Cafe, cigarettes, les belles et les bad boys: Fashion Week NYC 2011


This is the City, and this is the music. Out of the little black boxes an unending

river of romance in which the crocodiles weep.

Henry Miller, Black Spring

With the State of TV New Jersey opening up it's trench coat and exposing itself as the real-life Fellini movie it always was, I thought more about that Italia-Judiaica-Caligula State into which I was born and the drama-laced, life-as-a-movie diet spoon-fed to us from toddler size. How did the once-sacred ritual pleasures...morals, life, power, mirrored everything, coffee, tobacco and sex... become so profane in this Pocket of Purgatory aka The Garden State? And with all this can we find Modern Love? Sultry jazz music...up!

Mid-New Jersey circa 1972:

At breakfast, my sister and I were served OJ between the parental, coffee-gulping run-down of the previous night’s antics. Served up was stuff such as,”Can you believe Kathleen, the “They-Must-Be-Mafia neighbor’s wife, a former Miss New Jersey and fashion model” straddled an intruder and shot him in the nether parts?” Or for dinner, with along with Gentle Giant peas and Chicken of The Sea salmon croquettes, “Hey, looks like Bubby, (aka a friend’s father turned felon on the run) had to leave the neighborhood and take another name in Europe!”

The regular chorus between headline stories, of warbling rampant adulterers, swingers, lesbian wife to wife swappers and a father (not mine) whose day job was that of a pin-striped pimp raiding the shopping malls for fresh Jersey girls, were animated characters lined up regularly onto the stage sets of mirrored and plastic everything. Gold spray-painted decor accents of dead nature were in abundance, wealth trophies like bear rugs with plastic, black, glinty eyes and sleepy, dusty  flower arrangements whose very garish being-ness itself seemed somehow directly responsible for the tragedies surrounding my young sensitivities.

Jersey Giant Mirrors

Sense of Place begets Art begets Morals and Ritual. Now the whole world knows this about New Jersey from TV. Just to place this rant in real-time, here is the home of Loretta Abrams, mother of my best friend growing up, nowadays living in LA and a Youtube star, (of course, because her daughter became Barbara Streisand’s personal assistant…) Just to give you a taste, Come. Take The Tour. (pronounced “Too-Oar”)

Not Just Nucky in The Good Ole Summertime…

From about age 14, we took our summer fun in Atlantic City, gambling and gamboling under, over and through the boardwalk and thus my smirk over James Wolcott’s October Vanity Fair article title, “Barbarians at The Shore,” referring to the latest Jersey Giant TV star-to-be, Steve Buscemi’s Nucky, of the new HBO series, Boardwalk Empire, set in Atlantic City. After my parents’ divorce, my father became an Atlantic City blackjack dealer who even played a bit role as himself in the film “Donny Brasco,” so for me, the Nucky’s, Snooki’s, Tony’s and Barbarini’s are the legendary Les Belles et Les Bad Boys of My Past. Their names ring musically  for me like fellow Aries and my favorite author, Henry Miller’s famous litany of his childhood friends, icons of his Brooklyn youth sung to in his novel “Black Spring.”

I am a patriot–of the Fourteenth Ward, Brooklyn, where I was raised. The rest of the United States doesn’t exist for me, except as idea, or history, or literature. But I was born in the street and raised in the street. ‘The post-mechanical open street where the most beautiful and hallucinating iron vegetation,’… “Born under the sign of Aries which gives a fiery, active, energetic and somewhat restless body. With Mars in the ninth house!”

Myself an energetic, restless Patriot of Reality of a Place called New Jersey, always shadowing yet hugging Mythical Manhattan, I am grateful Life is really lived through our dreams and perspectives. Thankfully my own street of dreams has always been radar attuned and expanded beyond the vacuous NJ cheerleaders and practitioners of loosely-understood bohemian principles and resulting profanities that surrounded.

From a young age I was self-soothing against the drama of Jersey by dreaming and living in a Timeless Place where rituals of art, delicate beauty, love and honor in the lives of Artists, Designers, Inventers, Humanitarian Visionaries and Wandering Bohemes prevailed.  My dramas were friends comforting each other with parades of the beautiful, gritty and funny through real rituals of cafe, coffee, cigarettes of Life deeply inhaled, propelled by The Grandest Dreams.

