I recently had the opportunity to visit the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia to attend the opening of the Little Black Dress exhibit at the SCAD Museum of Art's André Leon Talley Gallery, curated by ALT himself (the Vogue Contributing Editor is a longtime SCAD trustee and student mentor).
Before the opening, our merry little band of art and fashion journalists spent a day touring SCAD's classrooms—and it would not be an understatement to say that we were mightily impressed by the facilities, students, educators and sheer scope of design education on offer.
We started off in the Dye Lab at Pepe Hall, where we watched Fibers Professor Doris Louie show a dozen students how to concoct dyes made from cabbage, beets, onionskin, bark, walnuts and cochineal bugs. Then it was on to the loom room, which is devoted to weaving textiles using incredibly intricate-looking looms (including a state-of-the-art jacquard loom valued at more than $100,000).
We were given a tour of the Industrial Design department in the Gulfstream Center for Design by Professor John McCabe and shown a variety of student projects, from finished kayaks and motorcycles to prototypes for cutting-edge computers, kitchen utensils, dog beds, sunglasses, staplers, camping equipment, coffee makers, vacuum cleaners and lighting fixtures (among other projects in the works).
The Fashion department in the lovely Eckberg Hall was next, where my old pals Michael Fink (Dean of SCAD's School of Fashion Design, and the former Fashion Director of Saks Fifth Avenue) and Carmela Spinelli (Chair of the Fashion/Accessories Departments and former Associate Chair of Fashion at Parsons) walked us through classrooms where students were designing clothing and handbags, draping under the tutelage of Professor Sandra Davidson and drawing flats with guidance from Professor Lara Wolf. SCAD has an annual student fashion show for graduating seniors; I attended one during New York Fashion Week earlier this year and was mightily impressed by the variety of aesthetics and quality of design on the runway. In fact, SCAD is the only university in the United States to offer a full spectrum of accessory design degrees—from B.F.A. to M.A. to M.F.A.—and SCAD's fashion classes top out at 16 students, max.
Then it was on to the Working Class Studio, a product development venture where Sales and Marketing Manager Kyle Milsap showed us some of his team's works-in-progress (think: original stationary and home decor, all of which had a decidedly fun, colorful, of-the-moment vibe that would not feel out of place in the MoMA gift shop). But wait, SCAD has its own gift shop, which we visited just before lunch—and where I indulged in a little holiday shopping and talked myself out of buying some adorably quirky/creepy baby sculptures.
Lunch was followed by a visit to the Jewelry Department at Fahm Hall, where department chair Jay Song gave us a hands-on tutorial on making engraved copper cuff bracelets. I'd taken quite a few jewelry making classes in high school, and our afternoon lesson made me realize how much I missed the joy of creating something by hand, and the satisfaction of wearing something I'd actually designed and made myself.
Naturally, when we reconvened several hours later for the ALT/LBD opening, all of the women in our group were wearing their hot-off-the-presses copper cuffs, each of which was as unique as the person who created it. And, like me, they were all dreaming of chucking it all to go back to school. Such is the lure of SCAD.
photos by Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer, 2012
As the days get shorter and the holidays draw nigh, I love the idea of adorning myself with something a little more fanciful, festive and sparkly than my usual go-to silver or charms. Enter Lavish by Tricia Milaneze. Made in Brazil, these limited edition necklaces feature hand-crocheted 18k gold filled wire threaded with bold, colorful stones and glittering glass beads to wonderful 3-D effect. I'm particularly partial to the turquoise choker-cum-breastplate with Good 'N Plenty-shaped beads, which does, indeed, look good enough to eat. Lavish, to be sure—and just the thing to stave off the winter doldrums while making a showstopping style statement.
graphic design by K Sarna
The Label: Sheila Johnson Collection
Based In: New York
Designed By: Movie producer/philanthropist/hotelier Sheila Johnson, who has transformed her passion for landscape photography into a just-launched collection of digital print luxury scarves. "I have been holding onto photographs that I have taken over the years—photographs that mean a lot to me and remind me of the journey that I have been on," says Johnson, who was a founding partner of BET (Black Entertainment Television) and recently honored as one of Donna Karan's Women Who Inspire. "I think of photography as my canvas for rediscovery and inspiration; when I’m behind the lens, I can express myself, not just personally but to the world. It’s been thrilling to share my passion for nature and my philanthropic work by translating what I see and feel into luxurious, wearable art.”
