Designers Return to “Project Runway: All Stars” with Something to Prove

Redemption, pride, personal challenge, curiosity.

Thirteen designers from previous seasons of the hit reality fashion design show Project Runway have returned to compete in Project Runway: All Stars. The All Stars edition of Project Runway debuts on October 25 at 9 p.m. EST on Lifetime. And the reasons behind each designer’s return are as varied as their design aesthetics and backgrounds in the industry.

This latest edition of Project Runway: All Stars (the second full season version not counting a truncated All Stars special), comes just weeks after Project Runway finished its 10th anniversary regular season.

While fans will see familiar faces at the sewing machines, the quartet of judges and advisors are a different crew from the Project Runway regular personalities of Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia and Tim Gunn. Instead, Project Runway: All Stars features a judging panel of supermodel Carolyn Murphy and designers Issac Mizrahi and Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman. Joanna Coles, formerly of Elle and now editor-in-chief at Cosmopolitan, fills the workroom advisor role.

An interesting wrinkle to this season of Project Runway: All Stars is that this season features a lot of runners-up, all with something to prove.

The runners-up looking for a shot at redemption in this edition of Project Runway: All Stars are:

  • Wendy Pepper (Middleburg, VA) – Season One, Second Runner-up
  • Uli Herzner (Miami, FL) – Season Three, First Runner-up
  • Althea Harper (New Haven, CT) – Season Six, First Runner-up
  • Emilio Sosa (New York, NY) – Season Seven, First Runner-up
  • Joshua McKinley (New York, NY) – Season Nine, First Runner-up

Other designers returning are:

  • Andrae Gonzalo (New York, NY) – Season Two
  • Kayne Gillaspie (Oklahoma City, OK) – Season Three
  • Suede (Barryville, NY) – Season Five
  • Peach Carr (Lake Forest, IL) – Season Eight
  • Casanova (New York, NY) – Season Eight.
  • Ivy Higa (New York, NY) – Season Eight.
  • Anthony Ryan Auld (Baton Rouge, LA) – Season Nine.
  • Laura Kathleen (St. Louis, MO) – Season Nine.

Fashion Reverie talked to three returning designers of this season of Project Runway: All Stars to find out why they returned and how the Project Runway: All Stars experience compared to their original experience on Project Runway.

Wendy Pepper

It’s been eight years since America met the mom who became known as the villain of the first season of Project Runway for her often sarcastic and acerbic comments about her fellow contestants. Since then Pepper, 48, has kept busy designing for her boutique in Middleburg, VA.

Fashion Reverie: What do you think of how you were shown in Season One?

Wendy Pepper: It’s TV and you throw your hat in the ring and do what you can. I really thought it was a pretty amazing experience. I thought all in all it’s been a wonderful experience for me. I think that editing is  a miraculous thing. I really don’t know that person they created on Season 1 but they managed to create it and kudos to them for that. But never once for a minute have I confused it with who I am.

FR: How was the Project Runway experience for you this time and working with designers who grew up watching you on television?

Wendy Pepper: I definitely felt it took me back to eight years ago. It reminded me of the craziness. I can tell you my job does not include challenges like that. It actually made me grateful to come back to my real job. My main observation was it was an extraordinary opportunityto spend some real time with people that are entering the industry in a different way than I did. To me that was invaluable to have a meal with them, and talk with them, and talk strategy. I learned a lot.

Kayne Gillaspie

Since being introduced to “Project Runway” audiences as the pageant gown king of Season 3 and finishing in the top 5, Gillaspie, 33, has been busy building his fashion business. His Jonathan Kayne brand, based in his hometown of Nashville, includes dresses, intimates and shoe lines.

FR: Given your heavy work commitments with your three lines, why did you decide to participate on Project Runway All Stars?

Kayne Gillaspie: I think all of us love the creative process so when else do you get a chance to leave your cell phone behind, and the whole outside world behind and all you do is focus on creating. You get to just zone out and take a challenge at hand and really concentrate on showing what you can do,  perfecting your craft and getting into a creative zone to do what you love to do. On top of that, it’s great exposure for young designers. There’s so much competition out there to get your brand out there. And for so many people to get to see your creative process and talent, it’s pretty awesome. It’s a no brainer. As long as I can make it work with my schedule and my business I will do that. This is another great opportunity for me. I couldn’t pay for a single commercial for my brand on Lifetime. So that type of exposure with television is awesome. For me it was a business move more than anything else.

FR:  Almost half of the designers are from seasons eight and nine. What was it like being with them?

Kayne Gillaspie: They grew up watching us. These kids come in wearing only their product and promoting their product. And even just how [they approached the show], they always had things they might want to say or do. For me it’s just spontaneous. I do what I do. There were a lot of egos I felt from some of the younger crowd. I pretty much get along with anyone but I was a little surprised by how much ego was there without much work that’s been put in before. I just grew up where hard work was number one and everything would come after that. But good for them. Maybe it works for them.

Peach Carr

Peach Carr has been busy since she appeared in 2010 on Season 8 of Project Runway. The 52-year-old mom from Lake Forest, IL.—she hopped on a plane to tape this All Stars season literally hours after watching her daughter graduate from high school—has also been busy with her line of tennis togs and daywear.

All images courtesy of lifetime.com

FR: Why did you decide to do Project Runway All Stars?

Peach Carr: I said no about four times. I think the reason why I finally said yes was because I thought I had really grown so much in two years as a designer since my time on Season 8. I really wanted to show everybody not only how much growth but what Lifetime gave to me because I had no voice before Project Runway. Project Runway really channeled me to where I was supposed to go. I wanted to show everybody what this opportunity did for me.

FR: What was the experience like this time around?

Peach Carr: My daughter graduated from high school and hours later I was on a plane to New York to film so by the time I met everybody I was thinking ‘What did I do?’ It was very weird at first. But I was so star struck by some of the people there that I almost didn’t feel I was on Project Runway at first. I am still star struck with Uli and Kayne. Season 3 is [when] I first got hooked on Project Runway. I am just like everybody else; you feel like you know these people and you want to get to know them.”