September Fashion Week Parade, Spring 2011, New York City

I once read in Joan DeJean‘s book, “The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour,” that Louis the 14th invented street lamps which rendered the city’s night streets safe from hoodlums and drama which then in turn beget cafe society, nightclubs, boites, champagne and new mysterious hours to indulge in the Dionysian rites of imbibed stimulants and intoxicants to an amped up level.  This month seemed to seal my borderless purveyance over a well-lit global street of dreams, with the 24-hour darting in and out of cabs and crosswalks, with our clients in New York City for Fashion Week, hailing from Italy, France, Brazil and Miami (a country just like NJ…thank you!)

Les belles and le bad boys, coffee, cigarettes, parades of beautiful clothes on the stages of Lincoln Center. The characters included glamour from Milan, Dedi and daughter Francesca, fashion shows with our stylist and blogger client, Dame Lori, and Sasha, The Madonna Pop Princess of Russia. Les Bad Boys…smoking tons of cigarettes…included clients Claude Serieux, Parisian DJ and Sound Producer and coffees with Greg Melvin, visionary of Babalu Miami and Emmanuel Rengade of Brazil. Together it felt like the layered time and place vignettes of a Jarmusch film weaving together.

Not just vacuous La Belle, but La Belle as in The Queen, The Beautiful and not just Bad Boy, like gangster or P. Diddy but Bad Boy like Mr. Big, The Good Daddy, The Powerful and Most Magnanimous to the best and brightest possibilities of creative wealth.

End of month, all of them having all gone back, I immersed my resulting cold and flu in the intoxicating drug of matzo-ball soup deliveries and re-watching old favorite movies, such as “Breathless” and “Fellini’s City Of Women” and “Coffee and Cigarettes.”

Come, Take the Tour.

Golden Rule of Lions

If Le Bad boy Louis 14, the Sun King of Paris, was the inventor of larger mirrors than hand held in which to see his glory, surely the Sun Queen of NYC is DVF, Diane von Furstenberg, even her invite suggested so, as the collection was called Goddess. The show was a parade of essential Summer bright prints floating fabrics on lithe bods for endless Days into Nights on yachts at Cap Ferrat, Brazilian beaches and infinity pools on Spanish Islands, such as the August-drenched Holy daze my visiting friends just shook off. (Atlantic City???)

The European gift of mirrors to African kings is said to have begun the slave trade and one week spent inside Fashion Week’s new “Tents” at Lincoln Center, one sees well the power of mirrors to seduce or mislead.  La Belle Sarah Jessica Parker and Le Bad Boy Anderson Cooper buss kissed in front of us in the front row as we chatted with Michael Fink, formerly of the women’s buyer at Saks, formerly front row, now the Dean of the School of Fashion Design of Savannah College of Art and Design, happy as us to be there, even way in the back row. No matter, back row and backstage can sometimes be glorious, as it was a few years ago when I sat in on Timothy Greenfield Sanders photo shoot for his book, LOOK. Backstage, this year, at Diane, The Goddess of Sunshine and Fashion Presided.

We were invited to the DVF show by Alex de Betak, the producer of the show, friend of Claude Serieux, our DJ and Sound Producer client. Here beams Diane and model, Elisa Sednaoui, backstage, one stop on Elisa’s backstage photo tour of Fashion Week, for New York magazine.

…and while they had their cigarette tete-a-tete in the rain after the show…I waited, checked the mobile and contemplated a favorite image of my Dad as a young Turk in my memory…as vivid as Belmondo in Breathless…while models, security, food service people and fashion heavies scurried to find umbrellas and cabs to get to the next shows on stages and in restos.

…and I wished for the sunshine days of DVF’s electric patterned “playsuits,” invented by Diane and her new Boy, Yvan with whom she designed the collection. As she wrote in the program, “It all started when we took our first walk together through Paris to see the Isadora Duncan show…” Even in a pouring rain storm, in the klieg-lit backstage bustle…I felt the heat, the tick of the tiny stones of Paris parks and yes, the flowing inspirations and scarves of that historic walk.

and I thought that Diane is The Goddess Heir to the Hall of Mirrors that Louis the 14th built…way before any NJ Housewife Went Wild with a Mirror…her wrap dresses and playsuits liberate through simple solutions in excessive patterns versus being excessive in semi-liberated patternings. There is a difference.

In a funny way Diane reigns and reminds me of The Sun King, life lived in super Technicolor and Mr. Big, Barry Diller style…another Belle and Bad Boy combo floating through my head.