Looks Like: The scarves are produced on an old-fashioned wooden loom outside of Florence, Italy and feature Johnson's rich, color-saturated nature shots—bright fall foliage, a tranquil snowfall, flowers in bloom, the sunburst-like inside of an orange—printed on super-soft, beautifully draped modal that's hand cut and fringed then given evocative names such as Solace, Joy! and Etude. "In choosing which photographs to use for the scarves, I look for images that tell a story and capture an intimate moment in time," adds Johnson. "Wrapping yourself in one of my scarves should feel like wrapping yourself in a beautiful embrace.”
Sold At: Sheila Johnson scarves retail for $475 on her website. A portion of proceeds are donated to the Lady Salamanders, the first national all-women's Street Soccer USA team, which aims to end homelessness through sports.
graphic design by K Sarna
'Tis the season for making merry. But while you're doing so, don't forget those less fortunate. Take a cue from Bobbi Brown, a long-time supporter of Dress for Success. Because nothing's more happy-making than helping those in need.
image courtesy of Tim Walker: Story Teller at Somerset House
The late, great fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez was the subject of a recent exhibit at the Suzanne Geiss Company in New York, which was a big hit with the fashion flock. If you weren't able to catch the show, you can see what all the fuss is about in the accompanying monograph. Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex & Disco by Mauricio and Roger Padilha (Rizzoli) is a loving and lavish tribute to the Puerto Rican-born artist, whose expressive illustrations helped define a generation of fashion—and whose Polaroids and Instamatics of celebrities and fashion insiders like Karl Lagerfeld, Tina Chow, Jessica Lange, Grace Jones and Jerry Hall mugging for the camera presaged Tumblr and Instagram by more than three decades. But the most compelling thing about this lavish tome, aside from the sheer beauty of the illustrations, is the remarkable range of styles Lopez was able to master in his work, which regularly appeared in the pages of WWD, Vogue, The New York Times and Interview throughout the Seventies and Eighties.
An Extraordinary Theory of Objects by Stephanie LaCava (Harper), is not a fashion book, per se. Rather it's a clever coming-of-age memoir written by a young woman who went on to work at Vogue and is now a freelance fashion writer and literary-minded style blogger with a devoted online following. The memoir chronicles the Connecticut-born LaCava's teenage years in France, where she battled anxiety, anorexia and depression with the help of a fertile imagination and the beloved objects—mushrooms, beetles, kaleidoscopes and the like (described in encyclopedic illustrated footnotes)—that took on talismanic healing properties and helped the author survive an emotionally fraught adolescence.
Vogue Creative Director Grace Coddington has also seen her share of ups and downs (from the car accident that sliced off her left eyelid to the death of her adored older sister to two divorces) and she shares all of it—along with her long and storied career as a model-turned-uber-stylist—in the pages of Grace: A Memoir (Random House). The book includes the author's whimsical line drawings and a selection of photos from her personal and professional archives, taking readers from her early days on the northern coast of Wales through her years as a model in Swinging London to her current incarnation as the industry's grand dame of the fashion image.
You can see more of Coddington's fashion images—along with those created by fellow Vogue sittings editors Babs Simpson, Polly Mellen, Tonne Goodman, Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, Camilla Nickerson and Phyllis Posnick—in Vogue: The Editor's Eye (Abrams), a coffee table compendium of some of the most striking images from the magazine's 120-year history. These include Irving Penn's seminal shot of Jean Patchett in Peru c. 1949 (styled by Babs Simpson), which revolutionized fashion photography, the final shots of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 (also styled by Simpson and shot by Bert Stern), the infamous Nastassja Kinski with serpent spread (styled by Polly Mellen and shot by Richard Avedon) and 1975's groundbreaking Story of Ohh series, starring Lisa Taylor as a libidinous hedonist (styled by Mellen and shot by Helmut Newton).
