BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: ISADORA

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I have a confession to make, I am not doing a review on this book today.  Why, you ask…well, I started reading it with the intention of whizzing right through it…not the case.  It is an extremely well written, in-depth study of a very complex woman, Isadora Duncan.  It will take more than a day or even two to really absorb its content.  If you want to read along with me, you can do that otherwise give me a bit of a break to really get into it and I will give you my opinion in a week or so.

I might let you know that I am not a fan of modern dance, not at all.  It just isn’t my thing, but learning about such an independent woman during the early 20th Century is a true education.  I am finding so much of what I am reading lately talks about independent women and how they fought to be recognized.  It makes fascinating reading. I am, most certainly, well aware of the restrictions on women of that time, but am finding more and more information and therefore, insight into their journeys.  Perhaps a bit easier when in the Arts, but was it really!!??  As you already know, I adore novels written about “real people” using fact and incorporating them into to fiction…one can only speculate which is which.

Thank you for baring with me this week on my book post!

PROFILE: ME!!!

imageThe sketch is for some anniversary and by a dear friend……..

I hope you don’t think I am being very self-centered in profiling myself, I thought it would be a fun exercise to answer my own questionnaire.  You already know so much about me, my likes, my obsessions, highlights of my career, etc. but perhaps, just perhaps, I can give you a bit more insight into Nena!

Here goes….

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT AND HOW DID THAT PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW:

I don’t know that I would call my career talent so let’s say when did I realize what I wanted to do…I always knew I wanted to be in “fashion” I just didn’t know what part of it.  Did I want to model, be a designer, be in public relations, advertising, or what!!!???  I had been on many “high school” boards during school both downtown and in Evanston.  That intensified my interest.  Being the daughter of a commercial artist I was very familiar with advertising.  I had begun sewing as soon as I could hold a needle (Mom gave me a beautiful sterling silver thimble with cloisonne on it, I could never use it, can’t stand the sound of the needle hitting the metal of the thimble!) Evanston Township High School offered a dress design course in the art department, (the head of the department was a dress designer at heart) my Junior Year.  I loved the class and did so well I was asked if I wanted to take it again for my Senior Year and do what ever I liked…I did!  I never modeled, but did teach modeling at a local “charm” school while I was in high school…loved doing that.  One day, when I was a Senior in high school I put on my hat and gloves (yes, you heard that correctly) got on the bus and went downtown.  For some unknown reason I felt one needed to know retail before you could do anything else in the business, after all that is where the product ends.  We usually shopped at Marshall Field’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, the first stop on the bus route downtown was Saks.  I got off at Erie and Michigan and went to the Personnel Office (AKA Human Resources), interviewed (lied about my age) and got the job selling in “Debutante Sportswear”…what I thought would be a summer job became a career!  By the way, during that year I found I was a very good sales person, no magic formula just treat people the way you want to be treated and keep up with the trends.  The working title of the book is “A Hell of a Long Summer Job!”  Luck, being in the right place at the right time, the Personnel Director believing in me….who will ever know.  I have taught in all the local fashion schools and have been at Columbia College Chicago for many years, I love to teach and see my students grow and learn more about an industry that I am passionate about  I am still doing lectures, an occasion fashion show and, my new passion, NENASNOTES.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD MADE IT:

When I got the job in the Fashion Office and each and every day for the 53 years, where did they go….I knew that it was, in my opinion, a perfect fit.  I always thought I had the perfect job with the best retailer in the world, I still feel that way. I wanted to be one of one and not one of thousands in New York or elsewhere.  The job grew through the years and, of course, changed not only with fashion but with technology.  I happen to love to work with figures as well as knowing what garments to show to each audience, and adding technology just enhanced the job.  In retail you must be very, very open to change.

imageFashion Group International Chicago Gala, given in my honor, in the Ballroom at the Chicago Hilton (one of the most glamorous and magnificent rooms anywhere!!!!) My wonderful models and I didn’t have to dress them!!!  I have profiled 8 of them…let’s hope I can get more to participate, they all have such wonderful stories to tell. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE?

I firmly believe you need to love what you do you or you will be miserable.  Having said that, I have always wanted to have a independent bookstore/tearoom/needlepoint shop or a bed and breakfast, but instead I am a blogger, who knew!

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MOVIES, BOOKS, THEATER (IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE) TYPE OF MUSIC

Movies: I am particularly found of Musicals, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films in particular, all the 1940’s musicals and, of course, My Fair Lady and Gigi. love them. Recently found LaLa Land charming. I adore Film Noir and The Thin Man series. My most favorite film is Gone With The Wind, in my opinion, everyone was brilliantly and perfectly cast.  Love all the original Disney films, especially Fantasia.  Of course, any fashion documentary or films based on fashion personalities or fashion in general…what could ever top the original 1939, The Women.  Obviously, I could go on and on and on……I do love a good movie.

