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Posts Tagged ‘Alice Mayhew’

David Zaslav, David Zinczenko and the Next Big Name in Fashion

1003_mockup.gifOn any given Wednesday, the Michael’s dining room is chock full of moguls (David Zaslav, David Zinczenko) and mavens largely known to faithful readers of this column, and today was no exception. Yet, every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to meet people who, despite their impressive accomplishments, have managed to keep a relatively low profile.

Today was one of those days thanks to David Thalberg, founder of The Thalberg Group, who introduced me to a fascinating woman. If you’ve never heard of Lisa Sun, founder and CEO of Project Gravitas, trust me, you will. The Taiwanese-born, Ivy League-educated entrepreneur learned the ropes working at McKinsey & Co for 11 years, advising clients in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Latin America on strategic issues for the firm’s global luxury fashion and beauty practice. And, it’s clear in talking to her, that the inspired ideas behind her new business have been percolating for a long, long time.

Armed with degrees in biology and political science from Yale and a lifelong passion for fashion, Lisa rose through the ranks to become McKinsey’s resident expert on the luxury and fashion markets. As such, Lisa gave plenty of keynote addresses at symposiums, including the American Express Luxury Summit. While living all over the world and developing her business acumen as her career progressed, she learned quickly that dressing the part was also a key strategy in building a successful career. Having been a size 22, size 8 and “now a proud size 12,” Lisa was determined to create a line of dresses that gave style-savvy women the fashion they craved and the self-assurance they needed. And that’s how Project Gravitas was born. “We are that dress,” explained Lisa. “The one you wear on the interview where you get that job, the one that inspires you to go to that party, the one that you slip on for that very important day. It’s the one you wear that makes you feel like, ‘Bring it on!’”

Lisa Sun and Diane Clehane

The collection of 10 ‘niche dresses’, available exclusively on Project Gravitas’ website, retail between $195- $295 with free shipping and returns (“By selling online, we can keep the retail price accessible”) and are manufactured exclusively in New York with fabrics from the finest Italian mills. Here’s the real secret ingredient that is sure to attract the attention of Spanx wearers everywhere: each dress is designed with built-in shapewear from high performance moisture-wicking fabric that is breathable and machine washable. Lisa told me, “I wanted to make the ‘treat me’ dress for the young executive who wants to trade up from Zara, the ‘super mom’ who wants to look good for date night. I think of these dresses as beautifully designed safety blankets.”

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Jann Wenner’s Father-Son Pow Wow and Moguls on the Menu

1003_mockup.gifAfter weeks of Wednesdays full of Hollywood heavyweights (culminating in our Table One sit-down with Mitch Glazer and Kelly Lynch last week) there were more moguls (William Lauder, Jimmy Finkelstein) than celebrities at Michael’s today. However, the talking head contingent was represented by regulars Star Jones and MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart. Today’s most intriguing table was the one where Jann Wenner was sitting with his son, Gus Wenner. Discussing the finer points of the power lunch, perhaps? Or maybe just tossing around some ideas for the website the 22 year-old publishing scion is now running. No matter — when dad’s the boss, I’m sure there’s plenty of room on that learning curve regardless of the subject.

I was joined today by Laurel Kamen and Christine Irvin, co-founders of  The Alloro Collection, a new ready to wear and accessories collection designed for women who have had breast cancer. I was surprised to learn that the collection, which does not sacrifice fashion for function, is truly the first of its kind since there was clearly a need for such an innovation for so long. The idea for the collection came to Laurel on the evening before her own breast cancer surgery a year and a half ago. After being diagnosed with cancer in her left breast, she elected to have a double mastectomy to reduce the risk of a recurrence, a decision which ended up saving her life. When Christine got the call from her longtime friend to tell her about the idea, she was all in. “She could have asked me if I wanted to go in on starting a car wash in Pittsburgh that night, and I would have said yes,” quipped Christine, “but, clearly, this idea was one that was about creating something for women with breast cancer where a real need existed and was a chance to help women restart their lives.”

Christine Irvin, Diane Clehane and Laurel Kamen

The Alloro Collection, whose name comes from the Italian pronunciation of Laurel’s name, was launched at a trunk show in Washington, DC, in March and immediately garnered extensive coverage in The Washington Post with a full page story by Robin Givhan and in WWD and W with pieces by Susan Watters. The 20-piece signature collection of tops, dresses and accessories which range from $160 to $250 is designed by Laurel’s cousin, New York-based designer Roedean Landeaux, whose own mother died of breast cancer. (There is also a more afford ably priced line of pieces under $50.)