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf Goodman by Sara James Mnookin (Harper Design) celebrates the 111th anniversary of the venerated luxury specialty store by way of a picture-heavy oral history from such BG fans as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Plum Sykes, Candice Bergen, Susan Lucci, Michael Kors, Candy Pratts Price, Mickey Boardman, Rachel Zoe and Joan Rivers (who claims she's been shopping at BG since she was "in utero").
Meanwhile, Diane von Furstenberg and the Tale of the Empress's New Clothes by Camilla Morton (Harper Design) is billed as "a fashion fairy tale memoir." It recounts a feminized version of the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, interwoven with the story of the CFDA president (and creator of the wrap dress) from her childhood in Brussels and marriage to Prince Egon von Furstenberg to the founding of her company in the Seventies and late-life marriage to her other prince (Barry Diller), all accompanied by DVF's illustrations and told in fanciful, once-upon-a-time language that, while likely to be wearying to most adult readers, is sure to appeal to budding fashionistas.
The similarly titled Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart (HarperCollins) shines the spotlight on another iconic fashion luminary. Vreeland, of course, is the oft-quoted editor who made a name for herself with her 35-year career at Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, before going on to oversee the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the early Seventies. This exhaustively researched bio traces the evolution of Diana Dalziel, an unloved ugly duckling amid swans on the Upper East Side, into Diana Vreeland, an iconoclastic force to be reckoned with. Responsible for some of the most indelible fashion images from the Thirties through the Sixties, the editrix was as highly imaginative in recounting the details of her own life as she was in conjuring up a fashion story—and given to dramatically regal pronouncements (as in the famous, "Pink is the navy blue of India!" and "Unshined shoes are the end of civilization").
In The Style Mentors (Harper Design), author Eylssa Dimant introduces readers to women who (as the subtitle puts it) "Define the Art of Dressing Today." She divides said women into eight categories and dishes on the history, style secrets and must-haves of each, starting with "Icons" (Marie Antoinette, Babe Paley, Kate Moss) and moving into "Mavericks" (Marchesa Luisa Casati, Isabella Blow, Diane Pernet), "Sirens" (Marilyn Monroe, Josephine Baker, Dita Von Teese), "Bohemians" (Talitha Getty, Anita Pallenberg, Lou Doillon), "Minimalists" (Donna Karan, Sofia Coppola) and so on. While none of the inclusions are particularly newsworthy (obviously, Patti Smith is a "Rocker" and Carolina Herrera a "Classicist)", there are a few omissions that are downright puzzling: Miuccia Prada is hailed as a minimalist, for instance, while Jil Sander goes completely unmentioned. Nonetheless, this is an engaging, highly readable enterprise, full of great images, fun quotes and informative sidebars that will inspire you to refine your own signature style in ways you may not have previously considered.
Less of a straightforward biography than a tour through the mind of a troubled genius as filtered through the prism of his work, Alexander McQueen: The Life and the Legacy by Judith Watt (Harper Design) offers readers a ringside seat into the designer's creative process, starting with his years on Savile Row, at Central Saint Martins and progressing through his early shows and time at Givenchy through to the London collections, Gucci tenure and final days of his legacy. With a foreword by McQueen confidant Daphne Guinness and quotes from many of his nearest and dearest sprinkled liberally throughout, this is a winningly intimate portrait of a uniquely brilliant designer.
Audrey: The 60s by David Wills (HarperCollins) presents an extravagant photographic chronicle of Audrey Hepburn's film and fashion career in the 1960s that pairs 200-plus photos from the era with quotes from the actress and those that knew her. There are never-before-seen publicity stills from some of her best-loved movies (Breakfast at Tiffany's, Charade, My Fair Lady, How to Steal a Million, Two for the Road), as well as previously unpublished photographs by Bert Stern, Cecil Beaton, Douglas Kirkland, William Klein and many others. It is, in short, a visual treasure trove designed to appeal to fans of Hepburn's timeless look, focusing on the era in which the actress became a bona fide style icon.