Books: I devour books, always have.  I couldn’t take gym in school so I lived in my school library.  The Evanston Public School system has amazing schools not only in their teaching but in their buildings.  My grammar school, Oakton, had incredible mosaic tiles (I’m sure they still do, note to self must do a visit!) and it was not only a place that set all of us on the right track with reading, writing and arithmetic…but also with art….and in my case an even greater love of books.  My home was filled with books and I was read to from birth and then read to myself as soon as I could.  Hard to choose one book…Let me mention these authors rather than one book….not in any order: Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Agatha Christie, Virginia Wolff.  Current authors, Louise Penny, Charles Finch, Charles Todd, Cara Black (a review on her new book next week!).  Genres: most English Mysteries (don’t like thrillers, horror or fantasy), novels based on historical figures (concentrating on artists and authors) and, of course, fashion books….it seems to be my goal to own every fashion book printed (I have around 1000 now!)

Theater: 1. Musical Theater 2. Legitimate Theater 3. Ballet 4. Opera 5. Symphony

Type of Music: A very long list (basically the only types of music I’m really not into are Hip Hop, Rap and Country) Here goes….Frank Sinatra, Broadway cast albums, Stanley Paul and his Orchestra (or just him playing piano!), old time Rock and Roll, Simply Red, Adele, Bobby Short, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, anything Gershwin, Porter, The American Songbook, Jazz, Chopin, Mozart, Strauss, etc. etc etc.

YOUR HOME:  Very eclectic, a mix of antiques, Randolph Street Market finds, http://www.randolphtreetmarket.com, lots of art, needlepoint (mine), layers of textiles (in particular, paisley shawls and crazy quilts) and lots and lots of lily of the valley pieces! And, of course, stacks and stacks of books. I guess we could call it Boho!  I have shown you many of my collections more to come.

RESTAURANTS:  Everest would be #1 without question, I have never had anything less than a spectacular meal there and Chef Joho has done many special occasion dinners for me! Les Nomades, RL, Deca at the Ritz Carlton, Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula, Sophie’s at Saks, The Dearborn, Shaw’s, RM Champagne Salon, Kiki’s, Pelago, Uncle Julio’s and Su Casa, RH Three Arts Club Cafe, I’m very fond of Alpana Singh’s restaurants, just about any steakhouse in the City and anywhere I can get a good hamburger and, of course, any Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, Rich Melman is a genius!  I’m a foodie, also am fond of a great glass (or two) of wine and I love the wonderful variety we have, the food is, of course, important but the atmosphere and who you are with are primary.  Love, love, love all the roof “top” terraces we now have, they are amazing.  In addition, all our wonderful private clubs.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES THAT YOU HAVE TRAVELED AND WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO:

I spent many vacations in New York and I adore it to this day…I am an Urbanite and love, love, love big cities, including my home town of Chicago, you do realize that Chicago has CHIC in it! Next would be London and the English Countryside.  Then Paris, I have only been once so can’t really talk about it as much as I would like.  I adore New Orleans, would have, in another life lived there.  Stratford, Ontario Canada, not only for it’s theater but for it’s atmosphere and it’s fabulous restaurants, again I would live there in a minute.  I was fortunate to travel to Russia several years ago and it was a major epiphany…Moscow in particular, magnificent…The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg wasn’t bad either!!!  Where would I like to go…Marrakesh, Cairo, India and China, back to Paris and England.  I do love a cruise, I would sail on the Queen Mary II any day of the week.  A cruise to South America or the Mediterranean would be nice, any offers!!!!???? Oh, I almost forgot, The Orient Express. I had better pack my bags…..

FAVORITE CHICAGO STREET ART:  Oh my, yet another toughie…I’m going to “cop” out and say our architecture, we are, after all, the birth place of modern architecture.  Aren’t we lucky to have ALL the magnificent pieces not only outside but inside public and private buildings.  I will be doing many posts on our street art.

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER PARTY AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE…

I am going to take “author’s” license and do a dinner party of 20 (not the 10 to 12 I have allotted my other Profiles to have!) at one long “King” table in the Chicago Rooms at the Chicago History Museum http://www.chicagohistory.org and change seats between the second and third course, not the heads of the table but the two sides…there will be a seating plan, could be fun…and then for after dinner with demi-tasse, cordials and sweets we will all move into another room and be at 5 tables of 4, also seated and again with different people than for dinner, for more intimate conversations.  Stanley Paul and his Orchestra will play only my favorite standards and Frank Sinatra will entertain us with a few songs!  Perhaps we can get Coco, Fred, Cole and Stephen to join in!!!  Heaven.

The Guest List (in alphabetical order):

Fred Astaire

Cecil Beaton

Gabrielle Chanel

Christian Dior

Carl Faberge

Lucile Duff Gordon

Christian Lacroix

Française Lasage

Norman Norell

Irving Penn

Paul Poiret

Cole Porter

Stephen Sondheim

James Tissot

Diana Vreeland

Vita Sackville-West

Else de Wolff

Virginia Wolff

My Father (at one end of the table)

Me (at the other end of the table)

My favorite caterer would supervise the dinner, with Ruthie, my Mother, overseeing all details, I think Flora Danica as the china, why not (both would prefer being “off stage” and they would join us for the “after-party”)…the menu would be :

Cristal champagne before, during and after!!!!!

