the Insiders


April 30, 2010 3:25 PM


Bon Appetit in Tribeca

Plein Sud
photo courtesy of Emmanuel Faure
On Tuesday Tribeca will get a new dining option: Plein Sud, a 90-seat French bistro and lounge by Parisian restaurateur Frederick Lesort located on the ground floor of Jason Pomeranc's Smyth Hotel.

"My goal was to create a neighborhood restaurant that takes its energy from Wall Street but first and foremost from the strong residential basis of the neighborhood," says Lesort, whose other establishments include Opia and Matisse. "This is a restaurant for New Yorkers."

When I first saw the trailer for the documentary "Babies" a few weeks ago, I couldn't help but roll my eyes. The film tracks four newborns -- one each in Mongolia, Namibia, Japan and San Francisco -- from birth through first steps without much else in the way of narrative, or even any dialogue.
Smashbox Cosmetics, the photo-studio born makeup brand, is generating lots of speculation among investment bankers and beauty firms, who have looked at the company. With all the talk about skin care, at first blush a cosmetics brand like Smashbox might not seem like the most desirable acquisition target. But the opportunity to buy an established cosmetics brand sold in all the right retail channels, particularly TV shopping and open-sell, doesn't come around every day.

INDIO, Calif. -- The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival might as well be the Coachella Valley Music, Arts and Fashion Festival, judging by the presence of top brands there and the eyecatching street styles that festivalgoers patched together.

While G by Guess hired a plane to pull a banner above the sold-out festival, which ended here Sunday, Adidas and Jeremy Scott hosted a toga party at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Levi's, Ray-Ban, Converse and Friend or Foe sponsored a lounge at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, where celebrity guests such as Thom Yorke and Flea could customize Ts and jeans. H&M made its Coachella debut with an air-conditioned tent, where visitors could sip free water, win gift cards, charge their cell phones and freshen up with an array of Kiehl's beauty products. Promoting its Fashion Against AIDS collection, launching May 20, H&M sensed the wooden necklaces, ikat-printed maxidresses and jackets bedecked with beads and fringe would be a perfect fit for the Coachella crowd.

For a fashion journalist used to covering the grueling and elitist round of shows, being out and about during the Salone del Mobile furniture fair is like stepping into a different world.

First of all, unlike with the fashion shows where hysteria can break out over a seat number, the furniture fair, which attracts about 350,000 people to Milan, is much more democratic and relaxed.

Ditto for the attendance. As Giorgio Armani put it at the inauguration of his sprawling new Armani Casa store here, "People in the design industry make a younger crowd, less arrogant and pretentious compared to that of fashion."

Ludovic Lefebvre at work.
Courtesy photo
There are many ways to describe L.A. chef Ludovic Lefebvre. There's dreamy, judging by his centerfold-style photo in his 2005 cookbook, "Crave: The Feast of the Five Senses," in which he wades into the ocean wearing nothing but tattoos and a pair of wet jeans, manhandling a giant striped sea bass in each hand.

There's angry. Artist Burton Morris has portrayed him as a beady-eyed rooster with a heart tattoo, wielding a big knife.

From the studs, piercings and Mohawks of the punk movement to the tie-dye and long hair of the hippies, young people have long used fashion as a mode of rebellion against the status quo and polite society. Teenagers create both self-identities and group identities through style, whether it's a varsity jacket, a Goth black ensemble or a polo shirt with a popped collar. And for as long as kids have been picking out their own clothes, adults have been disapproving of some of their choices.

That's the essence of the saggy pants debate that's come to New York, following State Senator Eric Adams' initiative to put up six billboards in Brooklyn that encourage young males to "Stop the Sag" and wear their pants in a conventional manner -- i.e., without most of their underwear flapping in the breeze.
One of Gordon's works
Kim Gordon is one of the ultimate multihyphenates of our era. She's a rock icon, actress and fashion muse, not to mention fashion designer. And she's also gained some serious cred as an artist, having written for Art Forum in the Eighties and exhibited at countless shows. Now fresh off the March release of "Performing/Guzzling" (Rizzoli), a book featuring watercolors inspired by her experiences onstage, Gordon is releasing another art tome, "Kim Gordon: The Noise Paintings," which accompanies a similarly titled month-long exhibit that opens tonight at the John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller and Art Gallery in Manhattan. WWD chatted with Gordon on the series, which features painted words with a drip effect -- "Slow Listener," "Circuit Wound" and "Testical Hazard," among others.