That other Hepburn style icon is also given the hardcover treatment in Katharine Hepburn: Rebel Chic (Rizzoli). Written by a handful of fashion historian authors (including my former colleague, Nancy MacDonell), the book accompanies the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts' Lincoln Center exhibit Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, and disseminates Hepburn's tomboyish personal style and public image, which were entirely self-created. Along with insightful, beautifully written essays, the book includes many never-before-published images of Kate the Great's costumes and personal wardrobe, all of which showcase the carefully cultivated anti-fashion persona that, ironically, made her a true fashion original.
Kate: The Kate Moss Book (Rizzoli) features 300 images of the supermodel by such photographers as Mario Testino, Corinne Day, Mert & Marcus, David Sims, Mario Sorrenti, Arthur Elgort, Inez & Vinhoodh, Terry Richardson and Juergen Teller (to name a few). Created by Kate herself with editing help from Fabien Baron, this highly personal retrospective traces her evolution from "new kid on the catwalk" to one of the most enduring models of all time and offers readers a rare, intimate glimpse into the world of Mrs. Hince. And, in keeping with Kate's chameleon-like visage, there are eight different covers from which to choose.
Tim Walker is a style icon of a different sort, having produced some of the most witty and whimsical fashion photographs of his generation. A long-time contributor to British Vogue (and more recently, W magazine), Tim Walker: Story Teller by Robin Muir (Abrams) is the companion volume to the Somerset House exhibit of the same name and features 170 of his fantastical, madcap images. The best of the bunch display a childlike sense of wonder and exuberance, and are populated by improbably beautiful models and celebrities who find themselves in improbable situations, whether it's fending off a cartoonish aircraft that appears to have crash-landed in the middle of the drawing room, ogling a UFO that's hovering alongside the horses and hounds the middle of a hunt, or stumbling upon a be-suited Humpty Dumpty who has cracked in two, leaking yolk and beseeching his glamorous, fur-clad rescuer for help. All told, this book is the perfect companion to hunker down with on a cold winter's night.
I loves me a good chunky ankle boot. Flat combat-inspired boots are good. But a leg-elongating wedge is ever better. Enter the Pedro Garcia Faina. Crafted from rugged black suede offset with a smooth elastic panel, these "armored" pull-on booties have a lightly padded insole and wrap seductively around the ankle for that all-important fawn-in-the-forest effect that makes your legs look like delicate stems perched atop clunky hooves. (Trust me. It's a good thing.) I like to wear mine with rolled up jeans or cropped trousers, but if you've got the gams for it, they look equally cool with tights and a mini. Best of all, they're now on sale for $375 (down from $625). So go ahead. Treat yo'self.
graphic design by K Sarna
The Label: Robert Lee Morris
Based In: Soho, New York
Designed By: Robert Lee Morris. The renowned jeweler launched his original namesake line in 1970 when he was living on a commune in the cornfields of southern Wisconsin (yes, really). "I taught myself how to make jewelry based on my gut instinct of what was going to be classic, timeless, and reflect who I am and what I wanted to say as an artist," Morris tells The Fashion Informer. "This is a very different approach from how people today start businesses, as I had no plan, no idea what was in the marketplace, or even what the market for my style of jewelry was. I was just making jewelry as a sort of temporary activity that was in keeping with the theme of the commune, which was that we all chose to make crafts of some sort." Finding a very receptive audience for his highly unique creations (made with materials sourced at the local hardware store), Morris then relocated to NYC and helped pioneer the wearable art movement of the late Seventies and Eighties with his seminal Soho store/gallery, Artwear, which featured his jewelry alongside that of fellow artisans Cara Croninger and Ted Muehling. He also worked closely on collaborations with designers such as Geoffrey Beene, Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein (earning himself a Coty Award in 1981) and began a decades-long collaboration with Donna Karan, who used RLM jewelry in 36 runway shows. He won two CFDA Awards for accessory design, was given the CFDA Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 and collaborated with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen on jewelry for the Elizabeth and James collection in 2008, which introduced his ouevre to a whole new audience.
