VICTOR SKREBNESKI AN ODE TO AN ICON PART 1

 

5C04D415-A736-4643-BC4C-6FA333674B20
Victor’s Birthday Dinner Chez Ivon long ago.  One of my favorite photos of us. My photo, published for the first time

Sweetheart, Baby, Angel, Dearest, Darling…..(each comma represents a pause!) how I will miss these words on my phone early on so many mornings….followed by “Its Victor”…my answer, always, who else would it be!  And always notes for reasons or just a hello….he did those for many of his friends, I treasure mine.

080FDE6A-0F2C-4168-ACE1-90481D1EE521

This was our greeting for decades.  Was each and every decade stress free, of course not, no relationship no matter how close you are doesn’t have bumps and, yes, we had bumps, but the “bumpless” times were so very special.  I wanted to share all the good times…and there were many!

E6BACBBC-B29E-4606-98B8-CFB82D78FE2CAt a Fashion Group International Chicago gala honoring the Ferragamos  Photo credit: Robert Carl.

My dear, special friend of so many, many years and so many, many memories, left us this year on April 4th to join his dear family and friends such as Hubert de Givenchy, Estée Lauder, Joan Weinstein, Jovanna Papadakis to name just a few to make Heaven even more glamorous…….you know he is busy organizing the angels into perfect photo shoots…on that you can be sure.

25AC383B-4326-4C4D-A34E-5EA66B1E9EDE

Shown with Estée Lauder, photo credit unknown.

In retrospect, I can’t remember when we first became friends nor why we were comfortable sharing confidences and champagne, but we were and we did!!  Over many, many dinners at RL and La Scarola (the last time I saw him was at dinner there) or my home, we talked about anything and everything.
0CDCA09B-149B-4FC6-A4B6-085928EECECEAn afternoon benefit at the Chicago Hilton, photo credit unknown.

We often went to events together and he was sure to include me when he was receiving many of his  special honors.

Back in the discotheque days….the 1960’s/1970’s we would meet, along with everyone else, on the weekends at the Disc de Maxim’s, I supplied the dresses for the DJ…it was the place to see and be seen.  Or the evenings spent listening to Bobby Short or Shelley MacArthur at the Gold Sardine Bar.  Great fun times.

Nancy Goldberg’s Maxim’s de Paris at the Astor Towers.  Beyond gorgeous…here the staircase from the main floor into the restaurant and the dance floor.

Photos found on Pinterest credit unknown.

I had the honor of planning the special dinner at the Chicago Cultural Center after he received his Honorary Degree from Columbia College Chicago, one of the only times that a degree was  bestowed outside of Graduation ceremonies making it even more special.

C33D1F9D-E911-41CA-BECA-6412C607EC3C
1995 Columbia College Chicago Honorary Degree evening.  Photographer unknown. From my collection.

Lucky me that I became a friend of one of the major artists of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

When did this friendship begin…I can’t pin point the exact year, Victor was a well known photographer and Major Influencer when I started at Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago.  I think the first time I was invited into his Circle of Friends was at the Chicago premier of the 1969 film The Damed.  I was invited to a private screening at the screening room at The Chicago Theater and to the reception after.  It was a small group at the screening…the movie was eagerly anticipated and I was beyond thrilled to be included.  Well, dear friends, I don’t shock easily but I must tell you, I was beyond shocked by the film, so much so I have never seen it again.  Since it was such a small group I couldn’t get up and leave.  I guess I should like it, I do admire Visconti’s work. Well there is more to this story…the reception was upstairs at Gene & Georgetti’s (I’m so pleased they are back with us after their fire and the “plague” closings).  As you got to the top of the stairs you were immersed in the decadent “Cabaret Scene” from the film, I was beside myself.  Perhaps if I hadn’t been so undone by the film I might have found it less distasteful and across the room was one of the stars, Helmut Berger who kept staring at me….gave me chills!  If you haven’t seen the film do so and you will get what I’m talking about.  I wonder if I’ll find it not as shocking now???!!!

