Monday, March 30, 2020

allow me to introduce you to Marwill De León

Once again, this is a chance encounter with someone who was wise enough to strike up a conversation after I paid him a compliment. I am endlessly fascinated by the people one can meet just by saying a few kind words and possibly something complimentary.  The amazement is when the party on the receiving end is gracious enough to acknowledge the sentiment and then strike up a chat.
click image to enlarge
Marwill De León is today’s case in point as he is one hell of a charmer and in these tough times of social distancing, it is indeed very refreshing to find people who are open to “making friends” and learning about who I am and me learning about who they are. The next natural step for me was to ask if he would be interested in doing one of my 5 question interviews, given that I found him to be a sort of multifaceted young man who possesses a very unique skill set, as you will find out, and none of them are of the fans only variety!.. if you catch my drift!!
click image to enlarge
So here you have one Marwill De León who is going to tell us who he is and what he wants out this life in his own words….

Jeffrey Felner: You have such a diverse skill set... can you tell us how they all came about and do they ever have a cross over point?

Marwill Delión: Yeah …well to be honest, I’m not quite sure how it just happened because I was just living my life. I’m from Puerto Rico where I lived most of my life; I was this crazy little, maybe a little wild, the kid always getting in trouble skating and surfing.  My cross over point I would say was when I came when I moved here to the USA where I started to cook and soon became a chef. Then I started looking for modeling jobs and researching exactly how I might achieve this goal. 
click image to enlarge
JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner (dead or alive) who would they be and why?
MD: My 5 people ....  well ...  I have no idea actually but I guess Jean-Paul (JP) as he is like my brother. Then Gabriel, my cousin, since we were always getting into trouble together while growing up. Then I’d want Jimi Hendrix, because he just needs to be at the table, Bob Marley because he’s a lover just like me… hahaha ... and lastly Pablo Picasso for no other reasons than that I admire his discipline, talents and his passions.  
click image to enlarge
JF: Let’s get a bit personal here…  tell us about the tattoos and the hair... obviously, they are your chosen trademarks... why and what do they represent?
MD: So okay, I’ve always liked my hair long but there was a point when I was unable to keep it long because of culinary school. Then I took a leap of faith and moved to the USA. the tats all represent and parts of me and who I am and what I love. These traits and memories (tats) remind me of where I come from. 
click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge
JF: In a perfect world, what would be your greatest dream ... where would you live, what would you be doing, and what message would you hope to be conveying to others?
MD: My greatest dream would be to be on the cover of GQ and Vogue and to be able to travel and visit my family whenever I want. I’ve never been but I would love to live somewhere in Europe especially because traveling would afford me that luxury and being exposed to so many of the world's cultures.

 I could also see myself living on a beach somewhere catching waves, drinking water from the seeds of the palm.  My message ... honestly, would be possessing the freedom of allowing ourselves to realize that life is too damn short. We have to live the life that we have while holding onto a strong purpose and learning not to let go... mainly because there are no real do-overs in life… you can’t turn back the clock and start again, you only get one chance to start for the first time!

Thursday, March 19, 2020


taken chez Felner by Robert Presutti ( seen here)
“aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been” … David Bowie

When you spend 25 years of your life believing that you will not live past 51, some of these words provided me with a coping mechanism. Alas, here I am at 70 and I ask myself “how and when did this happen?” the answer is simply time passes and sometimes you’re too busy living life to notice that suddenly you’re old!

As I have written before, I have been blessed with an excessive, hypersexualized, event filled and relatively care free life that most would kill for and was lucky enough to be able to survive it and drink in some of the most memorable times living in the non-gentrified city of New York. From the gritty vile sticky floors of 42nd street porno palaces to rubbing elbows, and a lot more, with NYC’s social elite in the most likely and unlikely places.

My father always told me that you don’t know how you grew up till you’ve grown up and well I’m more than ripe now and I can say Jesus fucking Christ I had a blast... I just wish I was paying more attention. The worst part of this whole aging thing is that, for me, the golden years is a myth we grew up with embedded in our heads but now I know there is no such thing. No one ever told us there are consequences to aging such as ailments and conditions that you acquire along the way whether you “ask” for them or not.

I believe I have previously written that death entered my life starting at 26 and it just never ends especially because none of us make it out of here alive. It’s been mentally and physically taxing to have now lived through watching my peers die twice… once prematurely and now in my latter years because that’s the life cycle but as I am reminded and remind so many that death is a part of everyone’s life… like it or not.

