Simi Polonsky, an Orthodox woman living in Crown Heights, is an expert at turning runway looks into synagogue-appropriate styles. She grew up in Australia, where she was a personal stylist for several Jewish women, helping them find stunning clothes that meet modesty requirements. Now, with her sister Chaya Chanin, Polonsky is running Frock Swap, a roving New York City consignment store that sells designer clothes to Orthodox women who want to look great while abiding by Jewish tznius customs.
Polonsky spoke with the Forward’s Alyson Krueger about New York Fashion Week and what fashion cues modesty-conscious women can take from the event.
Alyson Krueger: How have you been following Fashion Week? What’s your reaction?
Simi Polonsky: I love the volume in everything. Some designers have more color than others, and I definitely like that as well. I also love the mix. I feel like I see a resurgence of old world glamour.
When you’re watching Fashion Week as an Orthodox Jew who dresses modestly, what do you look for?
My eye automatically pops more when I see a whole look that could be modest! You wouldn’t even have to do anything! Having said that, even looks that aren’t modest, I still appreciate that because for me, clothing is really art. For me, it’s like going to an art gallery.
Is high fashion coming up with more modest styles today?
You look at the runways and there are endless, endless, endless natural looks that are modest and that can be modest. And not only that, you see “it” girls and ex-models and photographers, so many of their looks are modest. And Marc Jacobs actually just said about his show, “Young girls need to learn that sexiness isn’t about being naked.”… The designers themselves and the fashion icon people, they know, they don’t need to expose themselves. They are very comfortable with being totally covered and fashionable, because you can be totally covered and fashionable. It’s not an oxymoron!
Rachel Zoe, the celebrity stylist turned designer, showed her new line this afternoon at New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
Rachel Zoe was born as Rachel Zoe Rosenzweig in New Jersey. Although she has no formal fashion training — she worked at Gotham and YM Magazine before starting a career as a freelance stylist — Zoe is well known for dressing celebrities including Anne Hathaway, Keira Knightley, Demi Moore and Liv Tyler. Her book, “Style A to Zoe,” consolidates her views on fashion. She also launched a reality television series, called the Rachel Zoe Project, which starting airing on Bravo in 2008. Now in its fifth season, the show portrays the ups and downs of her real life, including working with her husband and business partner and raising her son.
Zoe launched her own clothing line last year with the mission of “creating pieces that provide affordable glamour, and can be mixed, matched, and worn together for the perfect wardrobe,” according to her official Fashion Week biography. At this yesterday’s show it was clear that Zoe is used to dressing the most stylish fashionistas. Models walked the runway in shimmering gold, floor-length gowns; hot orange pants with matching jackets; and a white, sequined jacket with sheer sleeves. Her outfits were clearly made for a day at the Hamptons and an evening at the Oscars.
The designer was born in Long Island, N.Y. to Joan Hamburger, a Jewish former model, and her husband Karl Anderson, a college student. His mother remarried when he was five and the designer later changed his name to Michael David Kors. Kors now lives in New York City and married his longtime boyfriend in August of last year.
Kors started his label in 1981 when he was fresh out of the Fashion Institute of Technology, and started selling his clothing at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks immediately. Women were attracted to his modern takes on classics and pieces that made them look at once classy and hip. Now, decades later, he has flagship stores around the country, and beauty, eyewear, fragrances, home, handbags, jeans, shoes and underwear lines. And of course, he has mega celebrity factor from his role as a judge on Project Runway, where his Jewish roots sometimes show. According to a New York Times profile he once told a young designer, “One of my aunts might have worn that dress. It’s, like, a good bar mitzvah moment.”
Before today’s show Kor’s tweeted the gist of his newest collection: “Graphic stripes, bold shades, and geometric glamour.” Two models wore black dresses with small triangle shapes in the back. A male model wore a green and black striped sweater with matching green pants. One model looked drop-dead gorgeous in a bright, red backless dress with a shiny but simple matching belt around her waist. In the finale models walked the runway according to the colors they were wearing, a move that made one Twitter user so excited she exclaimed via tweet, “OMG.. his ending is genius. Going by color, such a smart move.”
All, in all, his look was simple, preppy, but very fresh: The perfect all-American combo.
Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, was so pleased with a Rosh Hashanah greeting he received Monday from President Barack Obama that he photographed it and put it on Twitter. “I’m deeply appreciative of President @BarackObama’s personal letter for Rosh Hashanah,” the ambassador tweeted.