—Karyn D. Collins

Andres Escobar: The Master Builder Speaks

“This is the house that Jack built, y’all. Remember this house! This was the land that he worked by hand. This was the dream of an upright man. This was the room that was filled with love,” croons R&B icon Aretha Franklin from her 1968 hit by the same title.

Master builder Andres Escobar just like the character in “This Is the House that Jack Built” pours lots of love and dedication into his craft. Moved more by what his heart dictates than financial gain, Escobar has created a phenomenal portfolio of work that illustrates his passion and creative genius. From designing the New York Times Building interior to the Guess Flagship store in Toronto to the newly renovated and renamed Noir (originally Nikki Beach) in Midtown East, Escobar is riding high on an astonishing list of accomplishments. Still, Escobar approaches each new project as an opportunity to evolve and test the limits of  his ingenuity.

Andres Escobar took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Fashion Reverie about his trajectory, his philosophy of life, and the thing that brings him so much joy.

Fashion Reverie: You moved from Colombia to Montreal to study engineering. During your studies you switched from engineering to architecture/interior design, why?

Andres Escobar: I have always been a creative person, and in my youth I would make model buildings and automobiles. I started out as an engineer major because my family thought that a creative career was too risky. I decided to move to designing spaces and it had taken a long time for me to obtain what I wanted to achieve.

NY Times Building rendering

FR: What were you trying to obtain?

Andres Escobar: I wanted to have a portfolio of a diversity of projects. Obviously, you have to make enough money to support yourself, but it is more about the challenge of designing different venues. Working on a new project is like starting a new love affair. It is fun for me and I don’t feel like I go to work.

It is very important as a designer to work on a diversity of projects that have a different aesthetic. In this industry it is very easy to get stereotyped. For a while I was thought of a designer that only designed very edgy, downtown spaces with a minimalistic aesthetic. But with this new project, Noir, I have been able to show a wider range of my talents, combining Art Deco with neoclassicism, mixed in with Hollywood glamour and modern elements. This space also gives the feeling of the old supper clubs, but modernized.

FR: When you opened your company in 1989 what were some of your first projects?

Andres Escobar: Early on I was designing large supermarkets that had very specialized departments with their own personalities within the food store, like a boucherie, boulangerie or chacuterie.  Early on we had clients in Halifax, Montreal, and even some European clients. That morphed into designing restaurants and later retail stores like Timbaland and sportswear stores.

FR: What sets your firm apart from other architectural/interior design firms?

Andres Escobar: I am able to understand what people are looking for. I am great listener. When I am meeting with my clients I let them talk and I am able to discern what they want, even if they are not clear or so sure themselves. My firm is very good at understanding markets and what works best for that particular market. We are good at not letting the design overwhelm the product.

FR: Your job requires a lot of hands-on knowledge. How do you do the research needed to stay competitive?

Andres Escobar: I am very fortunate to do a lot of traveling.  I love meeting people and different cultures, and I infuse all those experiences into my work. One common quality among all people and cultures is that there is beauty among all people and all cultures. The media would have us to believe that beauty comes in a very specific package, but that is not so.

I make it a point to see what is going on in different cultures. I go outside of the packaged tourist areas. I visit different types of restaurants and hotels.  I always look at what people are wearing, how they accessorize; how the men and the women are beautifying themselves.

Duo Restaurant

FR: What is your design aesthetic or signature look?

Andres Escobar: I try to create a place that has its own unique look. For long time it was very linear, and that was a part of my learning and growing. You know, sometimes it is more difficult to create a clever, minimalistic space than a Baroque-inspired space.  You can hide imperfections in more busy or Baroque spaces. Having said that, you have to understand what is going on right now, but you also have to understand different periods, from Baroque to Bauhaus, etc.  This knowledge really enriches you and you can use those historical references in your work designed with your particular point of view.

FR: How do you select your projects?

Andres Escobar: Most of the projects come by word of mouth, so the more projects we work on, the more people are aware of my firm’s work. I also have to feel that I have the right chemistry with my clients to have a successful relationship. I can usually tell within five minutes if it is going to work out.

FR: What has been your most challenging, and why?

Andres Escobar: We worked on a hotel a while back, and I knew early on that it would be difficult. I followed my financial necessity and not my heart. I did the project to honor the commitment, but I hated the project. I promised myself to never do to that again.

FR: You designed the New York Times Building, Noir, and other significant spaces in NYC. What is it about NYC that lends itself to your design aesthetic?

Andres Escobar: I believe personality is very important. Once people get to know me they understand that I am probably the easiest guy to work with. There are a lot of prima donnas out there that are very hard to work with. New Yorkers like to get down to brass tacks without a lot of fuss and muss. So my personality lends itself to getting things done and meeting deadlines without a lot of drama. I believe also that New Yorkers appreciate when a designer can bring in different elements from different cultures and periods and make the design look like one seamless expression of beauty and functionality. My firm is able to accomplish that.

Noir Images courtesy of Robert Chojnacki

FR: Could you talk about how Noir and how that project came about?

Andres Escobar: I met the owner George Giordano in Florida and he mentioned that he had a club/restaurant, Nikki Beach in New York City. He contacted me when he wanted Nikki Beach to be renovated. When I looked at the space I immediately wanted to make the space different from other similar spaces in NYC. Most marquees in NYC are square, so we wanted to differentiate Noir’s marquee from the others. I decided to bring a little bit of the Champs Elysees to the space, so that is what we did. We built in a beautiful spiral staircase, padded walls and banquettes.

FR: There has been a trend in NYC and other major cities to move toward upscale lounges and away from large clubs and dance spaces. What to you contribute this to?

Andres Escobar: There has been a very big generational shift in populations that desire a night life. The baby boomers want to go out and have a relaxing time in environments that not too crowded and noisy. The clubbing scene is too loud and you cannot have a conversation in those spaces. Also, designers are bored with being asked to always create cutting edge, Jetson-like environments; it is too linear with hard edges. If you notice a lot of beauty comes in soft, round, smooth-edged packages. The Renaissance was all about round edges, and architecture and interior design is having a renaissance of sorts.