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Mitch Glazer and Kelly Lynch on Magic City‘s Second Season

1003_mockup.gifIt’s been a sizzling spring season at Michael’s with plenty of celebs (Isabella Rossellini, Naomi Campbell and Tony Goldwyn to name a few) breaking bread with us over lunch, but today’s dine and dish session was one for the books. Joining me for an exclusive chat were screenwriter/director Mitch Glazer and actress (Drugstore Cowboy, The L Word) Kelly Lynch, in town from Los Angeles to promote the second season of  Magic City, the STARZ hit series which Mitch created and Kelly co-stars in as the cool, aristocratic Meg Bannock. Fresh off ringing the NASDAQ bell and an earlier red carpet appearance at a swanky fashion show in Times Square featuring looks curated by Magic City costume designer Carol Ramsey, the Hollywood power couple arrived shortly before noon (extra points for being early!) and were game for talking about pretty much anything.

Together 23 years and married for 20 which, in Tinseltown time is the equivalent of forever (“I was getting cranky waiting for him to ask me,” says Kelly), Mitch and Kelly have seemingly found the perfect project in which to work together in Magic City. Born and raised in Miami Beach, Mitch, who once toiled as a writer for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, tells me that the series is the most personal of projects as it allows him to recreate the Miami of his childhood by shooting on location and constructing a massive sound stage populated with full scale models of the iconic hotels (not to mention all those great cars) of this bygone era. ”Sometimes I look around and think, ‘This is like a Twlight Zone episode,’” he told me.

Kelly Lynch, Diane Clehane and Mitch Glazer

Before he began shooting the very first episode and after the final touches were put in place on Miramar Playa Hotel, the property owned by the show’s brooding, sexy Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Mitch brought his 91-year-old father, Leonard Glazer, who worked as an electrical engineer on the strip during the fifties, to the set. Mitch found the very same chandelier his father had installed all those years ago at The Eden Roc in a box at a Miami salvage store and gave it its rightful place of honor in the lobby of the fictional Miramar Playa. “My father took one look and said, ‘You built a hotel!” recalled Mitch, smiling at the memory. “There are so few things in life that you know better than anyone else,” he told me. “This world happens to be that for me, so I was very fortunate and it gave me a lot of confidence.”

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A Rodale Refugee Reunion; Christine Lahti Penning a Memoir?

1003_mockup.gifAs faithful readers of this column know, in the meta media universe that is Wednesdays at Michael’s, there is no end to the way fellow diners are connected. I was joined today by Liz Vaccariello, editor-in-chief and chief content officer of Reader’s Digest and the author of New York Times‘ best sellers The Digest Diet and The Digest Diet Cookbook. Minutes after Liz sat down, David Zinczenko arrived and the two Rodale refugees exchanged a big hug and chatted while I made the rounds in the dining room. When things settled down, Liz explained that both she and Dave got to know each other during “The Steve Murphy Era” at Rodale when she was Prevention‘s EIC.  ”It was Dave who paved the way for so many editors to write books – including me,” she added. During those halcyon days at Rodale, Liz penned Flat Belly Diet!, which sold a million copies, and the equally successful Flat Belly Diet! 400 Calorie Fix and became an in-demand health and fitness expert on television, securing a spot as a regular guest host on The Doctors and appearing regularly on Good Morning America, which she still does for Reader’s Digest. She’s even logged two seasons on The Biggest Loser.

Liz left Prevention to helm Every Day with Rachael Ray and, in 2011, landed her “dream job” at Reader’s Digest, which has even taken her to the Oval Office. In an interview she scored with President Barack Obama, he told her that his grandfather would have been proud to see him featured in the magazine’s pages since he tore out the jokes in his issues to save for his grandson. It’s easy to see why the stunning and energetic mother of twin eight-year-old daughters, Sophia and Olivia, finds the EIC job at the iconic publication (which as a 99 percent brand awareness rating among Americans) a perfect fit. Between bites of her kale chicken Caesar salad, she enthused about the “positive, life-affirming” stories that have been RD‘s signature throughout its long history. In fact, she told me that she had plans to bring more of that signature all-American optimism into the mix by ”returning [the brand] to its roots.” But make no mistake about it — while  features like its well-loved jokes, “Quotable Quotes” and “Word Power,” are an enduring part of the mix, this is not your grandmother’s Reader’s Digest.

