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Warmest regards and thanks again for being here~ Michael Cress

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Housing Works Gala Opening

Last week, Housing Works, an organization that combats AIDS and homelessness primarily through initiatives funded by their wonderful upscale thrift shops in New York, hosted a gala opening of their newest store in Hell’s Kitchen. Typically, I leave the nightlife reporting to others but for fashion and style this was, pardon the pun, one-stop-shopping.

Event host, lifestyle guru Derek Warburton of DerekLovesShopping.com helped bring in a number of notables. Attendees included Ramona Singer, Alex McCord and husband Simon Vanderkamp of The Real Housewives of New York. There was a plethora of clothing designers, including Marisol Deluna, Loris Diran, Philip Estrada, Kristine Elezaj, Jack Mackenroth, Malan Breton, Kevin Christiana, Allison Parris, Anthony Keegan, John Bartlett, Project Runway’s Epperson Rod and hat designer to the stars, Rod Keenan. Also included was Bravo’s host, Andy Cohen and singer Kristine Elezaj.

With all these talents in one place, how could there not be some interesting styles? Given limitations of space, more images are posted on Facebook, but here are some of my favorites… 

Designer Marisol Deluna in her own design with a beautiful print and silhouette.

Alex McCord and husband Simon Vanderkamp
A stunning Jessica Carroll

Rod Keenan, whose hats have been worn by numerous celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Steven Tyler, Brad Pitt and Britney Spears and have appeared in movies such as Austin Powers, Charlie's Angles and Shaft.

With host, Derek Warburton

...even the media looked great (Kristen Colapinto from Fashion News Live)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Seen On the Street- Soho

I love this shot! I can't put my finger on any one thing that makes all this work so well, it's just fun and very New York. The shoes, rolled jeans, leather jacket with the detailing and it doesn't hurt  she's simply gorgeous. The Starbucks in one hand and the smoke in the other gives her a nonchalance and non-PC feel that's refreshing. 

I feel a little guilty putting this one up as I have a month worth of stories and profiles in the works... I just shot this and had the itch to put it up right away, so here it is! Hope it grabs you like it did me.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Little Different

In New York, you come across some looks that are a bit different than you'll find anywhere else. From the beginning I've always had a policy of not saying anything negative or derogatory about anyone I shoot. Some will find the looks to be cool, others just odd. The common denominator is that it's a style, a personal style unique to themselves. I find that having a personal style, even to an extreme, is better than not trying (jeans, t-shirts and general sloppiness doesn't count as a "style" for these purposes). That said, I've decided to start a new category when I find those looks that make you do a double-take for their outlandishness.We'll simply call it "A Little Different".

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Enjoying a beautiful day in New York, Michael is dressed in Lord Willy's (a wonderful boutique) in Nolita. A native of London but New Yorker for the last 18 years, he has maintained that wonderful English bespoke look that is all too rare. There's a tremendous  presence about him that commands admiration with exquisite detailing, colors and a classical, timeless look of his style.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Up and coming model, Lauren Folly. An absolute joy, free-spirited and absolutely radiant. Every image is a keeper as is she.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Random Sartorial Gleanings

A number of people have asked me what I thought of the Oscars. To be honest, a bit uninspired by it all. For months we’ll be seeing images of what everyone (particularly the ladies) was wearing. I know I didn’t see them all but I would have to say one of my favorites was Jennifer Lopez in Armani Prive. Score another for the designer who isn’t buying off the celebs and has enough sense to impose minimal standards for models  so he’s part of the solution and not the problem.

I do like Armani. He doesn’t drastically change his collections every season, he sticks with the basics and makes small changes. Really, let’s think about designers drastically changing their collections year-in, year-out. What are they saying? “Our collection last year was so bad (again), we had to scrap it and start over”? I know they’re probably trying to make a statement to impress the otherwise bored fashion press with their antics, but some get so carried away its more circus than fashion.