People want to go back to the basics. You want all the innovation and accessibility that comes with technology, but you want the beauty of the basics and the quality of great design.

FR: That said; what are the current trends in architecture?

Andres Escobar: Design is becoming a lot more fluid because of access to a wider variety of building materials. In my case, which is mainly interiors, technology has come a long, long way. Through media, like the Internet, consumers are exposed to everything and they have a certain amount of sophistication. Advancements in lighting have changed the industry. LED and longevity of the product is now the order of the day. However, with the new technologies we are losing the craftsmen. Because everything now is done through machines, craftsmen are becoming almost obsolete and with that loss we are losing some of the romance of their artistry. Through machines we can do an interpretation of an engraved wall, but it is not the same.

The retail industry everyone is trying to follow the leaders in terms of personality and branding a interior design look in the store. Each store will have its own individual look. Prada started this, now everyone is trying to copy that. Unfortunately, the branding looks similar.

FR: What comes next?

Andres Escobar: I want to keep evolving and doing the romantic, evocative designs. I want to keep doing what I am doing, and that is always fun and fulfilling.

—William S. Gooch

 

 

 

Producer Catherine Schreiber Enlightens with Multiple 2012 Tony Nominations

Tonight, the stars will gather on the Audemars Piguet Red Carpet at the Beacon Theater in New York City for the 2012 Tony Awards celebrating Broadway’s finest.  Fashion Reverie speaks with producer Catherine Schreiber, whose plays Peter and the Starcatcher, Clybourne Park and Stick Fly have garnered a total 14 Tony Nominations this year.  With nine nominations, Peter and the Starcatcher has received the most nominations for a new American play in the history of the Tony Awards.  Here, Catherine Schreiber reveals her secrets on how to become a Broadway producer, nevertheless one with multiple award nominations in her pocket, and how to pick a good script.  She also shares with us what it’s like working with Alicia Keys, behind the scenes cast rituals, and how to celebrate if one wins a Tony.

 

Fashion Reverie: When you were a little girl what did you dream of becoming?

Catherine Schreiber: I dreamt of becoming a starring actress.  I remember acting out movie songs for my parents as I listened to the scores on a record.  God, I think I did the entire score of Bye Bye Birdie…My poor parents….

FR: How did the theater become a part of your life? 

Catherine Schreiber: I always loved theater and was always in the school plays.  I was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz at Camp Walt Whitman when I was really young, the only time anyone has let me sing on stage.   In junior high, I played Cordelia in the Happiest Millionaire.  Great Neck North High School had an amazing theater department.    I played a range of parts from Abigail in the Crucible to Amanda in The Glass Menagerie to Muriel in You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running.  I went to Yale as an English major, but continued acting and never stopped.  I worked with people like Wendy Wasserstein, Chris Durang, and Meryl Streep.

Charles Edwards as King George VI in The King’s Speechin London 

 

FR: How does one wind up becoming a Broadway producer?  What does it take to be successful? 

Catherine Schreiber: There isn’t one simple answer.  I think people who love the theater, be it actors, directors or designers who want to be more involved in making things happen, in putting the pieces together to make the magic happen, become producers.  In this business, you can’t wait around for things to happen.  At least I can’t. So when I had a project I loved and wanted to do, I decided to do it.

In terms of what it takes to be successful, well let’s see, successful is an interesting word.  There are different kinds of success.  In the three years of working on Broadway, I’ve been involved with seven shows.  Four were nominated for Tonys: Next Fall, Scottsboro Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher and Clybourne Park.  Next Fall and Scottsboro Boys are brilliant and were critically successful, but weren’t financially successful.  The King’s Speech, which was an extraordinary production in London and opened to ecstatic reviews, isn’t yet a financial success because of the timing of the piece.  I have no doubt, however, that when it comes to Broadway it will be successful critically and financially.  It is just brilliant and the consensus in London was, “better than the movie.”

So to be successful as a producer, I suppose it takes seeing the brilliance and importance of a piece, and believing in it and working hard to make it happen.  Actually, it takes being lucky enough to be given projects created by such musical geniuses as Kander and Ebb or creative geniuses such as Rick Elice, Roger Rees and Alex Timbers.  To be successful in a financial sense… well, that takes all this, plus a little more luck.  I guess if you love something and believe in it and you help give it life, then you are successful.

FR: What attracts you to a script or project? 

Catherine Schreiber: I need to be deeply moved, to tears or laughter.  It has to be important, even on just a human level.  And as a producer, I just don’t bring money to the table, I really work hard on many levels, from marketing to ticket sales.  When I produced Desperate Writers, I did everything from cleaning the bathroom, to help designing the logo to selling tickets, to creating marketing plans, to walking a large rubber duck down the street on a leash to get attention. If I’m going to spend the time on someone else’s project I need to really believe in it.

Scene from “Clydebourne Park”

FR: We’ve seen a big change in the movie industry.  People just don’t go to the movies like they used to unless it’s an “event.”  Do you see the same trend on Broadway? 

Catherine Schreiber: Well, I’m not going to go into the “Mega event” that is Spider Man —but I guess that answers your question.  In general because it’s so expensive to do a musical on Broadway, there often is the tendency to pour everything into it, whether that be casting big TV or movie names to creating sensational special effects.  But I think the last couple of seasons have shown this doesn’t always work. The little musical Once has been hugely successful, and Peter and the Starcatcher has shown how magical theater can be using the simplest of props, the cleverest of minds as those of Rick Elice, Roger Rees and Alex Timbers and one’s imagination.  So hopefully, theater can return to making magic the old fashioned way.

FR: The US has been in an economic slump for a few years now.  How has that affected your profession? 

Catherine Schreiber: There are periods when it seems people aren’t buying tickets because of the economic slump, but surprisingly, Broadway continues to show tremendous growth year after year.  While many people can’t afford some of the top prices of plays dictated by their high budgets, there are discount tickets for people to come to see plays.  According to the analysis by the Broadway League, the 2010-2011 season showed a growth of 9% over the 2008-2009 season. The League estimated that the “direct and indirect contributions to our economy totaled $11.2 billion” and that Broadway’s contribution to the city “is almost entirely from the money brought in by Broadway tourists.”