Liz Vaccariello and Diane Clehane

I was fascinated to learn that the magazine was the first publication to be available on Kindle and one of the first to offer readers an app. In December of last year, digital sales overtook newsstand sales, and the magazine now has over 1.2 million Facebook fans. All this bodes very well for Liz’s plans to unveil both a print and digital redesign of the magazine next year where, she says, there will be even more opportunities for readers to share and engage with the magazine and with each other.

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Isabella Rossellini’s Animal Instincts

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There are lunches at Michael’s and then there are lunches at Michael’s. Today I joined Isabella Rossellini at Table One and had a fascinating conversation with her about aging, celebrity, fashion and gay geese. Stay with me … these seemingly disparate topics are all connected.  Ostensibly there to talk about Mammas, her new series for Sundance Channel which looks at the ways different creatures use their maternal instincts in nature, Isabella did get around to the topic eventually. Yet, there was no feeling of the usual PR spin to the lunch which was attended by a handful of journalists who sat enthralled by her stories of her days as an actress and model and her charming tales of growing up in Rome as the daughter of iconic actress Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini.

“The image I have of myself doesn’t correspond to the image people have of me,” she said. “I live on Long Island and I don’t go to fancy parties and premieres. I don’t like that aspect of celebrity. I never said, ‘When I grow up I want to be a celebrity.’” She didn’t have to.  Between her famous parents, ex-husbands (Martin Scorsese and model Jon Wiedemann), her celebrated career as a model and 14-year run as the face of Lancome before the brand dismissed her in 1996 for being ‘too old,’ and her unforgettable turn as tortured nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, she secured a permanent spot in our collective consciousness without employing any of the usual contrivances associated with modern celebrity.

Isabella Rossellini and Diane Clehane

When she showed up to join the small group of journos gathered to meet her (I was lucky enough to score the best seat in the house right next to the guest of honor!) the conversation first turned to fashion as Frazier Moore asked her who designed her understated ensemble of a wool tweed cocoon coat,  navy mandarin collared silk jacket, foulard blouse and simple slacks. She gamely removed her coat to reveal the impeccably tailored pieces designed for her by Christina Bomba in Italy. “It’s less expensive than Donna Karan or Dolce & Gabbana, and I like that I can pick the fabric and have it made just for me,” she said. Isabella told us she can’t relate to the fashion-celebrity complex which has turned the red carpet into big business. “When Mama got dressed for the Oscars, she wasn’t solicited by designers. She didn’t have a committee of business people telling her what to wear. She was loyal to one or two Italian designers, and, when they could no longer make dresses for her, the costume designers from her films created something unique.”

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Eliot Spitzer, a Party for Angela Cummings and the Story Behind the New Bernie Madoff Documentary

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In keeping with the usual head-spinning weekly scene that is Wednesdays at Michael’s, the joint was jumping today. It was SRO in the front dining room and at the bar where producer Beverly Camhe was holding court with fellow producer Marc Altshuler and writer/directors Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek in celebration of their upcoming documentary In God We Trust Who Pays for His Crime on the Bernie Madoff scandal. The film will debut in the highly coveted Friday night slot at the Tribeca Film Festival next week.

Bev tells me the tickets for the highly anticipated film sold out in ten minutes when they went on sale at with American Express last night, and they are currently looking for a theater to handle the overflow. For those of you who missed the boat entirely, there’s always pay per view. Bev says anyone who sees the film should prepare to be shocked. “Don’t believe what you’ve heard. You’ll be surprised to know who knew what and when they knew it.” For the record, Bev believes that both Madoff sons, the late Mark Madoff and Andrew Madoff, didn’t know anything. I would have loved to have explored that very topic myself when I spotted Mark at Michael’s last spring, but he bolted before I could ask him anything about their father’s massive Ponzi scheme. “Bernie was a bi-polar sociopath, so it’s entirely possible he was able to keep it from them,” says Bev.  I asked Marc if they’d heard from any of the Madoffs or insiders since they began production, and he told me, “They’ve been oddly quiet. I’m surprised they even stayed in New York.” Some people have no shame.

