FASHION EXTRA: RALPH LAUREN THE FIRST 50 YEARS!!!!!

1DD690DB-ACD7-45DD-B0F1-AF07759C35BDI have worn, shown, lived with, admired, Ralph Lauren’s creativity for all those 50 years. The excitement of this extraordinary exuberant extraganza was a once in a lifetime “happening”. From the venue, the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, to the pre-show reception (and the people watching), to the staging (perfection), to the presentation (featuring a diverse mix of 150 models and more people watching), to the finale (all models on the staircase with Ralph taking his finale bow-wave), to the formal sit down dinner (further people watching and a toast lead by Oprah!), WOW! For those of us not there in person, we have the modern experience of technology and can watch the evening streaming, via video feeds, still photos, the joyous postings, on all social media platforms, and can absorb this perfect event from beginning to end whenever we choose.  All I can say….I can’t wait to see what is in store for us in the ensuing years. Fashion is not dead, long live fashion…Bravo Ralph Lauren Bravo!!!

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The staging.

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Lets take a look at some of my favorites, I can’t show you every run, would love to, you can find many on line sources to show you the entire collection.  Here, then, in no particular order my likes….

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71F04AD1-6716-4EC7-876F-7AA29DC422331E8B957B-9D94-4674-9F86-ACECF1330CEDNotice Chicago’s own, Chance The Rapper (in baseball cap) in the front row.

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9F17458B-C27D-46F3-8135-BC36C04A5468431E9CE3-DD0F-4B12-8210-A05F7DCBDA8CLove Ralph in a typical outfit, tuxedo jacket with distressed jeans, modernity at its best!!! I think this is one of Jeffrey Banks’ fabulous photos of the evening.  See his Facebook postings for a incredible capture of the evening. An aside, Jeffrey was a sketch artist for Ralph back in the day. Two true American creators, long may they wave!!!!

Photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown

 

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BOOKNOTES: SEPTEMBER TO BE READ LIST

16342407-F683-4D48-9B49-0F5DD55F4751I thought I’d give you a preview of some of the books I will be reviewing this month.I have SO many on my TBR list that it was difficult to choose just a few…but here goes…

I am currently reading The Masterpiece by one of my favorite authors, Fiona Davis. So far it doesn’t disappoint.  It is the story, told in two time periods (seems to a trend in many of the novels I have been reading, wasn’t a fan, but am adjusting to them…this one definitely works!), of the art school housed in the Grand Central Terminal in New York, one of my favorite NYC structures.  You know how much I love historical fiction…this is a fascinating little known story…..I’ll post the review next week.

Next up, I’ll probably review a long over due non-fiction work by another of my favorites, Julia Reed, South Toward Home. I always love her books and her other writings….informative, funny, and very, very well written I never want to finish her books and that is a compliment….I think we are in for a good read. 1CBA0F19-D464-40C9-A7EC-151F444932BF

Torn by which of these titles to read next….maybe The Dinner List, intriguing to me and hopefully to you since that is one of the questions I ask each of my nenasnotes Profile guests to answer…”who would you have, living or dead, to your dinner party?”  Should be a fun read

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Or maybe I’ll switch gears and go with another author whose works I enjoy, Natasha Solomon’s and her House of Gold.  Another historical piece set in Austria and England during the World War I era.  You know I love any story set in England and that time period….we shall see!  61A9BA18-7F9F-4A8B-B80E-227AD207A6AA

Of course I need to re-read Bonnie Cashin Chic Is Where You Find It by the Uber talented, Stephanie Lake, who is joining this month’s nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club and then read what looks like a stunning addition to the Christian Dior oeuvre Dior and His Decorators by Maureen Footer, this is the October selection for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club.

 

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Stay tuned for my reviews on each (go to the nenasnotes Archives for my review on the Bonnie Cadhin book).  As the song says….the beat goes on, or should I say the books go on and on and on…..

This post is underwritten by an anonymous sponsor.  Contact me for sponsorship opportunities. 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: DOOR KNOBS

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As you well know, I am a HUGE fan of vintage items, the patina, the color, the wear of love in use….what could be more fun than collecting vintage doors knobs!  A good start, as always, a trip to the monthly (Saturday and Sunday, September 29 and 30 from 10 to 5) Randolph Street Market

My photos on site at Randolph Street Market.  These I found at the RSM in the Olde Good Things booth they were salvaged from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, which is in the midst of being renovated.  I am  particularly fond of the crystal ones but also like the white porcelain ones as well  I bought some several years ago, white porcelain, for my all white bathroom door and in my naïveté thought one size fits all….silly Nena….hardly!  I suggest you do your homework, if adding vintage doorknobs to your home whether it is a fixer upper or modern…measure, measure, measure and then measure again.  Take a photo of your existing door knob, or the actual piece, with you along with your standard antiquing kit of magnifying glass, tape measure, etc. when on your quest for anything that is sized.