In terms of a specific reaction to the economic slump, I would say producers feel the need to cast stars in roles to ensure audiences will come.  This worked beautifully for How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.  Everyone wanted to see Daniel Radcliffe, and he was indeed wonderful in the show.  But, sometimes, star casting is a problem because once that star leaves, people don’t want to come to see the show anymore.  Then there are shows like Next Fall, which I think would have had a longer run if there were star casting because it would have brought more attention to the show.

“Stick Fly”

FR:  Speaking of stars, you’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.  On your last production, Stick Fly you co-produced with Alicia Keys.  What was that like?  

Catherine Schreiber: Let me just say that Alicia Keys is one of the kindest, most gracious, giving people I have met … and of course, unbelievably talented.  She believed and still believes in Stick Fly and has been tireless in her support and promotion of it. From what I’ve seen with “celebrity” producers, this is rare.  It has been an honor to work with her and her team.  She brought over 25,000 Facebook fans to the Stick Fly site—that’s a stunning number.

FR: Two of your productions, Clybourne Park and Peter and the Starcatcher, are up for Tony nominations for Best Play.  How does that feel?

Catherine Schreiber: Well, it feels wonderful!  Clybourne Park and Peter and the Starcatcher are both brilliant in their own right.  I’m a mother and not allowed to have favorites.  So I hope it’s a tie.  But, I have to say, I think Stick Fly also deserved a nomination.  Stick Fly didn’t get the respect it deserved.  Audiences loved it and it reached out and spoke to a segment of our society that has not been addressed before.  Stick Fly may be gone from Broadway, but it will have a life touring and on television, and perhaps in film.  Condola Rashad (nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play) was fabulous in it, and I’m so glad she was recognized.  In general, this was a ridiculous season in terms of how many good plays there were that could also have been nominated.

 

Scene from Peter and the Starcatcherwith David Rossmer, Adam Chanler-Berat, and Carson Elrod center. Image courtesy of O&M Co. 

FR: If either of your plays win, how will you celebrate?

Catherine Schreiber: With the family—the theater family.  Bottom line, it’s just wonderful to be nominated, and the Tonys provide an opportunity for a broad audience to get a taste of all the plays.  So hopefully, more people will come.  There is nothing like the experience of live theatre. I  hope more and more people become addicted.  I think with the plays that Broadway offers this year, there is plenty of wonderful stuff to feed that addiction.

 

Catherine Schreiber, producer/actress/writer is a four time Tony-nominated producer for Next Fall, The Scottsboro Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher and Clybourne Park.  She was a producer on King’s Speech the play, which played to rave reviews in London, and Stick Fly. She produced Desperate Writers, a play she co-wrote based on her movie, Off Broadway at the Union Square Theatre.  Her acting tv/film roles include “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, “Rat Race”, “Jane Austen Book Club”. Her theatre roles include Desperate Writers, Wayside Motor Inn at the Manhattan Theatre Club and Sly Fox directed by Arthur Penn. Catherine was honored with the Key to the City of Scottsboro, Alabama for her work with the Scottsboro Boys Museum. She is a Founder of the Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles, a VIP member of the Flea Theatre, NY and a member of the League of Professional Theatre Women.  www.wowcatherine.com

—Jeanine Jeo-Hi Kim

 

 

 

 

HOUSEWIVES Alum Jill Zarin Has Graduated to Bigger and Better

This week The Real Housewives of New York City Season 5 premiered on Bravo with new cast members—and without some of the old.  Housewives alumna Jill Zarin reported on her blog, “I felt like I graduated high school and am in college now… going back to the high school to visit my old friends and some transfer students.”  What’s Jill been up to;  apparently, quite a lot.  In addition to continuing a round of television appearances, Jill Zarin has been just a tad occupied—building an empire around her name with her Jill Zarin Home Bedding Collection, Skweez Couture shapewear line, and most recently her Jill Zarin Jewelry Collection.  Fashion Reverie has had a chance to catch up with her to learn more about her newest ventures in the fashion and accessories industries.

 

Fashion Reverie: What inspired you to start Skweez Couture?

Jill Zarin: I had my “aha” moment while I was filming Season 4 of The Real Housewives of New York City when I was wearing someone else’s shapewear and getting out of the car and my whole leg was exposed.  It was really squeezing my whole leg, very uncomfortable and very unattractive.  It was at that moment, I told my husband that I have to make own shapewear, and I have to make it look pretty.  I said I could do better, and I did!

FR: Can you go over your background for some of our readers who may not know of your professional background beyond The Real Housewives of New York City?

Jill Zarin: I started as a buyer at Filene’s Department Store in Boston, Massachusetts.  My last job was President of Jockey Hosiery for Great American Knitting Mills.  So I’ve really ran the gamut in ladies and menswear and undergarments, specifically from hosiery to tights, for over 10 of my 25 years in the business.  Then I worked for my husband, Bobby, who has a fabric company, which allowed me to learn a lot about textiles and fabrication.

Skweez Couture’s Peek-a-boob

FR: What does your collection consist of?

Jill Zarin: It ranges from functional and affordable undergarments to a hybrid collection and outerwear.  For example, I have a Bodyguard Bodysuit that can be worn under a blouse, under a sweater, under a dress, under anything to hold in your stomach, lift your rear end, to give you support because it has an underwire, and yet makes you feel very feminine and comfortable.  You can also wear my shapewear by itself with a jacket, or a jacket over it with jeans, which is the way I like to wear it.  So it can go from undergarment to outerwear.  I also have items that are primarily for outerwear, but can be worn under clothes, which makes up my corset line.

So I have items that go under your clothes, items that are hybrid that can be worn under or out, corsets, then I have garments that are just phenomenal—soft, easy to wear, from velvet leggings to cotton capris to those that have more spandex and support.  My favorite item allows you to wear your own bra: it’s called the Peek-a-boob.  My biggest concern as a seller is bra size.  This way, I can support all of them, no pun intended, by letting them wear their own bra and giving them an undergarment that surrounds it literally and sucks them in all the way down.  At the bottom, I’ve added lace, which I love.