WWD sits down with Gordon to talk about what she's been up to.
Being a corporate board member can be a great gig. It's prestigious and is a chance to exert your influence, put your experience to work and help a company grow. And considering how infrequently boards typically meet, maybe quarterly, it's good compensation. Outside directors can get annual retainers, fees per meeting or stock grants, plus travel expenses.

These days, Ann Taylor is up for partying. And the brand staged a good one at the Ace Hotel recently for a preview of the fall collection, with models lounging on the sofas, displaying just the right amount of elegance and aloofness appropriate for a cool cocktail hour. "We can
get you in and out real fast," an executive told a reporter.

If it hadn't been for the Bert Stern party the same night to celebrate his Club Monaco campaign, I would have loved to stay longer to take in the crowd, which was filled with fashion journalists and photographers and punctuated by an appearance by "Mad Men" star Christina Hendricks and a performance by singer-songwriter V.V. Brown.

Kudos to Natalie Massenet for negotiating a reputed $76 million for her stake in the company she built at a time when few believed anyone would ever buy a $6,000 pair of Balmain sequined skinny pants online.

From Compagnie Financiere Richemont's multibillion-dollar point of view, the purchase of the remaining 67 percent of the e-tailer it did not already own was a small deal, but it shows digital is important in the luxury world.

"Einstein said it's important to have a dream and have a vision."

That's what American Apparel founder and chief executive officer Dov Charney says is one of his motivating forces as he outlined ambitious plans for the specialty retailer -- even as it faces an array of stiff challenges that have effectively halted the retailer's aggressive retail expansion, at least temporarily. Certainly nobody could accuse Charney of not having a dream or vision for the brand that has turned striped tube socks and slinky V-neck T-shirts into sexy status symbols for the youthful hipster set.

In a phone interview with WWD, the garrulous and enthusiastic Charney, 41, said he doesn't usually open up to reporters these days -- he's been burned once too often in stories -- but proceeded to talk for more than an hour about the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for American Apparel. And once he gets going, it's hard to get a word in edgewise.

If there was any doubt about Yohji Yamamoto's fan base in his home country of Japan, it was definitely eradicated Thursday night. More than 3,000 people packed into a former Olympic stadium in Tokyo to take in his celebrity-studded men's show.

The show proved to be a reciprocal act of admiration between an iconic designer and his legion of followers, which ran the gamut from businessmen in suits to avant-garde artist types.

Backstage, Yamamoto said he wanted to pay tribute to his home country because he hadn't staged a fashion show there in almost 20 years. In turn, his fans showed their support for the 66-year-old designer just months after his company filed for bankruptcy protection. (Japanese private equity fund Integral Corp. has since taken over the business to restructure it.)

"Well Yohji's back, very simply," Yoshihiro Hemmi, the chairman of the fashion house, told me.

He said the show actually accomplished two things: It demonstrated how many people of all ages still identify with the designer and it also helped boost employee morale -- not a bad thing for a company emerging from financial collapse.

I had the luck to eat at Recette on Wednesday night, hours after it received two stars and a rave review from The New York Times. The small-by-even-New-York-standards restaurant wasn't mobbed with diners yet, but from the look of its books, it's going to be soon. During my visit, the place was filled with the sort of locals who live in the tony neighborhood -- young people who are paying through the nose for a studio the size of a closet and older couples who have owned their town houses for years.

Jesse Schenker's contemporary American food was as well executed as the Times review said, but the standouts for me were the desserts (and I don't typically have much of a sweet tooth). They're the handiwork of Christina Lee, a Per Se alum who, on Wednesday, looked incredibly coiffed for someone who'd been whipping up pastries for the last several hours.

Maggie Gyllenhaal
photo courtesy of Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic
The Darker Side of Green Climate Change debate, held Tuesday night at Manhattan's Skylight West, may sound like a buttoned-down affair, but attendees like Emmy Rossum and Kyra Sedgwick left their tie-dye T-shirts and Nalgene bottles at home in favor of slinky cocktail dresses and sleek clutches more worthy of a Hollywood premiere.

But Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was clad in a Marni blouse and pair of blue jeans, seemed refreshingly relaxed. After all, how long has it been since a real star walked the carpet in jeans?
WILLOWBROOK, Ill. -- The bridal collection previewed here by Chicago designer Victor Miller Saturday night may have been dominated by traditional white and flowing trains, but unusual touches and textures injected a little danger. These gowns demand dancing -- more raucous Rumba than Boston Waltz.

Though several creations honored the traditional bride, others paid tribute to the leg, with thigh-high slits that managed to avoid revealing too much. One look that started out angelic and sweet 16-ish at the neckline segued into a sheer and filmy swath from the knee to the floor that suggested: This bride will be be-bopping later.
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