Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays From NYC

A fantasy tropical garden in the window at Bergdorf Goodman
Recently after dinner with friends TD and walked over 57th Street to Fifth Avenue. Trees covered with white lights glittered in front of 9 East 57th Street where I did some work this year at the Chanel corporate headquarters. Down near 5th Avenue we reached Bergdorf Goodman and their spectacular holiday windows which are particularly exciting at night.
Starting in the 57th Street windows, the theme was a circus. Next to a grey merry-go-round horse was a pale pink gown encrusted with jewels at the waist by CD Greene (click on photos to enlarge).

We turned the corner at Van Cleef & Arpel and continued on to the big Bergdorf Goodman windows along Fifth Avenue – the main event – where the theme is "Carnival of Animals."
"The Brass Menagerie" (also pictured at the top of this post) shows a chanteuse in a fantasy recording studio made of gold, brass and copper. The floor is layered with shiny pennies and the heroine wears a special dress created by Naeem Khan.

In a frosty setting of white and blue, polar bears, a moose, a seal, and more attend an arctic party in "Breaking the Ice." The hostess has donned a dress and one-of-a-kind cape by J. Mendel.

A figure in a white Alexander McQueen seashell dress floats through the sea in "Testing the Waters." The blue mosaic sea creatures swimming past sparkle with iridescence. This dreamy window was my favorite. Bergdorf Goodman told me that this window was ten months in the making and is the most labor-intensive window display in its history.

This small window pictures a pastel gem garden complete with dragon flies and spiders. Jewels by Iradj Moini.

In "Teacher's Pets" a life-size paper zebra and other black and white beasts gather around the teacher who is glamorously dressed in a black and white lace Marchesa gown.

And at the corner of 5th and 58th is "Artists and Models," a complex collection of wood and leather folk art animals assembled together with the sculptor dressed in a hat, beads and fur. It's a sophisticated scene but at the same time it evokes the innocence of a boy's toy chest.

The Bergdorf Goodman windows are a crowd-stopper along Fifth Avenue.

They really are a gift to the city and the people who visit it – a dazzling display of elegant imagination and creativity.
I am wishing you dear reader a dazzling holiday season of light and warmth. Enjoy your time with your loved ones.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Personal Style of Oberto Gili

Just in time for the holidays came a party last week for photographer Oberto Gili's new book Home Sweet Home, published by Rizzoli. I hadn't met Oberto Gili before but was familiar with his evocative interiors photography published in magazines including the sadly now defunct Vogue Living. This book is subtitled Sumptuous and Bohemian Interiors, and it celebrates Gili's personal take on style. He writes in the book, "Decor serves as an expression of personality, fantasy, personal taste, culture and history." So the interiors photographed here are not designer showcases but instead signature homes created by people with great style.

Speaking of. At the front door of the party I ran into my friend Mary Randolph Carter. The party, held at the gallery of antiques dealer Liz O'Brien, was warm and welcoming on a cold and rainy night. Carter and I became friends when I worked at Polo Ralph Lauren and she was in charge of advertising there. Now she works on Ralph Lauren advertising, books and collections, and has written several books herself, including the recent A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life, also published by Rizzoli. Carter's country-in-the-city approach to style has had a big influence on me.
Her apartment on the Upper East Side is photographed in Oberto Gili's book. Carter's mix of art, antiques, comfortable furniture, and books illustrates a wonderful way to live. (Click on photos to enlarge; photos courtesy of Rizzoli)

I had the pleasure of meeting Oberto Gili at the party and I asked him more about his book of interior photographs. He said, "The interiors are all quicky, intellectual, romantic." "Decoration is like fashion," he continued. "You can copy a fashion picture or you can mix and create your own style. In the same way you can hire a decorator and you will have a very pretty room but it is never yours. You want to feel a love of your place. Then it's a great success. Otherwise it's just showing off."
Here is the romantic, simple bedroom of Alvaro Bravo in Marrakech.

The library of Laura di Collobiano and Moreno Petrini in Tuscany.