The side effect of these garments is that it gives you incredible back support, which all of us need.  We’ll all leaning over our computers, we’re slouching as we get older, we’re tired, and we’re resting in that position.  These garments force you to stay up straighter.  It’s healthier for your body.

Skweez Couture’s Bodyguard Seamless Shaping Bodysuit

FR: Would you tell us about the fabrics you use?

Jill Zarin: I like to use fabrics that have incredible softness, which is the most important thing to me because I think the first thing you do when you open up your package is touch it. It’s really important for me that it passes a certain number of washing machine passes.  It’s sort of like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.  I should really apply for that!  But we put the garments through our own testing.  I have my own Jill Zarin Housekeeping Seal of Approval.  So does HSN by the way.  One of the things I am most proud about is being one of the suppliers of HSN.

FR: Please tell us the steps it took to put together Skweez Couture.

Jill Zarin: It’s been trial and error.  I’ve never opened a business so aggressively and quickly in my life.  My husband, Bobby, is an entrepreneur, and he helped guide me.  I have a licensee that is my partner in making these goods and designing.  That was the fastest way to do it.  If I had tried to do it myself, it would have taken me another year or two.  I had to make that choice to give part up a part of my business, but it was worth it.  With that, there comes a lot of expertise and many, many years of experience.

 Forbes Magazine recently named us one of the top 5 emerging shapewear brands in the world.  They were doing an article on my competitor.  This other company has been in the business for ten years and is now worth billions of dollars.  And now Skweez Couture is on its heels.

 FR: But you’re still actively involved in the design?

Jill Zarin:  That’s where there was a bit of a challenge because they’re based in Boca Raton, Florida and I’m based in New York.  So, FedEx is my best friend!

FR: What are you most proud of regarding your collection?

Jill Zarin: I think it would be the corsets because that was the most challenging.  I literally took apart with a scissor one of my favorite corsets that I had bought years ago because I needed to find out what was annoying me so I could do it better. My weight would fluctuate up and down, but this thing had no stretch at all.  I’d have to hold my breath while Bobby would struggle to try to help hook all the eyes.  It had no straps and would slip,so I took it apart.  One of the things I did was replace hooks and eyes with a very a practical zipper that has a safety latch on it.  When I took it apart, I noticed the reason why it was hurting me so much was because the bones were so hard and wiry and tore through the fabric and dug into me.  I wanted soft boning, which I had to source, and of course I wanted a really beautiful sateen finish, and a silk look.

My retail price is $75 for a gorgeous corset, which is unheard of at that price.  I also added removable straps.  I made the straps removable so people who didn’t want them could remove them, for example, smaller chested women who might not need the extra support.

I used the princess seaming 360 degrees around it.  In fact, one of HSN hosts, Diana Perkovic, loved it so much that she picked me as the Host Pick, which is a big honor.  WWD also featured that same corset.

Jill Zarin Jewelry Collection’s “Allyson” ring, $78, Jill Zarin Jewelry Collection’s “Gloria” ring, $38

FR: How did the Jill Zarin Jewelry Collection come about?

 Jill Zarin: I’m a jewelry hoarder, like so many of my peers. I am a little bit careless, and I’ve lost a lot of jewelry, with that in mind I really wanted to make the collection affordable.

FR: What has the road been like since leaving the reality show and entering this new phase of your life as a fashion and jewelry entrepreneur?

Jill Zarin: It feels organic.  I feel like my life is always evolving.  That was a stage in my life for 5 years, and I was ready to leave.  I never thought it would last as long as it did, and I’m grateful that it’s still on-air because people are still talking about the show.

I feel like I’ve graduated.  It’s sort of like being in high school.  They forced me to graduate.

FR: What was your experience like being on one of the most popular reality shows, and are there any regrets?

Jill Zarin: I don’t live with regrets.  I’m sure I’ve had regrets, I just don’t remember them because I don’t live in the past.  I did the show to have fun and to promote my brand.  My brand at the time was solely Zarin Fabrics on the lower eastside, the largest discount drapery and upholstery fabric store in New York City.  Then it became more about the Jill Zarin brand, and then I came up with Skweez Couture.  It kept evolving.

The show also gave me a platform to write a book with my mother and sister, “Secrets of a Jewish Mother.”  That was an advice book on everything from marriage to dating to career.  It’s the kind of book that will live forever and will stand the test of time.

 FR: I have heard from celebrities, especially those who are on TV on a weekly basis, that they are often approached by fans, who mistake them for the characters they portray.  It must be doubly confusing for a reality star.

Jill Zarin: Actually it’s much easier as a reality star because I am my character.  When I meet fans, they know a lot about me that is all true.  I’m married to Bobby.  My daughter is Ally.  Sure, there are different storylines that may be exaggerated.  But the core of who I am, what I do is all true.  So people will just feel like I’m a familiar friend.

FR: Is there more you’d like to accomplish?

Jill Zarin: There’s always more; things I don’t know yet.  I’m very creative, and I’m always coming up with new challenges and things for me to do.  I’m working on twenty different projects I can’t even talk about.  I’ll have a couple that I’ll be able to talk about in a couple of months.

Jill Zarin will appear on HSN June 15th at 8pm EST. Skweez Couture and the Jill Zarin Jewelry Collection can be purchased on www.jillzarin.com.

—Jeanine Jeo-Hi Kim

 

Cicily Daniels’ Hereafter Is Present Time

Though she may not be a household name yet, Cicily Daniels is making significant strides on both stage and screen. From appearing in Broadway’s The Little Mermaid as Ursula the sea witch to co-starring in the original episodes of Ugly Betty, Cicily Daniels always stays prepped for the next career opportunity. This Broadway veteran is very clear about what it takes to make it in the big time.

Though her Yale Drama training has served her well, early on Cicily Daniels understood that hard work and an ounce of good luck were important components of an actor’s career. And the hard work has reaped rewards. Season after season Cicily has appeared on Broadway and in the touring companies of some of the most successful stage musicals.

Fashion Reverie caught up with Cicily after the premiere of the Off-Broadway smash Hereafter Musical. Cicily brought her cheery disposition and seasoned wisdom as she talked about her love of the stage, her love of fashion and her zest for life.