Cold beef consomme topped with sour cream and chives

Cold poached lobster

(Everyone changes seats here with another glass of champagne)

Choice of Beef Wellington (my recipe) or Salmon en Croute with seasonal vegetables

Micro greens with Tom Mantel’s secret vinaigrette salad dressing

Baked Alaska (my recipe)

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED:  Wow, that is a very difficult question…to answer and not sound full of oneself…I guess a person who used her career producing fashion shows, special events, chairing galas and being president of many boards, to not only raise substantial funding for many, many organizations, but more importantly to raise awareness of those causes.

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Some of the world renowned designers who came to the benefit of the Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago Place opening September 1990.  The black tie event benefited five charities, Beverly Blettner, seated behind Bob Mackie. was the over-all chair of the event.  Beverly and I worked on numerous events together.  The designers from left to right: Adolfo, Carolina Herrera, Pauline Trigere and Bob Mackie, all of whom I worked with on numerous events.  I have profiled Pauline, I will do in depth Fashion Flashbacks on the others in coming weeks. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

FASHION FLASHBACK: ANNE KLEIN AND THE EVOLUTION OF A BRAND

imageAnne Klein in her studio with her inspiration board, sketches and fabric swatches. She along with Bonnie Cashin, Anne Fogarty and Claire McCardell  were the creators of “American Designer Sportswear”.  I must admit I have always found that description to be ludicrous, they were spectacular visionaries why tag them with the sportswear title.  Yes, they did separates but so much more…just as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren did all considered Designer Sportswear designers….oh well!  I was fortunate to work with three of the four, McCardell died right after I started my career at Saks Fifth Avenue. This press folder photo is in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageAnne Klein with her first husband, Ben Klein, formed Junior Sophisticates from 1948-1960.  I loved Junior Sophisticates and wore many of the pieces.  This photo typical of the time, could easily be an Anne Fogarty with it’s belted waist and full skirt, I wore her garments in high school and when I started working.  The ad from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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Anne formed Anne Klein and Company in 1968 with her second husband,  Chip Rubenstein, the lion logo was immediately identified with the brand. In 1970 Saks Fifth Avenue, New York launched the Anne Klein Corner, it was the first designer in-store “boutique”. Anne received many awards throughout her career and was recognized as the epitome of designer sportswear. At one point in time Saks Fifth Avenue did a series of needlepoint kits commissioned from designers, I needlepointed (a full post on my needlepoint craze, I have done hundreds of pieces, at some point in time….no pun intended!!!!) the Anne Klein logo as a gift along with one from Emilio Pucci, and if memory serves me, Bill Blass. Photo Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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For the Versailles show in 1973, organized by the public relations genius, Eleanor Lampert,  Anne was the only female American Designer to show alongside Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Halston and Stephen Burrows. The five Americans were showing with five Parisian designers, who showed first in a very formal staged production, while quite beautiful they didn’t compare to the modernity of the Americans who did a very quick presentation complete with jazz, twirling models, many African-American  models who went on to become super stars, and Liza Minelli!  They brought the house down and got a standing ovation and cheers from the jaded crowd.  American fashion came into its own that night and has never looked back!  For more on this show read The Battle of Versailles and see the film, Versailles ’73.  Unfortunately, not much footage is available and what there is is really not top quality, however, the film is fantastically done, you will really enjoy it if you haven’t seen it and if you have give it another look. Photo Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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imageThe Anne Klein medallion on the New York Fashion Walk of Fame.

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Louis Dell’Olio and Donna Karan were classmates at Parson’s School of Design and graduated in 1973 and went to work for Anne Klein.  I have had this press photo for years…so glad to finally share it.  It is in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

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When Anne Klein died from breast cancer in 1974, her assistants, Donna Karan and Louis Dell’Olio became the designers from 1974-1985.  They came to Saks Chicago and we did a formal show in the Store.  What fun that was. Several years later, when Donna had her own collection she was making a personal appearance at I. Magnin, they had a store on Michigan Avenue and Pearson (where TopShop  and Uniqlo are now) and were doing a formal show on the street between Michigan Avenue and Rush Street (what is the name of that Street!!!???) on the west side of The Water Tower.  This one block street was closed and chairs were set up in the street without a tent.  I rarely went to other stores shows, unless invited, I thought they would think I was “spying” on them.  Well, I decided to go to this one and sat in the back row.  Donna commentated the presentation and at the end walked the runway (the street), as is usual for a designer at the finale…she came to the end where I was, glanced at me walked about half way or so back toward the Store, came back to me, gave me a hug and said “I know you, you are with Saks…and your shows are wonderful!”  So much for trying to be incognito!!!  The next time she came to Chicago was to open the Barney’s New York store in it’s original location on Oak Street (Hermes now) and she arrived on a motorcycle which drove her into the Store, it was a blast and so was Donna.  I did not have the pleasure of doing a formal show with a personal appearance with her but did do several formal shows with her collections over the years.

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Donna leaves Anne Klein for her signature line, the rest of that story is fashion history.  The foundation to the Donna Karan brilliant 5 Easy Pieces, the bodysuit!

imageThe orginal “cold shoulder” dress! We see shoulders everywhere now, revolutionary at the time.

imageDonna has always been her own best model.  I so miss her basic 5 Easy Pieces, she had the look down for the professional woman, not only professional but rather sexy and very assured giving the wearer a power that a “power suit” couldn’t.  Her talent is sorely missed but we can still get her brilliance with Urban Zen. Above photos are from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageDonna’s plaque on New York’s Fashion Walk of Fame.