By night, we perched like Golden Lion Kings on the balcony of NYC’s latest haute restaurant, invited by The Waverly Inn God Himself, Chef and Co-Owner, John de Lucie, over his wateringhole lined with Basquiats, the Warholas and the drama outtakes from The Daily News archives, both in photos on the walls and the Bold-Faced names among and below us and those creeping into the private party door by our table. I had the divine lobster pot pie and beet salad between satisfying “Aha”, moments at the chummy convergence of our client Dame Lori, a “Soul Stylist” and a cross between Marilyn Monroe, Chaka Khan and Dr. Ruth, as she flirted with Claude, who, like all Frenchmen…know how to charm a lady. I myself surrrrrendered to this huge David La Chappelle image in the lady’s powder room in the private dining area…God and Goddess both help the man who dines here with me and some champagne, after I trot back to the table.

Coffee Cultura

Invited to a street fair in the rain only works effortlessly with the host being Nespresso, The Elegant Italian Kings of Coffee Contained. White tents of Coffee and Champagne in multiple recipe incarnations and combinations were flowing where a wide awake eye of Nespresso photographer Sylvere Azoulai presided over the mini-tubs of brain-gold-rush.

BySylvere and Corinne Tapia

Look at this BeSpeckled, BeLovely Belle and Bad Boy combo! Like the Starship Enterprise it is, Nespresso branded food, ladies in matched silvery dresses and choreography proffered the Mayan elixir goods, the goody bags, the food inside and in tents outside…everything was cranked up like an Eighties party. The ball was packed with belles such as Corinne Tapia, owner of Sous les Etoiles gallery, Leslie Morrison Faerstein, Executive Director of Musicians On Call and the rust silk-swathed PR Goddess in charge, who went wild online purchasing gifts and ecstatically telling us about it, at Babalu Miami, the shop owned by my client and friend Greg Melvin. It’s a super-fun luxury convenience store in 1111 Lincoln Road, the new, buzzed-about, retro-fitted parking lot Herzog & de Meuron building. Greg and I spoke with Real Game, Mr. Big Boys such as the very elegant President of Nespresso North America, Frederic Levy and Dr. Friedrich W. von Tucher, COO of LucaLuca, while models presided over the stations of food, drink everything made with coffee.

Greg and I had a blast, clearly separated at birth, with similar childhoods full of Drama. Our stories were only topped by the 10 foot tall seafood (very NJ and Miami) 4 level tiered extravaganzas at Balthazar where we went to settle all the coffee and champagne we absorbed at Nespresso with food actually not made with coffee.

We closed Balthazar and even the streets were gleaming like Nespresso cups…just what do they put in there!?  Did I mention my caffeine-feuled revelation that the soundtrack to Breathless was the parent of Sex and The City theme…and then…what about that hilarious Women’s Liberation Goddess Convention and scene where the girl techno-disco-harpies were car-chasing Snaporaz in Fellini’s “City of Women?” I always dream of that huge light bridge that was in the movie, is it morphic resonance? …or did I just have way too much coffee?

“City of Women,” is the perfect movie for Fashion Week. A hilarious, plotless Dream Journey from every angle, the rituals and drama of women and the men who desire them makes mince meat of our foibles and fears. The film’s Mr. Big, Dr. Xavier Katzone and his Party-Girl wife (who lures objects such as coins and pearls into her vagina with telepathy) is both antidote and metaphor for New York’s Fashion Week stages and the world of suburban marriages featuring Desperate Housewives both. And their Decor.

Cynthia Rowley: Les Belles NYC Heiress in line after Claire McCardell, Norma Kamali and DVF

Cynthia Rowley, Queen of Her Own New York, ie: cool surfer Mom Boheme, socialite version of Martha Stewart, did bubble dots for her collection in the manner of breastplates, armor and soft vulnerability as only a woman can design. With this collection, she began to touch on the esoteric beyond just applied design, which to me represented an evolution for her which I appreciated and put her in a linage beyond this current moment. I always like sheer fabrics and playing with flirting with what is and what is not, true drama being much more subtle.

Ode and Odyssey to Brazil

More dots and bubbles. At the end of a dark Apocalyptic Chelsea street, down a metal plank at the way bottom of a rusty ship called The Frying Pan, past the midget and giant tattoo’d doormen, girls trapezed like seahorses while bubble blowers cavorted. A John Cage-ish digital concerto called Ulysses’ Syndrome, 24 hours of random soundwaves picked up from a long-range antenna recording human, ocean and otherwise frequencies from the Mediterranean Sea composed by our friend Stephan Crasneanscki at Soundwalk was a deep dive into the drama of Transportation of Time and Space.