 Fashion Reverie: How did you come to be cast in the Hereafter Musical?

Cicily Daniels: It was very coincidental, actually. My boyfriend is friends with the choreographer/director of the show and through him I learned that there was to be a casting for the Hereafter Angel Choir. Unfortunately, I was going to be out of town during the casting dates and I was able to arrange my schedule and they producers gave me a special audition. The producers liked me, and my agent arranged my contract and I was cast in the show; simple, but not so simple.

FR: You are a part the Hereafter Angel Choir which consists of three female vocalists. Could you talk about that?

Cicily Daniels: We serve as a Greek chorus throughout the show. So, as angels we are able to see everything that occurring in the show. We are able to interact with the living and the dead, but no one can see us. We can also imbue the living and the dead with our help.

FR: The Hereafter Angel Choir reminds of the doo-wop girls in Little Shop of Horrors. Did the writers of the show draw from that reference?

Cicily Daniels: The producers wanted to have a girl group motif as the angels because together we harmonize really well, and we able to solo singing, as well as backup singing. And we enhance all the songs that are in the show.

FR: The Hereafter Angel Choir was also a nice addition to the gospel-inspired number in the show.

Cicily Daniels: The song “Someday” was written by Vinnie Favale, and the deceased B-movie actress Anita (Frankie Keane) is trying to tell the living that there is hope to connect with loved ones in the hereafter. Our voices really connected with Frankie and the number is very moving.

FR: You have had such a varied career from being in four Broadway shows to being a co-star in the initial episodes of Ugly Betty. Could you talk about your Ugly Betty experience?

Cicily Daniels: It was a wonderful experience and my character—the main character’s lunchtime friend at the fashion magazine—initially was a much bigger part and was a carryover from the original Ugly Betty Mexican novella. The character got dropped from the show due to budget constraints and a reworking of the series. Although Ugly Betty became a huge hit, at first it was not a series that was major priority for the network and did not have a big budget.

FR: In that the premise for Ugly Betty is the goings on at a glossy fashion magazine, when you found out that you had been cast, did you do any background research on fashion magazines or the fashion industry?

Cicily Daniels:  I wish I could say I used my Method Acting skills to do that particular type of research, but I didn’t. Coincidentally, the timing of Ugly Betty’s premiere was around the same time as the Devil Wears Prada, which was an interesting time when people were getting a more intimate glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes at fashion magazines. At the time I had just viewed the Yves Saint Laurent documentary, so culturally I was attuned to what was going in the fashion world. Plus, I live in NYC and the fashion community is all around me.

FR: Who are some of your favorite designers?

Cicily Daniels: I am not a big fashionista, but I like Cynthia Rowley a lot which appeals to my feminine sense of fashion. I love Elie Tahari’s jeans. I absolutely adore Diane Von Furstenberg and I usually wear her wrap dresses to castings or auditions. And projecting into the future when I get married I have to wear a Monique L’huillier wedding gown.

FR: What is your own personal style?

Cicily Daniels: Because my family is from the South, that kind of southern sensibility of a feminine, lady-like aesthetic permeates by sense of style. I like clothes that a form flattering. I also like old Hollywood glamour.

Cicily Daniels as Motormouth Maybelle in “Hairspray”

FR: Has your career turned out to be what you thought it would be?

Cicily Daniels: You can never predict what kind of acting career you are going to have. Until you immerse yourself in this industry you really don’t have any idea the amount of hard work it takes or the risks involved. When I moved to NYC after Yale Drama School I immediately sized up my competition, so to speak, and I realized I had a lot of work to do. But I must say the hard work has propelled me forward.

There are moments that are dreamlike, like my debut in Rent on Broadway. My Dad had just passed away and I felt that he was with me on stage that night. Also, I recently did my first red-carpet event, and I was all dolled up with major media and paparazzi taking my photo. That was a lot of fun; icing on the cake!!

—William S. Gooch

 

Dwight Eubanks: Atlanta’s Black Dandy Speaks Out

Life aint been no crystal stair for Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Dwight Eubanks. But like all true champions, Eubanks always bounces back with grace, charm and a reservoir of internal strength and wisdom. Unlike other breakout celebs from the Bravo megahit, who’ve acquired their own spinoffs—Kim Zolciak and Candi Burruss both have new reality shows, while perennial favorite NeNe Leakes’ pilot The New Normal has been picked up for the fall lineup—Eubanks has yet to acquire entertainment gold. Still, Dwight is holding steady with several new projects in the works, as well his popular hair salons that cater to Atlanta’s elite.

New ventures and businesses aside, Dwight Eubanks is not shy about revealing his truth. And though some might say his sass and spice is peppered with too much sardonic wit, in reality Eubanks verbosities are always tempered with charm and southern grace. Dwight Eubanks, if nothing else, is a southern gentleman who loves fashion and style and his keen intelligence comes from his many years of working in the beauty industry.

Fashion Reverie had the opportunity to speak with Dwight Eubanks while he was in NYC working on several projects.

Fashion Reverie: Do you have your own lingerie line?

Dwight Eubanks: Yes, I do. I’ve helped so many people develop their own fashion line that I decided to develop a men’s lingerie line. (Remember, I was involved with S**t by Sheree. Well, that’s what I call it.) Women have everything when it comes to lingerie and usually men only have a small segment of the store for undergarments and lounge items. I’ve traveled to Europe many times and I have been impressed with the quality of men’s undergarments there, as well as the variety. I launched the Two Box capsule collection about three years ago with just a few items. This was a luxury, high end undergarment brand, and unfortunately do to some manufacturing issues and the downturn in the economy, the brand do not do as well as we had hoped. We are now in the process of revitalizing the brand, and we hope to relaunch Two Box in the fall.

FR: How would you describe your own personal style?

Dwight Eubanks: I dress very conservatively, though others have described my style as flamboyant. Basically, style is very individual and I wear what I like. My style is dictated by the day and my mood.

FR: Who are some of your favorite designers?

