Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Video Tour: Charles James at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

It's time for a trip to the Charles James exhibit currently up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through August 10th. Charles James was the great American couturier who famously draped and shaped some of the most beautiful dresses created in the American haute couture. James, who was self-taught, designed in his native London before arriving in New York City in 1940. The designer was an artist whose medium was fabric and whose dresses were masterpieces. He was renowned for his striking color combinations, and his cut and construction, always refining and perfecting his living sculptures. But he was also eccentric and had a hard time running a business. The designer lived and worked in one room in the Chelsea Hotel on West  23rd Street. When he passed away there in 1978 at the age of 73 of pneumonia, he was largely unrecognized and unappreciated. However, his structured dresses with narrow waists and flaring skirts influenced Christian Dior when Dior created the New Look in the late 40's, and so though he is not a well-known household name, Charles James shaped the direction of fashion. 

Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, photograph by Cecil Beaton
The exhibition was curated by Harold Koda and Jan Glier Reeder, and is located in two areas at the museum – in the new Anna Wintour Costume Center on the lower level as well as an exhibition gallery on the first floor. The show was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the New York architects we met at a book party at Ann Ziff's fine jewelry store.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro lit the clothes dramatically to highlight their shape. Charles James loved to combine different fabrics like deep, dark velvet and glossy, lustrous satin –

which is here worn by the great Babe Paley herself.

Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 
Besides the clothes, there are on display accessories, drawings, videos, and some pithy quotes from Mr. James.

During the press preview for the exhibition, workers were preparing for the big Met Ball which was being held that very night. Here in the Great Hall, a kind of giant deconstructed Charles James ballgown made out of orange roses loomed over the entrance.

I had the pleaure of talking with the brilliant curator Harold Koda at the press preview, and my friend Scott Brasher made a video of the visit. Enjoy this nice long talk with Harold, and learn more about the great American fashion designer Charles James. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer in the City

Sitting in Madison Square Park and looking out to Fifth Avenue. You can get a glass of wine at the Shake Shack and enjoy the park; sometimes there are concerts. (click on photos to enlarge)
I hope you are having a nice summer. It doesn't seem that long ago since the winter snow was falling. Thankfully summer is now here, and it is not yet too hot. I've been enjoying the city and taking some pictures along the way.
Sitting next to me on a bench in Madison Square Park was a young woman looking casually stylish in an embroidered tunic, silky pants, and chic sandals.

One of my favorite events is the Jane Street sale, held in June, when people in Greenwich Village come out and sell their goods.

I bought this big, old, heavy metal container which is meant to hold ashes at the fireplace.

Now, we put kitty litter and other supplies in it in our kitchen. $25. I love it.
Over on the Hudson River, boats passed each other on a sunny day.

Up at Bryant Park, the lilies are in full bloom. The flowers there are so pretty.

This talented young woman was singing and playing an accordian in Bryant Park - wonderful!

At Bergdorf Goodman, horses are the current window theme.

I had lunch at the Coffee Shop on Union Square with my niece Jane who was much smaller when we started this blog... This summer she is off to art school. Where did the time go? I am her proud godfather.

We took a weekend trip out to Connecticut for Father's Day and had lunch at the Stone House Restaurant.
Here is my nephew Ben, brother Eric, and my pa.

After lunch we had a quick trip to the beach 

and the following day we went to the beach at Hammonasset State Park where the rugosa roses were in fragrant bloom - 

This weekend we had a successful trip to the Union Square Farmer's Market, where fresh flowers, lettuce and bread are now plentiful.

