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.

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MODEL PROFILE: D’ARRY JONE FRANK

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I haven’t done a model profile post for awhile and I have been “pestering” my girls forever, being the persistent gal I am I haven’t given up hope.  I must admit I’ve had D’Arry’s reminiscences for awhile, but as you know my laptop died and I have been in a learning curve with my iPad…..I think I have conquered it…..yay!

I was (and am) very lucky to have worked with exceptionally professional models through the years, you have had the pleasure of meeting many of them through nenasnotes (hopefully there will be more!).  When I started in the Fashion Office at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago we used 8, maybe 10, models in our shows most of which were commentated and an hour long. I used the same group for each show. Of course, as they left and shows changed I used more, but did like the consistency of the Saks models, I always knew what they could wear and most of the designers, in many cases, allowed me to eliminate fittings (it saved my budget!)  D’Arry was always the consummate pro…always show ready, on time (I do have a thing about promptness, I admit it!) I loved her look and, of course her red hair….

When I retired from Saks the models, organized by Elsa Tullos, (I did Elsa’s profile as one of my first model profiles) had the best party ever and D’Arry did the perfect drawings of the models…then and now, as my gift…I’m sharing it with you, they are now housed in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

They are definitely an inside joke but I think you can enjoy them

Now let’s hear from D’Arry and how she started her modeling career and where that took her and her fascinating life today.

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“i was 19 when I started to model, a career fallen into by circumstance. I was training horses and restoring vintage Corvettes by day, and going to school at night to study criminology. My goal was to join the police force, but I still had two years before I was old enough to take the test…a boyfriend suggested modeling as a way to make extra money; and my career was born! I started doing print work, and my first job was a 5 hour shoot with Victor Skrebneski for Head and Shoulders shampoo. I had no idea who he was, and I remember my father being mortified; “He shoots NUDES!” he told me. I calmed him down with the latest issue of Vogue magazine and showed him all the fashion shots attributed to Mr. Skrebneski…to this day I feel Victor started me on my print career, and I am thankful.

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Victor Skrebneski Marshall Fields ad, one of  D’Arry’s first print jobs

I was lucky enough to work the world, spending time in Paris, Milan, Tokyo, Zurich, New York…probably not what would have been in the plans for me had I ever taken that police exam!

 

F7958600-A824-4654-9D90-150279230100Some of my favourite designers to work with were Gianni Versace, Georgio Armani, Luciano Soprani, and Karl Lagerfeld…On a sidenote: one of my favourite illustration jobs post-modelling was an award winning calendar featuring Jack Russell Terriers. One day I received a call from the publisher, she said she just gotten off the phone from a new customer in Paris. This woman had seen the calendar hanging on the showroom wall at the Maison de Givenchy, and had inquired about buying it. Monsieur Givenchy graciously gave her the phone number of the publisher and told her she could get her own. I’m certain he never knew the illustrator was someone he had offered the job of House model to 15 years earlier! (I declined because I could not, at that time, move to Paris for the year required.) When worlds collide.  

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After I cut my teeth on printwork, I added runway…a new learning curve to master! In those days we didn’t go to “modeling school”, we learned from each other and our agents; and the runway girls were a pretty closed group to get to know (I’m glad I persevered, as I’m still great friends with most of them now. A bevy of Nena’s beauties even came to cheer me on my first time competing at the Westminster Dog Show in New York a couple of years ago-a memory that is dear to my heart.).

B86CD00C-B7BF-4F0E-A998-BA6DC61E5C76D’Arry with her model pals at Westminster, Maureen Mueller, Jeanouche Wopinski, Karen Ryan, D’Arry, Shelley MacArthur Farley, all have been profiled in past nenasnotes posts.  Photo from the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

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Working with Nena Ivon was, I think, about the best training you could get to make it in the modeling world. You could not buy that knowledge, and Nena was extremely selective on whom she chose to work with. She also demanded professionalism, and made NO exceptions when her expectations were not met. I remember I had a booking for a Bill Blass show, and the day before I burned my leg on the exhaust pipe of a friend’s motorcycle. I had a circle burn the size of a tennis ball on my calf, a really bad melted-skin burn. I told my agent so she could call Nena and replace me, but to my surprise, Nena kept me in the show. I walked the runway with a 4 inch square of white gauze on my leg…and afterwards Nena cancelled me out of the entire rest of the show season. Devastating for me; although I did end up getting an out of town print booking for one of the days I was originally scheduled for a Nena show, so it turned out okay (you could NEVER cancel a Nena show for another job!).

