MEMO PAD

MENKES GATHERING: Forget all those artsy takes on the runway, Suzy Menkes says fashion needs a dose of reality. Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, told 70 luncheon guests gathered in her honor at the Four Seasons in New York Tuesday that she gets irked when designers show fashions that have nothing to do with real lives.
“When you do a bad review, you get a phone call to come and see it in the showroom to see what is selling.” That split between runway and reality “is a bad aspect of fashion now. Fashion doesn’t live unless it’s worn.” To illustrate the point, Menkes hit close to home: “As a British person, my country has created so many talents, but they can’t turn it into a buck. There’s vintage Jean Muir and Ossie Clark, but they never made it to be globally recognized. They didn’t have the elements to make it in business.
“I don’t want to report on fashion shows like a laundry list,” she continued. “If you don’t have an opinion [on a collection] it isn’t worthy of criticism. The creative part deserves an assessment and critical judgment. I’m prepared to take the criticism. I’ve lost advertisers [at the IHT]. Those who flounced out and had a hissy fit have come back to advertise.
“People think Paris is about creativity and New York is about business. I don’t believe any of that…Within every country there are few really creative designers.”
What’s big now? Brands. “Brands are what the year 2001 is about in fashion,” Menkes said. “The last five or six years, I’m stunned at the sheer number of upscale luxury brands…Louis Vuitton is identified with travel; Hermes is about saddles; Calvin Klein is chic modern sexiness, and Ralph Lauren is creating a universe rooted in country dreams. That’s the absolute essence of having a fashion brand.
“How can you launch a new one? At the base, there has to be a creative spirit.”
And when does Suzy want the New York shows? “Sept. 8 is too early. It’s too early for the readers.”

JACKIE’S JEWELS: Home Shopping Network will debut the Jacqueline Kennedy Jewelry Collection on Sunday at 10 p.m., coinciding with the Jacqueline Kennedy exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Replicas from Kennedy’s personal collection will be shown, with a discussion of the significance of each piece. The replicas range in price from $39.95 for earrings to $149.95 for different combination sets. Among the pieces replicated are John F. Kennedy’s wedding gift: a bracelet in platinum-plate, faux pearls and Swarovski crystals; an antique French family heirloom brooch, and a faux-pearl triple-strand necklace. The jewelry comes with a certificate of authenticity from manufacturer Camrose & Kross, that the jewelry is the “exact replica of the jewelry worn by Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy” and a card that says, “With best wishes. Jacqueline Kennedy.”
In other things Jackie, the pricy ($3,500 a head) Costume Institute Gala Monday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art broke a record. The gala raised $3.5 million, smashing last year’s record of $2.6 million from the “Rock Style” gala.

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