Fun For All, & For All, A Good Cause

Publicolor ( is a not for profit organization founded in 1996 by Ruth Lande Shuman. Its mission is to “use the power of color, collaboration + community to engage at-risk students in their education by teaching them painting and life skills, empowering them to catalyze lasting change in themselves, their schools, and communities”. Their annual benefit and most important fundraiser, Stir, Splatter + Roll, was held on Tuesday evening, at the Martin Luther King Jr. High School (and it’s a ‘publicolored’ school, of course). The event was Co-chaired by Jeffrey Banks, Michael Kors, Eugene Kohn, Paul Polizzotto, and Ruth Lande Shuman. Honorees were Michael Kaiser, President of the Kennedy Center and a huge Publicolor supporter, Benjamin Moore, Publicolor’s corporate sponsor, and Gary DeBode of Edison Properties. Almost one million dollars was raised and all proceeds will go to Publicolor’s mission to “engage disconnected students in their education, while teaching them strong and transferable work habits so they are prepared to be productive in both college and career.”

Publicolor Ruth Lande Shuman

Even by New York’s standards, this is a unique party; colorful, creative, and artistic are the operative words, down to the thoughtfully hand painted stalls in the lavatories (I was NOT the only one who took pictures because they looked so great), and the colorful cocktail napkins (which seemed to mirror the colors in my vintage Pucci dress). Guests, including high profile, civic minded New Yorkers representing the worlds of business, fashion, politics, design, education, and philanthropy, are asked to dress in “colorful and festive attire”, and get to paint alongside some of the city’s leading artists, designers and architects- Tyvek jumpsuits are provided. One particular highlight for me, was meeting the mind-blowingly creative illustrator and author, Maira Kalman ( who was on hand manning her own station (I am an avowed fan, and really, who could forget her brilliant New Yorker covers?

Perfectly tapping into the evening’s art related theme, Ruth Lande Shuman arrived wearing Prada’s mural art inspired face printed skirt from spring 2014. As an art history major and art buff, I too, was especially taken with Miuccia’s amazing spring 2014 collection, and I couldn’t resist asking Ruth if she had also purchased one of Miuccia’s colorful face printed mink coats. She smiled and said, “I don’t wear fur so I suppose I saved some money”. (Indeed, those coats were upwards of $50,000).

Adrienne Gaffney and Simon Doonan

Speaking of colorful, creative, and artistic, one of the highlights of the evening was the silent auction featuring specially designed tote bags by some of the worlds’ best architects, artists, and designers. Among the ones that stood out were creations by Betsey Johnson, Narciso Rodriguez, Jon Otis, Dolores Jansen, and Carlos Falchi, whose tote fetched the highest amount: $500 (every tote sold by the way). And it’s not lost on me that those three words (colorful, creative, artistic) also sum up the multi-faceted Simon Doonan who served as the evening’s host and emcee, presiding over the seated dinner and awards program, during which time Bernadette Peters presented Michael Kaiser with his award.

Simon never fails to put a smile on my face. When I asked how things are going at Barneys, where he is the Creative Ambassador-at-Large, he replied they could not be better, thanks to their new management. Of course, he is also a rather prolific author of over 20 books (many of which I have read), and I asked if he has any others up his sleeve. He told me he does in fact have two in a row to be released in the near future, but joked that he has to be careful so as not to “become the next Barbara Cartland” (the English author was one of the most prolific authors and commercially successful of the 20th century, authoring 723 novels, translated into 36 different languages).

Designer & vintage handbags

And speaking about high profile events that are all about having fun while doing good (is there a better combination?), Wednesday, more than 250 women converged upon the elegant Metropolitan Club for the 9th Annual Purses & Pursenalities Luncheon (well, okay, there were a few men, but basically, it was all women). As lovely as this luncheon is, the main course (and dessert), are undeniably the silent auction of approximately 100 designer and vintage handbags. Proceeds benefit the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club ( which was founded in 1884, and is a founding member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Their mission is to save and enhance the lives of youth by providing after-school and summer programs for children in New York City have most disadvantaged communities. They serve more than 5000 children, aged 6 – 18, at seven sites throughout Brooklyn and the Bronx, in addition to Camp Madison located in Kingston, New York.

Joe Patuleia (Executive Director), Elaine Turner, Laura Vela, Yliana Yepez,
and Chuck Scarborough

The Chairs of the event were, Mindy Fortin, Amy Hoadley, Karen Klopp, Tiffany Moller, Betsy Pitts and Kathy Prounis, and the honorees were Elaine Turner ( , Laura Vela (, and Yliana Yepez ( , whose handbags and accessories were on display across the room from where the bags were being auctioned. The MC for the luncheon was Chuck Scarborough, who presented the honors to the three aforementioned designers. I must admit that when I caught sight of the dashing award winning NBC news anchor and correspondent surrounded by women and handbags, I could not resist teasing him: “I know you know about the news. But what do you know about purses?” He seemed caught off guard but smiled and said, “I know they are expensive, and I know my wife knows about them.”

Gift bags

Meanwhile, from the look of things, many of the women in attendance must be of the mind that Chanel and Hermes bags have the most ‘pursenality’ (because those were the two most recognizable labels being toted by the guests). But while none of those labels were among those being auctioned off, there were plenty of others to choose from (Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta, Tiffany, Sophie Hulme, Jason Wu, Nicole Miller, Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade, among others) selected by Design Chairs Carlos Falchi, Eric Javits, and Michelle Smith. And, the strikingly appropriate gift bags, handed out at the end, (courtesy Skinny Girl Sparkling Water), were packaged in what resembled big red Hermes Birkin bags. Most importantly, the sale from the auction raised approximately $90,000, which will benefit a worthy cause.

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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