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A very blond Nena with Louis Dell’Olio, Anne Klein desinger from 1985-1993.  Louis, while at Parsons apprenticed with the genius, Norman Norell (as you know one of my idols!) during a summer break and won the Norman Norell Scholarship. Saks did several personal appearances with Louis all at formal fashion shows and, as usual, benefits for local charities.  One I fondly remember was held in Stanley Field Hall at the Field Museum of Natural History.  I love using staircases for fashion shows  (my Corporate Office would always ask me if I only did shows on stiarways, my answer “Whenever possible!”) My production guru, Deb Gohr of Ravenswood Studios, was a genius in fulfilling my staging vision for all our shows.  This one used the double staircase at the South end of the Museum lobby (can you believe I can’t find a photo, in my files or on line!!!) I wanted the runway to come off the stairs and be seamless, and Deb did this perfectly. It was flawless at least up to a point….(I think this was one of the first shows Deb and I did together, we are still staging shows!!!!). I was only using the staircase to begin the show with the models coming down, in tandum, on each side.  That worked well.  The rest of the show they entered from each side of the runway, not a problem and then I wanted several to appear at the top of the staircase and walk down the stairs for the finale.  All good so far, I put those few models in their gowns on the elevator, I waited to cue my assistant who was at the next floor of the Museum next to the Hall of Gems. Nothing happened for what seemed like an eternity, the elevator had gotten stuck, after the brief pause out they came, very dramatically (think Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face in her red gown in front of the Winged Venus on the stairs of the Louvre and you get the picture!)  All was saved and actually made a much more exciting finale…everyone thought it was planned!!!!  I have now revealed a long kept not so secret secret!

In the above photo, I am wearing a signature look of Louis, one color combination in three textures and patterns.  This outfit is chocolate brown and cream, the fitted jacket is a silk tweed, the sweater a silk knit and the pencil skirt, wrapped to one side, in another tweed a combination of silk and wool.  I wore it for many years and adored both the man and his esthetic! Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageA watercolor that Louis did for the cover of an invitation for a benefit show we did at China Club.  The finale was red gowns.  It was stunning and perfect in a club atomsphere (that was when we dressed to go out!!!!)  The night before we dined with Oprah Winfrey, who was beginning her Chicago career, a friend and client of Louis.  The last time I worked with Louis was with his glorious fur collection.  I miss his talent and being able to showcase his expertise.  This watercolor is in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageA typical look by Louis Dell’Olio.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageLouis always liked to do the color head to toe…here you see the hose and shoes, (he often included gloves and fabulous jewelry), all Anne Klein and Company, matching the skirt, the jacket in a contrasting red, a Dell’Olio signature. Pinterest photo credit unknown.

THE shows you always wanted to see in addition to Designer Shows were the Designer Sportswear Shows, Louis Dell’Olio for Anne Klein, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.  Each spectacular and each with its own flair and each standing room only…those were the days, my friends!

imageRichard Tyler 1993-1994 became the designer for Anne Klein after Louis left (!!).  He came from a very structured, almost men’s tailoring background.  His garments were magnificently constructed, the Collection, we featured with his personal appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, was all black with a bit of white (you can see the white on my shirt, the black suit is also from the collection, and his t-shirt) totally different from the color of Louis’ era. He came with his wife and new baby and was a joy to work with, very quiet almost shy in nature and a true craftsman. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageFrom the Richard Tyler for Anne Klein and Company.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageThe Richard Tyler stint at AK was short lived and he was followed by Patrick Robinson, 1994-1996.  I adored working with Patrick a true talent and a total gentleman with great style. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago. Since I am only discussing the designers I worked with I will only mention the designers who followed in quick succession they were 1998 Ken Kaufman and Isaac Franco, 2007 Isabell Toledo

imageOne of my favorite designers, Charles Nolan, 2001-2003, left to go into politics (you heard that correctly!!!!) and returned with his own charming and very salable signature line.  He died much too young in 2011, a major loss to all of us.  This picture was taken at a Misericordia Heart of Mercy benefit show.  Charles made two personal appearances for the orgaization and showed his delightful signature collections. I’m wearing a piece from his collection and the fabulous pearl necklace is from his accessories collection, I also have a couple pairs of his shoes (where are they!!!???) also fun. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

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Charles Nolan for Anne Klein, Pinterest photo credits unknown.

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The current creative director, Sharon Lombardo, will she turn the brand back to where it should be….let’s hope so, I for one miss the Anne Klein of yore.  Photo from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

How about a couple of recipes from Donna and Louis….

FROM THE HELEN O’HAGAN SAKS FIFTH AVENUE COOK FOR STYLE BOOK 1983

DONNA KARAN FOR ANNE KLEIN DEVILED CHICKEN

1 2 lb. broiling chicken or 2 chicken breasts with bone in

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon crushed peppercorns

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

Pre-heat broiler at maximum for 15 minutes.