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An ordinary builders grade set….shall we see if we can improve on this seen everywhere piece and…Lets look at some that I found on Pinterest….there are, of course, zillions to attract your eye and imagination….here just a few images. CCD0E0A8-1A74-435B-A2E6-CA469C7B61CC

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A fun “bouquet”.

E9C746A1-D98D-4AB2-961A-12BD58E88D86These could be mounted on your wall for decor or to hang bags, jewelry, belts, whatever’s….I think they would make an interesting art instillation.

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4BA8FF6C-06CA-4A96-B1D4-D2622A9917AAOr you could top a cork and use as a bottle stopper like I have done….here one in my kitchen, photo by me.

3EBFCFF1-D6D3-4253-AF43-6C771199DAC3A very close up photo (!!!!!!) of one of the knobs I got years ago at Anthropologie , love that store….they are on my closet doors.  You are getting a look at the green of all my walls (and ceiling) of my teeny home, every wall except the bathroom which is all shades of white.

 

Or how about tiny vases or from rustique art’s Pinterest site…a photo, postcard, note holder….love the whimsy of these.  What can you think of, in your creative minds, to use these tiny works of art in your decor.

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I’m beyond obsessed with this glorious piece, spectacular, who does craftsmanship like this today…..extraordinary….did you notice, with few exceptions…all my photos are “ green”.

You have seen some keys in the locks….check out how the ubertalented Margaret Buckman uses them in jewelry.  I did Margaret’s wonderful story on November 14, 2016….do check it out in the nenasnotes Archives, you will be enthralled!

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Books on the subject, of course….here are a couple that got my interest…and I’ll do a post on unique doors and another on door knockers in the future.

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468BC240-417E-43FF-BED2-5FCD4A0F079DAll photos unless otherwise noted found on Pinterest photo credit unknown.

PROFILE: JEFFREY BANKS–GENTLEMAN CREATOR

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The exciting world of Social Media brought me to Jeffrey Banks.  I have, of course, admired his work forever, first and still as a designer and then and now as an author. I got to Jeffrey through Facebook accounts from our mutual friend, the multi-talented, Michael Vollbracht who I did have the pleasure of knowing and working with…I did a blog post recently just following his untimely death.  I am posting this Profile of Jeffrey, who graciously agree to do my nenasnotes questionnaire, on the day of Michael’s Memorial Service in New York.

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Michael Vollbracht’s delightful work as a student at Parson’s where he won the Norman Norell Award, Mr. Norell was not able to present the award instead it was presented by Bill Blass who became a lifelong friend of Michael’s and who designed the Blass Collection after Mr. Blass’ death.  I bet they are now very busy designing the robes for the angels!

Last week Jeffrey delighted my nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club group, via conference call, with reminiscences of the unsurpassed designer Norman Norell as recounted in Jeffrey’s exquisite book NORELL: Master of American Design. Jeffrey’s books are as well done as his design work, all perfection.

Thank you, Jeffrey Banks, for joining my blogging adventure and for sharing your insight into the world of fashion via your exceptional books…you can be sure I will call upon you to chat again in the very near future to discuss another of your books….let’s see which one shall be next….stay tuned!!

Want to hear more about this unique creator…read on in Jeffrey’s own words……

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WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB
My first job was at age 15 selling Men’s clothing at Britches of Georgetown . I loved it and on my very first day sold more than any of the seasoned professional salesman did combined.
BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR MOST RECENT OCCUPATION
Unfortunately, it seems to be planning memorial services for friends.
WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT
I always loved to draw, and at a very young age thought that I might become an artist. That was until I found out that most of the artists that I admired did not achieve success or fame during their lifetimes, so at the tender age of 10 I decided to become a designer. The reasoning being that I would know rather instantly whether the things that I designed had struck a cord with the public….or not!
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WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” 
I think it was the day after the night I won my first Coty Award and I was with my Mother at Bergdorf’s on the up escalator and two guys were going down on the down escalator and I heard them say as we sailed passed …” Oh look, there’s designer, Jeffrey Banks!”
Coty Awards 1982
                                                         Coty Award winner 1982
Mom and I at the Coty Awards September 23rd, 1982
Coty Awards 1982 Cover Invite
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HOW YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BROUGHT YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW
I feel so lucky that my original passion for fashion has allowed me to make a living, branch out to books, go on television, teach, and meet so many of the people I most admired in the world. I feel very fortunate.
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All in Norman Norell…..Lynn Revson one of the biggest collectors of Norell.
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WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE
There really wasn’t an alternate choice at the time. But, as I love photography so much, I would have to say, Art Director.
YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, THEATER (LEGIT, MUSICALS), BALLET, OPERA, SYMPHONY, TYPE OF MUSIC YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO, LOCAL RESTAURANT
Favorite Book : A Private View by Irene Mayer Selznick  ( a great read on early Hollywood by Louis B. Mayer’s daughter )
Favorite Movie: Funny Face ( it’s got it all : Fashion, Paris, Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Givenchy, Gershwin, Avedon)…who could ask for anything more ? 
Theater: Anything Sondheim !
Ballet: Anything Balanchine !
Opera: Anything Directed by Bartlett Sher
I love show tunes , Streisand, and Adele
My favorite restaurant is Union Square Cafe 
HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC
Mostly modern, clean white with some antiques in bleached pine. I work with color all day long so I need an absence of color at home,
WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE 
Fred Astaire, George Gershwin, Michelle and Barack Obama, Audrey Hepburn and Rob Wolders, Hubert de Givenchy, Bruce Weber, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Jeffrey Banks, Diahann Carroll would be the guests. 
I would serve my Risotto with Carmelized Onions and Figs with a side salad of Heirloom Tomatoes with a Shallot, Dijon Mustard, and Honey Vinaigrette (see recipe below). For Starters: Baked Brie with Honey, Brandy and Walnuts. For dessert, Assorted Gelatos

FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON YOUR GO TO LIST 
London, is my favorite city after NY and I love Italy, especially Florence, Tuscany and Venice. Love to discover (and re-discover) great museums and try new restaurants.In London, Theater and Shopping is everything for me! 
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING MOST IN YOUR FREE TIME? FAVORITE WORK  OF PUBLIC ART
I LOVE to read (books and magazines ) especially biographies. I love going through The Metropolitan Museum and The Frick Collection here in NY. 

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED
As a kind person, loyal to his friends.
                               THANK YOU AND BRAVO JEFFREY BANKS, BRAVO!
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF JEFFREY BANKS WITH EXCEPTION OF THE BOOK COVERS, TAKEN FROM GOOGLE PHOTOS.
                                              ELEANOR BANKS’ MEATLOAF

Ingredients:

 

1 lb Ground Chuck

1/2 lb Pork Sausage

1 Medium Small Onion (chopped finely)

1/2 Green Pepper  (chopped finely)

2-3 Spines of Celery (chopped finely)

3/4 cup Bread Crumbs

Salt & Pepper to Taste

Celery Salt

2 Cans Hunts Tomato Sauce

Combine all ingredients mix very well with 1 can of tomato sauce.  Shape loaf in lightly greased Pyrex pan.  Take other can of tomato sauce and mix with 1/2 can water and set aside.  Place loaf in pre-heated oven set at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour.  After 1/2 hour reduce heat to 325 and bake loaf for additional 40 minutes.  Pour off excess fat and baste with tomato sauce that was set aside.

              JEFFREY BANKS’ HONEY, SHALLOT, DIJON MUSTARD  VINAIGRETTE

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons honey

1 large shallot, finely chopped

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

 



 

FRIDAY MUSINGS: TINY HOUSES

 

78A3DA77-25DD-4D42-A9E0-35F0ABFA4DD9No this post isn’t about tiny Coalport, Meissen or other small collectibles (I can do that later) but rather actual tiny houses!!!! Yes, ones you live in. Full disclosure, I already live in a tiny house…what you say, “I thought you live in a high rise condo”, true but it is 700 square feet…so I am qualified to discuss the subject…just saying!  As a child I adored my doll house and, of course, spent many hours making many log cabins with my Lincoln Logs with Daddy.

At this point in time in my life should I be rethinking my living arrangements and perhaps see if any of my land owning friends will let me “park” myself on their property…I don’t drive so it would either be a permanent structure or mobile, with a hired driver when needed

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I am obsessed with watching ALL the programming on tiny homes on HGTV and DIY, but then I’m obsessed with most of their programming.  It seems many of them are either metal frames or wood cabin looking…neither would be what I would want, so mine would have to be designed to my specs, of course it would, and here are some looks that appeal to me.  Most with either a Victorian shabby chic or bohemian feeling, definitely my style, or a bit of modern….maybe!

Too cookie cutter for me…

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More my taste…

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A more mid-century look perhaps……

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Even George Bernard Shaw enjoy a tiny house, it rotated with the sun, for his studio.F3FF65EA-F576-4F3C-9678-0BBCCDAA2808But I envision something more Pygmalion or actually Beaton’s My Fair Lady decor…  CE5BDD98-7536-4041-9B8F-8724E1A424E4If truth were told I would love to retrofit a Vintage Airstream….some thoughts…FC2D018A-809D-4BEE-9214-C4F510AA78382B7BDC28-5CE0-4F31-B977-A762E7CEFD007D5E98B0-F319-4202-932D-597E512FC552C3A6A03B-46A8-424A-87DD-ED687AA3C2AB055E7C4C-6324-43C8-8A48-8E0F19A0C8B7

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Okay full confession, how I really want to live is in a English gypsy caravan.  Ruthy, my Mother, loved to tell of the gypsies and their caravans that would camp on her Father’s land outside Joplin, Missouri.  Each year they would come and my Grandfather gave them permission to use the land. As children, Mom and her siblings would visit the camp to hear wonderful stories and play with the children. Mom didn’t look like her brothers and sisters and I teased her that she must have been left as a baby by the gypsies to be taken care of by my grandparents…she rather liked the idea of a Bohemian lifestyle and found it a romantic notion (she was, of course, a legitimate child of my grandparents, birth certificates and Bible entry as proof!!!!!) In any instance, fairy tales aside, I find gypsy caravans right up my alley…in fact my current dwelling resembles one.

