FICKLE FASHION: If Tara Subkoff is so bitter about the fashion industry, why is she still working in it? That’s what audience members were wondering at The New Yorker Festival’s “Generation X Fashion” panel on Saturday, when Subkoff took swipes at nearly every aspect of the fashion business, including her fellow panelists, the designers Behnaz Sarafpour and Alice Roi. The first words out of her mouth were to correct the panel’s moderator, Judith Thurman, a staff writer for The New Yorker, for her pronunciation of Subkoff’s surname. The Imitation of Christ designer went on to chide:

  • “American Vogue dominates. It’s politics. [Success depends] on how much you advertise in publications.”
  • “[Vogue editor in chief] Anna Wintour only supports young, gay men.” In response, Thurman said to Sarafpour, “[Wintour] supported you, didn’t she?” Sarafpour: “Yes.” Subkoff: “Maybe Behnaz’s approach is more masculine.”
  • After an audience member asked if the designers would advise their own children to go into the fashion industry, Subkoff said: “I’m not having children. Ever.”
  • When a model walked out wearing one of Subkoff’s creations, a red suede minidress with a hood, Thurman asked her why she chose to show that look for the panel. Subkoff: “I didn’t choose this. I think someone from my press office did. This is one of the reasons I fired my press person.” Subkoff then said of the outfit: “I think it’s really good for a modern-day Muslim.” Sarafpour, who emigrated from Iran to the U.S. with her family as a child, didn’t respond.
  • Subkoff also said she wouldn’t have chosen to show that look because it was too racy for the size 16-plus average American woman. The zaftig Roi, who sells plus-size clothes on the home shopping channel QVC, then quipped, “I think this could work in a 22.”
  • Subkoff said of her early training, “In the Nineties, I was a ragpicker for Isaac MizrahiDonna Karan.” Thurman: “What’s a ragpicker?” Subkoff: “A ragpicker basically designs their collections by going and finding vintage pieces and sending them to the patternmakers so they end up on the runway with nothing changed.” Sarafpour: “I don’t employ any ragpickers.” Subkoff: “Behnaz, out of all the designs here today, yours is definitely the most retro. It’s Fifties Audrey Hepburn.” (Sarafpour had shown a cocktail dress made from cotton canvas printed with a lace pattern.)
  • Subkoff to Thurman: “Women are very unsupportive of each other in the fashion world … This is a gay man’s profession. It’s very bizarre of you to choose three women [for a fashion panel]. There should be a few proper gay men. Where are all the queens?”

So does that mean Subkoff would’ve been more polite had she been sitting next to Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez?
— Sara James

This story first appeared in the September 27, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

STARVING ARTISTS: The New York Festival’s kick-off party on Friday night at Café Un Deux Trois drew a decidedly different crowd, including former director of the C.I.A. James Woolsey, authors Martin Amis and Jonathan Franzen, the band The Roots and director John Landis. Zadie Smith, whose third novel, “On Beauty,” just made its debut to enthusiastic reviews, said the festival, for her, was a sort of annual reunion. “I don’t get to see these people for most of the year,” she said.

At a table in the corner, “School of Rock” screenwriter Mike White contemplated his event the following evening. “It’s me just talking about, I guess, myself,” he said. “It should be fascinating.” Despite his participation in the festival, White admitted to having a mixed history with the magazine. “They gave me a bad review for my first movie [2000’s ‘Chuck & Buck’], and I canceled my subscription,” he said. Hear that, David Denby?

At the far end of the room, Gilbert Gottfried was happy to discuss his role in the bad-taste extravaganza “The Aristocrats.” Though Gottfried’s showstopping performance of the titular joke was widely considered the film’s high point, it was not enough, he said, to convince executive producers Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza to cut him in on the back end. “I call this Penn Jillette’s greatest magic trick,” he said. “They’re making a fortune, and I’ll be outside wearing a sign saying, ‘Will tell dirty jokes for food.'” (Appositely, his new DVD is titled “Gilbert Gottfried: Dirty Jokes.”)

But the movie did give him a nice boost in popularity, he added. “People come up and tell me how disgusting and offensive I am, and then they shake my hand. I guess I have to say thank you.”
— Jeff Bercovici and S.J.

VANITY FLAIR: Tom Ford‘s post-Gucci career reinvention continues. Vanity Fair has tapped Ford to produce the next edition of its annual Hollywood photo portfolio. Editor in chief Graydon Carter confirmed Monday that Ford will be working on the March 2006 issue, selecting photographers, styling shoots and collaborating with Carter and editors to determine who will be featured in the portfolio. “I’m excited — and a little anxious — to see what happens when he turns his keen eye on Hollywood,” Carter said in a statement. The Hollywood issue perhaps could use the extra buzz Ford’s association will bring: While the franchise is typically a big newsstand draw for Vanity Fair, newsstand sales of this year’s issue were down 27 percent from 2004.
— J.B.

RESCUE REMEDY: Although multimillionaire model Kate Moss has lost lucrative contracts with H&M, Burberry and others, she could begin a comeback plugging a Rimmel London makeup product, aptly named Recover. According to industry sources, a campaign for the foundation was shot shortly before a British tabloid ran pictures it claimed showed Moss using cocaine. Ironically, the new campaign is said to show Moss using the Rimmel foundation to recoup her good looks after a long night of partying. A spokeswoman for Coty Inc.-owned Rimmel declined to comment, but noted the firm is still reviewing Moss’ contract.
— Nina Jones and Brid Costello

STAYING TOGETHER: The sad story of Suede magazine now has a happy postscript: Many of the designers, photographers and stylists who gave the short-lived urban fashion magazine its distinctive look stuck together after its demise in February, and now they’ve started a creative agency called Chandelier. Richard Christiansen, the agency’s creative director and the group’s nucleus, said the name was a term coined during the Suede days to describe a particularly lavish layout. “Chandelier was the total embodiment of decadence — over-the-top, completely outrageous layers of design,” he said.

Chandelier’s charter clients include Baby Phat, Iceberg and a custom magazine that Christiansen declined to name. “We really want to focus on accounts that love color and pattern and over-the-top design,” he said. “There’s not many people who are that brave out there.”

But the birth of Chandelier is not without its own soupçon of drama. Manhattanites in the media and advertising industries received news of the launch in the form of an oversized brochure that arrived on their desks Thursday. The brochure was filled with examples of Christiansen’s team’s work, including page after page of images created for Suede. Unfortunately, the copy — “When a fashion magazine closes its doors, what happens to all the great people? They start an agency.” — was taken as a snub by some former Suede staffers, who saw it as an attempt by the Chandelier crowd to take credit for all the good parts of the magazine. Christiansen said that was not his intention, and that the wording would be changed: “The press kit was not designed to deflect anyone of credit or recognition.”
— J.B.

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