The letter, typewritten on official White House stationery, was delivered to Oren’s home in Washington. In it, Obama makes specific reference to Oren’s wife Sally and children Yoav, Lia and Noam, wishing them and all others who will gather with the family a good and sweet New Year.
But don’t let the fancy letterhead and “L’Shanah Tovah” sign-off fool you. This may be a High Holiday greeting, but it is also a politician communicating during election season. “This holiday season is a time of reflection: a chance to reaffirm friendships and renew our commitments—including America’s unshakeable commitment to the State of Israel,” the President wrote. He went on to state that the security of Israel is “non-negotiable,” and made a specific point of claiming “the security cooperation between our two countries is stronger than it has ever been.”
Having made his point, Obama lightened up a bit. In thanking Oren for his dedication to public service, the President joked that Oren’s accomplishments are “not bad for a kid from Jersey.” Obama—or more likely someone on his staff—did his homework. Long before he came to live in the Israeli Ambassador’s residence, Oren grew up as Michael Bornstein in West Orange, N.J.
However, only a day later, news reports indicated that behind the niceties there are serious tensions brewing between Obama and Oren’s boss, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The rift between top U.S. and Israeli leaders appeared to deepen Tuesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leveled the sharpest attacks in years by an Israeli leader against Washington, over differences on how to address Iran’s nuclear program,” Joshua Mitnick and Jay Solomon wrote in the Wall Street Journal. Netanyahu was steaming after Obama apparently snubbed his request for a meeting in New York later this month.
We’ll just have to wait and see how they work things out in the New Year.
Today’s boxing fans may know welterweight Cletus Seldin as the Hebrew Hammer. But it turns out he’s not the only one in the ring using that moniker. In fact, the other fighter, Mark Weinman, was using the alias — and winning bouts — before the 25-year-old Seldin was even born. And Weinman’s back at it…21 years after his last match.
Weinman knocked out 32-year-old Elvis Martinez of the Dominican Republic in 39 seconds at a boxing event in Tampa, Florida on Saturday. Not bad for a 50 year-old super-middleweight who retired from the sport in 1991 following a three-fight losing streak. Weinman was once a well-known New York middleweight who had won the first 11 fights of his professional career.
Since retiring, Weinman has been working as a trainer, but he felt he had more of a desire to fight than did some of his fighters. Not all together satisfied with how his original career ended, Weinman decided to get back in the ring. “I also needed a little redemption. I didn’t like the way my career ended [the first time]. I started out 11-0 as a pro with nine knockouts, but things didn’t go well after that. I wanted to try it again,” he said after Saturday’s event.
Weinman’s professional boxing hiatus set the record for the longest time between bouts, but he’s clearly hammered home the fact that this fighting Jew is back.
Tory Burch’s clothing was on display today at New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
Burch, whose mother is Jewish, grew up in Philadelphia high society. She attended the University of Pennsylvania and worked for many designers, including Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang and Narciso Rodriguez. She now runs one of the country’s most successful women’s clothing brands, making clothes that are sophisticated yet wearable.
Launched in 2004, Tory Burch’s company sells clothes, handbags, shoes and jewelry. Oprah endorsed her line in 2005. Shoppers flock to her flagship boutique in Soho, which is designed to feel more like a living room than a store. Her brand is known for its bright, graphic prints, bold colors and tiny, unique details. Her clothes are at once preppy, fun and sophisticated.
Burch tweeted that her inspiration for this morning’s show is “American prep remix meets magpie traveler.” The outfits were very diverse, not resembling one another in the slightest and all screamed adventure and individuality. While one model wore a long, flowy yellow dress that an Instagram user described as a “burst of sunshine,” another wore a professional-looking summer suit brightened with dark coral accessories. My favorite was a white form-fitting dress with shiny, red details around the waist and down the front.
About the show, the Council of Fashion Designers of America tweeted: “Traveled the world with @toryburch this am and LOVED every minute.”
When the Justin Bieber documentary “Never Say Never” hit last year, the Forward chatted with the superstar’s manager and “father figure,” Scooter Braun, about his own background — Holocaust-survivor grandparents, rough childhood in Greenwich, Conn., Hebrew name.
Braun focuses a bit less on his Semitic side in a recent New Yorker article, which offers an in-depth profile of the former Atlanta party promoter who calls himself “a camp counselor for pop stars.”
