BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: MORE TO CELEBRATE BLACK HISTORY MONTH…BLACK AUTHORS ON FASHION…

With my friend and author of two extraordinarily books…SUPREME MODELS and SUPREME ACTRESSES, Marcellas Reynolds. We are pictured at the launch of SUPREME MODELS for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club. We launched SUPREME ACTRESSES virtually last fall. We go way back to his modeling days…I’m so very proud of his successes. What’s next, Marcellas??!!

Two superb books on the inner workings of the fashion industry by TERI AGINS, another author I had the pleasure to host for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club with her book, HIJACKING THE RUNWAY.

No list would be complete without including the books by ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY….and I’ll bet there will be more on him by biographers…stay alert for those!

Lots more….here are the covers of a sampling of interesting fashion subjects, not in any particular order…

An amazing ground breaking woman to know….she was the first Black female millionaire and set the stage for others.
Josephine Baker, a major force in so many ways…an American who went to France where she became a huge star, was in the French Resistance, adopted 12 children…and for our fashion theme was the entertainer in the French segment of The Battle of Versailles fashion show…wore and loved Haute Couture! Her story is definitely worth knowing.

I’m doing one more post to celebrate Black History Month…it will feature a true Renaissance Man, JEFFREY BANKS, the talented award winning designer who has become a noted author of some of the most beautiful, informational monographs on fashion…that is what I will present to you. I did a nenasnotes post on Jeffrey in 2018. I am honored to call him a dear friend and look forward to sharing his oeuvre with you!

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: BLACK FASHION DESIGNERS/INFLUENCERS PART 2

THE ACCOMPANYING CATALOG FROM THE COSTUME COUNCIL OF THE CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM EXHIBITION….A MUST HAVE FOR YOUR FASHION LIBRARY. THE STORY OF A MAJOR FASHION INFLUENCER, A WOMAN WHO BROUGHT THE GLAMOUR OF FASHION THROUGH HER DYNAMIC FASHION SHOWS TO EVERYONE…EUNICE JOHNSON

I want to continue celebrating Black History Month highlighting books on Black fashion designers and influencers. I know I am only touching the surface and encourage you to seek out these remarkable stories, interest you to read these books, add them to your expanding fashion library and most importantly enrich your knowledge of many unsung talents and their fascinating stories. I’m also including notable Black authors whose books explore the intricate fashion business….there will will be a Part 3. Do share other books that I’m not including. First, let’s acknowledge more designers…

One of the great designers….and an original voice and beyond compare creators….truly a must have book! This book accompanies the exhibition that will be at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts from June 22nd through November 6th.
Another exhibition catalog on the “founder” of street culture…Willi Smith a major contributor to the American fashion canon! So much information about a designer we must not ignore.
You should definitely know his name…he was one of the five American designers in the fashion show that put American designers on the world scene…The Battle of Versailles! Stephen Burrows helped make this part of fashion history. And speaking of The Battle of Versailles be sure to put Robin Givhan’s book at the top of your list….not only did the show spotlight American designers but also a bevy of exquisite Black models who showed their garments in a modern, easy style also not seen before. Here the book (also a documentary!) I’ll do several books on Black models in Part 3.
A newcomer and a fashion force to be acknowledged, Rihanna….
Other trend setting designers you need to know, Daniel R.Day known as Dapper Dan…..and Oswald Boateng, who is in the process of making a comeback….also check out his story A Man’s Story documentary on YouTube.

And, of course, the iconic Virgil Abloh’s books…Figures of Speech exhibition, mounted by Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art is traveling to the Brooklyn Museum from July 1, 2022 through January 29, 2023….an exciting unique exhibition, not to be missed! Three Abloh books (and I’m sure more to come)! A talent whose legacy will live on with the designers he mentored.

I think I’ll stop here…so many more to delve into…stay tuned for Part 3!

AN UPCOMING SPECIAL EVENT…

Mary J. Blige, Super Bowl half time show.