Lay chicken on a chopping block with the breast facing down and split it open along the entire backbone.  Crack the breast bone from inside. (have your butcher do this!) Spread the chicken as flat as possible.  In other words, flaten the chicken until it looks like a mounted butterfly!

Put the chicken in a deep dish.  Pour the lemon juice over the chicken then add the peppercorns and olive oil.  Cover the dish and let it marinate for 3 hours or overnight  Discard marinade. When ready to cook, sprinkle chicken with salt and broil skin side up about 5″ from the flame.  When skin turns light brown, baste with freshly made marinade.  Turn again after 8 minutes.  Cook briefly on both sides again another 3 minutes or so until meat is tender to the prick of a fork.

If you run out of marinade before chicken is done use a teaspoon more of olive oil.  Before serving use another pinch of crushed pepper.

Serve with rice and almost any vegetable, how about broiled tomatoes.

A dry French wine — white, of course!

Serves 2

All from the book with the exception of discarding the marinade that the chicken has soaked in, I have discarded it and done a fresh batch, add ingredients accordingly.

LOUIS DELL’OLIO FOR ANNE KLEIN FETTUCINE AL SUGO DI VONGOLE

2 dozen littleneck clams (the tinest you can find)

1 tablespoon shallots, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsely, chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper, chopped

1/4 cup white wine

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt to taste, but not too much

1 pound fettucine or linguine

Wash clams in cold water, put in a covered saucepan over high flame.  As clams open up, shuck them and put into small bowl.  After shucking all the clams pour the juice from the pan over them.  Set aside.  Put shallots in small saucepan with oil and saute over medium high heat until translucent.  Add the garlic and saute until light gold color appears.  Add parsley and hot pepper, stir a bit, add wine.  Allow wine to boil until it evaporates by half.  Turn off heat. Chop the clams up even smaller than the smallest one.  Filter the clam juice though a seive lined with a paper towel or cheese cloth.  You should have 2/3 cup of liquid.  If there is more, discard it.  Add the liquid to the sauce and boil again until reduced by half.  Add the chopped up clams, they should be turned quickly into the sauce.  Turn off heat.  Add butter and cheese.  Mix thoroughly.  Taste and correct with salt.  Salt many not be required.

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt to 4 quarts boiling water, then drop in pasta and drain as soon as it it tender, but nutty (al dente) to the bite.  The minute the pasta is drained, put it in a warming serving dish, pour the sauce over it.  Re-heat sauce if no longer hot.  Toss thoroughly and serve immediately.  Grated cheese, although not recommended for clam sauce, can be served on the side. Serves 4.

Serve with a dry white wine, French or Italian, and a simple salade Verde (endive, watercress, lightly dressed)

 

 

 

COLLECTIONS: INSECTS PART 1……IN FASHION

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I’ve been seriously thinking about bees and how their demise will effect our beloved Earth, we MUST protect them and see that they continue to exist!!!  It got me to thinking about how insects, in general, are always with us and how they turn up in fashion, beauty, interiors, art, books…etc., etc!  I have gathered so much “stuff” that this will be a two-part post this week and next week.

As I was preparing to do this post I was drawn again to A. S. Byatt’s book, Angels & Insects.  I actually saw the film before I read the book.  I found both beautifully detailed, the 1995 film, in particular, was visually stunning, (I love Kristen Scott Thomas in anything!) but also disturbing.  If you haven’t seen it here is the trailer https://youtu.be/bdqnz-FtIog to wet your appetite.

imageFrom the film Angels & Insects, one of the main characters in costume.  No, it isn’t for a costume party it is a day dress but why, one would ask, would you want to look like a bumble bee???!!!

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imageA Lasage gold embroidered bee that was created for an Haute Couture garment. Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageA truly magnificent gown and hat from the genius of Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.  I am obsessed with the faux tortoise shell detail scattered with gold and tortoise bees. The gold honeycomb and bees are all embroidered by hand.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageThe Lesage embroidered, on net, sleeve of a Chanel Spring 2016 Haute Couture gown.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageA jeweled honeycomb minaudière from Judith Leiber, I mean seriously…what a work of art!!! Pinterest photo credit unknown.  I’ll do a Fashion Flashback story on Judith Leiber in a future post.

imageA needlepoint chair seat on an antique chair at a private club in Chicago.

imageNapoleon adored bees and used them in many forms.  Here is a woven piece.  Perhaps I should adapt it for my logo!!!???  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageBee hives on the top of a downtown Chicago building.  All new commercial roof tops must have green space.  Many older buildings such as City Hall have gone green as well. Bravo Chicago.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

The following is taken from the absolutely fascinating website The Honeybee Conservancy http://www.thehoneybeeconversancy.org  You can sponsor bee hives and learn so much about bees and their place in history as well as today.

“Although he was never a beekeeper, Napoleon used the honey bee as one of the most important symbols of the power and prestige of his empire.

There seems to be two schools of thought of why Napoleon’s government chose the honey bee as part of its iconography.

One school of thought says the honey bee is representational of the Merovingian kings, the founders of France, with whom Napoleon sought to align himself.

Or...

