Sunday, November 29, 2015

Why Don't You ?? the 2015 version

This series is dedicated to and possibly echoes what brought Diana Vreeland to the world’s attention and eternal admiration.  No, it will not be quite as outrageous or imaginative but these articles will have one unified theme and that is the gift giving season of 2015 whether it is Chanukah or Christmas or no reason at all. There will be ideas for holiday gift giving from around the world which range from what some might refer to as normal or expected to the outrageous.

Colleagues and resources from around the world have sent me their ideas of what would make a great gift for a friend, a dear one or even yourself. The selections will range from commissioned art to handbags to collectibles to fine jewelry to scent and even personal styling sessions for men and women. No matter what strikes your fancy, hopefully these articles will make for some fun reading and that you will pass on to friends for their enjoyment or gift giving possibilities. All of them accessible online, at brick and mortar establishments or by phone so shop on!

With the Festival of Lights (Chanukah) scarcely a week away and Christmas just around the corner, let the games begin and my question to you is “Why don’t you?”

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          Why don’t you commission a portrait of yourself or most significant other which can be a gift to yourself or your other half? The artist here is Marc Antoine Coulon of the Madame Figaro, Vanity Fair, ELLE variety and you can find him on Facebook for further details. By the way, yes, he can work from photographs so you needn’t be in Paris to sit for him.

·       Why don’t you start a trend and give a handbag from a collection that has been designed in the USA and takes inspiration from an international nostalgia for the classics but with a passion for the distinctive?  Check out all the accessories at   Dream it, believe it, achieve it and most of all, and just buy it.

·       Why don’t you give a book about Diana Vreeland that enlightens the reader as well as affirms the genius of Mrs. Vreeland was as well as her clairvoyance when it came to fashion and the trends that long outlived her? In her words “give them something they never knew they wanted.”

·       ****Why don’t turn your man or yourself into a rock n roll star and buy him or yourself a sheared mink pea coat from Jay Kos of New York City? Jay Kos is the go to destination for the most original and extravagant apparel in the entire city and if you are lucky, you will speak and meet with the designer himself who puts in plenty of face time at his eponymous “temple of fashion” located at 293 Mott Street in NYC. Maybe you can score a personal styling session with him while you are there

Why don’t you own or commission a handmade leather belt or accessory handmade by and designed by Roberto Calasanz? The man is an absolute genius when it comes to hardware and original pieces which will send you into a fashion swoon. By the way, if you ask nicely, he might even do some rather chic accessories for your “chien!” The website is days away but find him on Facebook. 

Stay tuned much more to come right here in the coming days ahead.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Meet Andrés Alsina ... Life after fashion

Andrés Alsina is a gentleman who has found that there is indeed life after fashion and that reinvention is the key to longevity and success if one can find the correct path to travel. He is an equestrian, a sportsman, a bon vivant, an international interior designer, a clothes horse, an ex-model, an author of 3 books, a teacher and most of all he is quite genuine with little to no artifice about him.
art by Marc Antoine Coulon