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It took several years, a new short haircut and a completely new “look” to get re-hired for Saks shows. I apparently learned my lesson, as I was a regular in her group of girls after that! And I worked for her right up to the time that I “retired” and moved to a farm down in Southern Illinois. And as far as favourite designers for Nena’s shows-hands down for Adolfo! He always asked for me, and I simply adored him.

It’s now twenty (*ahem*) years later, and I make my living as an artist and a breeder of dogs. In addition to illustration work, I sculpt horses and dogs; I have done design work for the Breyer Molding Company in New Jersey, and design and sculpt for the Peter Stone Company in Indiana. I basically play with toys and puppies! And I get to play Vanna White for all the big model horse auctions…sometimes holding up my own artwork!

I am thankful for the experiences I’ve had in the modeling/acting world, it has helped me tremendously in showing my dogs-a passion of mine. Since most of my competing dogs are out of my own breeding programs, showing them off in the ring as flawlessly as I can is of the upmost importance. Even new dogs to my kennel are brought in as puppies, and I’ve trained them to be the show dogs they become. Since working with an animal can have challenges all on its own, the fact that I am comfortable walking and performing (necessary to showcase your dog in the ring) without getting nervous or flustered, well, that’s just another aspect of showmanship…not much different than walking the catwalk!

I am currently campaigning BrokenRoad Marco Polo of Prestige (Portuguese Podengo Pequeno), Prestige Gothom City Glitch (French Bulldog), And Prestige Exes and Ohs (Border Terrier) in the Owner Handler division of the AKC show circuit, and am proud to say that all three were ranked in the top 5 of their breeds; I am the first person to achieve this. (Final standings for 2017 were Griffy the Border and Marco the Pod #2 in their breeds, and Glitch the Frenchie was #5). This meant an invitation to compete in the National Owner Handler Finals in Orlando, Florida at the prestigious Royal Canin National Show. Very exciting! Marco Polo is currently ranked #3 in the breed of Podengos, if I can hang on to #5 or better, he and I will be invited to compete at Westminster in N.Y. again…

What a life!”5A70D502-A14E-474E-846B-9D7356821728

A reunion show at Wilmette Theater, Karen, Lelar, D’Arry, Gayle, Jeanouche, Nena, Shelley, Lou May, Terri, Dori and Camille. I do love orange on Ms. D’Arry.  Group photo from the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.  D’Arry photo courtesy of Ms. Frank.

D08E7825-AB3F-42DF-89DC-2BD45C5E4797 At the Misericordia Fashion Show on May 11, 2018 at the Chicago Hilton.  Karen always takes two tables and invites the models and me to join her. Pictured standing Dori Wilson, Isabell Bernard, Debra Balchen, Karen Ryan, Elsa Tullos, Diane Narcisse, Shelley MacArthur Farley, seated Loretta Wilger, Eleanor Simon and D’Arry.  I think time for another reunion show!!!!  Photo taken with my iPhone7.

D’Arry, I can tell you it was worth the wait to share your story with my readers.  I’m so pleased we had good times on the “catwalk” together and so very proud of you in your transformation with your precious dogs and your exquisite art.  Thank you so much for joining my blogging adventure….we have both reinvented ourselves.

All photos, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of D’Arry Jone Frank.

