Lauder Reception at the Met / Victor de Souza Headwear Collection

He ‘Met’ his Match

Leonard Lauder greeting guests at the Met

Actually, with “Cubism: The Leonard Lauder Collection” (October 20th  2014 – February 16th 2015), Leonard A. Lauder not just ‘Met’ his match, he far exceeded it, having donated what is arguably the world’s greatest collection of Cubist art to the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  Comprised of 81 paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Braque, Gris, Leger, and Picasso, the collection, worth an estimated $1 billion, is considered to be one of the most significant gifts in the history of the museum. The formidable exhibition is organized by Emily Braun, (an art historian who has also been Mr. Lauder’s curator for 27 years), and Rebecca Rabinow, a curator in the Met’s department of modern and contemporary art.

Leger’s Composition (The Typographer), 1918- 1919

While it doesn’t open to the public until Monday, I attended a cocktail reception last evening, during which time I got to see the celebrated masterpieces up close and personal (they fill approximately 7 rooms located on the main floor). While I had seen countless images of many of them prior, let’s just say, they are far more impressive in person. It begins with a room with two very large pictures of the grand Lauder residence, with its Cubist art filled walls (all of which now hang on the walls here at the Met). It goes on to document, through the amazing masterpieces, the special relationship between Picasso and Braque (there were remarkable Picassos and Braques, including many of Picasso’s still lifes and nudes, and an entire room of Braques where every picture displayed a musical instrument)l; there were the mixed media collages of Juan Gris; and it ends with a room filled with Legers, “the artist who systematically employed opposites of light and dark; curved and straight lines; flat planes and three dimensional solids” and “came closest to developing a purely abstract form”. The absolute standout is Leger’s Composition (The Typographer), 1918- 1919, which is not only spectacular, but massive in size. It’s easy to understand why, “Mr. Lauder had his sights set on this for decades” according to Ms. Braun. “He chased this painting for years. It incorporates everything you want in a Cubist painting.”

Leonard Lauder residence with his Picassos and  Bracques

Speaking of which, the man of the moment, Leonard Lauder, held court under a massive floral arrangement in the grand reception area of the museum (where cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were served). Greeting guests, he looked relaxed, like a man at peace with himself (and why shouldn’t he be, after giving this amazing gift to New York and the world?), and he seemed quite at home, as though he were in his own living room. Of course, now that his beloved paintings have been moved here from his apartment, this should feel like his second home. But the 81 year old is hardly resting on his laurels, nor is he done. This exhibition represents a true work in progress, a “living collection”, as Mr. Lauder, who purchased his first Cubist painting in 1976 (a Leger drawing to be exact)  is not only admittedly obsessed with Cubism but the endless search and hunt for potential masterpieces. In fact, he hopes to double the size, according to Carol Vogel, who profiled the philanthropist and cosmetics tycoon, in a front page article, “A Collector’s Personal Perspective”, which appeared in last Sunday’s Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times.

Woman with a Book by Pablo Picasso 1909

In any event, this was of enormous interest to me for many reasons. I was an art history major in college, and have long had a strong predilection for cubism, the art movement founded by Picasso and Braque in Paris around 1907. As the first abstract style of modern art, it was revolutionary and ground breaking; it challenged notions of traditional perspective, and created a new way of seeing. Considered to be the most influential art movement of the 20th century, it inspired other art forms, like music, literature, architecture, and of course, fashion.

Paul & Joe color blocked coat from fall 2014
was  inspired by cubism

There has long been an obvious and ongoing connection between fashion and art (especially modern/cubistic art), as exemplified by the use of rigid borders, simple shapes, abstract, geometric forms, color blocks, and collage. I guess this helps explain why I have always been drawn to the art inspired abstract patterns of Emilio Pucci, and the artful fabric collages of Koos Van Den Akker, and have equated some of my most favorite vintage pieces with works of art that could just as easily be framed and hung on a wall. “If you can’t be a work of art, wear a work of art”, I always say.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Hats Off to Victor de Souza’s new Headwear Collection

Victor de Souza headwear
(All photos Laurel Marcus)

Last night I attended the launch of designer Victor de Souza’s headwear line presented by Chiu-Ti Jansen at Osswald Parfumerie, 311 W. Broadway (across from the Soho Grand Hotel). It was an interesting evening at the intersection of art, fashion and commerce and was attended by Mr. de Souza’s merry band of pranksters, uhh make that socialites who support him in all of his fashionable endeavors whether it’s for his “neo-couture” line of clothing (as Jean Shafiroff dubs it) or his latest foray into the world of head embellishments. The line will be available for purchase both online (in limited styles) and in store for the full collection. It was a lot of fun watching the evening progress; as the champagne flowed, more people (not always women) got braver and donned some of the more daring head gear including one that gave off the impression of a haute couture jeweled and studded pineapple. Luckily there were none that looked remotely like the proverbial lampshade!