Who says you can’t be sexy at 51….obviously Mary J. Blige blew that theory away at this year’s spectacular Super Bowl half time show. Her performance dynamic and the costume….ah yes that outfit! I’m obsessed with the boots! Guess what the designer, Peter Dundas is this year’s The Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum Designer of Excellence! The event is Wednesday, May 4 at The Langham, Chicago. Mark your calendar now…it’s sure to be a sold out event. Stay tuned for more details…..

Peter Dundas

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: BLACK FASHION DESIGNER BOOKS PART 1

To celebrate Black History Month….in fact every month, I wanted to share some books by and about Black fashion designers and other Black fashion/beauty/lifestyle influencers. I’m very happy to say it is a long list and I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface. In today’s post I’m going to feature two of the fashion designers. This is a diverse group of creators and they span three centuries. At a time when we seem to be in a “cancel culture” mode I want to upset that notion….I am a FIRM believer that we must know history….the good, the bad, the ugly….to understand our world, how to not make the same mistakes, how to grow and improve…and how to maintain the positive! I can’t even comprehend the absurdity of banning books…talk about going backward, how can we learn without all opinions! Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox…my blog has and will continue to be a safe zone from the politics of the day.

Here we go….I’m going to begin with the first Black designer of note, Elizabeth Keckley, dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln and Washington DC socialites. Her story is beyond fascinating, born into slavery she bought her freedom through her dressmaking…extraordinary. There are several books about her, an autobiography, a biography and several novels, I would suggest all of them. Here is a story that needs to be absorbed and, in my opinion is as important as the beginning of Haute Couture and Charles Worth. What makes that a comparison is the period of time when they were creating. Everyone knows about The House of Worth…in my humble opinion, now is the time, long over due, to shine the spotlight on Elizabeth Keckley! An amazing grouping of books, I’m sure you agree…all worthy of additions to your fashion library.

Next, let’s explore the relatively unknown creator of Jacqueline Bouvier’s gown when she married Jack Kennedy, Ann Cole Lowe! Lowe not only produced an extraordinary bridal gown (under the patronage of Joseph Kennedy!) but the gowns for the entire wedding party. Already a known designer for New York and Washington movers and shakers….Ann Lowe was not credited for these gowns! I am featuring two books, the only two I could find, keep you eyes out for a novel to be published on June 22, 2022, the last image

I featured a book by Petra Slinkard in my monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club….both these designers are highlighted in this extraordinary book…another to add to your library

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Books…Books…Books: Black Fashion Designer Books posts next week. Lots more to explore.

PROFILE: STEVEN STOLMAN…A MAN OF STYLE

STEVEN STOLMAN AT LEISURE

I am pleased to introduce you to a true legend in the design world, Steven Stolman, who will be discussing the book he co-authored with John Kurdewan, Bill Cunningham’s right hand man at the New York Times. The book BILL CUNNINGHAM WAS THERE SRING FLINGS +SUMMER SOIRÉES, along with Steven, will be the subject of an upcoming Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum event on Wednesday, March 16th (I’m doing a separate post on the invitation details and a brief review of the book later today!)….the book is a must have in your fashion/lifestyle library. It’s a stunner. Steven, thank you so much for letting us have a glimpse into your life.

Steven and husband, Rich Wilkie

I asked Steven to respond to my questionnaire, I know you will enjoy his answers….here you go

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB

If you mean first ever, it would have been an ice cream scooper at Baskin-Robbins in West Hartford, CT. If you mean after college, it would have been as a PR lacky at Albert Nipon on Seventh Avenue in NYC.

BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR MOST RECENT OCCUPATION

After stepping down as president of Scalamandré, the renowned textiles house, I went out on my own as a freelance PR and marketing consultant, specific to the design world.

WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER THE FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT

I could always draw. In junior high school, I was lucky enough to have an art teacher who recognized that and nurtured it.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN

Being inducted into the CFDA, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and being invited to The White House as a member of the organization.