A WEEKEND IN HARBOR COUNTRY

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One of my favorites and it isn’t filtered, all photos were taken with my iPhone7

What could be nicer than a weekend in the country, well it could be sunny and warm rather than drizzle and cold!!!!  But hey, it was a weekend in the country with lazy days. I, of course, took a book with me to read and post and guess what, I didn’t like it at all, my deal with books…if I don’t like it I don’t read it, too many that interest me to waste time on ones that don’t appeal to me and I don’t do negative reviews.  I believe I’ve mentioned that before (I have been told I repeat things, sorry!) internet was difficult at best, did I mention I was in the country!  Couldn’t pull up my Kindle books…lots there on my TBR list, so I decided to walk around, between raindrops and wearing a borrowed sweater, and take photos for you. I’m posting them without comments. Rather between blooming, daffodils done, redbud trees turning to their wonderful heart shaped leaves, fruit trees getting ready to bear fruit, roses getting ready for their June blooms. And the hard part I was just a few days short of a glorious bed of Lily of the Valley, drat! What I love at this time of year is all the spectacular shades of green (my favorite color). Be sure to go to the end, I have my method for cooking fresh asparagus which we served to our Saturday evening dinner guests. Easy, easy, easy and really good.

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72907F74-D23D-4168-BB7C-D5DB2432C44D0A56AAA5-E27F-4958-B7DF-161B5216EAF2Three varieties of asparagus freshly picked from the vegetable patch….what to do with them….lots of things but here is my quick preparation…

NENA’S QUICK ASPARAGUS 

Break the stalk where it wants to break, of course wash them,  Peel the stalks if necessary. In a sauce pan, that will hold your bounty, melt a generous amount of butter when melted add asparagus, cover pan and vigorously shake until fork can easily pierce the stalks.  Obviously time varies with size of stalks. To finish sprinkle with sea salt and a generous grind of pepper.  Serve immediately or cool to room temperature.  Great as is or with a hollandaise.  Enjoy!EA38FA7C-2F3C-4856-94D9-AEBFEE99B278I’d buy this for the cover….lots of cookbooks on asparagus, if you do Kindle check Amazon Prime they have several that are free, at least when I Googled asparagus cookbooks.

MY NEEDLEPOINT OBSESSION

1C911491-9A13-4097-8DCF-919DB9F20ED4I’ve shown you my needlepoint footstools in past posts, now let’s look at some of the pieces I have done in years gone by. I’m going to concentrate on the pillows I own (I have done a zillion more as gifts and commissions over the years) and I must admit I have an abundance of pillows….an obsession, probably!  I’ve mentioned I prefer to work from charts and I think all but one I’m featuring today, which is tramme, are from charts.  The piece above is a combination of several charts that I made into a charming “picture”..I love baskets, roses and bows….all work together here, the tassels were purchased, not hand fashioned and are silk, used to tie this small pillow to the back of a vintage chair. It along with a matching green vintage secretary were the first pieces I choose and purchased for my bedroom while in high school, needless to say, they have been with me forever.  The chair now resides in my “library”.  A good time to mention the May Randolph Street Market  is Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27 from 10 to 5.  It’s the first outside market of the season, and the classic Plumbers Hall continues to have three floors of treasures year round.  I’ve found patchwork quilts, remnants of textiles and lots of needlework there over the years.  If you look you will definitely find a textile that will interest you or a treasure or two or three or………

FDC07921-2B0C-440F-A465-5B384EAC1322A close up of the basket (needs a good steaming…sorry!)

i started doing needlepoint while commuting from Evanston to Chicago for the first 12 years of working…I’ve sewn since I was very young with my Mother who was a superb seamstress, she particularly loved doing French smocking, Battenberg lace and both silk and wool embroidery embellishments on my clothes and my dolls clothes.  When I was old enough she gave me a beautiful sterling silver and cloisonné thimble (where is it?????).  Much to her chagrin, I couldn’t use it, I can’t stand hearing and feeling the metal needle on the metal thimble, pity!!!  We made our drapery, slipcover furnpniture as well as doing upholstery, bed spreads, you name it we sewed it!!!!  Mom finished all my needlework pieces, did most of the tassels, I did some, and silk ones were purchased.  She was so good at it she started doing friends pieces and from word of mouth it turned into a small business for her, it was called “The Little Pillowmaker”. But is was more than pillows she finished most of my other work and the work of others…glasscases, belts, rugs, Christmas stockings, etc. complicated pieces such as golf club covers, slippers, etc. we took to our local needlepoint shop

76A204C7-0828-46E5-97F8-50981AC322DESome of my collection resides on my built-in window seat that is covered in a pastel Asian pattern cotton toile.  The four small pieces in front (from a collection thoughout my home) are made from fragments of vintage Aubusson carpets that I purchased, over the years, from a fabulous dealer from the UK who exhibited at the Chicago Antiques Show that will be at the Merchandise Mart this week, May 17-20, an always extraordinary show.