Sunday was the Gay Pride Parade so TD and I marched down Fifth Avenue and Christopher Street with the other revelers -

We stopped for a glass of water along Fifth Avenue -

TD and I say equal rights for all!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Burning Blue

Last week TD and I attended a preview screening for the new movie Burning Blue about a love affair between two Navy pilots. The movie was written and directed by DMW Greer, who spoke eloquently before the theater lights went down about how the movie was inspired by an experience he himself had had in the Navy. He originally wrote a play about it which ran in London and then New York, and now has produced this movie.
Set in 1995, the Navy pilots, played by the handsome Trent Ford and Bob Mayes, are caught in Bill Clinton's ridiculous "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, when military personnel could still be discharged for being gay. All the snooping and investigating and effort spent to discharge gay people in this movie is truly disheartening. Thank heavens that in 2011 Obama ended the ban on gay people in the military, when he said, "Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian." Bravo Barack.
The movie features a good story, strong performances, and points to how far gay rights have come since 1995. BB says thumbs up to Burning Blue!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Charming Mr. Guinness

Yours truly with Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness (click on photos to enlarge)
Recently in the mail came an invitation from John Derian to attend an opening party for the latest art works by Hugo Guinness. Most invitations these days come over the email transom so it was a pleasure to open the large paper envelope and unfold a delightful Hugo Guinness watercolor poster which I promptly tacked onto the fireplace mantel.

I have been a big fan of Hugo's artwork from my visits to John Derian, who, along with Mary Randolph Carter, has had a big influence on me. I had not had the pleasure before of meeting Hugo Guinness, who lives in Boerum Hill in Brooklyn with his wife artist Elliott Puckette and their two daughters. Each May he brings his new work to the John Derian store.
The opening, held in John's new furniture store on East 2nd Street, was a breezy fashion/art/publishing gathering with Deborah Needleman, the editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Adam Rapoport, the editor of Bon Appetit magazine, James Truman, Anne McNally, Ken Fulk, Tom Delavan from, Nicholas Manville from Ralph Lauren, and lots more mingling about.

Our host John Derian and Hugo Guinness were in the middle of the room so I got a chance to say hello. "They are things that amuse me," Hugo told me about his watercolors and linoleum prints. "I try to take risks and do something different each year. There are things that are pretty. I don't think there is anything wrong with pretty. I had all these frames and I had to fill them up," he said dryly.

His art, small and large, was hung around the room. I love the light, airy, innocent quality of the work.

While I was talking to Hugo, his friend Wes Anderson came by. What a delight to meet Wes Anderson! I told him I was a big fan of The Darjeeling Limited. Hugo worked with Wes Anderson on the story for the recent film The Budapest Hotel. "I collect Hugo's work and we have been old friends for many, many years," Wes said to me. 

Hugo is from the renowned Irish beer and banking Guinness family, and I asked him if he was related to the style icon Daphne Guinness who had the great exhibition at F.I.T. which I covered here on the blog. "Yes, she is my cousin," he reported. "She may be coming tonight." 
More garden flowers and a kitty cat –

It was a nice evening so TD and I moseyed around outside on the sidewalk. At the John Derian store next door, I spotted the great American model Lauren Hutton inside shopping.

Lauren Hutton recently turned 70. This is the new 70.
It was a lovely night on East 2nd Street.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Carter's New Book and Book Party

With Carter at the party for her new book in Soho.
My friend Mary Randolph Carter, who is a long-time creative director at Ralph Lauren and who is known as Carter, just published a new book and Ralph Lauren hosted a party to celebrate in the RRL store in Soho. I met Carter some years ago when I freelanced at Ralph Lauren (I am also freelancing there now), and we have remained friends since. At Ralph Lauren, she had the most unique office that I have ever encountered in the work place. Layered with antiques, art, textiles, blankets, books and magazines, it was like a trip to a cabin in Maine although it was located at Madison and 60th. Carter has written several books and a favorite of mine is called For the Love of Old which captures in words and pictures her passion for things from the past that have a history. Carter loves antique finds and vintage clothes, and her personal style is completely unique to her and always inspiring.

The new book is about collecting and it's called Never Stop to Think...Do I Have a Place For This? (Carter's last book was A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life - Carter likes long titles!) 

