Editor’s note: In the age of the coronavirus, a design issue must be as much about a design for living as it is about fashion, accessories, skincare, perfume, architecture and interiors. And so September WAG’s ‘Visionary Designs’ involves designs for good eating and drinking, for environmentalism and public policy, for governance and diversity, as you’ll see in the Editor’s Letter for the issue, available at wagmag.com Sept. 1:
This has not been the best of times for fashion, the subject of WAG’s September issues. With the coronavirus with us for the foreseeable future and more and more people working from home, we are becoming Sweatpants Nation, as the Aug. 9 cover of The New York Times Magazine suggested. Add to this the economic woes that brick-and-mortar stores were experiencing in our Amazon age before the pandemic even hit and it’s no wonder that retail stalwarts like Lord + Taylor and Neiman Marcus and brands like Brooks Brothers, J. Crew and Jos. A Bank have filed for bankruptcy protection. Visit department stores nowadays, and the sales are steep – which is both good and more than a little sad. Even some of the couture houses, which you figure can survive on the strength of the 1 percenters, skipped the recent online Paris Fashion Week to pour their precious resources into their staffs.
But “hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” (Thank you, Emily Dickinson.) Other fashion houses like Dior collaborated with filmmakers to create fashion showcases that are mini works of art, reminding us that fashion is not just some bit of fluff offering momentary enchantment. It’s about surviving and thriving, too. (See our opening essay.)
Few people know more about that than one of the industry’s giants, our cover subject and White Plains’ own André Leon Talley, former creative director of Vogue, with the emphasis on the word “former.” In what is now known as cancel culture, Talley was most definitely canceled by Condé Nast and its artistic director, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. But Talley has, as Jeremy writes, lived to tell the tale in his juicy memoir “The Chiffon Trenches,” whose title alone suggests the iron butterfly quality that defines the fashion world. (We wrote about Talley when he received the Katonah Museum of Art’s Himmel Award in 2015, and we must say he made our day when he complimented us on the maroon ensemble we selected for the occasion. A kind gentleman. We wish him well.)
Some fashion, accessory and beauty labels are taking this moment to launch new chapters. St. John’s new creative director, Zoe Turner, is seeking to put her stamp on the knitwear powerhouse, cocooning us elegantly perhaps as a way to gird us for the virus’ challenge this fall. (Who says fashion isn’t a kind of armor?) With spas in London, New York and other megacities, Pietro Simone brings his skincare collections – one for everyday use; the other, anti-aging – to Neiman Marcus Sept. 15. And the legacy of French jeweler Frédéric Zaavy continues in the new book “Stardust” by Hudson Valley photographers John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler and in the efforts of his former partner Lisa Chen to realize his remaining designs. (Once you see his truly artistic, nature-inspired pieces, you’ll be a fan, too.)
The high cost of fashion – in terms of our environment – is one of the subjects environmental journalist Tatiana Schlossberg covers in her “Inconspicuous Consumption,” which she’s sure to discuss in an online appearance with Katonah’s Jay Heritage Center Sept. 10. The daughter of author Caroline Kennedy and the granddaughter of a woman who knew a thing or two about fashion, journalism and publishing – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – Schlossberg has a funny, conversational style all her own and an unusual way of viewing the world. Put it this way: You’ll never see goats and cashmere the same way again.
Another person with an unusual take on things is our own Phil, who explores the peculiar history of Oscar’s Best Costume Design Award and then pivots for a piece on Trattoria 632 in Purchase and designing fine Italian fare. The latter is one of any number of stories in this issue that interprets “design” broadly as well. So we talk with Kristen N. Gizzi, executive director of Litchfield Crossings, New Milford’s largest shopping center and an advocate for Hope’s Door and its efforts to end domestic violence. Jeremy visits Denise Balassi, president and lead designer of South Salem-based Spaces of Distinction – originally known as Interior Consultants – a multifaceted design firm specializing in high-end, luxury residential and hospitality design; and Chris McNally – founder of Falcon, a Manhattan-based project quality management company – who discusses how homebuilding has changed in the age of Covid-19.
We also have stories on designs for educational diversity (new Iona College board member and marketing dynamo Gabrielle Gambrell), a life in public policy (former U.N. Ambassador and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who will deliver a keynote at the Westchester Women’s Summit online Sept. 9 and 10); leading a city through crisis (Jeremy on White Plains Mayor Tom Roach); and on training equestrians (Ruth Nicodemus, owner of Serenity Show Stable in South Salem, and Kara Hanly Raposa of Old Salem Farm in North Salem).
Finally, we’d be remiss if we did not mention that we took first and second place recently in the nationally judged New York Press Association’s contest for Best Magazine. The judges said WAG is “very smart and stylish.” As Cami notes in her column on stylish home design – as opposed to fashionable home design – fashion is now, what’s hot, what’s trending. Nothing wrong with that. But style is classic, forever. Fashion is the weather. It comes and goes. Style is climate, the overarching picture. Fashion is personality. Style is character.
We at WAG know that we bring a sophisticated, cultured style to the publishing world. It is that style that we have adhered to in some dark days and that we believe will see us through.
A 2020 YWCA White Plains & Central Westchester Visionary Award winner and a 2018 Folio Women in Media Award winner, Georgette Gouveia is the author of “Burying the Dead,” “Daimon: A Novel of Alexander the Great” and “Seamless Sky” (JMS Books), as well as “The Penalty for Holding,” a 2018 Lambda Literary Award finalist (JMS Books), and “Water Music” (Greenleaf Book Group). They’re part of her series of novels, “The Games Men Play,” also the name of the sports/culture blog she writes.
Her short story “The Glass Door,” about love in the time of the coronavirus, was recently published by JMS. Read WAG’s serialization of “Seamless Sky” here. For more, visit thegamesmenplay.com.