HOW YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BROUGHT YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW

I have always been a strong designer and wordsmith. It’s just what I do- and something I do pretty much everyday. 

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

Definitely a journalist.

YOUR FAVORITE BOOK,

Dominick Dunne’s “The Way We Lived Then”

MOVIE,

“Indiscreet” with Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant

FAVORITE FORM OF THEATER

Definitely Broadway musicals, and specifically Stephen Sondheim’s “Company”

TYPE OF MUSIC YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO

Broadway musicals

FAVORITE LOCAL RESTAURANT

Gibson’s

FAVORITE WORK OF PUBLIC ART

I view the John Hancock building as a public work of art. For my entire life, it has defined Chicago.

HOBBIES….

They don’t call me the Serial Entertainer for nothing. During normal times, I am a relentless host. It runs in my family.

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

Always a mix. The great Bunny Williams says that a great room should be like a salad- a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Otherwise, it looks like a showroom. 

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)

I just don’t think that way. I have a lot of friends who rhapsodize about legendary individuals, but I don’t. My fantasy (and reality) would be to be at a dinner with the people I love. 

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!)

London. Always London. For me, it’s exhilarating- walking through Fortnum & Mason- one of my earliest European memories- having Welsh Rarebit for lunch somewhere- and sitting at the bar at Scott’s in Mayfair for dinner. That’s my happy place.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING MOST IN YOUR FREE TIME?

At this point, the lines between work and leisure have been blurred. I do love writing, which I do for both work and pleasure. The same with cooking- if it’s for people that I love. My “zone” is setting the table. That’s also something I inherited from my family. My mom, especially, took such pride in setting a beautiful table. The simple act of doing it gives me great comfort.

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED

As a mensch.

INCLUDE A FAVORITE (OR TWO) RECIPE

PHOTO FROM FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES (a nenasnotes if you don’t subscribe to the New York Times Cooking newsletter and recipes do so NOW!)

Oh, jeez. Wonderful New York Times Cooking editor Sam Sifton had a thing for my recipe for Chicken Provençal, which isn’t really a recipe but a preparation. It was among the most popular recipes at The Times for that year.https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/magazine/the-enduring-appeal-of-roasted-chicken-provencal.html

“This is a recipe I picked up from Steven Stolman, a clothing and interior designer whose “Confessions of a Serial Entertainer” is a useful guide to the business and culture of dinner parties and general hospitality. It is a perfect dinner-party meal: chicken thighs or legs dusted in flour and roasted with shallots, lemons and garlic in a bath of vermouth and under a shower of herbes de Provence. They go crisp in the heat above the fat, while the shallots and garlic melt into sweetness below. You could serve with rice, but I prefer a green salad and a lot of baguette to mop up the sauce. — Sam Sifton”

I also make a mean vinaigrette, which baffles me because it is so basic. But people freak every time I serve it.

VINAIGRETTE

1 big spoonful of Dijon mustard

1 small finely chopped shallot

1 splash of cider vinegar

1 pinch coarse salt

A few grinds of black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients EXCEPT the olive oil in a coffee mug. Blend thoroughly with a fork.

Then, slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking with a fork until creamy and emulsified. Taste for balance. You don’t want it too sharp or too oily. If you can’t determine that, you should not be cooking.

Toss with a few heads of freshly washed and thoroughly dried Boston lettuce. Add a final bit f salt and pepper and toss again. Pile high on pretty salad plates. That’s it.

FAVORITE LINKS YOU WANT ME TO INCLUDE

The Instagram accounts that I find inspiring are:

Bunnys_eye (Interior designer Bunny Williams)

Douglasfriedman (Interiors photographer Douglas Friedman)

BLOGS YOU FOLLOW

My sister Stacey’s blog! She’s a professional chef and food stylist with her own studio kitchen in South Portland, ME.