Chiu-Ti Jansen, Victor de Souza, model

“I believe that beauty is in the balance and a great head piece can give the perfect edge that is classic and poetic. I made all my headwear pieces with high quality materials and are all handmade by couture seamstresses to ensure the quality of my products.” says Mr. de Souza. Materials include feathers, clear and colored crystals, tulle, netting, silk flowers, satin and velvet. Some are simple headbands or comb style (starting at about $72) while others are quite elaborate, tall and embellished (over $700). The designer joked that a few would not be suitable for the opera or ballet; two places often frequented by these attendees, unless you wanted to enrage the person seated behind you. Certainly, anyone who wears them would not go unnoticed especially the enormously vertical feathered band that Joy Marks wore with her VdS white embellished with black trim pantsuit (remarkably the same suit she wore to the FIT “Dance and Fashion Exhibition” last month, albeit with a slightly tamer horizontal feathered headpiece from the collection).

Tanja Dreiding Wallace the owner of Osswald Parfumerie

Also in attendance were Lucia Hwong Gordon, Rosemary Ponzo, and Barbara Regna, to name a few.  Jean Shafiroff and Chiu-Ti Jansen also wore clothing designs from Victor’s Spring 2014 Collection. Ms. Shafiroff, arriving even later than her usual grand entrance making hour, came en route from  Barnes & Noble where she reportedly waited in line for the governor to sign two books (“when the governor asked me to come, you got to go” she remarked) then made a quick change in the bathroom from a gray dress to her de Souza frock. As always, she looked fresh as a daisy. Chiu-Ti resembled an adorable Manga doll complete with false bottom eyelashes and teal one-piece, ruffled cap sleeved jumpsuit. I always marvel at her chameleon-like style transformations; she can go from sophisticated to youthful, from severe to playful with a change of hair, makeup and outfit like no one I’ve ever met.

The boutique

Born into a Portuguese family in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Victor realized early on that he had been bitten by the fashion design bug, much to the chagrin of his family. His grandmother’s closet was rich in inspiration for him as a youngster and he was awestruck with the elegance of the Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel and Schiaparelli items that he found there. He made his debut couture collection at Paris Fashion Week and has put out a ready-to-wear collection every six months since 2009. He favors highly structural shapes and tailored yet elegant and sexy silhouettes in vibrant color with glamorous embellishments. He has designed for many celebrities including Mary J. Blige, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Jean Shafiroff and Victor de Souza

At the event, the worlds of uptown and downtown, native and foreign combined and collided in a pleasing way with everyone enjoying the chance to play millinery dress-up. I had recently seen the film “Advanced Style” based on the Ari Seth Cohen blog of the same name which features six women from the ages of 62-96 who live in New York City and dress everyday for “the theater of their life.” The baby of the group (she’s now 64) Tziporah Salamon was there trying on headpieces and seemed to be particularly fond of one with large purple flowers which did indeed suit her. She is known to ride her decorated Bianchi bicycle all over the city (a la Bill Cunningham) however I tend to doubt she rides at night particularly with a long multicolored striped duster coat that could easily get caught in the wheel spokes. I introduced her to one of the event photogs as a “movie star” and quite confused him as he said he did not recognize her; to which she explained that her flick was a documentary which was not only titled but also featured “advanced style; as in we’re advanced in age and our style is also advanced.”

Joy Marks wearing Victor de Souza headwear

Later I spoke to a woman from Berlin, now living in New York and working in the decorative arts and furnishing field who mentioned that while growing up it was always her dream to be a New Yorker. “Be careful what you wish for” I chided her upon hearing that she thought the city had a dark side that she was initially unaware of. We both agreed that things were even grittier back in the day although we tend to wax nostalgic for that earlier era. Whether you are a reticent romantic for a bygone epoch or a fashion forward diva in the Insta world, or even a bit of both, you will probably find something that suits your taste and style in one of Victor de Souza’s headwear creations. I know there’s one I’m coveting! For orders call (212) 625-3111 or

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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