62EF4C1E-796F-441A-A69D-617A965A0A95A set of three floral pieces my first assistant, Lucye, created for me to work. In return  she received a long vest that I did in a multI-color flame stitch, for Christmas that year, I created the pattern and even covered the seams with stitches, it was held together with black silk frog closings.  It was very boho (hippy in that era!) when I find a photo of her wearing it I’ll share it with you.   ABFC89D8-2AD0-4039-8267-4EA77A182123Obviously I need to get out the steamer yet again, my apologies for the poor shot….its been a few days of gloom here.  Here you can see some of the lily of the valley pieces i have done, I shared my lily of the valley rug in a previous post.  All the fringe is hand done, by me!!  Tedious but very rewarding. You can see a glimpse of the pastel Asian inspired toile.  I use the window seat as an extra bed when I have an over night guest (the cushion is down filled and very comfortable, I sleep on it when company visits).

4D34A8C1-E278-44C4-9955-730E997C1770Here is a close-up of one of the tapestry pieces in front of one of my larger pillows, this one a French tramme piece from a kit I actually got on my first trip to London in the late ‘80’s.  I enjoyed working in tramme, in which the pattern is worked in long yarn stitches on canvas rather than being painted and you cover the horizontal stitches with traditional tent stitches.

Another large piece that anchors the other pillows, I love to do borders and am mad for boxing pieces, doing endless plain background (especially all black backgrounds) not so much!

Back to my needlepoint beginnings, in addition to travel time I also had lots of time before fashion shows after I had set up the show to do busy work  I read a lot, always have, and found that wasn’t going to work when I was with other people and we all wanted to chat.  I could easy stitch (knitting makes me very uptight) so needlepoint it was.

I have a huge collection of needlepoint and other needlework books (I’ve done quite a bit of crewel as well, mostly as gifts) was and am particularly fond of those by Maggie Lane.  I would presume they are out of print but if you can find them do add them to your library, the stories she tells of China as well as her extraordinarily exquisite work are worth the read even if you don’t do any needlework.  The cover below is from her first volume.  The pictures below the book cover are just some of the many, many pieces I did from her charts. 

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These are just a small selection showing you what I did, each of these as gifts for friends, some got many others one or two, all from graphed charts from the Maggie books.  All, of course, done in colors to coordinate with the recipient ‘s individual decor. And I always asked if they would like a piece before beginning the process, I work quickly but don’t want to spend my time on something the recipient thinks is “homemade” and not “heartmade”, an Ivonism, by the way!!!! The photos above are from Pinterest credit unknown.E10B5D96-A69D-4C92-B4C0-C530A1936821One of the most ambitious of any of my work, other than the rug, was done for my first boss, Kay Walsh Dobson, for her Pompano Beach, Florida home.  One of twenty, or more, pillows I did for her along with a set of six Chippendale chair slip seats and a backgammon board (yet another post) all in various shades of yellow (probably my least favorite color palette to work with!) and black and white.  I would say this piece finished was approximately 30” wide x 24” deep plus the box border. If I never do another black background again……  I must admit the finished piece was spectacular! Again, when I locate photos of all her pieces I promise to share them with you.

As as you know I follow a million blogs and my interests are quite varied, I follow food sites, book bloggers, home and garden pieces and on and on. As luck would have it one blog I follow and look forward to, always so well done is The French Tangerine  which had a perfect post, for me to share, this week. I quickly send an email and Jan Vrana, the creator of The French  Tangerine, not only answered immediately but has given me permission to link you to her May 10 story on the Lauritzen Gardens and some of the most exquisite Elizabeth Bradley needlepoint pieces I’ve seen, they are always special but the way they have been finished they are even more gorgeous. Thank you so much Jan, for sharing your fabulous post with my readers, they can’t help but fall in love with The French Tangerine and follow you

Now, dear friends that you have been properly introduced, I hope you enjoyed getting to know some of my pillows. Have to go find that thimble and think about stitching something new, interested in a special piece…..let me know!!!!

