Continuing my reminiscences of my friendship with Victor Skrebneski let’s jump to 1989-1990’s …the photo above is one of my treasured Skrebneski images that hang on my louvered kitchen doors. There are six in those groupings each inscribed to me, (see below for truly bad photos, difficult to get distance in such a small space…sorry!). I only asked for a photo once, all others were gifts usually for no particular occasion, each treasured, the one I asked for is the cityscape in the center of the right door. I was being bold and, guess what, he gave it to me. Perhaps I should have asked for more!!!! The nude studies look like sculptures and maybe the Vanessa Redgrave iconic photo or one of my favorites on the Givenchy staircase with the Givenchy gown…..
Let’s talk about this particular photo, a one of a kind and mine alone…here you see Victor’s hand holding my portrait (more on that later in this post) in front of the Eiffel Tower in his favorite City, Paris….Chicago an equally favorite City! You can’t read the top part of the inscription which says…”Never Say Never!” Whatever does that mean, you ask…for years I would exclaim, “I’ll never go to Paris!” This was his reaction to actually take me with him to Paris, only Victor would be so thoughtful!!! By the way, I did finally go to Paris, my 50th Anniversary gift from Saks Fifth Avenue in July 2006, basically to see the Haute Couture Collection, that trip will be another nenasnotes post. Silly me I should have taken that photo with me and replicated it there, major missed opportunity.
The Givenchy photo in the Haute Couture book. There is so much I love about this iconic photo by the iconic photographer
Speaking of Haute Couture, my favorite Skrebneski book, I have almost all of his books and many exhibition catalogs.
I’m missing a couple, my favorite is his The Art Of Haute Couture.
This is a rather long account, but you know me, I do like to go into details…..here we go, during the early 1990’s several of the Saks stores were asked to participate in a special program designed as “gifts” to our tip top clients they were called Platinum Events and were to be unique one of a kind intimate experiences. Chicago was one of the Stores chosen to participate. I was given a very, very generous budget to produce these events. We did them for several years and, I must admit, they were some of the most exciting events I produced. A “menu” was sent to the selected clients for them to choose which event they wanted to attend…each was limited to twenty guests, plus our VP/Store Manager and me. Twice I “rented” The Art Institute of Chicago for a private tour of their “Blockbuster” exhibition, a cocktail reception and dinner in the Private Dining Room along with a major swag bag. Imagine 20 people alone in the exhibition with the Curator! Amazing…. Back to my VS story, I made arrangements with Victor to host our guests on the day of the launch of The Art Of Haute Couture, October 20, 1995. It was a champagne/caviar reception in his Studio and each guest was presented with their personalized copy of the book. My book’s inscription reads “ For My Nena Love You Skrebneski”. He almost always liked to use a silver pen to sign his books and always in the back of the book. Up to this point in time, it was very unusual for Victor to host receptions in his Studio and our guests were delighted with the evening. Victor was at his best hosting as he always loved telling stories about his work.
His Studio….image found on Pinterest credit unknown.
Okay, let’s back track to 1990, a very big year for me and for Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago. It was the year the store moved from 669 North Michigan Avenue (where NikeTown and Dylan’s Candy are today) to Chicago Place at 700 North Michigan Avenue.
Taken after a dinner in front of the “old building” and used in the film, I’ll talk about that shortly, I promise!
At dinner both my photos taken by VS.
We moved Labor Day weekend and I was to be honored by The Fashion Group International Chicago at their annual gala later in September at the Chicago Hilton. Let’s back track even further. The FGI Gala started several years earlier by honoring Victor at the Guildhall at the Ambassador West Hotel. It was, of course, a black tie affair and all of the elite of the fashion and social world were in attendance including many of Victor’s models. A wonderful sit down dinner was interrupted by the wait staff carrying silver trays with the brand new Polaroid cameras to be given to the guests….talk about a ice breaker…it was absolutely genius, but what else would you expect from VS!
Once again I got a call, no telegram this time, that Victor was shooting me for the Award Presentation and he was doing a “film” to be shown the evening of the party. FYI the gift for the guests was a special Nena perfume made exclusively for the event and to be frank, it was quite a lovely fragrance. I think my bottle is with my miniature and full product fragrance collection in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.
Remember, I explained how Victor did a shot, all very planned and quick…I think this was the idea it wasn’t what happened. Let me set this up for you…I had already decided on my outfit for the event an Adolfo Lasage pearl detailed black jacket, white chiffon cowl neck top and a black chiffon side draped long skirt with rhinestone buckle belt.
I was to bring that with me and Victor had made arrangements with Bob Mackie to send in sample evening gowns for me to wear in the shoot, I mean seriously….. Again hair and make up artists on hand, I brought my accessories and arrangements were made for Marsha Brenner’s Just Jewelry pieces to be worn as well. So much went into the day that I’ll try to simplify it….what was suppose to be quick turned into an all day session. Understand that once Victor focused on the subject he looked at you over the camera…neither of us could keep a straight face and we became quite hysterical which, of course made the entire event even more memorable. Photos were taken, garments were changed and the day ended with Dennis and an assistant up on ladders throwing long stemmed roses at me, thorns had not been removed!
After a lot of ducking on my part the “live shot” happened and we were a wrap! It took all day. Now it was time for my close up and we had to practice a “royal” wave over and over until I got it just right.
This is the photo that went to Paris….
By the way, the American Songbook, mostly Sinatra, played all day just adding to the atmosphere. This photo was then superimposed on many different pictures to coincide with the lyrics to the song “I’m Still Here” from Follies, the concert version sung by Carol Burnett. It was brilliant.
The film opens with me topless, don’t get excited, I was three in the photo. I had supplied him with photos of my life that he used before the “glamour” photos.
The front of the invitation for the event a close up of a Christian LaCroix Haute Couture gown.
Some of my models who attended the gala…meant the world to me. From my Archives.
At the Gala, the film was shown, something went wrong with the projector but all ended up okay. I was behind the screen and when the film ended the screen went up and there I was in same position as the last photo. I was then escorted by a bevy of male models to the dance floor where I was presented to the guests…magical, yes, it was and a night I’ll never forget. Some day…I’ll post the film…it is quite wonderful.
Why am I laughing so hard here…my direction from the Maestro was “Give me more bosom, Ivon”…more smile, more attitude, more???? But more bosom, the miracle worker, Dennis ran over with powder puffs and voila more bosom…..
And here my original Skrebneski sketch of this photo, another treasure.The next morning I received the film, the DVD, all the prints from the shoot, priceless and probably my greatest Skrebneski treasures. They are framed and hang in my home…Dennis went with me to get the perfect black frames, they hung in my office until I retired. Here is the negative, which I’m mad for and just found.
To be continued……
All photos are from my own Collection unless otherwise noted.