Andrés Alsina took his love of fashion and redirected it to another area of fashion but this time it was in the home, so to speak, and not on the runways of Europe. He is proof positive that good taste is genetic and that life does create divergent yet overlapping paths but it is up to us to choose the right one. After several conversations with this unique man, it occurred to me that he is without pretense and very open and forthcoming about himself, his life and his career. Within the world of fashion and any creative endeavor, those are qualities that have become increasingly rarefied as so many opt to throw up walls of pretense to conceal their shortcomings.
It is my opinion that all of his sterling qualities and particular talents are communicated via his own words:
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Jeffrey Felner: How did you arrive at the decision to become an interior designer and why?
Andrés Alsina: I am a very pragmatic person. The first time a magazine published where I lived, it was a small flat full of stripes and soon people began to call me asking prices of the furniture. When I realized that the profit of a Chesterfield sofa was three times that of a runway walk or a written article, I became an interior designer. No mysterious secret, I was not gifted or touched by the aura of aesthetics. It’s kinda weird, because I don’t define myself as only being an interior designer. I feel I'm much more of a writer or a teacher than a decorator. Fame and notoriety came in this decision besides it’s never late to reinvent ourselves. Take for example Andreé Putman, the French mogul of contemporary interiors, who was a piano teacher until her 50th anniversary. I like the idea of being unclassified even if that’s not very commercial, but it’s attractive. I mean, look at me, finally what is Alsina all about; a decorator, a writer, a teacher, a travel guy, all of that together, or nothing specifically?
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JF: Can you describe your personal style and your interior design style?
AA: My personal style is a mix between the preppy American east coast and certain Italian codes of sartoriale, nothing exceptional, but it works for me. When I was twenty many international designers such as Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana wanted  to dress me very over the top. It was good publicity for them and there was that sense neo romantic of the eighties that we were part of fashion evolution. Amazing when you are young, but as you get older you search for simplicity and being more anonymous yet stylish while you walk the street.
 As for the seal (signature) that defines my work as interior designer, that is far more complicated. Part of me works as a revisionist, updating classic French or Gustavian styles. But since I mixed those periods with strong and pure colors and some art deco lines, I feel I recreate a whole new label on interiors. I'm very eclectic, in the tradition of David Hicks, for me the ultimate designer of modern glamour. You can love or hate my work, too fresh for the conservatives, too maximalist for modern architects. But I have a seal, and I feel proud of that.
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JF: How and why did you select your current home?
AA: I really believe in luck. I was doing internet researches, with only one idea on my mind and that was I will like to live surrounded by French classic architecture and golden grids but I say Andrés, forget Paris, is too expensive. I tried with the city of Nancy, which had one of the most spectacular squares in Europe, but no answer to my inquiries. One day I woke up and I had an email saying “Do you want to live at Versailles?” As much I adore Versailles I prefer to decline the idea, knowing the little bit too bourgeois society of the area, but when they said to me it was in a building, Le Hotel du Garde Meuble, which is part of the palace, I was like “WHAT? Is it possible to live in a sort of building overlooking the gardens of the most famous palace in the world?” Well, actually was just in front of the fountains of the Dragon and Neptune?
So yes, I wanted and three months later, here I am.
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JF: What is the most exciting project you have worked on and why?
AA: In 1998, with a luggage of hopes but no money, I established myself at the Loire Valley. Passion and dedication took care of the rest. For almost five years the restaurant and Tea room Le Jardin Secret, first in Tours and then a franchise in a luxury hotel in South America, gave me both international recognition and reputation. I remember one day having lunch with an absolutely convinced Carolina Herrera who said "Andrés, you have to open that concept in New York, it will be so successful" .She even gave me her cell number to reach set up) for me some appointments at the Big Apple, but after 9/11 the moment was not propitious.
Besides Le Jardin Secret I always had said I will build my empire within only 30 meters. I'm sure there are hundreds of interior designers that earn much more money, but I'm not sure they will transcend. I feel I'm much more a taste maker than a rock star in the tradition of Starck, Wearstler or Marino.
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JF: if you could invite any 5 people to dinner, who would they be and why?
AA: Well that’s quite a smart question. I've always believed that guests are an extension of our personality and depths of excellence and talent.
 As a new Frenchie, one must be Inés de la Fressange, of course. No woman in this country exhales more than her, the truly allure and panache of the real Parisienne. She is so Left Bank, so elegant in a non-structure sense. With Inés, elegance is certainly a matter of bones.
 Stephen Daldridge definitely as I'm sure that a man who directs Billy Elliot, The Hours and The Reader, is kind of extraterrestrial. I would have so many questions to ask him, oh my God, I'm sure he would hate me, but how he has accomplished his career is something overwhelming.

Any real influential New Yorker. I just adore New York, but in absence of friends and relatives there (ex-lovers, no offense, Hahaha) there is always that very upper crust, Upper Eastside, that I barely think reflects the real spirit of the city. I would love to hear people from the Village, Brooklyn Heights or The Bowery.

For past beauty and nostalgia, I would be fascinated with the presence of Faye Dunaway. She ruled the 70s being part of a very important American new wave of writers and directors (Tennessee Williams, William Alfred, Kazan, Lumet, Penn, and Pollack). You know, Jeffrey, I met Dunaway when I was twelve in Barcelona, and I never recovered of that first impression of seeing her. She was stunning, with the beauty, class and elegance of the old ladies (Dietrich or Garbo). We don’t see women like her anymore. For me she is the epitome of intelligent beauty.