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How I want my home to look….walls and pillows are pretty similar now, would love to do either wallpaper or dark lacquer green, very glossy, paint.

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AEC579F9-E28A-414B-8E8B-C210111808C63CDF6C7B-76C5-445A-A8D0-2B57245751070F4DEADB-4CB6-43AC-AE7B-FA81F8E4DAE50EA93ACD-07BC-4BEE-B35A-AB30D82B6D20F7AD5A2F-5C1E-4D12-984D-0F1843AAC67E4A1107C7-AE6C-443C-9484-F72C281AE312118D0E6D-D08D-4B8D-8A91-795885A661037A04DA17-7DF1-4141-B772-3BB847C9FED1Too much…in my mind never….and I would have to consider where to house ALL my books.

BC59AEA5-267B-4C40-ABCA-93043A8FF33BHow I see my caravan in its pastoral setting….I can dream can’t I…..

All images found on Pinterest photo credits unknown.

PROFILE: STUART DYER MESIRES

E0E5384D-11DA-4FD7-B6D8-E82D6E5E9FFAPhoto by Rachel McGinn taken in Philadelphia

Bringing back my Profile series and I am beyond excited to restart with a friend through the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum, Stuart Dyer Mesires.  Her talent for and love of all things vintage has given us a mutual interest as well as great conversations about the history of fashion, a passion we both share.  I know you will enjoy a glimpse into Stuart’s beginnings in the industry as well as a peek into her business Ladybug Vintage

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB
My first job in the fashion industry was working in New York City for a vintage textile swatch library. It was a library filled with swatches of vintage fabrics – prints, jacquards, yarn dyes, knits, etc. Designers would make an appointment to come to the design library at the beginning of each season to buy vintage swatches of fabric which they would then use to help them come up with color palates, design inspiration and actual fabrics that they would develop for their lines that season.
BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR MOST RECENT OCCUPATION
In 2009, I decided to turn my passion for collecting vintage into a business and created, Ladybug Vintage – a collection of vintage costume jewelry, clothing and accessories focused primarily on the international glamour and country club chic eras of the 1960’s and 1970’s. I love the whimsy, insouciance, bold prints and statement jewelry from this time period – all of which can be found in the Ladybug Vintage Collection. Inspiration comes from fashion icons such as Lee Radziwell, Jane Birkin, Bianca Jagger and Ali McGraw – women with an innate sense of glamour and daring who could take one special piece – a scarf, a lariat, a gorgeous set of cuff bracelets – and create a completely effortless and individual look. I personally select each piece in the collection with this focus in mind. This is what sets Ladybug Vintage apart as it is not just a collection of random vintage pieces but a collection with a focused point of view.

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Stuart at the Chicago Botanic Garden when she did their Antique and Garden Show

 

Some of Stuart’s extensive collections.

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WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT
I started collecting vintage when I was in grade school. My mother is an avid collector of antiques and I would often accompany her to flea markets, thrift shops and antique shows when she was hunting for treasures. I wanted to collect something too so I would look for things that I could afford. Vintage clothing and costume jewelry were items that no one really wanted at the time and the pieces were inexpensive – thus my collection began. I loved the fact that what I collected could be worn not just put on a shelf to be admired. By the time I was in high school I had a closet full of amazing vintage clothing and accessories.

0464EA25-8B9A-4530-BB7F-76AC6A52BE65Looking for vintage pieces at the Madison Bouckville Antique Show in Bouckville, New York.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN
When I was working as a swimsuit designer for Tommy Hilfiger, I felt that I had made it when one of the suits that I had designed was featured in the the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue being worn by Heidi Klum, 2001.

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Another of Stuart’s designers for Hilfiger in Sports Illustrated, 2002.

A piece in the 1998 Japan Marie Claire on Stuart’s favorite beauty products.

HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW As I mentioned above, I have had a passion for collecting vintage from a young age. After graduating from a liberal arts college in upstate, New York, I moved to New York City to work for PolyGram Records. My passion, however, was for fashion so I started working for a vintage textile design company and taking night classes at Parson’s School of Design. I then embarked on an over 15 year career in fashion design which included working as a clothing designer for such companies as Tommy Hilfiger and Lilly Pulitzer. While working as a designer, my love of vintage continued and I often used vintage pieces as design inspiration. Nine years ago, I decided to turn my love for collecting vintage into a business.

