9 posts tagged "Fern Mallis"
Yesterday evening, 92nd Street Y hosted the latest installment of its ongoing Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis series. This time around, British journalist and International Herald Tribune fashion editor Suzy Menkes was in the hot seat, and the tone of her and Mallis’ conversation was appropriately outspoken. “Most designers can’t sleep after she sees their shows,” said Mallis. “She dares to say what she really feels and that is very rare.” Menkes more than illustrated this “rare” quality while opening up about her criticism of the Met’s Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibition (“It didn’t have enough of the sense of anger and freedom and drama that was punk”), her early fashion memories (“I made my own fashion newspaper at age 5—my mom still has it—with a page devoted to this glamorous person: me”), and her misadventures (sneaking into one of Karl Lagerfeld’s Chloé shows by pretending to be a cleaner with a mop).
Offering a detailed reflection on Menkes’ forty-some-year career, the Q&A took the audience through the highs and lows of the journalist’s life and work. It even touched upon Menkes’ personal tragedies, like the death of her husband (“My life is divided into before David and after David”). “I didn’t set out to be a pioneer [for female journalists],” explained Menkes. “I didn’t feel ambitious. I just wanted to have kids and a family, and I had my work, and I didn’t want to give it up.”
The conversation also examined some of Menkes’ more controversial stories and opinions. Of her much-buzzed-about T magazine article, “The Circus of Fashion,” she offered, “[The reaction] was surprising, because I’m so not condemning of blogging or any kind of social media.” Her feelings on John Galliano, who, it was announced today, will not be teaching a master class at Parsons, were discussed, too. “I would never say that I love Hitler, in any shape or form, ever,” she said. “But that is not to say that someone with such brilliant talent shouldn’t be given a second chance.”
Little-known fact: Pratt Institute boasts America’s longest-running fashion-education program. With alums such as Betsey Johnson and Jeremy Scott, Pratt reps a unique vanguard in the world of design—and last night, at its 114th annual senior fashion show, some talented new names were added to its stable.
Pratt headlines its yearly runways with the bestowal of its Visionary Award—an accolade honoring fashion-world luminaries, who needn’t be directly linked to the school. Last night’s recipient? The singular Thom Browne. “It’s overwhelming,” Browne told Style.com, “when you get to do what you do, and have an important institution, with such a strong reputation in the world of design, recognize it, it’s…it’s humbling.” Presenting the award, Hamish Bowles teased his friend. Referring to Browne’s growth over the aughts, he said, “Thom became something of a performance piece himself, a one-man Gilbert & George, in his stiff, tailored buttoned-up suits with the odd proportions.” Expect to see the designer in exactly this silhouette at the Costume Institute’s upcoming Met Ball—though likely with a punk twist. “I’m going with Taylor Tomasi Hill,” Browne revealed with a smile.
After the ceremony, it was on to the show, where front-rowers, including Fern Mallis, Bill Cunningham, and Bibhu Mohapatra, were treated to a lineup heavy on digital prints, washed-out pastels, a lot of white, and ultra-long silhouettes. Two designers stood out in particular: Raya Kassisieh (above, left), with her sometimes soft, sometimes sharp Brave New World brides (“It’s kind of like nouveau Mugler,” whispered Patrick McMullan), and Madeline Gruen (above, right), with her indigo colonial toile prints and glittering embroideries that blended humor with notes of Alexander McQueen and Liberace. Gruen won the night’s other big prize—a $25,000 grant funded by the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation.
HBO’s forthcoming documentary The Battle of amfAR won’t air until December, but its debut screening at the Tribeca Film Festival last night certainly managed to draw a crowd, with Uma Thurman, Harry Belafonte, and Fern Mallis all coming out in support. Mallis—a founding board member of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS—told Style.com that she remembered giving amfAR one of DIFFA’s first grants, back in the eighties, to buy a refrigerator. These days, amfAR can afford its own iceboxes. It’s also evolved into one of the world’s leading funders of AIDS research, and the charity’s work and donations have made many new therapies available. And, of course, it’s amassed an impressive roster of celebrity endorsers—heck, Sarah Jessica Parker chaired its New York City gala in February.
But one mustn’t forget amfAR’s first famous patron, Dame Elizabeth Taylor. The Battle of amfAR chronicles Taylor’s work with clinician Dr. Mathilde Krim in mobilizing during the early days of HIV. In the film’s opening moments, Taylor addresses a congressional committee on the burgeoning AIDS crisis. In a voice-over, the late actress explains that she watched as, one by one, her friends grew ill. “And so I thought, Bitch, do something!”
After the film, Kenneth Cole moderated a Q&A with Krim and amfAR CEO Kevin Frost. Krim, now 86, received a standing ovation as she took the stage. Cole asked if she has ever felt hopeless in what seems to be a never-ending battle. Said Krim: “No. I’ve never felt like throwing in the towel. From the very beginning, my feelings, my anxieties, my hope are the same as they are today. Is that a good answer?”
“I think what the students have in common is that they each have an individual voice,” said Shelley Fox, the director of the new MFA Fashion Design and Society course at Parsons School of Design. The course is the first of its kind in New York. And on Saturday, at Made Fashion Week at Milk Studios, its first 18 graduates (hailing from 13 countries) sent the fruits of their labor down the catwalk. Donna Karan, who was a strong supporter of the course and instrumental in its inception, turned up to cheer on the grads. “Although I was a student at Parsons, I found myself hiring a lot of people from Louise Wilson at Central Saint Martins in London and I said, ‘Wait, how come we don’t have a graduate program in New York?’ ” said Karan. Wilson herself crossed the pond to attend the show. She shared the front row with the likes of Fern Mallis, Julie Gilhart, and Bill Cunningham—not a bad turnout for a student production.
The show opened with looks by Lucia Cuba. With a background in social psychology, the Peruvian designer created a sartorial expression of activism, commenting on women’s issues and politics in Lima. The clothes combined 1950s silhouettes with prints of women’s crotches or pictures of a young Alberto Fujimori (a dictator who has been jailed for human rights abuses). Paula Cheng’s collection of webbed, multitextural silver and gray knits was another standout (pictured).
Students explored concepts of deconstruction and reconstruction (like show-closer Talia Shuvalov’s sweatshirts embellished with vintage tees that she took apart and rewove, or Jun Juyeon Hong’s impeccable wool suiting that featured unexpected lines, layers, and cutouts) and minimalism (like Beckett Fogg’s embossed leather and chiffon collection, or Noriko Kikuchi’s ethereal white looks based on emptiness) and showed no fear when it came to color. Liverpool native Carly Ellis was particularly courageous in her sporty, techno looks. Backstage, the purple-haired designer explained that she was inspired by vivid tourist pictures she snapped in New York as well as fragmented Skype images and the geometric painting rituals of South Africa’s Ndebele tribe. Sinéad Lawlor’s tailored button-photo print collection, which featured smart suiting combined with knitting techniques and lace, was another colorful offering. Each of the collections was conceptually rich and, at times, complicated, but many of the designs seemed not only wearable but sellable, too.