From what I’ve seen, it looks like Milan is the winner again over New York, London and Paris. They just seem to take it more seriously and show clothes that are wearable with pleasing silhouettes, fabrics and drape. Maybe they should consider letting Milan Fashion Week go longer than a weekend. They’ve earned it. Take the time from the French, they seem to have too much of it on their hands.

Men at the Oscars, or anywhere else that the dress is “formal”. Gentlemen, formal “black-tie” means wear a tux, a black bow-tie, a formal shirt with studs and cufflinks and black (preferably patent-leather) shoes. Why on earth is that so difficult? It’s a statement enough that you’re there, don’t try to make one by showing your insecurities and need to be different by disrespecting your host. Feel free to make an ass out of yourself the other 364 days of the year.
Have I mentioned one of my favorite sports is perusing consignment, vintage and thrift shops? Love it. It’s like a treasure-hunt. There’s a bit of a sliding scale depending on the type of shop it is. Higher-end consignment shops tend to have near mint condition clothes that are stylish and great quality. For that you pay a bit more compared to say, thrift shops or wherever clothes are donated. I got into this habit about 10 years ago. Living on the Upper-East side in Manhattan, I lived across the street from a consignment shop called “Gentleman’s Resale”. Next door was “Designer’s Resale”, which was for the ladies. Great shops. I’ve bought a number of things there that still had the tags in them. Why would someone pay retail from Barney’s, Saks or Bergdorf’s and not wear what they bought? Not my problem. Other than the small supply of truly new, they had samples and clothes used in photoshoots or shows. Everything else is high-end and mint. They simply won’t take it otherwise. Some people refuse to wear anything that’s been worn before. That’s fine. They and their pride can go pay retail. If it’s that good of a deal, I can be bought. A mint condition $4,000 suit for $500, $400, $200? Yes, my pride and I will keep the difference (and use some of it to have it perfectly tailored). Many of these stores have different colored price-tags. The longer it’s there, the more it’s discounted. One shop I know will take 25% off after 30 days and 50% off after 60 days. Recent example: Burberry tweed sportscoat, mint, minimal tailoring needed (a significant factor of the true price)- originally marked for $110, 50% off. Score!

Thrift-shops are a crapshoot. I have to be in the mood. You truly see what the average person is wearing in these and it’s not always pretty. In higher-end consignments, virtually everything is quite wearable and good quality- it’s just a matter of fit. For thrifts, it seems as though 1 in 100 items are worth a good look. Quality? Condition? Size? Fit? Value? Often times you go and find nothing. But sometimes…  you’ll hit the sartorial value homerun. Good rule of thumb is to go in a neighborhood where people dress well. Wealthier the neighborhood, the higher-quality the clothes tend to be, simply because they can afford it. OK, good examples of the home-run. Oscar de la Renta cashmere and wool sportscoat, no signs of wear, pockets still stitched closed and minimal tailoring needed: $7.99. Ralph Lauren Purple Label grey slacks, mint condition, need to be hemmed: $4.99. Probably 5 trips over time to land those two but in 10 years I’ll still be wearing them.

This just goes to show you don’t have to have a boat-load of money to wear high-quality clothes. Sure, you don’t have the thrill of walking out with a Bergdorf’s bag but the bank-account and wardrobe will be better for it. I like doing the high-end retail or boutique thing but sometimes a little treasure-hunting and finding jewels others overlooked or were too slow to get gives a thrill to the chase. A couple of other notes. Not surprisingly, women’s clothes greatly outnumber men’s. With the economy still waiting for a full comeback, supply at consignments is higher than ever which results in higher quality and more exceptional deals. Also, it's important to know what can be tailored and what can't or would be major work. Even new, off-the-rack clothes will need tailoring of some sort for a perfect fit. Tailoring is what makes the difference, don't skimp! We are looking for good material to work with, from there it takes a professional to make it fit your unique shape and size.