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WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE An Archeologist.
YOUR FAVORITES:
BOOK: The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
MOVIE:  The Wizard of Oz
THEATER:  Hamilton
TYPE OF MUSIC YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO: Rolling Stones, Stevie Nicks, Led Zeppelin, Spoon, Cage the Elephant and the Foo Fighters
LOCAL RESTAURANT: I love to try new restaurants but a constant, reliable favorite is Mon Ami Gabi.
HOBBIES: Drawing, painting, antiquing
HOME: Mixture of mid-century modern and antiques
WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE: Andy Cohen, Derek Blasberg, Mick Jagger, Virgil Abloh, Pablo Picasso, Kate Spade, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Altchul, Lilly Pulitzer, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda and Miuccia Prada
I’m not a great cook so I would invite, Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) to cater.
FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON YOUR GO TO LIST:  I love to discover new places. And wherever I find myself, I love to find places to shop for vintage. I just back from a trip to Grimaud, France – a small town outside of St. Tropez. I had never been to Grimaud before but I went there to stay with a friend.  It is a gorgeous Cote d’Azur hillside town overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the port of St. Tropez. One of the most fun things for me was finding a flea market in Grimaud that was filled with vintage treasures.

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With her son, Xander in St. Tropez in June 2018

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In Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

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Visiting Heyward House, Bluffton, South Carolina.

FAVORITE WORK OF CHICAGO PUBLIC ART:  My favorite work of Chicago Public art is a statue called, The Alarm. I have always been drawn to it. It is the oldest sculpture on Chicago Park District property. It was commissioned in 1880 and dedicated on May 17, 1884. When I did a little research on it, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the artist, John J. Boyle while from New York, had actually studied in Philadelphia (my hometown) at the Franklin Institute and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and married a woman from there. Several of his statues are located throughout Fairmount Park in Philadelphia as well as throughout the city of Philadelphia.

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HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED:As having been kind.

A FAVORITE RECIPE:
I love to make desserts (the best part of a meal!). Below is a simple recipe for one of my favorites:
Fudge Brownies.
INGREDIENTS
5 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate 3/4 cup butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
HEAT oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13” x 9” pan.
MICROWAVE chocolate and butter in a large microwaveable bowl on HIGH for 2 minutes or until the butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and mix well. Spread into prepared pan.    BAKE approximately 22 minutes. Cool completely and cut into squares.

STUART’S FAVORITE LINKS/BLOGS/INSTAGRAM/WEBSITES

http://www.ladybugvintage.com/
https://www.1stdibs.com/dealers/ladybug-vintage/

La Double J, Tory Daily, @suzymenkesvogue, @tinaleung, @amandacbrooks, @ericapelosini, @martinamondadori, @kateschelter

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Above photo taken by Rachel McGinn. All photos from Stuart’s scrapbooks.

 

FASHION FLASHBACK: MICHAEL VOLLBRACHT A TRIBUTE

33A06E6A-8F85-42A9-9052-591FB077485AMichael Vollbracht at the beginning of his career when we first met, late 1970’s. Inscribed photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

When the news reached me last week that Michael Vollbracht had died, after total disbelief, I immediately wanted to do a post on my wonderful times with him. I didn’t want to do an obit, His dear friend, Jeffrey Banks, did one so eloquently for the CFDA and it was followed by an brilliant piece in the New York Times and Woman’s Wear Daily. All detailed the life of a unique, brilliant talent. But rather, I wanted to honor him with personal reflections.

I first encountered Michael’s talent when Saks Fifth Avenue bought his collection and I featured his extraordinary garments, all of which were amazingly beautiful prints that he had created, in many of the charity fashion shows we did at the time.

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They were great hits so much so that SFA Chicago invited him to bring his collection to the store and do a formal fashion at The Hilton Chicago, the first of several formal shows with him, (home to many, many of our shows!) In those days, I met all the designers (and often their representatives if the designers weren’t making a personal appearance) at the airport, actually at their gate, we could do that until 9/11, and escorted them to their hotel. This allowed us to get to know each other and, in my opinion, set the stage for a comfortable, successful event. In addition, I was on the selling floor throughout their visit and usually was included in the dinners we hosted for the designers.

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We got to The Hilton on the day of the show, it was a luncheon in the Grand Ballroom, a magnificent room to this day, I can’t remember a time when I checked the room before I would arrive at any venue. Of course, I would do a walk through of the space prior to any event.  The charity usually did the decor, centerpieces, etc. We opened the doors to the room and were met with at least 20 American flags on flag poles placed on the balcony hanging over the stage (they had been there for some political event and left!)  I love my flag but it was a bit much, to say the least, for a fashion show.  There was nothing to be done but work with them. Michael’s reaction, “How charming, a salute to a born and bred American designer….love it!”  This gives you an idea of his sense of humor, his ability to adjust to the situation and deal with it.

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The twinkle in his eyes…..

Michael had a special relationship with Bill Blass (Michael later designed the Blass collection, I thought the perfect fit!) who asked him to design his retrospective exhibition at Indiana University the fall of 2002.  The opening night was attended by many of Bill’s New York designer pals such as Adolfo and Carolyne Roehm as well as the ladies Blass dressed all of whom, after viewing the exhibition, sat down to Bill’s famous meatloaf.  The only thing missing was Bill who had died shortly before the opening.