Mickey Ateyeh and Angela Cummings

Not all the action was in the main dining room. I was invited to the swanky lunch held in the Garden Room for Angela Cummings today celebrating the launch of her new collection with Assael. Mickey Ateyeh, Angela’s long time BFF and business partner gathered 24 New York power gals – the ladies who never eat lunch who actually lunched today – for an intimate gathering.  The first to arrive was Liz Smith followed by a veritable who’s who in New York social and business circles, including Paula Zahn, Linda Fairstein, Jackie Leo,  Barbara Taylor Bradford, Christy Ferer, who is in hot pursuit for her company’s next CEO (Anyone?), Fern Mallis, DuJour‘s Cindy Lewis and Judy Licht

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Willie Geist’s Parenting Advice to Kanye West; Star Jones Celebrates a Birthday

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After the last few head-spinning Wednesdays at Michael’s kept me ricocheting between Hollywood A-listers (Meg Ryan) and tabloid targets (Rachel Uchitel), it was something of a relief to turn my attention to the restaurant’s core constituency of authors and their agents (remember books?) who have always viewed the dining room at 55th & Fifth as a de facto company cafeteria. When I arrived a few minutes before noon and overheard Tom Connor telling L’Oreal Sherman he was meeting Gretchen Young for lunch, I just had to go over and introduce myself. Gretchen was my editor at Hyperion, and we worked together on two bestsellers: I Love You, Mom! a collection of celebrity essays I edited and Objection! which I co-wrote with Nancy Grace. Like I always say, in certain circles, all roads lead to Michael’s.

Now vice president and executive editor at Grand Central Publishing, Gretchen recently signed Tom’s clients Willie Geist and his father Bill Geist to write a father-son book scheduled for publication next year to coincide with Father’s Day. When Willie (who, it should be noted, is quite the snappy dresser) arrived, I asked him if the dapper duo had ever worked together before. “Aside from some yard work, no,” he told me. The yet-to-be-titled tome does have a subtitle: Birds, Bees and Other Conversations We Never Had. “It’s not going to be one of those super earnest father-son books,” says Willie. Bill describes the book as something “born out of our experiences and what we’ve learned from each other.”

“It’s really our humorous take on things,” says Willie, which seems only fitting since his first book, the bestselling American Freak Show, was a send-up of our tabloid culture featuring imagined conversations with characters like ’President’ Sarah Palin. The upcoming title will chronicle life growing up in the Geist household through a mix of essays and interviews. “I think we’ll both write things and then bounce it off each other,” says Bill. Sounds like there’s no shortage of material. “There’s the time the Christmas presents were accidentally locked in the trunk of dad’s company car and a sledgehammer was wielded,” recalls Willie. “And then there was the summer I was sent off to what was supposed to be an idyllic summer camp in New Hampshire, and I’m not exaggerating when I say the counselors were fresh-out-of-rehab juvenile delinquents, and there were literally knife fights going on around me. We’ll basically write about what not to do.”

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Mika Brzezinski, Miss USA and a Mysterious Stephen Baldwin Sighting

1003_mockup.gifMaybe it was today’s dreadful weather (Will this winter from hell ever end?) or perhaps some boldface names can’t bring themselves to leave the sunny West Coast after the Oscars, but the scene at Michael’s today was pretty much a celebrity-free zone unless you count the random sighting of Stephen Baldwin. The more low-key Baldwin made a curiously brief appearance in the dining room (he didn’t even sit down) before leaving, so we never got the chance to ask him what he thinks about brother Alec Baldwin‘s war with The New York Post, but we did try. There was, however, an interesting mix of bold faced names including police commissioner Ray Kelly and the newly crowed Miss USA Nana Meriwether who, despite leaving her sash and crown at home, looked every inch the pageant winner. Being almost six feet tall certainly helps stand out in a crowd.

I was joined today by Woman’s Day editor-in-chief Susan Spencer and Hearst executive director of public relations Mimi Crume Sterling. Having never met these smart, savvy gals before, we bonded over a talk about our daughters. Susan, like me, is mother to an elementary-school-aged daughter adopted from China; Mimi has a little girl and is about to give birth to her first son any minute (we had our fingers crossed she’d make it through lunch!). We all agreed parenthood is an unending source of material.