Happy hunting!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Oscars: A Brief History of Fashion Designers, Hollywood & the Red Carpet

Anne Hathaway in Armani Prive

On Sunday is the most notable awards-show of the year, the Academy Awards. For months to follow, images of stars on the red-carpet will be filling space in magazines as everyone assesses the success or failure of outfit choices. The designers behind the most glamorous looks will receive untold amounts of "free" publicity. On this night they hand out Oscars, acting and fashion both take the spotlight. It should be no surprise that the majority of fashion designers are jockying until the final moments to have their clothes on as many stars as possible. However, it hasn't always been this way.

In 1955, Christian Dior was asked to make a wedding dress for Brigitte Bardot for a movie the rising starlet was in. Perhaps typical of the culture and the time, Dior refused. To him, the aristocracy were the truly aesthetically elegant and those on the silver screen were merely cheap imitations. There was no way he would willingly allow his designs to be put on what he viewed as vulgar display.

Later in the '50's, Hubert de Givenchy and one of the most stylish icons of all-time, Audrey Hepburn, developed a strong relationship. As a result, Givenchy became synonymous with Hepburn. Who can forget the little black dresses and her iconic style in films such as Breakfast at Tiffany's?
While there were occasional relationships forged between designers and stars, for the next 30 years it was the exception, not the rule. While the French didn't hold movie-stars in such high regard, Italians understood the power of film and publicity. Italy had a thriving movie industry and a head-start on forging relationships with actors and actresses at home. With the global influence of Hollywood, the transition was more intuitive.

Not a stranger to Hollywood, most notably for dressing Richard Gere in 1980's American Gigolo, Georgio Armani opened his Beverly Hills boutique in 1988. Using the boutique as a local home-base and developing a publicity machine, he used his already strong connections with celebrities to get his designs on Hollywood's most influential stars and become the designer of choice. His success became a major component of his master marketing plan. By 1991, so many stars were wearing Armani that Woman's Wear Daily dubbed the Oscars, "The Armani Awards". The publicity that resulted was priceless advertising. By broadening and deepening his relationships with the stars, he was then able to leverage it by inviting them to shows and special events. By having such  star-studded attendees, he was guaranteed widespread media coverage.

Quickly following in Armani's footsteps was another Italian, Gianni Versace. While Armani enlisted A-list Hollywood stars, Versace's flashiest stars included Elton John, Elizabeth Hurley, Axl Rose and Tupac Shakur who mirrored his designs. Over time, a myriad of mainstream stars have been associated with the label. Gianni Versace felt that the public was tiring of unrealistic models and that those in Hollywood came across as more "real".
Jane Fonda in Gianni Versace with husband, Ted Turner 

So it was Armani and Versace who first used red-carpet star power to enhance publicity and image. Soon after the two designers had clearly made their mark, Hollywood and designers became a free-for-all. Many designers will send boxes of clothes to stars, with no obligation for them to wear them in hopes of wooing them into wearing their designs. While back in the 80's stars felt honored to be asked to wear designer's  clothes, today many stars ask for much more, including money, to wear a designer's gown or suit. The rat-race is on.

Armani was quoted as saying he was very against the idea of paying stars to wear his line. Fortunately for his great classical designs and his own star-power, Armani is still prevalent on the red-carpet as many image-conscious stars view his clothes to be a safe bet, even if they don't get paid for the privilege. So this year when viewing the stars and what they're wearing, imagine the drama and rush behind the scenes; that may be Oscar-worthy itself.
Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dressing Well: Beyond Vanity

I received a number of messages from readers following my editorial, “Sartorial Mediocrity”. A number of readers spoke about their personal experiences with dressing well and both how they felt better about themselves and how others treated them with more respect. Some said their lives had literally changed as a result.  I think we all know to varying degrees that when we look our best, our attitudes about ourselves change for the better. Reflect back to times when you knew you looked fabulous. For some that would be frequent, for others a bit more sporadically. Compared to dressing down, how did you feel? A sense of pride? More self-confident? How did others treat you? More respect? More engaged? Did they find you more interesting and gravitated to you more?

