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Fly The V&R Skies, Check Out The Newest Fashion Show (On TV, That Is), Get Inside Anna Dello Russo’s Closet, And More…

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Viktor & Rolf have got a brand-new bag—an airline bag, to be precise. The Dutch design duo has created a special amenity kit for KLM’s business-class passengers. The bow-front bag comes stocked with toothpaste and a toothbrush, an eye mask, lip balm, face cream, socks, a pen, and ear plugs. (For gents, there’s a bow-less version, too.) Not a bad reason to upgrade. [Viktor & Rolf]

The September Issue‘s R.J. Cutler returns: Deadline Hollywood reports that HBO has green-lit a Cutler-produced half-hour comedy pilot about the fashion industry, Spring/Fall. Téa Leoni will star as half of a dysfunctional pair of partners in the fashion industry; Kate Robin, formerly a writer-producer on HBO’s Six Feet Under, penned the script. [Deadline via Daily Front Row]

Is Anna Dello Russo a “total fashion victim”? That’s not the haters talking; that’s ADR herself, explaining her look to CNN. She seems to be in pretty good spirits about it—and we would be too with a closet like hers. Check out the video for a look inside her Paris fashion week suite at the Ritz. [Fashionologie]

Calling all sole men: T spotlights a curious new trend in menswear—vibrantly colored soles on men’s shoes. Well, it worked for Louboutin… [T]

Photo: Courtesy of Viktor & Rolf

Behind-The-Scenesters: Mary Howard

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Designers design. Photographers photograph. Models model. That much—in broad strokes, at least—is clear. But what about the artists, technicians, and industry insiders, often unpublicized and underappreciated, who help to get clothes and accessories made and shown? Call them Behind-the-Scenesters: people who shape our experience of fashion but never take a bow on the catwalk or strike a pose for the camera. Without them—from pattern-makers to production designers—the show wouldn’t go on. And in a new series, Style.com sits down with a few of these pros to find out, basically, what they do.

Mary Howard is the set designer on virtually every key fashion photographer’s speed dial. She’s the consummate background professional, literally—she creates the mise-en-scène of a shoot. Howard (left works regularly with Steven Meisel, Annie Leibovitz, and Steven Klein, among others, and her sets range as widely as her collaborators’ styles. She does dazzlingly elaborate (Leibovitz’s 2008 Wizard of Oz shoot starring Keira Knightley), and she can make a set virtually invisible, too (Meisel’s Spring ’10 Prada campaign.) On any given day, you can find Howard mottling the gray backdrop at a studio shoot or packing up a selection of Art Deco lamps headed off on location. Here, she talks to Style.com about working with the masters, how much stuff is too much stuff, and learning when to leave the bobby pins in.

So, Mary: In one sentence, what do you do?
I call myself a set designer for print. Could be editorial, could be ads. In movies, they call someone like me a production designer; in fashion, the name “set designer” has stuck but it doesn’t entirely describe the job. There’s a lot of art direction involved; it’s not just about picking out a rug. But I guess if I have to boil down my job description to one sentence, I’d say—I create the world around the girl. I don’t have anything to do with the model, but I shape the physical environment that surrounds her and help the photographer and the stylist and everyone else involved with the shoot tell the right story and make the girl pop.

Why do you think the fashion industry has shied away from the title “production designer”?
I think some of it has to do with the fact that this is still an emerging field. It barely existed when I moved to New York; it wasn’t until recently that my studio even began getting credits in magazine. I work quite a bit with Grace Coddington at Vogue, and she’ll tell stories about sending her assistants out to just, you know, grab a chair. Or the photographer would send his assistant out to pick up props.

How did you get into set design?
I grew up in New Orleans, and after I got my MFA, I went back down there to build Mardi Gras floats. Then I came to New York City and built floats for the Macy’s parade. I was always making things—I’d make props for Saturday Night Live, for instance. Eventually I began working with a set designer—this was about 20 years ago, and it’s possible that she was the only one. We began working with Richard Avedon, and that led to other photographers and editors seeking us out. Then I went out on my own. Honestly, I feel like a grandma in this field.

What’s an average workday like for you?
I think that, like a lot of people in fashion, I do what I do because there isn’t really “an average day.” There are days on set, and there are prep days that involve a lot of thinking or researching or pounding the pavement looking at stuff. So there’s a routine, but the work itself is so dependent on the assignment—if I’m working with Annie, her process is totally different from, say, Steven Meisel’s process. Continue Reading “Behind-The-Scenesters: Mary Howard” »

What’s Black And White And Red All Over?

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Natalia’s new Spring 2010 campaign for Stella McCartney. (Apparently last season’s models—Bambi, Thumper, Flower, Sigrid Agren—are taking Spring off.) And for more on Stella, check out our review of the designer’s pre-fall collection here.

Photo: Courtesy of Stella McCartney

Pitti Uomo, Day 3: Mick, Keef…Umit?

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The Pitti foundation, which supports and promotes new fashion talent, waved its wand over two names this season: shoe designer Max Kibardin (his cowhide clogs were an indelible image) and Umit Benan, who produced his first-ever live show for his Fall men’s collection, called Retired Rockers. It was basically a tableau vivant: Around a dinner table sat a group of seasoned older guys with a couple of young ‘uns and some beautiful women (also, of course, substantially younger) thrown into the mix, and around them sat the audience, looking on uncertainly as the diners made merry. The music was Dire Straits but the vibe was Stones all the way—a kind of worn-out glamour, eccentric elegance, comfort, the degree of connoisseurship that appreciates Nice Things, but, mostly, clothes for men who feel they don’t have to prove anything anymore. “The dressing gown at the end of the driveway,” as Benan put it, obligingly offering some full-length wrap coats in plaid cashmere. But the designer is also a master of no-slouch tailoring, and there was plenty of that, too. As for the appeal of these grizzled old survivors? “There’s experience in older faces,” Benan said before the show. “A young guy’s just a kid for me.” That’s him on the right, above, not much more than a kid himself.

Photo: Courtesy of Umit Benan

So Who’s Buying Ungaro?

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It’s no secret that Estrella Archs and Lindsay Lohan’s Spring 2010 version of Ungaro didn’t exactly wow the critics. And, as reported today by The Independent, the house’s founder, Emanuel Ungaro, has termed it a “disaster.” But what about the retail reaction?

Well, file this under Not Surprised: Both Neiman Marcus and Net-a-Porter, two of the only big shopping destinations where Ungaro can currently be bought outside of the brand’s own boutiques, have dropped the line for Spring 2010, according to representatives for the stores. Barneys and Saks, meanwhile, haven’t carried the label in a few seasons, and they didn’t jump at the house’s new party girl-based image—neither of them picked up the line for Spring, reps confirm.

As for who did? Well, there’s Vivaldi, an Upper East Side boutique best known for carrying mostly Paris and Milan-based fashions for a well-heeled clientele. And those with a taste for fuchsia minidresses and flying in the face of conventional wisdom can always seek out Ungaro’s own stores.

Photo: Marcio Madeira