No, I am not dying and have no plans to do so at any time soon but suddenly you do realize that your exit time is much nearer than further and that is a bit unsettling and disconcerting even for a wise ass like me. But… on the plus side I have discovered that one can still fall in love after 60 and one can still reinvent themselves and that no matter how old you are ... life is full of surprises… some of them even wonderful!

“my sense of death affects me daily---for the better. when you’re slightly afraid of death, you’re less afraid of other things: bosses, spouses, plumbers, rape, bankruptcy, not being liked, the flu, aging!” This has been on my refrigerator door since 1976

On friendship, I have surely learned that nothing is forever and the ranks thin considerably as we age but again, life being what is, you can still make bff’s and that some who you really believed were your bff’s were in fact not. It is somewhat disheartening especially for someone like me who hates to be wrong especially about those I considered to be friends but you have 2 choices …. You either say life is too short to fight about it or you fight for it ...I’ve done both and truth be told I walk away faster these days rather than fight.

I can never sing the praises of the internet loudly enough or even Facebook and NYJB as they have opened up doors for me that I would have otherwise never been able to even get to the threshold let alone open and enter. My rewards have been beyond my expectations and my knowledge has proven to be an asset that I never knew I possessed. Most of this has been my ability to reach so many and for so many to seek me out and even some to become cherished friends that unquestionably I’d have never crossed their paths without the net.

Last on my sort of list is that never laugh at the “the memory is the first to go” as by god the brain does slow down… the names aren’t remembered so quickly and even words are somehow not as quick to come by but we persevere. I am lucky that I still have the opportunity at this stage to now connect the dots for all these  amazing people that I now know… maybe it’s a selfish act  on my part but the one gnawing aspect of my aging is not  death itself but being forgotten after one’s death and so I prefer to make my legacy to be what I have made possible for others and what I might be able to do to further them in their endeavors through the miraculously large web of people that I’ve amassed.

“aristocracy is a way of thinking and behaving, a cast of mind. It’s a style of dressing and speaking, a code of social signals that convince the aristocrat that he is superior, and other people that he should be given deference.” This has also been on the door of my fridge since the 70s.

No, I don’t think I have ever thought of myself as an aristocrat or above the fray but I’ve certainly skillfully crafted an image of myself and I’m not the least bit shy about saying it. It’s not being a snob, it’s simply that you can never assume to know anyone unless you actually do…. I am as I continually say “a well wrapped package!”

Hopefully I’ll have more to say in 5 years but in case I don’t... this ought to hold you for a while…

Special thanks go to Robert Presutti for being “my mirror” these past few years and for my birthday images

PS… in case you recognize yourself in these words then I can assure you …  that it is YOU!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Who is Mary Russell?? What is Entre Nous?

Well here’s some history about me and Mary Russell:  while I was cutting my teeth in the world of fashion being a textile designer, Mary Russell was a name or a face on a page. Her presence was ubiquitous in Paris and at the French Collections especially on the pages of WWD. If she wasn’t in Paris, she was in NYC. She was part of what made fashion exciting thrilling and ever so enviable to a newbie who was literally addicted to printed media and sort of pressing his nose up against the window.
click image to enlarge
It wasn’t until decades later that the name and face on the page was suddenly sitting across a table from me and let me tell you that I was at the cool kids’  table except I was no longer a kid and I have come to know that Mary  Russell helped mold fashion in ways I’d never imagined. With her camera in hand, she recorded the life and times of one of, if not the, most glorious, creative, and joyous times of fashion and its inhabitants. 
click image to enlarge
Of course, I was no longer a fawning drooling kid but I grew to understand this woman’s enormous contribution the longer I got to know her. I am forever humbled and grateful for her friendship and her inspiration as I continue to travel on my journey in fashion. If anyone had ever told me I would meet and know some of the people I now know and call friends, I’d say you’re full of shit; It can never happen and yet it has! 
click image to enlarge
So now, Mary Russell of Glamour, WWD and Vogue ... Protégé of Diana Vreeland and John Fairchild will tell us all something that maybe we never knew about Mary or for that matter who exactly is Mary Russell? She is about to tell us….

JEFFREY FELNER-Let’s talk about Entre Nous:  did you ever think you would write a book? What prompted you to finally expose that part of your illustrious life? Has the book provided any specific gratification and if so, what has it been?