Right or wrong, people do judge us based on our appearance. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we will judge ourselves based on how we feel we look. Furthermore, we will judge others. This is nothing new. Sure, in a perfect world, people would be able to see directly into our souls to judge us on who we really are. We live in an imperfect world so we must come to terms with the fact that appearances do matter, to ourselves and others.  

David Sarwer, PhD. of the University of Pennsylvania said, "Whether we admit it or not, appearance matters in our culture. Our society often idealizes attractive people. Research shows that those who are attractive typically receive preferential treatment across their life span. That’s why it’s not surprising that the way we look has a great deal to do with our own confidence and self-esteem. Our appearance can shape our self-image and affect the way we deal with others."

Psychologically we have an innate ability to process an incredible amount of information in split seconds, consciously and sub-consciously. It happens quickly, our brains our processing a tremendous amount of information like the fastest mainframe computers ever known. We don’t even realize all the information we are processing, so there’s no filtering.  We must as a matter of survival. When it comes to people we don’t know, we do judge. We must. For starters, are we in danger? That’s a judgment. That’s not a bad thing, that’s survival. So, for the exercise of this editorial, let’s not fight the connotation of “judging” as a negative attribute. I’m not talking about looking down on others, that’s allowing ego and our own insecurities to enter the mix. In assessing the situation with a stranger, the evaluations range from assessing danger across the spectrum to trusting, liking, admiring and wanting to know someone better. We’ve all heard how important first impressions are; a poor first impression and we may never have the opportunity and time to change an incorrect impression. The way we dress and present ourselves makes an immediate and lasting impact!

Ever notice how defendants on trial are always dressed well no matter how sketchy they may look in their day-to-day lives? High-priced attorneys and jury consultants, with life or death judgments on the line, understand the social psychology behind the impression made by being well-dressed.  The old rule of thumb was to dress for court as you would for going to church; unfortunately, the dress-down at churches previously mentioned has obscured that old rule of thumb.

Personally, I don’t dress to please others or have others treat me differently. I try to look my best because somewhere along the way, I found it made me feel better about me. Call it self-image, call it what you like. I can spend half a day in P.J.’s or warm-ups at home, then take a shower, have fun putting a well-tailored, aesthetically pleasing outfit together and get dressed. The difference in how I feel is night and day from before and after. Some days, I don’t even leave- so I’m the only one that knows. You know what? It doesn’t matter. There’s something about being the absolute best you can be on any given day. It carries over to other things. I feel more motivated, more professional and more productive. Many feel that the way we present ourselves to the world is a often a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Sure, some use it as a mask to cover-up what they feel is ugly inside. However, in general I have to agree that the outside is a good reflection of the inside more often than not. If this is true, what does what we're showing the world reflect about us? What are we saying?

I often hear, “I just dress to be comfortable”. That’s great! So do I. However, there can be a difference: purely physical comfort or both physical and psychological comfort. The latter, for me, is far more impactful and rich. My luxuriously soft warm-up bottoms and Under-Armour t-shirts with their high-tech fabrics are physically the most comfortable things I can wear. Do I want to wear them beyond a quick trip to the corner store? No. I would rather feed the soul as well. I spend a tremendous amount of money on tailoring relative to the amount spent on clothes to ensure that they fit as perfectly as possible and are comfortable. Unsolicited advice: spend less on clothes and much more on tailoring! It’s that important. I have the best of both worlds. I dress to be comfortable physically and psychologically.

Is it any wonder that as our society has been becoming more dressed-down, depression rates have increased? That may border on ridiculous as there are a myriad of factors for depression rate increases far beyond aesthetics, but wouldn’t a lot people feel better about themselves if they took pride in how they presented themselves? Old axioms come to mind, “dress for success”, “don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want” and “fake it ‘till you make it”. Perhaps there’s something to it. I believe it. Try having fun with it! What’s the worst that can happen?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sartorial Mediocrity

So is this where we've arrived? We’ve come so far… in the wrong direction. This image is humorous and sad but says a lot. Particularly in the U.S., “dressing down” has gotten carried away. Higher-end boutiques and men’s shops that were town staples for generations have gone out of business. Why? Not an easy question to answer as there are so many factors at work. I’m unsure anyone could adequately discuss and properly weigh the dynamics that got us here, much less give a clear idea of how we can return to elegance.

