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July 31 2014

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16 posts tagged "Bill Blass"

Calendar Girl: Fashion Veteran Ruth Finley Puts Down Her Pink NYFW Schedule to Pick Up the CFDA’s Board of Directors’ Tribute Award

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Ruth Finley

A new accolade will be bestowed at the CFDA Awards next week when a social-media-savvy individual picks up the inaugural Fashion Instagrammer of the Year Award. There’s no arguing with Instagram’s influence, but will it be as indispensable nearly seventy years from now as Ruth Finley’s Fashion Calendar is today? As a co-ed at Simmons College in the 1940s, Finley envisioned an industry clearinghouse. The mimeograph machine on which it was originally printed has long since been retired and her typist, Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Doris Roberts, has moved on, but Finley’s pink-sheeted biweekly calendar is going strong. Without it, how could insiders ever navigate New York fashion week’s 400-plus events?

These days, the octogenarian spends as much time with her charities—she’s raised more than $2 million for Citymeals-on-Wheels—as she does negotiating scheduling changes, but when Marc Jacobs wants to shift his time slot, his people still call Finley’s people. She took a break from booking the Spring 2015 shows—yes, the Fashion Calendar team works as far in advance as designers do—to talk to Style.com.

How did you get your start?
I met [the fashion publicist] Eleanor Lambert while I was at college. I was her Girl Friday for a huge fashion show she was doing at the Hotel Astor, which no longer exists, for the Red Cross. I had to stay at the Astor in a suite where the clothes were to make sure nobody stole anything. There was a song at the time, “She Had to Go and Lose It at the Astor,” and when my mother heard that, she was going to come and bring me right home. She didn’t understand the whole thing.

And you got the Fashion Calendar off the ground while you were still at college?
I met with two women in fashion, and they were complaining that Bergdorf’s and Saks were doing two shows—same day, same time. It gave me the idea that fashion needed a clearinghouse to avoid that kind of thing happening. I was doing that even before I graduated. Then I came to New York and I took an apartment on 52nd Street, right across from the 21 Club. Fifty-five dollars a month, two bedrooms, but bedbugs! I lived there with my secretary. At night we used to go out to the theater and usher to make extra money. She and I were selling a service, which is a difficult thing—we had to prove how important it was to become part of the Fashion Calendar. At that time, most of the shows were in the department stores. There were at least fifty retailers: Arnold Constable, Franklin Simon, Best, Ohrbach’s—an amazing number of stores. Of course, no designers’ names were published, that came later on. If you were buying a Bill Blass, you would get a Saks Fifth Avenue one.

When did that change happen?
That happened in the fifties, after World War II, when American designers here were becoming more important. During World War II, nobody could go to Paris to buy clothes; that was helpful for us. Gradually the stores began promoting the designers. Eleanor Lambert was important in pushing that, in realizing that designers needed to have the credit that they deserved. American fashion has become more and more important over the years. We were very insignificant back in the forties; we were belittled by Paris. We’re certainly on their level now.

Do you have a favorite decade in American fashion?
I like the fifties a lot. Pauline Trigère and I became quite close. She was sensational. I think she lived until about 92. She was a real designer, you know? She did the cutting and everything herself. My first wholesale dress was Trigère, I was so excited to have a designer dress. I was at that time probably 25. I wish I had kept it. A beautiful green cotton dress.

Did you know Charles James, the subject of the current exhibition at the Costume Institute?
I did. I liked him a lot. We became good friends. Of course, he never made much money, but he was such a talent. I had one of his outfits once. Another designer whom I was really close to was Norman Norell. I liked him a lot. One time he ran into a terrible conflict on his show. After that he never let his secretary call me—he picked up the phone and called me himself to set his dates.

You’ve seen so much fashion over your sixty-plus years in the business. What stands out?
It’s interesting to see even today how Marc Jacobs changes each season and does this fabulous extravaganza. You ask yourself, How is he going to outdo himself again? And every single time he keeps doing it. As you know, Marc Jacobs once kept people waiting two hours, and everybody stayed, nobody left, and of course there were a lot of complaints the next day. And since then, he is the only designer who starts right at the appointed time of 8, and you’re out by 8:10. The first year he did that, I arrived at 8 and I couldn’t get in. Now, if he can do that, why can’t others do it?

Marc has always been until a couple of years ago on Monday night. Recently he’s changed to Thursday, but he never told us he was changing until a month before. Now it looks like he is [officially] changing. So, several designers want 8 p.m. on Monday. Last season Donna Karan took it and it worked out. Who’s going to get it this season remains to be seen.

And that decision is up to you?
Well, most likely. I thought Donna might want to come back and keep it, but so far she hasn’t. We’ll just wait and see. We’ll know in a couple of weeks.

How do you keep it all straight?
We have grown from, let’s say, one hundred shows a year—or fifty shows a season, which was the case in the forties—to this past season, in February, we had about four hundred, which is really huge and too many. But what are you going to do? I can’t tell you as a young designer you can’t show. That’s when I’ll try to talk them into doing a presentation.