MARY RUSSELL-No I never thought I would write a book. I saved the precious photographs, keeping them preciously preserved in boxes over the years, knowing they were valuable. With my sense of timing that I have always considered a weird gift in life, I became aware that it was time to write about those wonderfully carefree times. I was also prompted by good friends in the fashion world to do a book. They loved my photos and kept after me until the right people appeared as if by that magic which has always been part of my existence and so it was.

Yes, there is a certain gratification in the fact that I found the right people at the right time to actually understand and be willing to make the book happen. Through old friends I was introduced to the gallerist, antiquaire and editor Pierre Passebon who fell in love with the photos, understood the value of the story, and became enthusiastic about editing and producing the book and consequently with an exhibit in his gallery. He introduced me to the brilliant American publisher Suzanne Isore at Flammarion who immediately agreed to publish it!
click image to enlarge
click image to enlarge
 JF-In the 60’s and 70s, the Paris of The Beautiful Fall, you were unquestionably part of the “in crowd” … let’s talk about some of the most memorable moments and people … just a couple that really  have stayed with you over the course of time?
MR- Being part of the “in crowd” is what the title is all about… Entre Nous- a small group of a family we created for just us... kindred spirits who were very young and full of rebellion with talent and a wild carefree sense of delight and adventure! We had no idea of what the future might become nor were we at all interested in it. It is difficult to understand today in the wide world of the Internet and mass fashion hysteria and insta-photos how very small Paris was in the 60s and 70s.
click image to enlarge
click image to enlarge
 JF- If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?
MR- You ask if I could invite 5 people to dinner who would they be and why? Jeffrey, my answer is…  no one, except a few friends who knew us when and are still out there but so aware of how lucky we were to be there then. We do get together; many of the old St. Laurent world, artists, designers, writers, editors and artists… many unknown to the fashion world of today. Of course, also with my 3 grandsons who keep me aware of the trends of the moment.

I dined and had tea with some of the greats. Name dropped ad nauseum in the book …  add Dali, Chanel, Callas, lots of Kennedys (Jackie and Lee), Princess Diana, Charles de Gaulle, President and Madame Pompidou and Chirac ...  sports idols, Cary Grant, Sinatra and Ava and a few unmentionable “gangstas” so there aren’t many on my bucket list of dinner guests.
click image to enlarge
click image to enlarge
 JF- For those who DO know you, you often credit Diana Vreeland as mentor... is it possible to  summarize what it was like to be under her spell and maybe one  of your most  vivid memories of her and while we are at it would you do the same for John Fairchild.
MR- Vreeland was magic; her aura was divine. WE were her lucky acolytes. She listened and loved our ideas... she wrote to me when I worked for her in Paris: “ Tell me everything you see and think, who you see, send pictures... both she and John Fairchild were open to young up and comers, they gave us a chance. They threw us out there and reaped the benefits of our brand-new eyes on the world of fashion. I learned how to write and record which fashion“takes“and which does not under his tutelage.
click image to enlarge
 JF- We know that fashion is cyclical and yet we can see that the glory days of printed media and fashion design have more or less fallen  by the wayside; do you think it’s possible that we might ever experience those glorious days once again or are  we destined to a world of Instagram moments?
MR- The world of fashion is still out there, more than ever but the way it is shared and perceived is completely different; it’s now in front of us all the time. Impressions from the street in Paris and New York - the young... not dictated by grand fashion dictators. There are still wonderful designers like Galliano, Sarah Burton, Gaultier and the media giants of style like Ralph Lauren, but I rarely want to spend the price for their retail offerings. I still love the odd Zara add on and love Nike, Tommy Perse, or Rag and Bone. Otherwise it’s a mix mash of adopted style, old faves still in the closets, a few vintage pieces and some great sneakers ... a new great bag, easy items bought online. Once in a while a splurge. In Paris I like St. Laurent, Celine, or Gerard Darel, some fab Wolford tights, always great boots.

Going to the big fashion shows, collections all over the world has been given a huge hit! The Coronavirus!! Perhaps it may bring their swan song. Imagine Giorgio Armani showing his collection in Milan to an empty room!

As far as print magazines are concerned: they better get their act together. I rarely look at them even for free on line. We can find WWD online and I check in with Instagram every morning for my morning stalk. Ideas galore. Visuals, photos, quick fashion takes.

As for “those glorious days” … They are over for me. Witness the tepid collections of Chanel après Karl at Le Grand Palais in Paris.
click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge
Bonjour tristesse.