the Insiders


Brooke Astor with a portrait of her husband Vincent in the background, 1976.
Courtesy of the Fairchild Archives

"What's it like?"

That is the question almost everyone asks me about covering the criminal trial of Brooke Astor's only son, Anthony Marshall -- Tony, to friends and his defense attorneys -- who is accused of a laundry list of charges including grand larceny and scheming to defraud his mother. Prosecutors say he stole paintings and valuables and also unduly influenced Astor to change her will by $60 million in his favor when she was suffering from Alzheimer's.

It's definitely been a surreal experience to sit in the drab courtroom at Manhattan Criminal Court and observe not only Marshall, but his third wife, Charlene, and a parade of very grand witnesses including Annette de la Renta, Nancy and Henry Kissinger, Barbara Walters, Patsy Pulitzer Preston, Met curator James Watt, Vartan Gregorian and Graydon Carter dissect the life of one of New York's legendary personages in a place where it's not unusual to see a perp being marched around in handcuffs. (In fact, the other day when I was going through security another visitor got nabbed for bringing pot with him to the courthouse.)

May 29, 2009 4:09 PM


Cartoon Network

When I first met Loren Kreiss in 2006, he had just moved from Los Angeles to New York to become East Coast director of his family's eponymous furniture company. He took me on a frenetic tour of his heavily designed apartment in Chelsea, and though he was embarking on a career in club chairs, it was very apparent that art was a passion (several of his own comic-book-like paintings were hung throughout).

Three years later, Kreiss is still on the family payroll but he's making a serious effort toward a more creative path: He's created a series of silkscreens featuring kooky cartoon characters. The exhibit, titled "Say Hello to My Little Friends," opened Thursday night at the AFP gallery.
It was a letdown for both sides.

After two years of legal wrangling, days of testimony and thousands of pages of court documents, Trovata and Forever 21 are back at the starting line because of a mistrial over allegations the cheap-chic retailer knowingly copied Trovata's designs.
I'm not a believer in ghosts, but I may begin to doubt that stance soon enough.

Covering the fine jewelry market, I've tried on some fantastic pieces -- 50 carat rocks at Graff, vintage Mauboussin collars at Siegelson, even a tiara or two -- but none as pedigreed, iconic and original as Coco Chanel's matching set of Verdura Maltese cross cuffs.

Fashion has such a giddy air of wealth and excess around it that it's difficult to fathom when seemingly high-riding designer companies falter.

I'll never forget the disbelief in the WWD newsroom in New York back in 1998 when the paper got word that Chanel Inc. was dissolving its partnership with Isaac Mizrahi and shuttering the business.

It was déjà vu when I walked into Christian Lacroix's headquarters on the Rue de Monceau in Paris on Wednesday to learn the company had filed a petition seeking court protection from its creditors. It's always disheartening to see a wildly creative designer -- at Lacroix, even the wires coming out of the receptionist's computer are festively decorated with wooden beads and glittering rings -- run up against a wall.

When WWD's editors met in mid-April to start brainstorming ideas for this year's Denim in Depth section, we thought one of our biggest challenges would be making sure every article wasn't about the recession. We've heard from more than a few readers over the past year who have had enough of the constant barrage of bad news in the media. While we report on and don't make the news, we can empathize.

Michael Kinsley is no fan of the Newsweek redesign, but he has even less love for Time, where his column ran for the last two years. Reviewing Newsweek's new look on The New Republic's Web site Thursday, Kinsley described himself as having been "recently dumped by Time." He deemed Newsweek editor Jon Meacham "a very smart and thoughtful guy, which
in my experience is not necessarily true of all newsmagazine editors (all two, that is)." And although he found the new Newsweek lacking in clarity or originality, he urged readers to pick it up and judge for themselves, adding, "Don't forget to cancel your subscription to Time while you're at it."

CANNES -- Since the start of the Cannes International Film Festival on May 15, sales of earplugs have spiked 80 percent, according to the French Institute for Aural Pollution From Euro-Techo. OK, I made that up, but even an offer to strut the red carpet on the arm of Johnny Depp for the premiere of "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" could not persuade me to part ways with my pack of squishy, neon, sound-blocking ear pellets.
What is the future of the luxury market?

Few are asking that question more than Dana Thomas, the Paris-based fashion writer best known for her book "Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster," which documents and criticizes the rise of the mass luxury market.

It's a testament to Michelle Obama's power in the art and fashion communities that, in the minutes before she cut the ribbon reopening the Charles Engelhard Court of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's American Wing, a tableaux of New York shuffled into the chairs under the renovated skylights. Walking in along with Aerin Lauder, Annette de la Renta, Ralph Lauren and Wendi Murdoch were several dozen public school students (represented by Beacon High School, Laguardia High School, P.S. 176 and P.S. 325). A few were dressed up -- one young man was spotted tucking in his white collared shirt -- but many had that artsy kid look: magenta-streaked hair, unlaced high-tops, bedhead hair.
Girls gone wild.

Women behaving badly.

Both descriptions neatly sum up the insanity that was the twice-yearly Manolo Blahnik press sale last Wednesday morning.

Upon my 7 a.m. arrival (the sale started at 9 a.m.), a waiting room at the Warwick Hotel had about 45 eager yet calm hopefuls awaiting the key to the castle (a lettered ticket passed out in order of arrival by two unflappable public relations women). The closer to the start time the sale got, the more packed -- and less civil -- the room became.

Around 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, the skies above the intersection of Varick Street and Ericsson Place in TriBeCa opened up. A flock of preschoolers ran in and out of sheets of rain from beneath a large awning. They laughed in total amusement while their teachers looked on.

A few hundred feet east on Ericsson, a crowd of about 40 photographers and cameramen stood behind metal barriers in front of the New York Police Department's First Precinct. They huddled under beach umbrellas and plastic ponchos and refused to seek refuge from the downpour. Kiefer Sutherland could arrive at any minute to turn himself over to police.

This is the kind of symbolism a decent fiction editor might call too obvious. It's hard, though, to deny the slightly childish air that surrounds a celebrity perp walk.

To call the National Magazine Awards sober would be a pun, but it would be accurate. Brought down to earth by a crashing economy and a changing media landscape, the industry's annual prom Thursday was scaled back, shrunk down and subject to an early closing bar that resulted first in a frenzy and then in some very disappointed magazine editors.

One, Allure editor in chief Linda Wells, managed to procure a drink after the bar closed just before 7, mostly through prolonged begging. She later offered to share the bounty, a vodka soda, with Reader's Digest's Tom Prince and Departures editor in chief Richard David Story. "I don't have swine flu," she added helpfully. (They declined.) Nearby, New York magazine film critic David Edelstein, a finalist for columns and commentary, bickered with event staff over his rebellious refilling of his Diet Coke.

A look from Rachel Cohen of Parsons The New School For Design.

There was some serious star power at Wednesday night's Parsons The New School for Design Fashion Benefit. And I'm not referring to the gaggle of celebrities (Eva Mendes, Russell Simmons), media and retail heavyweights (Anna Wintour, Linda Fargo) and A-list designers (Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan) who showed up to honor Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa and Tom Murry. Rather, the main attraction was the school's 2009 fashion design graduates, who sent out some impressive collections. There was everything from easy-chic, draped separates to piles of origami knits. Julia Blum and Robert Fitzsimmons tied for the coveted title, Women's Designer of the Year. Blum's provocative lineup, a theatrical take on innerwear, featured a shocking teddy that highlighted female erogenous zones. Almost her polar opposite, Fitzsimmons showed a relatively conservative collection, which included a flirty fuchsia dress ready to hit the sales floor.

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