Looks Like: A continuation of the iconic, multicultural RLM look, his newly relaunched collection, Robert Lee Morris 2.0 (as I like to think of it), features bold forms, earthy colors and a lower, contemporary price point. "Ever since I started working with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen a few years ago, my designs became a huge hit with a very young crowd of Hollywood starlets, who then influenced a younger audience," explains Morris of his revamped collection, which is produced by Haskell Jewels and debuted this season. "Traditionally, my work as been endorsed by the readers of mainstream fashion magazines, and has appealed to the chic working woman who is looking to me for fabulous daywear." For fall 2012, RLM's fabulous daywear includes bold gold collars, statement-making silver cuffs and his signature knuckle rings, all fashioned from plated brass to keep things affordable. Spring 2013 sees the addition of shell, horn and bone pieces, along with cast metals given a black, turquoise and green patina. "As a very serious artist, the most important goal for me has always been to create work that reflects my soul, my worldview, my inner self," says the self-described, German-born "Army brat," who lived in Japan and Rio de Janeiro before studying art and filmmaking at Beloit College in Wisconsin. "While I love all other art forms, and feel very comfortable with my abilities in drawing, sculpture, filmmaking, etcetera, I realized that jewelry somehow was more challenging to turn into a true art form, and I wanted to be a pioneer. As I move further and further away from the concept of fine jewelry, I want to make jewelry that breaks new ground every season." And that, dear reader, is exactly what he does.
Sold At: Robert Lee Morris retails from $150 to $1,200 at Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Bloomingdale's , Kirna Zabete, the Robert Lee Morris flagship store in Soho and at boutiques nationwide.
graphic design by K Sarna
There are days when you want to show off what your mama gave you, and there are days when you're feeling a bit more discreet. Eileen Fisher's Notch Box-Top is for the latter—but it's as chic as it is comfy. Generously cut with a hemline that's shorter in front and longer in back, this sweater is fashioned from soft merino jersey and features a flattering wide scoop neckline with fine rib trim at the sleeves and hem. You can dress it up with a pencil skirt or slim trousers for work, dress it down with beat-up boyfriend jeans on the weekend or—my favorite way to go—pair it with black leather pants and piled on jewelry for a rock and roll vibe. It comes in six pretty colors, from fire engine red to Aegean blue, and retails for $198. And if you're feeling especially flush, there's a cashmere version, as well. Say hello to your new best friend.
graphic design by K Sarna
The Label: Alex Kramer
Based In: New York City
Designed By: Alex Kramer, who studied literature at Georgetown, was the photo editor at The Source, head of visuals at Luxuryfinder.com and designed Carlos Miele's diffusion line before launching her namesake collection in 2011. "I have been fortunate enough to have a background in which I was able to try various forms of creative expression," Kramer tells TFI of her circuitous route to the pattern table. "I set out to design a wardrobe for strong women on the move. I prefer taste to trend and luxe over lavish, and create garments that women will have for years to come."
Looks Like: Architectural and refined, the Alex Kramer collection is full of tailored pieces for the urbane woman, with a strong emphasis on body con dresses and long, lean pants. "Our clothing is designed for the well-lived—but not idle—life," says Kramer. "I aim to produce a versatile collection that embodies timeless elegance. There is definitely a classic element and a dedication to fine finishing, luxury fabrics and great fit." Fall 2012 was inspired by the sculptural curves of architect Oscar Niemeyer and is, says the designer, "equal parts Blade Runner and Belle de Jour." For spring 2013, she continued the theme with Basic Instinct-inspired pieces that evoke a more youthful elegance. "The market is full of trendy, lower priced casual wear and elevated, expensive occasional wear but often lacks the in-between: clothing suitable for a sophisticated, urban woman that wants to dress with ease and polish, morning to evening." AK to the rescue!
Sold At: The Alex Kramer collection ranges from $300 to $3,000 and is sold at Intermix boutiques, Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and online at Shopbop.
graphic design by K Sarna