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Talking about Bill Blass

Michael asked to describe the exhibition said it would “be a mixture of museum and theatrics.”  The exhibit had dramatic lighting, the walls were what Michael called “cafe latte”, music of another Indiana native, Blass was from Indiana, Cole Porter, was piped throughout the space.  I was devasted not to be able to attend this once in a lifetime event, work prevented it  I did however go to see it at the invitation of Kate Rowland, curator of the University’s Sage Historical Costume Collection.  I was able to see it several times the day I was there…fortunately the first visit was early in the morning when I walked through it by myself…fortunately I say because I burst into tears at the first thing I encountered, Bill’s office, totally reassembled, again the only thing missing was Bill!  Bravo Michael…you totally did it and Bill would have totally approved.  I adore fashion exhibitions and this was done to perfection in a very small space, luckily we have a book co-authored by Michael, Kate, and my first SFA boss/mentor/supporter, the incredible, Helen O’Hagan.

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I wanted to share some of the portraits Michael did of his designer friends, they are fabulous and capture the personalities perfectly.

9C4D8C18-42A4-4BE5-8C3F-8A8B30CED252                                                                      Bill Blass

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Love this of Pauline Trigere, it captures her perfectly

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James Galanos, exquisite

 

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Donald Brooks (sorry for the poor quality, the only copy I could find)

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Diane Von Furstenberg, gorgeous

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Norman Norell, another designer who passed away prior to the opening of their exhibition from the Nena Ivon Archives of Columbia College Chicago.

 

Two illustrations from the divine monograph NORELL by the brilliant Jeffrey Banks….if you don’t already have it purchased it immediately, it is glorious and a MUST have for your library along with the Blass book

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Lucky me, I worked with all the designers, above, who were captured by the insightful eye of Michael Vollbracht.

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The famous Bloomingdale’s shopping bag, Michael’s Book, and…….no words needed!

My last in person encounter with Michael was at a Costume Society of America Symposium in Kansas City, (Michael was a hometown guy!) in 2010 when he was the Keynote Speaker.  A bit of background, at the 2009 CSA Symposium I was seated with the cochairs of the Kansas City event and they were discussing how excited and a bit intimated that Michael Vollbracht was coming for their event, I spoke up and said, “what a coup, he is the Renaissance Man and you will love him.”  Their response, and I think in unison, “do you know him!”  “Yes, yes, I do” I said….well needless to say I became golden and was asked to be his host…yes, please.

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I set up the room before his presentation with pieces he had sent and put them on dress forms.  I introduced him and he began by talking about me much to my embarrassment, but I was nonetheless thrilled.  He got a standing ovation, not easy from the group…he was perfect, of course he was!  There is always a Patron Dinner for the keynote and those who wanted to be up close and personal with the guest…again he charmed the group with his “unfiltered” stories.  He and I went to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to see the Edward Steichen photography exhibition, who better to go with and spent another evening with Dennis Brozynski, my Columbia College Chicago Fashion Studies colleague and long term CSA supporter (the other member of our group, my dear friend and CSA roomie, Dianne Erpenbach, also a CCC Fashion Studies colleague, was tied up with CSA meetings and couldn’t join us) getting Kansas City barbecue….Michael knew all THE joints to go too.  We roamed around, stuffed full of some of the best barbecue ever.  Ah memories…all good ones

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My little black dress sketch, hangs on one of the shelves of my fashion library.  It is visible from the foot of my bed, so we can say I wake up with Michael every day! Photo taken by me

So much has been said of his talent, his art, his fashion, his newly found voice on Facebook with wonderful in-depth stories of his career, his relationship with mega stars, such as Elizabeth Taylor, his frustration with the fashion industry, to say his death is a huge loss is a major understatement.  Rest In Peace Michael Vollbracht, your art lives on.

7CBE6DFC-024A-486C-9B24-EDE5A8B7016AAll photos and illustrations unless otherwise noted are from Pinterest credits unknown.

COLLECTIONS: ENGLISH IRONSTONE

E8A9FA8C-B041-4D64-8492-A0B752BD9189I’ve been anticipating doing this post forever…..if you are like me, I think of Ironstone as white….well silly me.  The stunning platters are just the beginning of  a connoisseurs major collections. Photo by me on my iPhone. This is my favorite pattern from the several groups in this treasure trove of Vintage Ironstone. Foolishly I didn’t match the makers stamp to the patterns but many of the items in this collection are Mason, the father of English Ironstone. You knew I would find a book or two for your reference!

The company was started by Miles Mason in 1796 and continued to 1856 by his sons most notably his third son, Charles who was married to Sarah Spode the granddaughter of Josiah Spode the founder of the famous potting dynasty. For a concise history of Mason I recommend you to go to Janice Paull

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The shelving on the right is in an antique store, notice the platter on the top shelf in the middle it is the same pattern (Pinterest) the image on the right is a display in a private collection, bottom photo a close up of one of the serving platters with dinner plates on either side. Both those photos were taken by me.