Dwight Eubanks: I love Alexander McQueen, Christian Lacroix, Valentino, Givenchy, Ralph Lauren, Jean-Paul Gaultier. I love Thierry Mugler and Armani for suits. I tend to favor European designers because they think a little bit out of the box. But, I also like emerging designers like Barbara Bates.

FR: Could you talk about fashion in Atlanta beyond what we see on reality television?

Dwight Eubanks: Well, I don’t watch a lot of reality television, but I am aware that showing women in very tight dresses with too much jewelry increases ratings.  We have very fashionable people in Atlanta who have a great sense of style and are sophisticated, but that way of dressing is not ratings friendly.

Atlanta would like to establish itself as a major fashion hub, but I am not sure that will ever happen because Atlanta does not have the necessary ancillary businesses for it to become a fashion capital.  We have some great stores and a fashion week, but Atlanta does not yet have enough of a fashion infrastructure to play with the big boys.

FR: How are you maintaining your salons in spite of this continued economic malaise?

Dwight Eubanks:  We maintain a level of professionalism and excellence in spite of hard economic times. We do not use sub-par products, nor do we allow ‘get rich schemes’ to become a part of our business model. Where others in Atlanta do very inexpensive weaves and extensions using non-human hair, my salons continue to use quality product. We do cater to a certain clientele, and they expect and demand quality.

FR: How did you become a recurring character on The Real Housewives of Atlanta?

Dwight Eubanks: Carla Mouse, who was a recurring character on the first season on The Real Housewives of AtlantaI, was friends with one of the producers of the show and one episode of the first season showed Carla getting her hair styled in my salon. And the rest is history.

FR: What is your current affiliation with The Real Housewives of Atlanta?

Dwight Eubanks: I was recently on Andy Cohen Live while they were airing the reunion. I am now more involved behind the scenes and my friendship with Phaedra Banks continues. She is my attorney and I have known her for many years.

FR: And your relationship with NeNe Leakes.

Dwight Eubanks: I am cordial with NeNe. We have made up. We don’t agree on many things but we have moved on and our relationship is solid.

FR: Has being on the show advanced your career?

Dwight Eubanks: Being on the show has not advanced my career in the beauty industry. I have been a part of the beauty industry for over 30 years and have done make-up and hair for films and television shows filmed in Atlanta. But, Atlanta Housewives has given me celebrity. I can’t even walk down the street without someone wanting to chat or get my autograph. I have had great fun being on the show.

FR: What’s next for you?

Dwight Eubanks: My calendar is packed with public appearances and I continue to support charities and causes I believe in. I am also pushing forward with my men’s lingerie line. I believe I am in a state of grace, and I am loving my life and spreading the love.

—William S. Gooch

 

Eleanor Lambert: A Charmed Life, Part 2

Part Two

FR: You touched on this a little bit in Part 1, but could you elaborate more about how Eleanor Lambert started Press Week?

John Tiffany: Well, it is a little complicated how Press Week started.  Everyone knew that WWII was just around the corner, so the federal, state and local government, the International Ladies Garment Union and other manufacturers formed the New York Dress Institute to take advantage of the shopping habits of women when the male population was away in combat. Everything during wartime was rationed, so women had extra money to spend on clothes. Though fabric was rationed and a lot of the fabric was used to make military uniforms, there was a significant amount of fabric left over to make women’s garments. The rationing of fabric also resulted in dresses being shorter in the 40s.

The New York Dress Institute wanted to promote shopping, so they had an advertising campaign to get American women to buy clothing made by American designers. At any rate, the ad campaign was not good and all the major retail stores at the time, Bergdorfs, Saks and Bloomingdales, were appalled. So Eleanor Lambert was brought to give a bit of taste and sophistication to the ad campaign. Eleanor Lambert invented the Best Dressed List with society women wearing American designers as a part of the campaign. Eleanor suggested that in addition to the Best Dressed List there should also be an event to show the collections of American designers to the press. Her ideas were embraced and this series of events birthed Press Week, which came to be known as New York Fashion Week.

FR: Many people believe Eleanor Lambert’s crowning achievement was the Grande Divertissement à Versailles. Could you elaborate on that?

John Tiffany: Eleanor believed and I believe her crowning glory was spearheading the Grande Divertissement à Versailles. She was probably the only person that believed in the importance of American fashion from the 1930s. She had to prove the American aesthetic was just as important and revolutionary as their European counterparts. It was not until the Versailles exhibition that American fashion was given its rightful place.

While the French designers at the exhibition put on this over-the-top fashion show, the American designers (Halston, Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows, Oscar de la Renta, and Bill Blass) demonstrated the fashion-forward sensibility and youthfulness of American designers. This exhibition raised the visibility of American designers and American Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar realized that American fashion was just as important as French and Italian fashion.

Because of the Versailles exhibition fashion shows stopped using commentators to narrate the shows and started incorporating music into the presentations. Fashion used to dictate down and Paris was the center of the fashion universe, but after the Versailles exhibition, New York became a major force. The breakout American stars of the Versailles exhibition was Anne Klein and Stephen Burrows because they were pulling from the street and capturing the cultural revolution of the 70s.

FR: She also helped open the door for African American models, could you talk about that?

John Tiffany: Eleanor Lambert used black models in her shows going back to the 1940s. Every time a fashion designer is credited with using black models, that designer was usually a client of Eleanor Lambert. Eleanor Lambert was instrumental in having 12 black models in the Versailles exhibition and as a direct result of that in August of 1974 Beverly Johnson appeared on the cover of American Vogue.

Eleanor Lambert would not say that she forwarded the careers of African American model, but she was instrumental. She used black models in the Coty Award shows and her March of Dimes fashion shows. This point of view continued, even into the 90s when I worked for her, she was requesting designers to use black models in their lookbooks. She also had African American designers as her clients from Stephen Burrows to Willie Smith and B. Michaels.

FR: Could you speak about her eccentricities?

John Tiffany: Eleanor Lambert loved over-the-top jewelry and comfort food. She loved macaroni and cheese, she love mashed potatoes, and bacon. She also had weird quirks. She hated taking the tunnel to the airport. She would always feel the elevator to see if the elevator was hot. I remember we had a meeting at the World Trade Center and she kept talking about the Trade Center collapsing one day. She was right!!

