Thursday, September 8, 2016

Back in business

Guests gather on the terrace of the The David H. Koch Theater for the annual luncheon of the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT. Photo: DPC.
Thursday, September 8, 2016. Back in business. Yesterday in New York was sunny and summer warm but not too much humidity, with looming, massive grey clouds all around. Quite beautiful and dramatic.
When I took the dogs out about eight-thirty in the morning, it looked like it was going to be stormy, and the ultra-violet light gave a greater vividness to the plants still flowering. There was also a strong breeze promising.
Today was the unofficial but now traditional opening of Fashion Week in New York with the annual luncheon of the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT, which takes place on the Promenade of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.

This is a fund-raiser for the Museum and it has become very successful. Yaz Hernandez who co-founded the Council with Liz Peek told the several hundred guests that in the decade or so they’ve been operating, they’ve raised at this lunch a total of $8 million. Because of their successful results, and raising the public profile by getting the word around, the Museum is growing, and is including more exhibitions and lectures for the public and for the students.

I’m not big on the charity lunch events, but that has more do with my work schedule and time available.  This lunch is, in its way, a fashion parade, the likes of which New Yorkers used to see on the avenues back when Bill Cunningham started his fashion beat with camera. You still see some of it on the avenue but the world has changed and so has the costume for many. On Fifth Avenue now you see a lot of people – men and women – who are either tourists and don’t dress for metropolitan life, or New Yorkers who don’t care what they look like. I know that sounds like a cynical call but it’s true. It’s also true that women’s roles have altered or transformed in many ways over the past few decades, notably with the emergence of Women’s Liberation. Ladies who lunch these days very often have either business or something related to business or charity on their minds.
On the right you’re looking at Linda Fargo, the Bergdorf Goodman fashion director. I don’t know who the lady in blue is but I could see she too is fashionable and they were clearly discussing a business matter, whatever it was. I always like just seeing Linda. She is an actual fashion icon – always impeccable with the unique coiffure all worn always with a bright, warm smile. She is fashion in New York at its quintessence. And tradition. Marjorie Reed Gordon. The dress is one she has made for her collection of leather designs from Morocco. Besides its rich and beautiful blue, it’s very soft to the touch. Her business is called Marjorelle Bespoke Leathers. Here’s her email if you want to know more:
So the Couture Council luncheon is also a moment when the girls get dressed up – by which I mean, Look Their Best, for an occasion, and for other women. And its purpose besides raising funds for the Museum, is to honor a fashion designer. I’ve learned in my travels and observations that women tend to put more care into what they are wearing especially if they’re going to be in the company of a lot of other women. The result is easy on the eye and pleasant all around. And sometimes dazzling. Men do not share this characteristic although men make statements with their costume as well.

This year’s honoree was Albert Kriemler whose line sells under the name (three generations old), Akris.
It was called for 11:30 am, a difficult hour for me probably because my natural tendency to procrastinate leaving the house any morning.  I got there just before noon and was expecting to find all the tables seated. Instead I found a crowd of men and women and photographers in front of the theater and with a skrim in front of it with a bank of photographers doing the step-and-repeat. I avoid step-and-repeat. It’s mediocre at best, and really only publicizes someone’s business as well as the charity and does nothing to enhance the subject.

I lack the talent and the eye that Bill Cunningham had when photographing his subjects. He rarely bothered with the step-and-repeat because he was going for the fashion and its story. It is a specific talent and he was the Ace at it. There was life in all his subjects; that was his art. No one could replace him.
However, going to this kind of event I like moving through it with my camera as it gives me an opportunity to show You what it looks like, and maybe what it feels like. When I got up to the terrace on the second floor of the theater, off the Promenade, I found a bigger reception of luncheon guests. I instantly decided that photographing people to show their fashion was impossible.