If you are looking for Ironstone to add to your collection or to start one remember this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, April 28 and 29, from 10 to 5 each day, is the not to be missed monthly Randolph Street Market

Some examples I found on Pinterest that interested me, no other reason. Photo credits unknown.

Makers marks….I photographed them and at the time knew which went with each of the many patterns in this connoisseur’s carefully curated collections I didn’t take notes bad move on my part….sorry!  But here they are, quite impressive.

Another set….

And more….

All photos taken on my iPhone unless otherwise noted.

The excitement of the hunt can be one piece or an entire collection….what is it all about, well I’ll tell you, when you see it buy it….don’t walk away and have regret. Make friends with the dealers, learn from their expertise, read books, catalogs, go to websites enjoy the pursuit of your treasures and no better place to do exactly that than Randolph Street Market

MONDAY MUSINGS: WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT??!!

914DD8BA-0E7A-4835-937B-0AF625C6A4D6A question I have been asking myself, sorry for the lack of posts….lots of reasons, primarily a dead computer….a learning curve of doing nenasnotes on my iPad, let’s just call it frustration, confusion and loss of clear focus…let’s talk about it, shall we.

Perhaps it’s the lack of spring blooms, yes, they will come (I took the above photo last year in Harbor Country…I’ve referenced the grounds in many other posts), but then we rarely have spring until later, if at all. So I guess that’s not it.  I made a decision when I began my blog, a year and a half ago, that I wouldn’t do negative posts and I have stuck to that philosophy….so please let me vent this one time.  I decided to ask a consultant to help me toward my path to monetize nenanotes. I found the perfect person and we “clicked” immediately as friends.  During our delightful meetings over a period of time and lots of glasses of wine, I was advised to do lots of selfies, makeovers, talk about product, etc.  None of which is my style at all.  I’m not a pretty young thing who will have followers to buy what I  wear or droll over tutorials on how I apply my makeup …who cares!!! It has nothing to do with age but rather a preference of what my “mission/goal is”.  I think it is best to leave that to those who do it well. Guess what, I decided not to follow that advice (and it was excellent advice just not for me!) but continue on the path of my original plan to share my experiences in the world of fashion, do book reviews, explore collections, interiors (mine and others) share profiles of interesting people, my travels, in general talk about what interests me.  I do, however, have (suggested at my meetings) a smashingly glorious Media Kit produced by my dear friend, the extraordinarily talented, Christine Hawley, who also worked with me to produce my exceptional logo. I will use it for potential sponsors for nenasnotes. I’ll be happy to share the MK with any of you who are interested.

Okay, rant over. What do I have planned going forward, actually lots!!!  High on my list is to kick off my nenasnotes Fashion Book Club with Loulou & Yves by Christopher Petkanas. I will do a review, Christopher has asked me if I would post my review on the actual date of publication which is Tuesday, April 17th, I’m excited to do so.  It will be the first in my monthly Fashion Book Club choices and Christopher is interested in joining the discussion via Skype, too exciting for words! I will be announcing that May date soon along with the rest of the year’s exciting selections and surprises. Stay tuned!!!!!97B4DD29-93F9-46AC-AA9A-49F169C68071

I’ve been lax in sharing recipes with you lately…..sorry, I’ll correct that shortly. I love to make brownies and think mine are THE best (don’t we all!!!!!), I’ve made them forever.  For some unknown reason I had purchased a box of brownie mix as well as a can of fudge frosting and thought why not give them a try….I added pecans and vanilla to the brownies (sorry Tommy I was naughty and changed yet another recipe!!!) They were absolutely delicious and I think they are my new best!!!!!57807917-295B-4FE7-849E-EE9CDE411161

I am obsessed with looking at other peoples homes and gardens so you can bet you will see more of those, what did we do before Pinterest, I have zillions of clippings from magazines through the years as well as complete issues of some of my favorites, that is what we did. The photo below is a corner of my home (it was taken by Christine Hawley, I told you she is talented in so many ways!)…I’ve already done a post on paisley, there will be several on my needlepoint (some of which you can see on my built-in daybed) textiles, my lily of the valley collection in the breakfront and all over my home.  You can also see how I house some of my obsessive book collections, the two vintage bamboo shelves are mostly fiction and the tall slim bookcase (made for me by Harold Hawley, whom I profiled in my post on page-tuners) holds my collection of needlework books. You can also see lots of art on all surfaces. 3A576191-CDE5-4A95-9A76-C3124C09E84D

Gardens, of course….here is my favorite tree, in spring bloom, in Blue Island at the Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel home.  It is spectacular each season 9BB99CCF-DDB1-49FB-ABD5-3B44A670EAB8

As for my Profiles, I have a couple coming up that I know you will enjoy, waiting for photos on several and transcriptions on others. They are really, really outstanding and worth waiting for.  And always profiles of designers I have had the pleasure of working with.  Below I’m with Bob Mackie who has just launched his exquisite fine jewelry collection and is busy at work on the costumes for The Cher Show which will open in Chicago pre-Broadway in June…all too exciting for mere words!!D3B0A1F7-B99B-47B7-88BA-02BE1144DB92

Collections, of course, mine, and others and those found, like the assemblage below, at my favorite go-to monthly event Randolph Street Market

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From a magnificent private collection of English Ironstone.