So you don’t think there should be a barrier to entry, some sort of approval process?
How can you tell a young designer, “You can’t do it”? Sometimes I’ll tell a designer to wait until next season when [they're] better known or selling more to stores, especially if they don’t have much money. Even to do a show at a small place, it costs so much money. I try to guide them, and very often they listen to me, but sometimes they don’t. My personal relationships are what kept the business going. I showed no prejudice.

No favorite designers?
No, absolutely not. I scheduled shows in the order in which they contacted me, that’s the way it was done. And I watched them grow. I knew Marc Jacobs before he had a partner, when he was carrying his clothes around in a suitcase. And Diane von Furstenberg, I met her over the phone. When she showed her clothes to [Vogue editor in chief] Diana Vreeland, she called me from the hotel to say, “Diana [Vreeland] walked out and said, ‘Beautiful, these are great,’” and Diane [von Furstenberg] turned to the secretary and said, “What do I do now?” And she said, “Call Ruth Finley.” So she called me and remembers it very well. I suggested she contact editors and stores and take appointments—I think it was at the Hotel Gotham.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced over the years?
A problem I used to have with some people is their superstitions. One designer would never take a date with a four in it because that was a bad omen. Another designer, Arnold Scaasi, would not confirm his date until he consulted his numerologist, so I called him and said, “Let me have the number of your numerologist, I’ll solve this.” He refused. You just had to be patient. Another time, Oscar de la Renta was just so upset because he had booked a theater for a Monday night fashion show and found out that Bill Blass was showing that night. So he said, “Ruth, can you just call Bill and see what you can work out for me? I’ve already put my deposit down.” Bill, who was great to work with and whom I was friendly with, we went back and forth, I changed Bill’s date, and they both had successful shows and it worked out fine. Luckily, Bill Blass was not a difficult person. Anybody else might have been more of a problem.

Any examples when designers didn’t budge?
Oh, yes, I tried to change Tommy Hilfiger when he moved to 11 a.m. on Monday, knowing how it was going to affect Carolina Herrera’s models and makeup people and all that. Herrera has shown at 10 a.m. on Monday for at least twenty years. I offered him a couple of really good times, but no, they set themselves down, it was going to be 11. They’re there to stay. It’s much harder work today. Every season I say this is the worst season we’ve had, because it just gets worse all the time.

But you’ve never been tempted to retire?
No, not yet. Too young.

Photo: Neil Rasmus / BFAnyc.com 

’Tis the Season…

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Gift Guide

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about what you’ll be giving (and, of course, requesting) this holiday season. If you need some inspiration, take a peek at our holiday shopping guide, which is packed with goodies for everyone from your rocker pals to sporty snow bunnies to uptown gals (and don’t miss our corresponding grungy tale of holiday thievery). Need a few more suggestions? Over the next few days, we’ll be divulging what our editors are planning to gift, and hoping to get. Have a look at our first picks, below.

Nicole Phelps

NICOLE PHELPS, EXECUTIVE EDITOR
To Get: I’d love a one-month unlimited class package to Physique 57. With a 5-year-old at home, making time to work out is the biggest luxury there is.

To Give: I received a pair of Hatch‘s navy cashmere joggers as a gift about a year ago. They instantly became my at-home uniform; I wore them just about every night last winter. I know my mom and sister will be thrilled to receive pairs of their own. Hatch founder Ariane Goldman has opened a temporary shop at 25 Howard Street here in New York through Thanksgiving weekend, so it’ll be easy for me to go snap them up.

Katharine K. Zarrella

KATHARINE K. ZARRELLA, ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
To Get: All I really want for Christmas is a ticket to London so I can go and explore the Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! exhibition at Somerset House. But seeing as it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be hopping the pond in the near future, I’d be equally pleased to receive this pair of Fendi booties. I wear my Fall ’10 Yves Saint Laurent mohawk pumps pretty aggressively, so it would be nice to have another footwear option that’s similarly coiffed.

To Give: I think everyone should own a vintage silk kimono. Every single person. They’re incredibly comfortable and wildly glamorous for lounging around the apartment. A few of my friends have been pining after my latest acquisition—a black, red, and gold embroidered kimono that was once owned by the 1934 Miss Japan—so I will be gifting them equally spectacular robes. My favorite kimono scavenging spots are obscure antique shops on the Upper West Side and Joe Sundlie’s vintage store in Chelsea. But this forties number from 1stdibs.com would do nicely.

Rachel Walgrove

RACHEL WALGROVE, SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR
To Get: I’ve been eyeing LPD’s sportswear for a while. I love how it pairs team spirit with the cultlike following found in fashion. This Team Ghesquière tee is definitely on my list.

To Give: Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that my family is obsessed with dachshunds—though I like to blame this mostly on my sister. These Jonathan Adler bookends would be the perfect complement to her impressive book collection.

Erica Blumenthal

ERICA BLUMENTHAL, CONTRIBUTING MARKET EDITOR
To Get: I don’t think you need a reason for why I want these python Gianvito Rossi pumps.

To Give: I plan to buy several copies of Morrissey’s Autobiography as soon as it hits U.S. stores on December 3. Most of my friends are dying to read it, so why not give them what they want?