I decided to shoot some of the shoes. I’m not a fetishist but I am an admirer of the ankle and the foot, especially a beautiful female foot. I mention this only because in the last year or two, the fashion in many examples is to conceal that beauty, cover it over with some kind of get-up that disguises the natural beauty. That and the plethora of straps and bows, all of which look like a lot of work just to put on. But then that is the nature of fashion – changing styles – and besides it’s never going to be my problem.
The lady in the tweed heels below is my friend. Alexandra Lebenthal. I told her I admired her departure from the trend to the “old fashioned” high-heel design. She told me that the shoes she put on in the morning to come to the lunch were so uncomfortable that on her way to Lincoln Center she stopped by J.Crew and bought these! The straps on the lady with the black shoes are an improvement to these eyes; you get to see the grace of her feet. And the lady in the sandals looks very comfortable and simple. A fresh pedicure always helps matters.
This was the most interesting shoe I came upon, a kind of a  raised platform, open-toe bootie that almost look like they could be motorized  or ready for space travel.
It was after 12:30 before we started gathering to sit for lunch.
The first person I spotted inside, already seated was Shirley Lord, and after speaking to Shirley I turned around and there was Martha Stewart, who was seated next to my place, as it happened. Next to her is event designer Bronson van Wyck.
Shirley Lord Rosenthal.
Martha Stewart and Bronson van Wyck.
That's Joyce Brown, President of FIT and Jackie Weld Drake. And next to them my favorite fashion commentator, Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times.  I like reading Vanessa whom I’ve been following since she was the Fashion Editor/columnist for the Financial Times, because she gives everything a socio-historical perspective. And she’s cool.
Vanessa told me she was going to have to leave the lunch early because she was going to Kanye West’s show. Ah! our Kardashianized fashion shows.
Fe Fend, Roberrt Rionda, and Eleanora Kennedy.
Hal Rubenstein and Susan Magrino.
Alex Lebenthal, Valerie Steele, and Paola Rosenshein.
Once everyone was seated, lunch was served.
The main course was branzino, carrots and baby potatoes steamed in a parchment pouch. Excellent.
Yaz Hernandez took the podium and greeted the guests and read the names of the Couture Council members whose efforts have made a vast difference in the development of the Museum. She then introduced this year’s luncheon chairs, Audrey Gruss and Lisa Klein.
Yaz Hernandez. Event co-chairs Lisa Klein and Audrey Gruss.
Valerie Steel, the Museum’s director, took the podium to describe the projects they are embarked on including an exhibition coming from Paris of the fashions of Paris during the age of Proust. Then President Joyce Brown welcomed the guests, after which we were served lunch.

Next up was Su Fujimoto, a very prominent Japanese architect known for his delicate light structures and permeable enclosures. He talked about learning the structure and qualities of the fabrics used in the Akris clothes. It amazed him when he learned for the first time the similarities between the structure of good fabrics and architectural structures.
Valerie Steele. Su Fujimoto.
Linda Fargo took the podium to introduce the guest of honor. First she pointed out what many women in the room must have recognized: she and Audrey Gruss were wearing the same dress. And then in introducing the honoree she talked about Akris designs and how very special they were, "appreciated by," as she put it so succinctly, "the hand, the eye, and the body." I was seated between Martha Stewart and my hostess Eleanora Kennedy, both of whom were wearing Akris at the lunch. Eleanora told me that Akris designs were so special she treated herself to one every year. The one she was wearing yesterday she's had for several years.
Linda Fargo.
Albert Kriemler of Akris the Swiss fashion house, giving his honoree’s speech, and afterwards. Mr. Kriemler, who is Swiss, is the third generation in his family’s firm which was started by grandfather. He mainly talked about his romance with New York which he first visited when he was 19. Like many of us who first came to the Big City at that age, he has always been stimulated and inspired by the city and its energy, and its fashion scene beginning with the Bergdorf windows. He humbly expressed his gratitude at being included on a roster of some of the world’s most famous fashion designers including Valentino and Lagerfeld. His is an unusual story in the fashion business as his family’s company has survived and prospered for three generations, and never lessened the quality and value of the clothes they design and manufacture for discriminating clients all over the world.
Honoree Albert Kriemler.
After Mr. Kriemler’s speech, people were beginning to leave. On my way, I ran into Gordon Kendell (right), a writer on fashion subjects as well as an instructor at FIT.  He introduced me to the man on the left, a 2006 graduate of FIT, now a fashion designer himself, Pedro Ramirez.
It was 1:45 when the luncheon event was concluded. Back outside, the skies were still heavy with passing dark clouds threatening some rain (never came).
Standing on the Josie Robertson Plaza of Lincoln Center looking East and upwards.
And standing on the corner of West 64th and looking south to Columbus Circle. That’s the Museum of Arts and Design in the off white and grey building that looks like a simple step on the way up to the buildings behind it.

Contact DPC here.