Of course, I’ll continue to share fashion shows past and present such as the benefit for RefuSHE on Thursday, April 12th at The Cultural Center. The photo below is from last years show with a gown incorporating fabric produced by the members of the RefuSHE ccommunity in Africa and created by one our talented Chicsgo based designers. 1E65F7B4-9A5E-479F-A96C-806C2A046734I think I’ll cross out the makeup and keep wine…well maybe keep both on the top of my list…..your thoughts my friends!!0589C2AE-6CB4-4D43-B87E-3937333C121C

To sum up, in addition to the aforementioned topics, I’ve been asked to redo my Fashion Show Production class at Columbia College Chicago which i am very excited to do as well as a couple of other CCC projects, we shall see how they develop.

If there are topics you want to explore with me let me know.  Until Spting arrives…..0B5F6705-23E6-4917-B449-380810FA655D                      Photo from Pinterest credit unknown

 

FASHION REMEMBRANCE: HUBERT DE GIVENCHY

6C698FF1-A8C6-44DC-ADDC-E30AD447BB89A week after we learned of the death of the last of the great couturiers I feel everything has been written about this extraordinary creator by those who knew him, wrote about him and treasured his memory. His creativity was unparalleled not only in the world of fashion but also in his homes and his magnificent gardens.

I wanted to briefly talk about my memories of the few times I met him.  The first time was at the launch of his first cosmetic collection in 1966. It was always a ”contest” to see which of the major stores, usually the Speciality Stores….Saks Fifth Avenue, Bonwit Teller, I. Magnin (Neiman Marcus wasn’t in Chicago yet) and, of course, Marshall Field’s, would launch the newest, hottest fragrance.  I must say Saks saw it’s share of these prestigious events. Obviously a cosmetic collection by one of the worlds most illustrious designers was beyond exciting. We had a huge fashion press in Chicago at the time and they were all vying for exclusives. I didn’t then believe in exclusives if the story doesn’t run you are ”dead in the water”. Instead, we always had a press party for visiting designers in addition to a reception for clients usually to benefit a charity. All was set, caterers in place, champagne chilled and I had the tuxedoed wait staff with their champagne ladened silver trays lined up on either side of the cosmetic aisle ready for the guest of honor, M. Givenchy, his people, the President of Saks, Corporate Cosmetic VP’s and our guests. I ran up to my office to quickly change, I am in ”mid-change” when my walkie-talkie (this is before tech thingies!) is swawking….”M. Givenchy’s car has just pulled up”!  My office was on the fourth floor, I finished pulling on my clothes torn down the stairs and made it to the door to escort the entourage into the store and the reception. Whew!!  I have worked with many, many wonderful creators through the years and I can say he was one of the most gracious, charming of all.  He made you feel like you were the only person he wanted to talk to, if only for a brief moment in time. This cosmetic line was short lived and we had the privilege of a second launch several years later. AFD15AD3-A8F0-45DC-9E8C-A92419EFF774.jpegThis photo, now in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago, hung on my office wall was from the first launch.  Unfortunately, like several other designer photos, the salutation has faded into oblivion over the years.

In M. Givenchy received the Designer of Excellence Award from the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum at a sold-out black-tie gala held in the Museum in 1995 sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue. The front and inside cover of the evening’s invitation, the evening was planned with the direction of M. Givenchy’s dear friend, Victor Skrebneski (holding my hand) who took the photo on the invitation and is seen here with M. Givenchy and Bonnie Deutsch, the President of the Costume Council at that time.  The evening was a roaring success monetarily and prestigiously   It was the talk of the town. All the guests were given a small ivory silk pocket square with the Givenchy signature and rolled hem in grey. All three images courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

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A close up of another Skrebneski photo of one of my favorite Givenchy dresses….you by now know my love of lily of the valley…what could be more divine!!!!!  Photog found on Pinterest.

We all know of the deep friendship between Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn from the time she chose her garments for Sabrina through most of her many films, as well as her personal wardrobe.  One of my most favorite garments are in Charade, loved the film (what’s not to like) and the clothes are to die for…she seems to have a new outfit in every frame…each better than the last.

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My favorite Skrebneski photograph of a Givenchy gown. Everything is perfection….the composition, the lighting the incredible staircase, the floor and of course the gown…oh my the gown!!!!  Found on Pinterest.

Of course, a few suggestions for your fashion book library….

I have very fortunate to have worked with the creme de la creme of the fashion world….lucky, lucky me!!