resolutions which involve saving money and curtailing shopping, I would love to be able to adhere to some sort of uniform (which is not only a money saver but a time saver). I’ve always admired women who can do this and don’t stray. What self-control! Some female fashion designers who are known for their signature uniforms: Vera Wang (a streetwise predilection for layered t’s, knits, leggings, and a love affair with mousey gray and black); Carolina Herrera (crisp white shirts day and night); Donna Karan (lots of draped noir and her bold statement making tribal jewelry); Jil Sander (sober menswear inspired tailored trouser suits and button down shirts); Rei Kawakubo (anything as long as it’s black and silver zippered). FYI, have you never noticed that most designers live in black, regardless of what colors they propose to the rest of us?

Of course, the notion of affecting a uniform has always been more easily suited for men, for whom it comes more naturally. Case in point, the Pope who is always in uniform. As you know, Esquire Magazine anointed Pope Francis The Best Dressed Man of 2013,  saluting him for “rejecting any hints of luxury or opulence” as illustrated by the “black shoes and unadorned, simplistic regalia: an outward acknowledgement of his progressive orthodoxy”. According to Mary Lisa Gavenas, author of The Fairchild Encyclopedia of Menswear, “Pope Francis understands that menswear is meant to express the character of the man wearing the clothes.”

Rick Owens

In the fashion world, Karl Lagerfeld is known for his stiff starched white collars, Thom Browne for his shrunken suits, and Rick Owens swears by the timesaving no brain element of having perfected a uniform. As he admitted to GQ Magazine, during the course of an interview: “I have twenty of the same thing, I wear the same outfit every single day. I can’t imagine having to choose clothes in the morning. It would drive me crazy. I mean, I found one thing I like and then I probably have twenty of it. I change it a little bit every year, maybe, but it’s basically the same thing. It’s been the same thing for a long time. You know, if it’s good enough for Mr. [Azzedine] Alaïa, its good enough for me”. Touché. Makes perfect sense to me.

Azzedine Alaia at the Palais Galliera

Speaking of the diminutive, always black clad Azzedine Alaia, the celebrated master technician is widely considered to be the last great couturier working today. (Bill Cunningham referred to him as “one of the great architects of fashion”). He was honored with a retrospective of some of his iconic designs at the Palais Galliera Musee de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, which opened this past September and runs through January 26th 2014. I have long been a fan, but through the years I have really come to appreciate the consistency and innate modernity of his timeless designs that happily do not come with an expiration date.  Regardless of the year or the season, you can be sure of his rigorous tailoring techniques, painstaking construction of cut and fit, intricately cut patterns, and his unapologetically form flattering designs which are never gimmicky, never ironic or cartoonish, never degrading, and never poke fun at women; but rather, celebrate them and their female shape.

And really, is there something inherently wrong with fashion being flattering? As though sad sack, shapeless clothes are somehow more intellectual and high minded. This always brings to mind L’Wren Scott’s simplistic yet astute take on the way most men relate to fashion “They understand it as long as it has a waist”.

Azzedine Alaia Retrospective at 
Palais Galliera Musee de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

If I can’t necessarily curtail my spending, I would at least hope that my purchases be well thought out and wisely made.  If I were to spend a lot of money, I would rather it be on Alaia (vintage or otherwise), than almost anything else. Talk about an investment. It’s not only an investment in fashion history, but will invariably be something that will live in my closet forever, and get better with time (gee, what a ‘novel’ idea LOL, and something to think about as we head into yet another vicious fashion cycle). One vintage dealer on, (one of my favorite places to search and dream), San Francisco based Jennifer Kobrin, always has an enviable stash of vintage Alaia pieces (outerwear, knitwear, dresses, jackets, furs, corset belts, etc.,) and is currently selling a rare limited edition book, ‘Alaia’, featuring breathtaking images taken by Alaia published by Steidl, dating to November 1998. And of course, you can always count on Resurrection Vintage for a well curated selection.

The Future Arrives From Paris” – On the Street by Bill Cunningham

By the way, I will never forget the time Carine Roitfeld showed up for New York Fashion Week, clad in her enviable “bold sculptural” Alaia black shearling coat with patent finish. Bill Cunningham summed it up perfectly with his post fashion week “On the Street” column, February 18, 2007, “The Future Arrives From Paris”. He used only three images (all of Carine in her coat), and ended the copy with his succinct observation: “There were many well dressed women but only Carine looked like the future”. Indeed, 7 years later and it’s still the most fabulously modern coat I’m likely to see.

Boy, if only I could find that coat now. Though, unless I am prepared to break my New Year’s resolutions, I’d have to wait until 2015 to buy it LOL.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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