The Odyssey to this very event all began at a cocktail brunch party in Paris three years ago.  Mingling among omelettes, heirs to champagne fortunes and child advocates from UNESCO was myself and one Emmanuel Rengade, who recently left the world of finance to open a small unplugged and organic resort called Picinguaba in a national forest in Brazil. I was fascinated then by Emmanuel’s vision encompassing art, the land and the exquisiteness of experience. When he recently called us to introduce him to media, artist, tastemakers and developers in New York for his newly acquired 15,000 acre former coffee plantation called Fazenda Catucaba, miles from the beachside property…we leapt at the chance…and had to have him experience Soundwalk.

Emmanuel’s Fazenda is about an hour from Sao Paulo, Brazil, a major producer for coffee, the cultivation of which has been a source of semi-feudal oppression of Mayans but in-part built Brazil into the culture it is today. Thankfully the renewed respect for the land rise of philosophical and practical movements such as Slow Food, described by Bruce Sterling in a Metropolis magazine article, “Revenge of The Slow,” locates value in the simple, beautiful and in-touch with Nature’s wealth. He writes, “…obscure piece(s) of rural heritage (are) cunningly reengineered as a curated service/ product” and served back up as “valuable goods and services that rich people very much want to buy.” Flatlined, Mr. Big gone wrong, patriarchal economic system globalization and Reality TV be damned!

During a hailstorm, safe in the green jungle of Gramercy Park Hotel’s rooftop, I introduced the performance artist Pasha to Emmanuel because of his “Trans-Space” field-work projects originating in Brazil’s little explored Amazon region of Pa’Ra. He conducted a series of on-site performances and videos encompassed by his piece called entitled Pa’Ra – Vast Ocean and it was uncanny that both men adventured in this same region that is so unexplored. Not to mention Emmanuel’s dream of red houses in the landscape, without ever seeing Pasha’s work, and my chance meeting of both Emmanuel in Paris years ago and Pasha just the week before at a party proved once again a Greater Pattern and Design woven around our lives.

While the day turned dark and the hail hit the roof, we watched Pasha’s Odyssey in the Amazon, on his lap top, his film of running through the jungle as night arrived…talk about drama. As someone herself, who was forced marched in the Costa Rican jungle by her biologist boyfriend as night descended, howler monkey roars increased and the smell of panthers walked us out of the jungle…I bow to my Brazilian Brave Bad Boys.

Emmanuel conquered NYC’s Concrete Jungle with meetings we set up with editors and journalists from magazines such as Departures, Delta Sky, Robb Report, and of course, my current passion, for Domespace passive solar homes that rotate with the sun, which brought my friend Veronique Vencat in for audience with Emmanuel.

The Brazilian Coffee Stops Here, Bucky, Nucky…what did you say your name was Kid?

Like many New Yorkers, my nights have often ended at Coffee Shop on Union Square, open 24 hours and a fixture of the City for 20 years.  Whether it was a morning stop after the hip hop club next door or more recently, business meetings…Coffee Shop’s Brazilian fare and music have been intertwined.

Mixing Claude’s arcane music vision with Sasha, The Madonna of Russia’s belle cantos is brewing some kind of NY love to come. Stay tuned…meanwhile, crazy sacred talk of Kabbala rituals of red string, holidays and chickens with Danny of Estrada Entertainment and Kristen Paladino, of Paladino Casting and partner in PLANT., our rep firm, and fellow Kabbalists, added another dramatic chapter to the week and my legend of Coffee Shop. (Sasha made some Fashion Week legends herself with June Ambrose and Mary J. Blige shot by Adrian Grenier.)

If coffee is supposed to have been discovered by an Ethiopian holy man whose goats had eaten the berries, allowing them to frisk all night long…well. We did.

Time for Timo’s Brooklyn Dreams To Set Sail for Bigger Seas

Years ago, Fate bumper car-ed me into Timo Weiland co-designer, Alan Eckstein bussing and playing with my soon-to-be dear friend, John Favreau at a fashion event. Between Alan’s bespeckled and earnest enthusiasm and John’s Comme des Garcons jacket and both their freshness I knew I found friends.  Timo Weiland’s tableau for Spring 2011 positioned characters in a still life while movies of people jumping on rooftops flashed above their heads like doll dreams while editors, friends and buyers scurried around, grounded like ants hurrying to get at The Queen of the ant hill.

