September 29, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK! Fashion in Film Festival

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New York City and Fashion Week. How could I resist? The heady combination was calling my name. Packing only my camera and one carry-on bag, I was off to the Stylish Apple. After the usual airport rigmarole, it was up, up and away.

The flight was cloudy until we circled Manhattan en route to LaGuardia Airport, where sunshine gave the city a warm, late-summer glow:  a sign that a wonderful week was ahead.

Times Square was so much quieter, cleaner and prettier than I remember that I just had to take some photographs immediately.  One of my favourites is this shot promoting Mercedes-Benz and MAYBELLINE sponsored New York Fashion Week.  High above, it towered over the Square, a constant reminder that this week was all about FASHION!

After checking into the Paramount Hotel, at 46th Street and Eighth Ave., I pounded the pavement (a New York tradition) up to The Museum of Art and Design (MAD), at Columbus Circle and 59th Street, to buy tickets for the Vanity Fair "Fashion in Film" festival, being screened throughout the weekend. Prominent New York writers, educators and designers hand-picked movies they felt had impacted fashion. The fete was hosted and sponsored by Vanity Fair magazine, L'Oreal Cosmetics and BMW. 

Tickets in my hot little hands, I took my second trek, across 59th Street, just south of Central Park, toward the legendary Plaza Hotel. The grand dame of New York Hotels is undergoing renovations, but nothing can dim her beauty. I wanted to pop into the Oak Room Bar and feel "Gatsby-esque" but opted to keep walking.  That first stroll down Fifth is always dazzling, but September 8th was "Fashion's Night Out".  New Yorkers were out in their chic best for this charitable outdoor/indoor party to benefit the AIDS foundation.

Fifth Avenue was hopping with wannabe models and celebrities. Not feeling quite on-trend enough to participate, I decided to keep walking south.  Shop windows were resplendent with the latest couture. At Zara, I snapped a couple of windows I thought suitably festive:

Manhattan will absolutely seduce you, but, I had a busy weekend ahead.  Deciding to head back across to the hotel, I snapped the billboard in Times Square once again.  This masterpiece of fashion photography, ablaze in the night sky, would hold me in its thrall for the entire week to come.

At one of the outdoor tables, I took in the magnificence of Times Square over an iced coffee from Starbucks (open 24/7, as are most of the establishments) and called it a night.

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Morning coffee and a  scone, alfresco, in the centre of  Times Square. Does it get any better than this? Good Morning America is being taped right in front of you.  The giant NASDAQ sign flashes and the JVC globe spins. Will breakfast ever be the same?

To my left, at 1501 Broadway, the historic Paramount building. Commissioned in 1927 by Adolph Zukor, to be the flagship theatre for the Paramount Studio, it is an art deco masterpiece.  Architects Rapp and Rapp designed the pyramid shaped, thirty-three storey office tower, which draws the eye ever upward, rewarding the climb with a giant, four-faced clock. As if that isn't glorious enough, there is an ornamental globe at the summit.

The entrance, frieze and marquee are as ornate and grandiose as they were in the 1920s, the days of palatial movie theatres. Today, it's the headquarters for the New York City Hard Rock Cafe. Somehow, new and old blend without clashing in this masterwork of 1920s architecture.

The rest of the day was spent re-acquainting with the city and doing a  bit of shopping, preparing for the first film to be shown Friday night.

THE FILM FEST:  "Qui etes-vous, Polly Maggoo?"

"Qui etes-vous, Polly Maggoo" is a 1966 French film directed by fashion photographer, William Klein, and, shot entirely in black and white.  It is part documentary--part fantasy, and entirely a satirical send-up of the fashion world. 

Polly is an American model working and living in Paris. A French television producer is so taken with her that he decides she will be the star of his next special.  A film crew follows Ms. Maggoo to fashion shows and shoots, while interviewing her.

Fashion model of the early 1960s, Dorothy McGowan is the star and central character of the film. Here she stands in front of real-life magazine clippings from her own stellar career. As Polly Maggoo, she wears mostly a classic wardrobe:  a trench coat, tee shirts and the knit outfit below:

The opening scenes of the film feature a mad as a hatter French designer creating shiny aluminum dresses on live, long-suffering models. Fashion followers will recognize Donyale Luna, as well as Dorothy McGowan below:

While the designer is working with his sharp-edged "fabric" the crew from a de rigeur fashion magazine enters with a flourish. A hush falls over the room.  The world's most famous and highly critical Editor in Chief is in the house! After they are seated, the models show the creations.  Silence. The editor stands up and, after her one-word summation, "magnifique!",  utters the life-saving (for the designer) phrase that he has "re-invented" women.  This is probably the funniest line in the movie.

Another sequence is the make-up table scene with famous 1960s models chatting about this and that, dressed in bold black and white, coiffed in identical Vidal Sassoon type hairdos.  On the far left is Peggy Moffitt, muse and model of designer Rudi Gernreich.

Like most of the movie, it is a visual scene, and looks like a fashion shoot, with the bold black and white striped backdrop. What is said in this film is always secondary to how it looks.

The movie is one of the first that dared to satirize that sacred cow:  fashion.  The designer is frenetic, but indifferent when one of the models cuts herself on the aluminum. The editor is followed around by a cloyingly subservient and mute entourage.  Insiders believe that long-time Conde Nast (Vanity Fair and VOGUE) editor, and later curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, Diana Vreeland, is the "inspiration" for the edgy editor.  The late Vreeland, like most fashion moguls, took no prisoners.  She had the reputation of being domineering but she was brilliant and ruled the print fashion world for decades.

The designer reminds one of Paco Rabanne, who designed micro-mini dresses made of glittery metallic fabrics, and even metal discs.  Audrey Hepburn's closing scenes dress in Two For the Road (below) is by Rabanne.


Below, a short video of the first six minutes of the film:

Thus ended the fabulous, fun debut feature of the "Fashion in Film" Festival. (Try to say that quickly three times!)

After the starkly black and white movie, I hit the sidewalks of New York once more, heading down Broadway.  Absolutely thunderstruck by the Hershey Building and its light show.  The house that chocolate built (with a very tempting store beneath all those sparklers) was a colourful finale to the day.

to be continued...

NOTE:  The above is an original piece of writing. The pictures used as illustrations and the video are in the public domain.  Scenic photographs of New York City were taken by myself.


  1. Fabulous post, Inge! It's amazing how many times I've walked past these buildings with a blind eye. I am going to look more closely at the Paramount next time (I always think of Sinatra and bobbysoxers). Great original photos, too! Loved the film review and have to give this one a closer look. The Sixties are looking quite stylish these days, aren't they?

  2. Thanks so much! It's easy when you're on vacation with a nice digital camera, LOL. I had never seen the movie before, but heard of it.

  3. Valarie JoyceSeptember 29, 2011

    Just "loverly," Coco Gregusch! By the way, I love Paco Rabanne and his fascinating creations.

  4. So do I Valarie. I remember the first time I saw "Two For the Road" and that DRESS on Audrey Hepburn. Wow. Thank you!