The last section of the book is devoted to Gili's own home in Piedmont, Italy. This cozy room has a mix of art and antiques and textiles, and a blazing fire. I love the industrial metal hanging lamp shades.

Style continues outdoors into the garden.

These are timeless settings that don't go out of fashion. This book inspires the reader to mix all different kinds of things together that he or she loves, and it attests to the power of the individual to create something personal and unique.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor Collection at Christie's

Blinded by diamonds and emeralds. (Click on photos to enlarge)
I had the good fortune this week to attend a preview of the Elizabeth Taylor Collection of jewelry, haute couture, art and decorative art which will be auctioned at Christie's this month. The live auctions will be held Dec. 13-16 in New York and the art work will be sold in January and February in New York and London. The online auction is on now, Dec. 3 through the 17th, so go bid on a bauble. See all the details at
Before the great movie star and humanitarian died this past March, she had amassed an extraordinary jewelry collection which is explored at in a very interesting slideshow by writer and editor Ruth Peltason who collaborated with the star on her book Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair With Jewelry. The Christie's exhibition wonderfully displays the astounding jewelry collection as well as the star's clothing and art. The exhibition is really great fun to see, and visitors can buy tickets online for $30; proceeds go to fund AIDS research and which Elizabeth famously supported even early on when it was a brave and lonely thing to do.
In the gallery I approached a set of ruby jewelry and I said to a woman at Christie's, "Is this the ruby jewelry that Mike Todd gave her?" And the woman said, "I don't know, there is so much ruby jewelry!" We found the Mike Todd suite together, below. When he, her third husband, gave Taylor this jewelry, she famously put it on and went swimming in the pool, so comfortable was she, at the age of twenty five, with this level of luxury.

The most famous piece of jewelry in the collection is this necklace featuring a large pear-shaped sixteenth century pearl that was once owned by the Spanish crown. It was a gift from Richard Burton, and Cartier fashioned it into a pearl and diamond necklace.

The piece above the large pearl is also a detachable brooch, which you can see from the side, so that Taylor could wear it separately. Clever.

Yellow diamonds piled on top of white diamonds – breathtaking.

Richard Burton gave Taylor this gold and diamond Schlumberger brooch when they were in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, when he was filming The Night of the Iguana. You might remember that we had a wonderful family trip to Puerto Vallarta, and on a boat ride, the captain pointed out the villa where the Burtons lived.

I thought one of the most magnificent sets was a diamond and emerald group from Bulgari in Rome. Burton gave Taylor this glorious diamond and emerald brooch as an engagement present. It was one of her favorite pieces.

Here she wears it as a tiara in the movie The VIPs, which also starred Burton. For a wedding present, he added the amazing emerald and diamond necklace at the top this post, emerald drop earrings, two rings and a bracelet.

Here, Taylor wears the brooch in her hair and the necklace. That necklace rivals anything the czars wore.

Also on exhibition here is a selection of noteworthy fashion. This is Taylor's sweet sunflower yellow wedding dress when she married Burton in 1964, husband number five.

And the wedding dress she wore when she married him again, in Africa in 1975.

Pretty pastel shades –

An ivory Christian Dior evening gown and a canary yellow wrap trimmed with feathers. Behind it are cases and cases of diamond jewelry.

Upstairs was a huge gallery lined on all sides by fashion. A woman walked by and said to no one in particular, "She must have kept building houses just for this."

Caftans! And estimated at only $600-$800 each. One potential shopper said to another, "I wish we could feel the fabric."

A collection of Louis Vuitton luggage, because really, everyone should travel like this.

There were even more rooms of her paintings including, yes, a Pissaro and a Van Gogh, and a gallery of decorative arts, furniture, and memorabilia including three golden Oscars.
But we close with the Elizabeth Taylor diamond, formerly known as the Krupp diamond. At a staggering 33.19 carats, it was a gift from Richard Burton, and she wore it every day of her life. Click on the photo to see it better.

What a woman. And what a life.