Susan Spencer and Diane Clehane

Since joining the magazine in February of last year from Time Inc.’s All You, Susan has made some interesting changes to the magazine. “I’ve fallen in love with the reader,” she says. This is not your mother’s Woman’s Day, although Susan is mindful of the generational connection between readers of the 75-year-old Hearst title. “Some readers have been reading the magazine for 60 years, and now their daughters and their daughters’ daughters are reading it,” she explained. When asked just who is the Woman’s Day reader, Susan told me: “She’s the ‘Average Josephine’ — the receptionist, the administrative assistant, the teacher, the nurse. These are the women who I consider to be the backbone of America.” That doesn’t mean, however, these women (more than half work outside the home) are not interested in fashion and the good things in life. Just the opposite. “These women have a lot of joy in their life. They embrace positivity,” says Susan. “That’s why the title of the magazine is so perfect for them. It’s about her day and the joy she gets out of it.” To tap into that, Susan retooled the fashion pages focusing more on value in all its iterations. “Our reader doesn’t want to see a great shoe and then find out it’s $300 or even $150. It has to make sense for her life.” In fact, “Value Tags” appear throughout the magazine to highlight steals, deals and all-around great ideas.

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Tory Burch’s Ex Dines With Ron Perelman; Kelly Bensimon Goes Back to School

1003_mockup.gifAs much as we’d like to, we can’t deliver dish from Oscar winners (Shirley MacLaine) and supermodels (Naomi Campbell, Coco Rocha and Karolina Kurkova) every week. After a head-spinning cycle of chats with A-listers, the celebrity quotient at Michael’s was of the low-wattage variety today with reality television refugee Kelly Killoren Bensimon and comedian Robert Wuhl representing the famous (infamous?) contingent. We suspect after the Academy Awards and most schools’ winter breaks are over next week, things will be back to the usual Fellini-esque circus at 55th and Fifth.

I was joined today by SELF vice president and publisher Laura McEwen and the magazine’s director of public relations, Lauren Theodore. It was a fortuitously timed lunch (isn’t it always?), because the newly reinvigorated title is on a roll. Even before our lunch, the colorful cover of the March issue featuring starlet of the moment Julianne Hough caught my eye. It turns out, the issue debuted a new, more “extroverted” all-black logo which seems to capture the forward motion of the Conde Nast title perfectly. Since its launch in 1979, the magazine has been the bible for young fitness-focused women. Now, says Laura, the title has stepped up its mission and embraced a more encompassing philosophy of “Body/Looks/Life.”  ”They are all inseparable today,” explains Laura. “When it first launched, SELF started a movement but now it’s a way of life that has gone mainstream.”

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Naomi Campbell and Her Supermodel Castmates Dish About Their New ‘Face’

We were more than a little disappointed to learn that we missed Dan Stevens aka Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey when he lunched with producer Paula Wagner at Table One on Monday. (Doesn’t he know Wednesday is the day for lunch at Michael’s?) Luckily, today’s oh-so-fabulous lunch with the cast of Oxygen’s new ’supermodel competition’ series, The Face, more than made up for it. While in town to promote the new series, which premieres Tuesday, February 12 at 9 pm on Oxygen, supermodels Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kurkova, Coco Rocha and renowned photographer Nigel Barker decided to make ‘Lunch’ their sole joint appearance on their whirlwind media tour.

I couldn’t imagine what yet another reality competition series about fashion could bring to the party, but when I watched the screener of the premiere episode in anticipation for our lunch I was pleasantly surprised. Aside from its stellar production values, The Face has some serious fashion cred thanks to executive producer and supermodel coach Naomi Campbell’s considerable star power (along with fellow coaches Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha) and unrivaled sense of what works. As host, Nigel Barker is a commanding yet reassuring presence. Everything on the show has an authenticity that real fashionistas will appreciate, while giving ‘civilians’ a true glimpse into what it really takes to make it in modeling. The most refreshing twist the series offers is in its approach to working with the 12 hopefuls vying to be the new face of ULTA Beauty. The contestants also get some major opportunities in the course of the show, including photo shoots with the legendary Patrick Demarchelier and challenges with W magazine. Celebrities Wendy Williams and Amare Stoudemire make appearances as guest judges.

Coco Rocha and Diane Clehane

The three supermodels act as mentors to their respective teams and took their roles very seriously. Even though the show wrapped months ago, Naomi, Karolina and Coco forged such strong bonds with their ‘girls’ that all of them remain in touch with the wannabe models, offering career advice whenever the need should arise. “I really worry about my girls,” Naomi told me. “It’s funny, when I’m working in New York or Paris, I always feel like I’m going to miss everyone when the week is over, but after a few days you get on with it. When we finished shooting the show, I felt a little sad. I still talk to my girls and I’m texting them all the time. I really grew quite fond of them.”

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