“When Napoleon moved into the Royal Palace at Tuileries he refused to spend money on new decor. However, he could not allow the drapery – with its embroidered fleur-de-lis (the French Royal emblem) – to continue to hang in the windows of the palace. His solution was to have the rich and elegant drapes turned upside down. The inverted symbol of the overthrown monarchy looked like a bee.  From then on, the tenacious bee became the emblem of Napoleon Bonaparte.

imageI took this photo at last month’s Randolph Street Market at Carrie Homann’s booth, on the Second Floor in the Ballroom, from a collection of insect pins. Isn’t the golden bee especially fabulous!  Carrie always has some insect jewelry at the Shows, but she has so many other collections I would suggest you check her out each month (I’ll be posting more from her especially her Bakelite pieces) and remember if you see something you like, at any of the booths, buy it, it many not be there later that day nor the next month.  When you find something you like be sure to ask the dealer if they have any other treasures you might be collecting, they will be happy to let you know what else they might not have brought that month. http://www.randolphstreetmarket.com

imageA close up of a silver bee pin from Carrie Homann’s jewelry collection.

imageA magnificent necklace (I may need to make this my own, love it!) from the unbelievably talented Stephanie Lake (you remember the week of posts, the week of December 12, 2016, I did on Stephanie, her book on Bonnie Cashin and how she and her husband entertain) http://www.stephanielakedesign.com  Photo courtesy of Stephanie Lake Design.

Let’s switch from bees to beetles….a fascinating story about beetle wing embroidery this amazing phenomenon was brought, along with the site infomation, to my attention by my friend and Columbia College Chicago Faculty member, Virginia Heaven (you have seen some pieces from her vast collections of objects in past posts).  I, of course, needed to do some research on this and found a couple of photos on Pinterest photo credits unknown, that I am sharing with you.,

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The following excerpt is from the scolarly journal,  Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org  It is an absolutely fascinating site.

The earliest form of insect-adorned Western dress derived its inspiration from beetle-embridroidered fabric from India imported by England in the 1840’s and 1850’s.”

Next Thursday we will continue to explore the world of insects in fashion, beauty and home…don’t freak out, we will look at some more beetles and the sheer beauty of the webs spiders spin.  I think you will be interested, and perhaps educated, I know I have been, in how they are used in ways you wouldn’t consider, and no, I’m not doing any recipes using them!!!!!

I leave you with a man and his suit……image

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD

imageWhen I first read this title I thought what……….then I read it was part of a quote from the Fashion Icon, Daphne Guinness, “If I eat, I can’t work. I’ll eat when I’m Dead.”

The story begins with the death of one of the fashion magazine RAGE stylists, Hillary Whitney, who is found dead in a locked conference room of the magazine’s headquarters in New York.  It is ruled that she died as a side effect of the pressure of being thin (not the case!)  Our protagonist, Catherine (Cat) Ono, Hillary’s best friend and co-worker at RAGE, doesn’t believe this to be true.  Like any good mystery in the States or the UK, our heroine becomes “involved” with a detective, in this cases NYPD Detective Mark Hutton.  Along with her colleague, Bess Bonner, Cat sets out to find the truth to Hillary’s death.  We are taken through the often told tale of the seedy side of the fashion business (I’ll give my opinion on that in a bit), party girls (and guys), sex, drugs and rock and roll.  Nothing new here.  It gets interesting when we start hearing about drug induced creams and lotions and the billion dollar cosmetic industry and how all this ties together.  Of course, as in The Devil Wears Prada, everyone is stunning, tiny, ambitious and extremely well dressed, accessorized, coiffed and made-up in the latest whatevers!!! I’m not going to go into the plot as it does a few turns, nothing terribly mysterious but a fun ride none the less.

Some reviews I have read thought it was a satire, perhaps, but I found it to be exploitive. As you know, I have worked in the fashion industry my entire life, am I saying these things don’t happen, of course not, but what I must say is that with all the models I have worked with (and I have shared many of their stories with you…) they were naturally thin, still are (I was among them, not thin anymore, nor was I a model!!!) and didn’t starve themselves to death (actually one did have anorexia, many years ago, we didn’t know what it was then, and tragically, she did pass away) and I never had any compliments from visiting designers on having models who could not fit the sample clothes.  Now let’s talk drugs…yes, I had a couple of models who I knew did drugs, did they do this in front of me, no, of course not, but did talk openly about it and never came “stoned” to a show (or was I being naive!!) A lot of drinking goes on in the novel and a lot of late night parties….of course, that was part of the club scene, but again, not to the point of interfering in their work with me. I find it very frustrating that all novels about the world of fashion always makes it out to be a sleazy business…I would say on the contrary. This one has the young women trying to make it in NYC while the older women are fighting to stay in control, again we have heard this before.  Is the industry competitive, yes, is it exciting, yes, is it always looking for the new idea, yes, is it fast paced, yes, do you need ambition, yes…it is all of those things and so much more.  Fashion is a huge industry, employing millions and pumps billions into the economy.  I’m not wearing blinders and am well aware that there are sweatshops that MUST be eliminated, that wages aren’t equal all over the world, or in the US, again this MUST be stopped, that there are unethical people in the business and, unfortunately, most businesses.