Photos: Mesdemoiselles (illustration); Courtesy Photos

Quick to the Draw: A Moment With Richard Haines

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Richard HainesRichard Haines is somewhat of a fashion-week anomaly—he’s a 61-year-old illustrator with a blog. In a past life, he was a womenswear designer for some of America’s biggest brands, such as Calvin Klein, Bill Blass, Perry Ellis, and Puff Daddy, but he threw all that in to focus on art in the digital age. He quickly gained traction, getting hired by everyone from J.Crew to The New York Times for his ability to make guys look far cooler on paper than they do in real life (you can only imagine what he does for models at runway shows). And recently, he received the ultimate validation: a gig illustrating Prada’s menswear collections, the fruits of which were released in book and T-shirt form. Haines gave us a sneak peek at his Spring ’14 illustrations from Prada (below, left), Jil Sander (below, right), and Andrea Incontri (bottom), which debut exclusively here. And below, the talent talks about flying on private jets with Calvin Klein, life as a blogger, and that one time three days ago when Beppe Modenese mistook him for Bill Cunningham.

When did you first come to the shows and what’s changed since then?
Eighteen thirty-four [laughs]. I went to Paris fashion week in the early eighties, when I was designing, and a friend of mine, who was the editor of New York magazine, would take me to shows like Claude Montana and Thierry Mugler. It was this amazing moment in Paris. Back then I saw womenswear, now I see menswear, so the scale of the audience is different. The biggest thing [then] was this trend of sending out, like, eight models in the same outfit all at once. It was very dramatic, and that doesn’t seem to happen now. If anything, it’s gotten more intimate and more manageable. But the media has made fashion week very different, which is fascinating.

I’ve heard you say that people were dropping a lot more money back in those days.
Yeah, it was a different time. It was easier to be in the fashion business, because there weren’t these constant collections to do. The stakes weren’t as high, and people did it with a lot more money. Now, there are more brands competing for less money. A couple of years after I started going to the collections in Paris, I was working at Calvin Klein, and it was a privately owned company—it was his company—so if he wanted to charter a jet, he would. We’d go to London and then the fabric shows in Milan, and then we’d go to Lake Como and stay at the Villa d’Este. It wasn’t bad.

Richard Haines' sketches from Prada and Jil Sander

What’s it like being one of the only illustrators at the shows?
I love doing it. There’s something really exciting about sitting down and watching someone present and being able to draw it. I don’t think about whether I’m one of the only people doing this. I just love doing it, and it makes me happy. I just keep going.

What are your fashion-week essentials?
I inevitably always forget one thing. I have little cases where I carry charcoal pencils, Moleskine notebooks—which reminds me, I need to buy a new one today—a charger for my cell phone, antidepressants…. And that’s it. When I first started doing this, I would forget paper, and I started drawing on envelopes and show notes and people loved that, so sometimes it works to my advantage. Continue Reading “Quick to the Draw: A Moment With Richard Haines” »

French Castle, American Story

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2013 marks the fortieth anniversary of Le Grand Divertissement è Versailles, the runway battle royal that took place in 1973 between French fashion houses (Givenchy, Dior, Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent, and Pierre Cardin) and American designers (Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows, and Bill Blass). Held as a fundraiser to restore the palace, the evening was attended by everyone from Andy Warhol to Princess Grace of Monaco, and, in addition to a bevy of couture, featured performances by the likes of Liza Minnelli and Josephine Baker (above).

But aside from being, perhaps, the most epic runway spectacle to date, Versailles marked the first time African-American models took a prominent place on the European fashion stage. Last night, in honor of the anniversary, and in celebration of Women’s History Month, the Fashion Institute of Technology hosted a screening of Deborah Riley Draper’s 2012 documentary, Versailles '73: American Runway Revolution. And the historic event’s stars, like Pat Cleveland (below, right), Billie Blair, Norma Jean Darden, and Bethann Hardison, among others, turned out for the film and a lively panel discussion. Continue Reading “French Castle, American Story” »

Balenciaga Goes Back To The Future, What’s In The Cards For NYFW, Acne For Everybody, And More…

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Balenciaga has revamped its Paris flagship. At the newly redone Avenue George V store, you’ll find more of Ghesquière’s (left) covetable collection, an ornate banister borrowed from the Balenciaga archives, and an enormous starburst clock—just don’t try to tell time by it, as it runs backwards. “Back to the future,” CEO Isabelle Guichot explains. [WWD]

Fashionista checked in with a psychic for NYFW predictions. What was in her crystal ball? Jewels at Marc, a solo reality show for Michael Kors, and good tidings for Jeffrey Monteiro at Bill Blass. Time will tell! (Except at Balenciaga in Paris, where it runs backwards.) [Fashionista]

Acne has launched a small capsule collection aimed at transvestites. Would it be wrong to say “fabulous”? [Vogue U.K.]

And Barneys’ Simon Doonan is leaving the New York Observer after ten years to pen a column for the online political mag Slate. [Fashionologie]

Photo: Marcio Madeira