Flash forward to 1984 when I received a telegraph (remember those) from Town and Country requesting that I report to the Skrebneski Studio on such and such a date at such and such a time to have my photo taken for an upcoming story in the magazine on The Costume Council of the Chicago Historical Society (as the  Museum was called then) .  Victor did exquisite editorial spreads for T&C for years, some of my most favorite images are from those issues.  Well, of course, I thought this was some kind of a joke.  I immediately called Dennis Minkel, Victor’s Assistant and a long time dear friend of mine.  I had been working with him on many shoots when they needed clothing and/or accessories.  He assured me it wasn’t a joke and to wear a favorite dress, preferably a day garment since the other Executive Committee members would be in cocktail and evening gowns.  They would supply the hair and makeup artists and the jewelry.  I was stunned, excited, honored and perplexed being the only “non-socialite” in the group.  I was, at the time serving as Acquisitions Chair.  As I recall I was the last shoot of the day.  I arrived as scheduled in my “uniform” a mock turtleneck black chemise by Adolfo.  My hair was long at the time and it was fashioned into a classic French Twist.  I am photographed in front of period gowns from the Costume Collection in a double page spread.  Let’s talk a minute about how Victor worked, the set ups took time but he knew exactly what shot he wanted and where the fold of the magazine would happen, therefore the two pages always were seamless not so with other photographers nor magazine editors.  Just one example of his brilliance.  And it’s one shot and done.  The photo looks quite simple, it was anything but….to get the angle he wanted, and by the way he loved profiles….so that is how you see me, I don’t love my profile but who am I to say…he had positioned my legs in an awkward position, so much so that I pulled a muscle.  I don’t think I ever told him that!!!!  My hair looks dark due to the dramatic Skrebneski lighting.  Lighting was one of his signatures.  And here is the finished photo

1B7FCB0F-2C91-459A-B330-EE1E24B5AE5EThis framed copy was on my office wall from 1984 until I retired in 2009, it is now part of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.  All of us were taken to Les Nomades for an elegant dinner with the T&C editors and a bottle of Kristal was sent to each of us with a lovely note.  What an extraordinary once in a lifetime experience…..I, of course, thought this was my one and only Skrebneski photo session…..wrong again…..

83076FFA-E190-41B7-80F1-EADEC314D5FD

Stay tuned for Part 2 and probably Part 3 of this story.

 

Advertisements

I’M BACK….AT LEAST I THINK I AM!

85797724-10C3-49BB-AAC4-DD7BD96F6775

My apologies for all the spasmodic posts.  I have been telling you I have been working on my iPad since my PC died!  Guess what I now have a MacBook Pro (on loan, I am learning its nuances) and I am in heaven!!!  In addition, Facebook decided it wanted a separation from Word Press….I think I have figured that out as well, we shall see, I know a lot of my readers follow me on Facebook.

B0A01A41-86B0-4D60-8336-1683105DE238

What have I been up to, well, the Fall semester at Columbia College Chicago starts Labor Day week so I am in syllabus revision mode, doing that wasn’t an option on my iPad.  nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club is fully booked for the next few months with extraordinary authors and books.  This month is NORELL: MASTER OF AMERICAN FASHION by Jeffrey Banks, too exciting for words.

3CB8316B-AB93-483E-9E14-21E110C74467

You are going to be very impressed with the Profiles I have to share with you on nenasnotes in the next few weeks and zillions of books to recommend some really good ones. I will continue my Wednesday musings and my collections stories as well.  Not only does Labor Day bring the new school semester (and on my mind’s eye calendar, the new year!) but also brings us a month of Spring 2019 fashion from New York, London, Milan and Paris, I will give you my thoughts on what I see as the major trends.

A3489275-AE20-43E5-ACBC-2F1F3A2A61F9

Can’t get enough of me….Sally Schwartz, the extraordinary guru of The Randolph Street Market has commissioned me to write two monthly posts, one on fashion trends and one on collectibles, for the RSM newsletter.  All new, nothing has appeared on nenasnotes.  July and August have been posted if you are interested go to their website to read Denim, Blue and White, Prints in Fashion and Vinyl (records)! And for more of RSM mark your calendar for next weekend, August 25 and 26 from 10 to 5 each day, a perfect way to spend a special day in the City hunting for treasures. Of course you can also follow me on Instagram and Pinterest, just saying!

My photo, taken by my dear friend, Tom Mantel, from my current scrapbook entries, all others from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

PROFILE: ME!!!

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

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

Here goes….

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

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

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD MADE IT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guest List (in alphabetical order):

Fred Astaire

Cecil Beaton

Gabrielle Chanel

Christian Dior

Carl Faberge

Lucile Duff Gordon

Christian Lacroix

Française Lasage

Norman Norell

Irving Penn

Paul Poiret

Cole Porter

Stephen Sondheim

James Tissot

Diana Vreeland

Vita Sackville-West

Else de Wolff

Virginia Wolff

My Father (at one end of the table)

Me (at the other end of the table)

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

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

Cold beef consomme topped with sour cream and chives

Cold poached lobster

(Everyone changes seats here with another glass of champagne)

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

Micro greens with Tom Mantel’s secret vinaigrette salad dressing

Baked Alaska (my recipe)

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

Re_Nena_Ivon_018.jpg

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