Would I suggest you read it, sure, why not….  In the end, I would say, I expected more from the premise, our author, Barbara Bourland, is already working on a sequel, Maniacs, will I read it, you bet I will!

 

PS TODAY  IS THE ANNIVERSARY OF MY BLOG….8 MONTHS AND COUNTING!!!!!

 

COLLECTIONS: SHELL ART

By now you know I love all sorts of collectibles, some I have in my own collections others I enjoy looking at in friends homes and gardens and online on Instagram and Pinterest. In addition, I find it exciting to learn more about objects that peak my interest, in this instance, shell art.  When I found the group below I knew I wanted to do a post about the many ways shells can be incorporated into our decorations both in our homes and on our bodies.  Let’s explore some of these possibilities.

imageWhat got me thinking about shell art was this group of shell-encrusted boxes found outside at the May Randolph Street Market, http://www.randolphstreetmarket.com in Melissa Parks booth Megillicutti. megillicutti@gmail.com, follow on Instagram at Megillicutti. Melissa’s booth has all manner of extraordinary objects and she will be back at RSM for the June Show on Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25. My photo on my iPhone.  Just a note…always buy what you like when you see it, most, if not all, the vendors are at RSM each month but they usually bring different and new pieces, that is what makes it exciting and why we keep coming back for more! In addition, ask the vendors if they have any other pieces of what you are admiring, they may have them with them or they can bring the next time they are at the Market.  Get to know them, ask questions and educate yourself with pieces you are unfamiliar with….they do like to talk about their treasures and want you to like them as much as they do!

imageThe top of a box from my friend,  Virginia Heaven’s, collection.  Virginia’s collections are very eclectic and inspired.  I have shared some in past posts and will share more as we continue my journey.  Photo courtesy of Virginia Heaven.

imageimageTwo boxes I found on Pinterest, photo credit unknown.  Aren’t they stunning!!!

imageA Sailors’ Valentine, exquisite, I particularly love the shading and the softness of the pastel shells.  Sailors’ Valentines could be an entire post, there are so many and so many different stories about their origins, I would suggest the two books below if you wish to investigate this subject.

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imageOne of my favorite images…it is truly a work of art.

One of my Saks Fifth Avenue Store Managers and dear friend, Bob Pike, collected carved cameo shells.  I found a couple for him at antique shows (long before Randolph Street Market was a glimmer in Sally Schwartz’ eye).  Here are a couple of exquisite examples of this art….

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And my favorite…

imageIsn’t she a beauty!!   Many, many more images on Pinterest.

imageAnd when you Google this is what you can find…just a taste of what goes into cameo shells and cameos.  Taken from a Google search.

imageA faux shell from the collection of Kevin G, whose booth The Red Leopard Crocodile, (found each month at RSM in the Ballroom) is always filled with magical objects concentrating on vintage handbags and jewelry. Photo taken by me with my iPhone.

I asked a couple of my friends if they collected anything with shells…Sally Schwartz, http://www.randolphstreetmarket.com, the guru behind the incredible Randolph Street Market (remember I did a profile on Sally and have featured some of her collections in previous posts) and Stephanie Lake, http://www.StephanieLakeDesign.com, the author of the magnificent, and only, book on Bonnie Cashin, Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It, and creator of fascinating jewelry.  I did an entire week on Stephanie, beginning with an in-depth profile, followed by a book review and then posts on some of her collections and how she and her husband entertain.  Neither have huge shell collections but each shared a nautilus shell piece for me to share with you.

imageSally shared a watercolor of a nautilus shell that hangs in her home, stunning! Photo courtesy of Sally Schwartz.

imageStephanie’s nautilus shells on brass branches, one of a pair.

imageThe piece surrounded by Stephanie’s unique necklaces in her showroom. Both photos courtesy of Stephanie Lake.

I then asked Candace Jordon, http://www.candidcandace.com and http://www.chicagonow.com/Candid-Candace, about her thoughts on shells…she sent me three photos of her collection…again I did Candace’s profile weeks ago along with separate posts on her collections and have included her collections in other posts such as the one on paperweights. You can be sure I will include more in weeks to come.  She and Chuck are avid collectors of a wonderful Cabinet of Curiosities!!!  Her influence for her shell pieces, Tony Duquette, my design guru along with his successor and collaborator, Hutton Wilkenson…but that is another post, for sure.  The pieces were purchased in Paris several years ago and are by a French artist, Thomas Boog, http://www.thomasboog.com,  Candace said she thought they would all arrive in pieces but only the mirror had minor damage.  She shared “I’ve always been in love with shells and coral after discovering and falling in love with the style of the late designer, Tony Duquette.”

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imageOh my, one can, most certainly, see the Tony Duquette influence in these elegantly created pieces.  Photos courtesy of Candace Jordan.

imageOne of the most beautiful books you can own if you don’t be sure to add it to your collection.

imageFrom the Hutton Wilkenson Collection.  We haven’t even touched on Coral…that can be another time.

imageA chair from the genius of Tony Duquette.

imageAnd from the genius of Alexander McQueen, there are no words!!!!

imageUsing shells like fabric petals.

imageAnother Alexander McQueen creation.

imageAnd the back of the garment.