She was not a frivolous person; she knew the value of a dollar. But, she absolutely believed in talent and supporting that talent. She believed that fashion would be the number one industry in NYC and it was until it was recently replaced by finance.

FR: What in Eleanor Lambert’s childhood informed her extraordinary personality?

  John Tiffany: I can’t say for certain, but I know her father abandoned the family early in her    childhood. He was a circus promoter with a lot of charm and charisma, and though Eleanor did not see her father again until she was 25, she held him in high esteem. Maybe because her father was not around she became an overachiever and had to be the best at whatever she did.

FR: Why was she so committed to promoting American designers?

John Tiffany: She believed American designers were talented and deserved recognition. She never took credit for the designer’s talent; she was only interested in promoting them. Sometimes people immediately embraced her clients, and sometimes it took decades. But if Eleanor Lambert believed in your talent, she would keep promoting.

FR: In your opinion what is Eleanor Lambert’s legacy?

John Tiffany: I believe her legacy is wide and diverse. To hear the mayor of New York City say that Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week brings in almost a billion dollars in tax revenue every year is due to the work of Eleanor Lambert.  Creating the CFDA is another one of her legacies. With the formation of the CFDA, Eleanor Lambert took the power away from the manufacturers and put it back in the hands of the designers. The garment industry was running NY Fashion Week and those dates didn’t work for designers, so Eleanor Lambert broke that up and created the CFDA. Now, the designers control NY Fashion Week.

There is a documentary about the Versailles exhibition premiering during the Cannes Film Festival. I believe we are just beginning to know the depth and width of this great woman. Ultimately, her lasting legacy is the belief in the American fashion aesthetic.

FR: What’s next for you?

John Tiffany: What is next for me is documenting and telling more of these stories. I have some big projects in the works that I cannot reveal just yet.

—William S. Gooch

Eleanor Lambert and John Tiffany. Images courtesy of John Tiffany

Willem Dafoe Interview

The producers of The Hunter said you were the perfect choice for this role, that you embodied this character so well. Why do believe you were a good choice for this role?

Willem Dafoe: The producers and director told me they needed a guy that was old enough that you could believe he was at the end of his career, but also fit enough to be able to do some of the physical things required in the film. Also, they were looking for an actor that had a sense of mystery about him, and they felt I embodied the physicality and the mystery.

When I read the script I was attracted to the character, who is a kind of a misanthrope and cutoff from things, particularly at the beginning of the film. He is also at the end of his career and his identity is very tied up in his career, so you have that paradox. Things happen in the film that opens up some compassion in him.

Why do think that your character, Martin, who is a mercenary looking for this almost mythical Tasmanian tiger, through this quest starts to transform and feel compassion?

Willem Dafoe: Someone called this film an eco noir. You have two tracks in this film. On one hand you the narrative tightly focused on him trying to find this tiger, mixed in with the story of never being emotional or physically available for his family. He is also in crisis because he has pressure from his employer to retire after this last hunt. He in a place where is identity is up for grabs. All these things force his humanity to come out more.

Still from “The Hunter”

How did you prepare for this role?

Willem Dafoe: I worked with some old fashioned, outback kangaroo hunters who knew the Tasmanian terrain really well. And most of all I was set me up with a survivalist who knows how to live in the bush without modern conveniences and is very comfortable with nature. That was really important because having those survivalist skills was a key to the character and I also had to assume the attitude and posture of someone who hunts in the bush.

What is your relationship to the camera when you are working?

Willem Dafoe: My relationship with the camera changes according to the style of the film or the scene being shot. Sometimes I am very conscious of the camera, sometimes I am not. In The Hunter, I have very strong, specific actions so I am always making choices.

You could say in some way I was more of a collaborator and an integral part of setting the camera shots with this project than in some other films. And because of that I was more conscious of the camera. Still, I had very concrete actions that I had to play out because of the physicality of the role, which causes you to forget about the camera in those moments.

How is that different than performing in front of a live audience?

Willem Dafoe: In many ways it is not. In the theater your main job is to reanimate that character every performance, even if are improvising, you know what the perimeters are. While in film, you are almost always dealing with first impulses. You go to the location, you map out the scene, you shoot the scene, you move on; you don’t go back.

What attracted you to the story and your character in 4:44 Last Day on Earth?

Willem Dafoe: I was familiar with the director Abel Ferrara’s work and I am very attracted to directors that have a specific vision and way of working. Abel came to me with the scenario of the film, honestly, it didn’t resonate with me at first, but when we started fleshing out some of the sequences of the scenario, I started to get excited about the film. 4:44 Last Day on Earth is a movie where the audience participates; so, if you don’t get hang up on looking for action on this cataclysmic day, or what the signs are for the end of the world, then you accept the story of how two people decide to spend their last day on earth together.

When we screened the film in Venice, we could feel the audience join in this communal acceptance of togetherness of connecting to each other on Earth’s last day. I know that sounds hokey, but it was the general feeling that the audience recognizes that everybody struggles and that we have a commonality. I believe the function of art or telling stories is to find common ground.

Abel Ferrara stated that fiction was a way to make truth more concrete 4:44 Last Day on Earth. What is your take on that?

Willem Dafoe:  This film is Abel’s take on this convention that the world is going to end. If you ask too many questions about why the world is coming to an end, or who is responsible for destroying the earth, you miss the truth of this film, which is the how people access their lives, and what gives your life meaning. Everyone knows that their life is going to end, but if you only had 24 hours left, what would you do and how would you reflect on your existence.

Early on in your career, you said that you longed to play the hero, but you felt you would be cast as a villain or antihero because on camera your face read angry and mean. When did that change for you?

Willem Dafoe: Early on in my career because I wasn’t a smoothie and didn’t look like the boy next door I felt I would not be a romantic lead or a hero. For many years movie was a sideline for me, and I really made my career on stage. Now that I am older I am not concerned about that right now; I get offered very interesting roles, more wide-ranging roles now that really appeal to me.

 —William Gooch

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