Mass merchandising, licensing and ready-to-wear had already eroded couture, but it seemed to take the biggest hit beginning in the 80’s. As more women entered the professional workforce and reached higher and higher levels as executives, couture had less place at the office and in their lives. Woman’s business suits, for example, became a staple so as to diminish the lines between the sexes. That’s understandable. It mirrored what woman were thinking (and know): that they could adequately compete with men in the business world. As a result, there was the inevitable blurring of the lines between masculine and feminine, even in terms of attire. No more frilly dresses. Even the staple women’s suit had a less feminine silhouette. I imagine the line of thinking was that “feminine” clothing would underscore that they are, indeed, women- thus different than the old guard. While trying to break through glass ceilings, the effort was to minimize differences between the sexes, not celebrate them. That was quite logical under the circumstances. Unfortunately there were unintended consequences.

For both men and woman, the dot-com craze provided an abundance of young techie entrepreneurs. Being young, not rooted in business culture, they wanted nothing to do with jackets and ties and instead wore jeans, khaki’s and sneakers. As they became successful with billion dollar plus IPO’s, everyone and their brother jumped in and adopted this new dress-down culture. Soon, even Wall Street took notice. Bankers see these kids coming in, so they dressed down and they began to mirror them, in part to make them less uneasy about dealing with the “suits”. “Casual Friday” became more popular and spread to everyday “business casual” in many companies.

When the dot-com craze became dot-bomb in 2000 and 2001, many companies began to reverse their position and returned to Casual Fridays with traditional business attire the rest of the week. With other companies, the business-casual policy stuck. In effect, the bar was lowered. Even the current President of the United States is seen without a tie as often as he is wearing one- and that’s arguably the most powerful executive in the world. It spread beyond business. Even the last bastion of getting dressed up- going to church, has reflected the cultural change. You see the younger generations wearing more casual clothes, jacket very optional- forget the tie. The older generations, some baby-boomers and virtually everyone older maintains a level of decorum and feels it would be disrespectful to not be dressed appropriately.

So where are we now? “Generation X”, loosely defined as those born in the 70’s, has little or no conception of getting dressed up, proper tailoring, what to look for in well made garments. Why would they? Many of their parents weren’t doing it and they learned from what they saw. The earliest wave of Gen-X began in the professional workforce in the early- to mid-90’s, running right into the dot-com era of dress. No on-the-job foundation of learning and practicing proper business attire. If business people wear chino’s and polo’s to work, what are they going to wear when dressing-down? It’s not pretty. Their bar, overall, was never very high so it’s no surprise that the majority are, well, sloppy. Gen-X has had and is having children, so the cycle is perpetuating itself. Even those who are still required to wear business attire illustrate a complete lack of understanding (or concern) for proper fit and tailoring. Again, they haven’t been taught or properly led and there are fewer tailors or small retailers than ever to show them how.

Sure, there are a myriad of other factors for this sartorial nightmare: a more entrepreneurial society working from home, couture and their mouthpieces- the fashion media no longer able to dictate trends and dress, fashion becoming bigger business and supplying mass merchandise to the lowest common denominator. The list goes on and I can’t quantify who and what had the most impact.

The fact is, we are where we are. Will we continue to get lower and lower? Will t-shirts and sweatpants become de rigueur? In the history of mankind, dressing well has been important to self-esteem as well as a factor in how people are treated. Has that changed permanently now from these generations that either doesn’t care or understand? Personally, I fit right in that 70’s Gen-X bracket but I know I’m a rare throwback for my generation and generations that have followed. I love looking nice, dressing classically. It’s easy to set yourself apart in this day and age if you dress well. Is this our legacy? Is the toothpaste out of the tube and no going back? What can turn it around? I don’t have the answers. I would love to hear from you, the readers, what are your thoughts?