In this book, she encourages readers not to be deterred by lack of space if they find an antique or collectible they like. "If there is a place in your heart, then there is a place in your home," Carter said to me at her book party. "It gives you permission to find the wackiest thing and embrace it. If you see something and it speaks to you then you don't have to say no. I never have."
Inside, the book profiles nineteen collectors who proudly display their passions. I like the typography of the titles which looks like handmade paper cut outs -

This is the "price tag room" in Stephanie Lloyd's home where she prices items for her shop, Hudson Mercantile, in Hudson, New York -

Here is the New Orleans kitchen of Allain Bush. I like the simplicity of the colors -

Jennifer Lanne's studio in a barn in Saratoga, New York, is a great spot for an artist -

The photography is by Carter Berg who is Carter's son, and it reminds me of The World of Interiors magazine which lovingly captures splendors of the past. This book celebrates following your own voice and pursuing what appeals to you to create a singular personal style that is above and beyond passing trends. I'm a big fan of Carter's artistic approach and it has definitely influenced me.
I love how she signed our book

at her book signing party which was a big ta-doo at the Ralph Lauren RRL store on West Broadway. Carter's many friends and fans mobbed the place -

There was a long bar set up on one counter -

and Carter's book was for sale at the register -

Ralph Lauren himself came to congratulate Carter. The room quieted down and Carter thanked Ralph and noted that when they were introduced she realized that "I met someone who loves more things than I do." Ralph complimented Carter saying, "She's been a great asset to me and the company and she's better than ever."

The RRL store on West Broadway is one of my favorite places, with its vintage-inspired clothes and evocative displays.

It's a trip back in time, and there is a vignette to look at in every corner, like the combination of this antique industrial lamp, leather and canvas messenger bag, and old-fashioned cotton shirt. 

Outside as the party wound down, dusk was falling -

It was kind of magical. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Opening Night at the 2014 Kips Bay Decorator Show House

With Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller of Carrier and Company Interiors, Ltd., in their show house room.
Last week, amidst torrential Noah's-ark-like rain that went on for days, TD and I attended the opening party for this year's Kip's Bay Decorator Show House. It's always fun to go to this renowned show house and see what top American decorators have created in an empty space. This year, it is held in the famous Villard House which is an extra special treat.

The Villard House, at Madison Avenue and 51st Street, was built by railroad magnate Henry Villard in the Gilded Age by McKim, Mead & White. Since it was vacant, it offered the perfect spot for this year's show house. "It can be hard to get designers to sign up for a show house," Bunny Williams, the great American designer and this year's Show House Chair, told me in the entrance gallery, "but I said to them, 'Just come see this house!'" And they did. Twenty-two designers and architects signed up to participate this year in the house's three floors.

The first stop for us was Carrier and Company, the prominent husband and wife designers who count tastemakers Anna Wintour and Katie Marron among their clients. Our talented nephew Aaron interned with the company last summer and will be returning this summer so we introduced ourselves to Jesse and Mara (pictured above). "This is a lady's sitting room, and we wanted it to be chic and grand but fun and livable at the same time," Jesse told me.

They installed handmade white and gold marbleized wallpaper in the room and hung a large painting of enamel on aluminum by artist Nastasha Law who is actor Jude Law's sister. I admired the decorators' mix of colors and textures with a glint of golden shine. They seem to have a light touch. Chic indeed.

For Mark Hampton LLC, Alexa Hampton designed a sumptuous room with a Moroccan theme.

The room was so inviting. I'd love to sit with a drink and read a book in this corner.

The lady herself, Alexa Hampton, on the right, carried through on the Moroccan theme, wearing an exotic emerald green caftan with gold trim.

At the other end of the spectrum, Darryl Carter created a room which was neutral and peaceful, quiet and still.

Next door, Markham Roberts designed a study in rich peacock blue and lined the walls with art.

Similarly, I liked how the Mendelson Group arranged artwork on this blue washed wall.

On the third floor we spotted Martha Stewart touring the rooms and taking in the details. Here is a view going back down the stairs to the first floor, where the stately entrance gallery was decorated by Martyn Ballard Lawrence –

Cocktails were offered outside in the courtyard where a tent had been set up due to the driving rain. Water flooded in though and maintenance men had to continuously sweep it out. The ladies could not wear their new spring stilettos that night!

But the sun has come out and the Show House is up until May 29th. There are a lot more rooms to see, and something for everyone. Tickets are $35, and benefit the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club in the Bronx which offers education and support to city kids, so besides being an inspiration and a delight to the eye, the Kips Bay Decorator Show House does good work too.