Les Belles were badder than Les Boys in this collection. Although I certainly have been known to love several Mr. Big’s that came in a small, nerdy package via specs, wearing tight girls clothes and a poetic heart on their sleeve. The girls cast lust-laden, “You! Get-Me-Outa-Here” looks which somehow enhanced the clothes, which were very smart, sexy tight and coquettish at the same time. These girls looked like they needed a Belmondo type over a Baltic, Nordic boy the collection was inspired by. Even though I liked the men’s Little Lord Fauntleroy meets Chelsea boy on his way to sailing…it needed some Bad Boy sexiness in the end. Something androgynous, however, was hinted at here, which could be the line’s calling card among the hip. Kudos for a brave and beautiful showing reflecting talent, promise and Big Vision.

Small Ensembles in Big Ensembles Assemble

Spending a week with a sound archivist and music guru such as Claude unearthed obscure club anthems, thrilling avant-remixes on and revealed a shared love of Gilles Scott Heron. A surprise introduction to Leon Ware, an artist that even moi, a girl who literally grew up with Philly Soul as a friend of Debbie Huff, aka the daughter of Leon Huff aka half of the famed Gamble and Huff… and a proud card carrying member of the Black Culture Club in her high school, did not know about…Claude’s inspirations have me on, where right now, White Pony is followed by a ska version of Shaft….Ok by me!

The purveyance territory of dreams…whatever imagined drug or not gets you there…whether it be old ballads of Love via Belle of The Disco Ball or The Belle of Sex and Soul Style and The City or Philly Soul is the fuel that pumps our viens.

Another favorite book of mine, “Food of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution” by Terence McKenna explains how we got from mystical soma to Bimbo botox. More time with The Dame and Claude pondering big issues like Desire or just hustling to get some coffee between the shows and food for sustenance alone, our small ensembles dreaming bigger step by step. (Oh my God…I am ramblin’ agin…it’s the Black Gold)

I Confess, I Never Loved Sex and The City

I loved the circular, intuitive pacing but the fairy tale, un-nuanced and incessant focus on love and sex was a turn-off. In fact, at the New York pink-carpet premiere of the movie, I was only crying because my companion, a tearful fashion personality, gripped tissues and my hand at every “music-up” love-laced moment like it was the last pair of Manolos in her size on sale at Bergdorfs.

Fate and Destiny can be described as the way people end up living The Myths of their place of birth, lineage and I always hoped that would mean for me my real roots to Europe and a kind of Royal Bohemia. It may be Fate then that the incessant chorus in my head this September of MC Solaar’s Le Belle and Le Bad Boy was found most poignantly on Youtube through a Russian fan’s send-up of Sex and The City, Part Deux, which I had never seen before.

Circling back all the way to mythical meet-ups to my own Mother’s “La Belle” history in a frilly ballerina skirt as the Snow Princess in a Macy’s Parade (see the photo below, she’s right behind Pinocchio), my own love of tulle mushroom ballerina skirts, from Dior runways to ironic Japan kawaii cute Princess decoration style…ya know? Sometimes it does all culminate in the simple…Jewish matzo-ball soup plus comforting old movies resounding over old dramas and restyling new dreams.

Perhaps in the end it really is just that…Kid.

Boy Meets Girl…Girl Meets Boy and says “Take Me Home.”

My Mom as The Snow Princess in the Macy’s Day Parade circa,  1950’s ish

Today a little Progress and Invention keep me company as I march towards the mountain top. Tomorrow, every world city will fall. Tomorrow every civilized being on earth will die of poison and steel. But, today you can still bathe me in God’s wonderful love lyrics. Today it is still chamber music, dream, hallucination. The last five minutes! …This is the city and this is the music.

Henry Miller, Black Spring

images: Jade Dressler,, Ellen von Unwerth

One Response to “Cafe, cigarettes, les belles et les bad boys: Fashion Week NYC 2011”

  1. Your comments and photos are like a much more entertaining monthly rendition of Vanity Fair. So true re New Jersey. Yet I think you could do even more, there is the dark side and the bright side, I am thinking of the farm country and the fruit stands and the best trees on the east coast. Something about that soil and humidity. Tragedy, so much fecundity asphalted over and turned into refineries for oil and other poisonous substances.

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