PROFILE: JAY AND DEEPA LAKHANI TRADITION MADE MODERN

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It isn’t often that you meet people and instantly know you will be forever friends  I had that wonderful occurrence when I met Jay and Deepa Lakhani  Deepa Gurnaniat a reception at Neiman Marcus, Chicago, for, another new friend, Kobi Halperin , and his Erte inspired collection with embellishment by these extraordinary creators.  At a fabulously delicious dinner at Margaux Brasserieorchestrated by our hostess, Shelley Rosen, Founder of Luxe Bloom, I was seated between the couple and I’m afraid I monopolized them for the entire evening, they are amazing.  Here is their story.

I AM OBSESSED WITH YOUR PARTNERSHIP TELL ME HOW YOU COLLABORATE AND, OF COURSE, THE STORY OF HOW YOU MET AND MARRIED…IT IS A WONDERFULLY ROMANTIC STORY THAT I WANT TO SHARE WITH MY READERS YOU CAN BOTH ANSWER PLEASE PUT YOUR INITIALS IN FRONT OF YOUR ANSWERS

Jay Lakhani: It is funny that Deepa and I didn’t meet until much later in our lives even though our families have known each other for generations – we have been family friends since our great grandparents. The younger kids lost touch with each other because we were not living in India. I met Deepa in New York while her sister and I were roommates in College. We hit it off instantly because we were both in fashion school at the time – she at Central Saint Martins, London and I in the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.

Deepa Lakhani: We fell in love and decided to get married pretty soon after that. From the beginning we understood that we also wanted to merge our fashion lines together. We felt that it was possible because we were in sync creatively and on the same page about our design philosophy.

The Wedding

WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST JOBS

JL: I am a Jewelry Designer by profession, but also passionate about sales and marketing. My first job in the industry was in 2001 with Andin International, wholesale Jewelry manufacturers supplying to department stores and retailers in the United States. Here I received training in design as well as sales and marketing.

DL: You can say I have been a designer-entrepreneur from the get go. I worked as an assistant buyer for Browns in London for a short while and that gave me an insight into fashion retail and the everyday needs of a girl. I always wanted to start my own embroidery factory and I did that in India in 2002.

Some of my, Nena’s, favorite earrings, examples of  Deepa’s creativity

BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT OCCUPATION

JL: We are both designers by education and occupation. At our company I handle all of sales, marketing and PR while Deepa handles all of logistics, accounting, and production. We only meet when we design.

Jay working one-on-one with one of their artisans in their factory in Mumbai, India

WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT

JL: As far as I can recall I have always had an interest in fashion, focused on clothing, silhouette and style. I would always diligently follow runway shows of my favorite designers and had a strong point of view since the beginning.

DL: I think we both always knew this is what we wanted to do. Fashion school is what helped me further discover my talent and gave me the confidence to pursue my love for design.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN

DL: When we launched on 5th Avenue in New York City at the store Henri Bendel in November 2006. We made it at the ‘open see’ that has about 500 designers showcasing, and only 15 out of those finally make it. It was our first store launch and things really took off from there.

Below photos from The Accessories Council Excellence Awards, August 2017

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Jay and Deepa with New York team at the Awards dinner

At same dinner with Anthropologie buyers and Betsey Johnson and Eva Longoria

HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW

JL: My parents are Jewelers by trade. I have always had a keen interest in fashion and an eye for Jewelry. We saw a need in the market for handmade products and the necessity of preserving traditional arts and crafts. That is true luxury to us. We feel strongly about this and that is why we started this initiative and have taken it on for years to come.

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

JL: Nothing but fashion for me.

DL: It was either fashion or medical school for me. My father understood my passion for design and nudged me in that direction.