It’s https://goodriddancekitchen.com/

I thought I’d close with a photo of Steven and Rich on a glorious warm day…far from our current Chicago deep freeze!

All photos with the exception of the chicken and vinaigrette are courtesy of Steven Stolman.

BOOKS…BOOKS…BOOKS: AN EVENT… BILL CUNNINGHAM WAS THERE

Bill at work, photo featured in the book.

Don’t we all miss the wonderful Bill Cunningham photos that appeared in The New York Times…I say, yes, yes we do! Not only was he there but on his trusty bicycle, he was everywhere! Over the years he chronicled the Who’s Who of fashion and society like no one else. A new book takes us inside these photos. And lucky us we can join the Costume Council when they welcome co-author Steven Stolman at a very special program on Wednesday, March 16th.

CO-AUTHORS, STEVEN STOLMAN AND JOHN KURDEWAN PHOTOGRAPHED BY BILL CUNNINGHAM

I just did a post to introduce you to Steven Stolman, please check it out. The co-author, John Kurdewan, Bill’s right hand man and a person who knew him best, was at his side when laying out those pages that drew us to the Style section of the New York Times each Sunday. One of the things I like about the book…..well several things…are the quotes from Bill, never one to mince words or thoughts….brilliant! In addition there are essays by Stolman and Kurdewan and the brilliant forward by the extraordinary artist Ruben Toledo.

BILL AND JOHN AT WORK

Do we need yet another book on the uber talented Bill Cunningham, seeing this book…the answer, is again, a resounding yes, yes, we do! Full color photos, I really didn’t realize he did so much in color and I followed him like I was in a cult! He chronicled not only the social functions but street fashion and current and upcoming trends without regard to where it was coming from. Of course, he covered all the fashion weeks as well as Haute Couture. His was a totally original eye! The book is divided into categories each begins with a quote from Bill. He indeed had a eye like no one else and when he saw a color, a silhouette, a pattern more than once he would see what else was out there with those themes….brilliant. He saw tends before they became trends. He seemed to be everywhere in New York on his bicycle and in his blue Frenchman’s work top. I had the wonderful experience of working with him for Fashion Group events when he was designing millinery as well as spending time, off camera, visiting New York’s museums and landmarks and enjoy his running commentary on everything that interested him…..good times!

A quote from Bill in the book…”I let the street talk to me. I try to find what’s honestly there….I just enjoy life and enjoy what I do”. Bill Cunningham, July 19, 2015

The invitation…details of this special Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum event…book now…it’s an event you won’t wait to miss!

Please note date change:

March 16, 2022
Woman’s Athletic Club of Chicago
626 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

VIP and general receptions 5:30 p.m.
Program 6:30 p.m.
Wine & hors d’oeuvre will be served

Join the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum for a presentation on the book Bill Cunningham Was There by its authors. The five-star book follows the famed New York Times photographer who chronicled society and fashion with his images of the vibrant events of spring and summer. Guests will enjoy a presentation by the one of the book’s coauthors: Steven Stolman, design and entertaining icon.

Sponsors and Costume Council Patron members are invited to attend a VIP meet-and-greet book signing with the authors preceding the event.

Reservations are limited, so don’t hesitate to purchase your ticket!

Due to Covid, this event has been postponed to Wednesday, March 16.Purchase Tickets

Co-Chairs: Gabriela Cleveland & Pauline Kurtides Sheehan

Proper attire required; athletic apparel and denim are not permitted.

Event attendees are welcome to purchase additional signed books for $40 apiece. If you wish to do so, please contact Nell McKeown at mckeown@chicagohistory.org or 703-403-1482.

Questions? Contact Nell McKeown, Development Events Manager, at mckeown@chicagohistory.org.

The Chicago History Museum and Woman’s Athletic Club of Chicago are following all state and local Covid-19 guidelines. Masks will be required when not eating or drinking. Learn more about the Museum’s safety policies and procedures.

Photos courtesy of Steven Stolman.