Perhaps the influence for the garments, a shell “painting” in the form of flower petals.

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imageI think from Tony Duquette but am not sure of the source, just know I love the look.

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And my shell piece, a mirror framed in shells that I painted in one of the shades of white I used in my all white bathroom.

Since Summer is here shall we all start our shell collections again and relive our childhoods and create our own masterworks, let’s!!!!

All photos unless otherwise credited are from Pinterest and photo credits are unknown.

FROM NENA’S RECIPE BOX

INDIVIDUAL LOBSTER POT PIES
(Get the connection….shells and shellfish!!!!)

I use frozen puff pastry for the “crust”

Filling-

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

18-20 pearl onions (I use frozen no need to peel! Defrosted)

1 cup diced celery root

3/4 cup diced fennel (use the outer stalks)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/4 teaspoon curry powder (I always use Spice Islands spices and dried herbs)

1/4 teaspoon dried mustard

3/4 cup sherry (use either dry or sweet wherever your taste, I often use Bristol Cream Sherry, just be sure it is good and one you would drink)

2 1/2 cups cooked lobster meat (I always use the meat from broiled lobster tails, if your fishmonger has lobster meat use that, saves a step)

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 cup crème fraîche

1 egg beaten

Melt butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat add onions, celery root, and fennel, cooking 5 minutes.  Reduce heat and brown until lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes more.  Stir in salt and pepper.  Add curry powder and mustard, lightly frying the spices for a minute.  Deglaze pan with sherry and reduce until almost dry, about 1 minute.  Fold in lobster, peas, and crème fraîche, heat until just warmed through.  Divide among six 12-ounce souffle cups or ramekins (filling should be about 3/4 full)  I usually do 4 ramekins.

Oven should be at 450º.

Cut puff pastry into rounds to cover and drape over sides of ramekins press to seal, make an X in the center of each piece of dough and brush with the beaten egg.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 17 to 19 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

I serve with a lightly dressed mixed green salad (I am loving the four lettuces in a container that you can find at Mariano’s) and either champagne, of course, or a dry fruity white wine.  Dessert should be light perhaps a poached fruit such as pears or peaches and more champagne followed by a glass of sherry and homemade madeleines (I have a great recipe for them that I will post at another time).

The pot pies are VERY rich and everyone I have served them to literally scrape the bottom of the ramekins! I have served this many times and everyone adores it.

Adapted from a Chicago Tribune recipe.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: PARTY GIRLS DIE IN PEARLS

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I really, really enjoyed this book!  By now you are aware that I am a major Anglophile, love anything English especially an English mystery.  This is a fun read (can a murder be fun, oh my!) I truly enjoyed Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes as well as her articles in Vogue.  Her writings are witty, intelligent, well researched (she didn’t have to do much research on this book, she attended Oxford University, I’ve longed to go for a summer term to study the Stately Homes and Gardens of England, alas, probably not in the cards!!!)

The story takes place in 1985, I love that she references to the Sloane Rangers, the fashion designers and looks of the time along with references to Dallas and Dynasty (one of the characters is an American heiress in her first term at Oxford), etc. and also dots the book with footnotes explaining terminology used on campus and general English phraseology that might not be familiar to a reader that either hasn’t visited the UK or is too young to know about the mid-1980’s.  I found this quite charming and a bit amusing.  The rules and regulations at Oxford play into the plot and how few women were there at that time and how they were accepted.  Our protagonist, Ursula Flowerbutton, (don’t you absolutely adore the name…) along with her new friend, American exchange student, Nancy Feingold, learn very quickly the ins and outs of life at the University.  Nancy comes complete with a smashing wardrobe which is totally foreign to Ursula who comes from a small village and has lived with two grandmothers after her parents died when she was quite young.  The young ladies are invited to masses of drinks parties, black and white tie dinners etc. and after one of the set is found murdered (she is found by Ursula), they set out to unravel the mystery and may end up murdered as well.  Ursula aspires to become a reporter on the famous student newspaper, Cherwell and has taken on an assignment to write about the murder and solve the crime.  We find lots of intrigue with all the male students (bar a couple) divinely handsome and their tutor a dishy (copy from the flap of the book!) cad, the females are either gorgeous or frumpy but most seem to be looking for Mr. Right, or in Nancy’s case an Earl!  There is, of course, the local police involved (no sign of Scotland Yard here) but they aren’t major to the list of characters.  Lots of talk about tea and I also loved Nancy’s reaction to Marmite on toast…it is indeed an acquired taste and it’s truly wonderful when the major hunk/lover in the book, Wentworth Wychwood, takes Ursula to breakfast and she orders the “fry-up”, he is quite shocked (but actually thinks it amusing) that she is having the traditional English breakfast since no other girl he has taken to breakfast has more than toast and then doesn’t touch it!  No surprise here…I love a great fry-up myself, why just have toast!

I’m not going to go further into the plot…you won’t read spoilers here, read it and let me know your thoughts.  It most certainly isn’t War and Peace, but an enjoyable summer read and it is the first of a series…I simply adore a good series, don’t you!