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Deepa’s April 2018 Birthday lunch

YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, LIST THE FOLLOWING,IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE…THEATER (LEGIT, MUSICALS), BALLET, TYPE OF MUSIC YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO, LOCAL RESTAURANT

Book: Devil Wears Prada

Theatre: Kinky Boots

Music: Spiritual and meditational music, Buddha Bar

Local Restaurants:  Mr. Chow and Bareburger in NYC, Pali Village Café and Bastian in Mumbai,

HOBBIES….

JL: I love to dance. I am a trained Bollywood dancer and used to teach classes in New York.

DL: I enjoy sketching and cooking in my free time. Both of us love yoga, traveling and watching movies together.

HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC DESCRIBE

JL: Our home can be described as minimal, modern, and our zen, cozy refuge at the end of a hectic day

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER (LIVING OR DEAD AND BE SURE TO INCLUDE YOURSELF!) AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE (10-12 GUESTS)

JL and DL: Anna Wintour, Oprah Winfrey, Anne Hathaway, Gautam Buddha, Dalai Lama, Karl Lagerfeld, Coco Chanel, Erte, Beyonce & Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

JL: We would serve a full Indian spread because I love Indian food. A traditional Indian Thali would be so much fun. It would of course be organic, nutritious and mostly vegetarian because that’s how Deepa likes it.

FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON YOUR GO TO LIST (HERE IS A CHANCE TO TALK ABOUT WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO DO IN INDIA!)

JL:  We are in love with Bali and could go there again and again. Greece is a place on our list that we haven’t been to yet. Hopefully Summer 2018!

DL: We also go to India often, especially to Mumbai and love it there. Otherwise the most beautiful, colorful side to India is in Rajasthan with its beautiful forts, luxuriouspalace hotels, rich textile heritage and fantastic food.

FAVORITE WORK OF ART

JL: Mona Lisa

DL: I love Leon Bakst and Erte’s portraits of Marchesa Luisa Casati

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED

JL: We would like to be remembered for our humanitarian contributions to society.  We believe in giving back and building up people around us who are in need.

 A FAVORITE, OR TWO, RECIPE

Both Deepa and I hail from the Sindhi community in India, and our favorite Sunday indulgence is Koki, a whole wheat, spiced pancake. You could eat that with some chilled yoghurt or mango pickle or some Dum Aloo (potato dish) famously from the region of Kashmir. I follow British-Indian chef and author Maunika Gowardhan @cookinacurry and these recipes are from her blog.

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Sindhi Koki

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

150gms whole wheat flour

1 medium red onion finely chopped

2 green chillies (or less if you prefer it mild)

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp pomegranate powder

80gms coriander leaves finely chopped

1 tbsp softened butter

Salt to taste

125mls water

Vegetable oil for frying

Method

In a bowl mix the flour, chopped onions, chillies, cumin seeds, pomegranate powder and coriander leaves. Add the softened butter and salt. Mix well and add the water little at a time to make a soft and slightly sticky dough. Knead well and divide into equal portions.

The koki should be still thick so roll the dough out to no more 8cm in diameter. Heat the pan. Add the koki to the warm pan. Cook for 5-7 seconds over medium heat and turn over to cook the underside. Add a tsp of oil on the top side and flip over again. Cook for a further minute on each side as it begins to change colour and has a few brown speckles on the bread. Keep warm wrapped in a cloth or foil while you make the rest. Serve warm with a pickle & some yoghurt or a curry.

Kashmiri Dum Aloo

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

60gms cashew nuts

18-20 small new potatoes peeled

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 medium white onion finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

1” piece of ginger finely chopped

200gms greek yoghurt lightly whisked

1 ½ tsp kashmiri chilli powder (or mild paprika)

1 tsp fennel powder

½ tsp cumin powder

2 tbsp tomato puree

150mls water

½ tsp ground cardamom powder

Salt to taste

1 tsp crushed dried fenugreek leaves (optional)

1 tbsp coriander leaves for garnish

Slivers of ginger for garnish

Method

Soak the cashew nuts in warm water for 20 mins. Prick the new potatoes with a fork lightly (this helps them cook all the way through). Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a wok or kadhai. Add the potatoes and fry for 3-4 minutes until they turn crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper & set aside.