Last but not least, I will like to have on my table Tom Ford as he, most of all, could be the moderator of the night. That man is a real know-it-all. I love his legacy on fashion, his directorial debut on A Single Man, the way he sophisticates everything he touches. From Julianne Moore to trashy icons, he does miracles and so with Tom on my table I would be happy being just a waiter, serving good meal and wines, while I listen mouth open.
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 Indeed, that will be my dream table!!! Absolutely.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lunch with Denise Hale, Tatiana Sorokko and Ralph Rucci

Before we get to the heart of the subject, there is this matter of “Who is Denise Hale?” For those of you who do not know her let me offer a brief synopsis of why she has been chosen to be today’s topic of conversation. Ms. Hale has been a fixture on the International best dressed list as well as part of what used to be called high society or the jet set and today might be called the 1%. Currently,  she is a philanthropist, art collector, doyenne of good taste/style and very much a vibrant personality who reminds us that there are still women of astounding taste and chic who walk amongst us.
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Ms. Hale, as you will read, is a collector of some of the most amazing couture and ready to wear created by some of the greatest designers of the twentieth and twenty first centuries. Ms. Hale also possesses one of the great personal collections of “haute joaillerie” which she wears as often as possible because in her own words “why not?” The same premise remains when it comes to her clothing wardrobe as it remains as timeless as her jewels.
photos by Drew Altizer

Furthermore, Denise Hale continues to be one of world’s best clad women who counts or has counted some of the world’s greatest style icons and legends as her friends  including  Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, Jacqueline de Ribes, Ann Getty, Marella Agnelli, CZ Guest and many more but you get the idea. So, it is my honor that she has made herself available to respond to some of my questions about her long standing status as a style icon and her lifelong dedication to fashion.

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There are only a few times when this writer has been on the receiving end of a more gracious gesture than this  but the below article/interview serves as proof that friendships endure no matter what life’s circumstances present to us. When you can ask Ralph Rucci, yes, that Ralph Rucci, to be your surrogate interviewer of one of the great legends of international style , well, then you know you indeed have a friend. The questions were written by me and the following is how the “conversation” went down over lunch with them and Tatiana Sorokko and then continued at the Gianfranco Ferré show. “The White Shirt According to Me. Gianfranco Ferré,” show is from  Nov. 4 through March 6, 2016 at the Phoenix Museum of Art in Arizona and where Mr. Rucci was the keynote speaker at the opening event.Ms. Hale and Ms. Sorokko sat with Mr. Rucci for a chat fest as well that capped off the festivities

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Ralph Rucci: Would you please speak to the topic of your favorite designers in clothing and jewelry and tell us why?

Denise Hale: The favorite darling-I started with Roberto Capucci, then Federico Forquet, then Galanos, then Gianfranco, then you. In between there was some Donald Brooks and St Laurent. It’s very simple darling and to answer the jewelry question, that would be David Webb, Bulgari and James Taffin de Givenchy among others but those are my favorites.

photos at left &  right by Drew Altizer

RR: What can you tell us of your feelings when it comes to the fashions of today? What do you think is wrong or right and why?

DH: Very simple-- not wearable or attractive

photo by Drew Altizer

RR: If you could compile a list of the world's best dressed, who would you include and why?

DH: In my life I live in style. Best dressed is nothing without style, so in my life I choose---Gloria Guinness, Marietta Tree, CZ Guest, Marella Agnelli and Jacqueline de Ribes

photos by Drew Altizer

RR: Do you believe that the concept of great women of style such as yourself or Babe Paley or Marella Agnelli is a thing of the past and why?

DH: Let's just say that there is always hope darling.

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RR: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would it be and why?

DH: Alexis de Redé, Lilianne de Rothschild, Gloria Guinness, Marietta Tree, Paul Mellon so those names speak for themselves.
photo by Drew Altizer

Mr. Rucci has told me that there is no friend as loyal as she and others have expressed their admiration for her by saying she is as real as she can be with absolutely no pretense. A case in point is that after this session was conducted, Ms. Hale suggested that she and Mr. Rucci take a stroll through the local Dillard’s. The long story short is that Mr. Rucci asked why and Ms. Hale said “don’t be such a snob!”
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P.S.  a million thanks to RR for making this possible!!

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