Whisk the yoghurt and mix in the chilli powder, fennel powder and cumin powder. Stir the spiced yoghurt and set aside.

Drain most of the water from the cashew nuts; blend the cashew nuts to a fine puree. Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the kadhai. Add the chopped onions and sauté until they begin to soften for 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and ginger and fry for a couple of minutes as it cooks. Turn the heat to a low setting and add the spiced yoghurt. Stir well for a minute and add the cashew nut paste. Stir for 2-3 mins. Tip in the tomato puree and stir for a further 2 minutes.

As the curry starts to leave oil from the sides of the pan add the fried potatoes, water and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 mins stirring ever so often until the potatoes have soaked in the flavours and cooked all the way through. Add the cardamom powder, crushed methi/fenugreek leaves if using, fresh coriander and ginger. Stir and serve warm.

BLOGS/ INSTAGRAM/ WEBSITES YOU FOLLOW

WWD, Business of Fashion, Vogue India, Man Repeller, Chiara Ferragni, Alessandro Michele, Priyanka Chopra, Deliciously Ella and many more

 All photos courtesy of Jay and Deepa Lakhani.

THURSDAY MUSINGS: ALLIANCE FRANCAISE DE CHICAGO 2018 SYMPOSIUM ON THE ARTS OF FRANCE

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A room in the Wrightsman Galleries at the Met, i have spend many, many hours here they are beyond perfection. The subject of the June 6th program. Photo from Pinterest credit unknown

Spring always brings one of Chicago’s most anticipated events the Alliance Francaise de Chicago’s Symposium on the Arts of France. I was fortunate to attend the first in the series of three last week. The lecture was bittersweet, it was to be presented by the incredible, Jean Goldman, who recently passed away. Jean had long been a major supporter of the Alliance in so very many, many ways and her knowledge was unparalleled, her presentations were always perfection, you learned something new each time…her expertise, humor and joie de vivre keep you riveted to her every word.  I was honored to call her friend…we had many long lunches, four hours was not unheard of, at the charming Ikram Cafe, chatting about anything and everything. Fortunately, for the attendees of the symposium she had prepared her illustrated lecture and it was delivered, perfectly, I might add, by Lisa Wainwright, currently Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The title was ”Stately Mansions and the not quite so Stately Life Therein: A Peek Behind the Closed Doors: Pomp, Intrigue and Les Liaisons Dangereuses”.  After the superb presentation, we had a delicious lunch from Jewell Events Catering, one would expect nothing less from the renowned caterer admired the always glorious blooms from Green.  A perfect afternoon, the one element missing, Jean Goldman, but everyone felt her smiling at us.

You have a chance to attend the next two presentations by registering for the 11:30 presentations, which are in English, (the individual lecture tickets are $45.00, The Patron luncheons are sold-out well in advance), by visiting Alliance Francaise de ChicagoEC8BE9BA-3DE7-4360-956C-1DFB08B0400A

Be sure to be put on the list for the 2019 Symposium. While you are at it request to be put on the Alliance’s mailing and email list for programs, classes and all manner of year-round celebrations. It is worthwhile exploring all they have to offer.  It is a wonderful organization.

IT’S MAY!!!!!

DB331CCA-ABA2-4FC2-8F46-A2924C2BF3E6A short post on this the first of May. By now you know my Lily of the Valley obsession….it doesn’t stop with objects, oh no it doesn’t…it continues to art, much of which I have shared with you, and for purposes for this report…..needlepoint, lots of needlepoint. More on that in a future nenasnotes. The above photo is a close up of the center of a small rug 2’ x 3’ that I designed and worked from a chart. I prefer working from charts rather than painted pieces, just my preference. I have done both, having created hundreds of pieces over the yesrs. This particular work was done in 1974 (it is signed and dated) and has been a wall hanging, a small area rug and now rests on the back of one of my loveseats. I think i have shown a glimpse in other photos of my home.

It is tradition to hang a May basket on your front door as well as your neighbors and other friends. I say let’s bring back that tradition….it is charming!!!!  Happy May!