The 31-year-old entertainment mogul does reveal a childhood infatuation with Superman sparked by the character’s Jewish roots. “I liked everything he stood for,” Braun said, telling the magazine he liked that Superman had been created by two Jewish men, which made him “the Jewish superhero.”
Braun also revealed that he’s studied the careers of “influential behind-the-scenes guys,” like Jewish Hollywood powerhouse David Geffen, who “moved from the William Morris mailroom to the music business and eventually co-founded DreamWorks.”
“David Geffen was a Bruce Wayne to me,” Braun said. “He was extraordinary, but at the same time his talents were something that I could dream of and could fathom.”
When Braun met David Geffen, at a party a couple of years ago, according to the New Yorker, he said Geffen shared advice: “Get out of the music business.” So Braun “has been converting his twelve-person company, SB Projects, into a many-faceted organization.”
The company now boasts film and TV divisions, a publishing arm, and a technology-investment unit, in addition to a music label and management company.
The tape was discovered by Stephon Tull of Chattanooga, Tenn. as he was cleaning out the attic in his father’s home. He found the recording, labeled “Dr. King interview, Dec. 21, 1960,” in a dusty box along with other pieces of research his father had been doing for a book project about racism in Chattanooga. Tull’s father never completed the project and is now in his early 80s and in hospice care.
Copperfield, 55, did not disclose the amount he paid for the recording, but the New York-based broker who acquired it from Tull and sold it to Copperfield appraised its value at $100,000.
The magician had no intention of keeping the recording, and felt that the best place for it was the museum, which was built on the site where King was assassinated in 1968. “The magic of Dr. King was in his message: peace and nonviolence,” Copperfield told the Associated Press. “I didn’t want this to be hoarded away. I wanted it to be shared with people to continue the message, which is more important today than it’s ever been.”
Beverly Robertson, president of the museum, said she was excited about integrating the audio recording into its exhibits. “We are absolutely honored and thrilled to be receiving this audio that really presents history in the voice of one of the greatest human rights leaders of our time,” she stated. “There are few places that have King’s actual voice integrated into the exhibit, so this is a tremendous enhancement for all of our efforts at the National Civil Rights Museum.”
The museum is currently undergoing renovations, so it may be a while until the public can hear the tape as part of an exhibition. In the meantime, people can listen to a 5-minute portion of the interview on YouTube, where it has been set to a slide show of historical photos of King and the civil rights era.
Karan, who grew up in a Jewish family in Queens, founded her company in 1984 with the mission of making modern clothes for women who want both comfort and beauty. Her line is based on the idea that modern dressing should be easy; women should own seven items that can be mixed and matched to create outfits suitable for transitioning from work to play to relaxing. In this spirit, her first item (and still perhaps her most famous) was a one-piece bodysuit that could be worn equally well with a fancy skirt or frayed jeans. The look is at once both simple, easy and sexy. “That I’m a woman makes me want to nurture others, fulfill needs and solve problems,” she writes on her web site. “At the same time, the artist within me strives for beauty, both sensually and visually. So design is a constant challenge to balance comfort with luxe, the practical with the desirable.”
At her DKNY (Karan’s more casual line) show this past Sunday, models wore two-colored bodysuits, swim suits, simple bra tops, long, yellow dresses with black, mesh backs and leather pencil skirts with button down blouses. In a post-show interview Karan said, “When I can wear the same thing as the girls on the runway, I’ve done my job.”
Diane Von Furstenberg showed her new line at New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week yesterday. The models and Von Furstenberg wore Google Glasses, capturing footage for a video that will be produced after Fashion Week. The clothes — loose, drape-y dresses in reds, white and black — were classic Von Furstenberg.
Von Furstenberg launched her first clothing line in 1972 with a simple but bold statement: “Feel like a woman. Wear a dress.” Today she is known for her iconic wrap dress, which comes in colorful floral, hippy-esque patterns as well as softer, more elegant tones. She also creates sportswear, fragrances and beauty products. She is also the president of the Council of Fashion Designers, where she has taken bold steps to crack down on the use of underage and underweight looking models.
When Von Furstenberg entered the fashion world she was a princess, married to Prince Egon of Furstenberg. They divorced in 1972 (just as she launched her first line), which stripped away the title ‘Princess,’ but the designer continues to use the royal surname.
She was born in Brussels, Belgium as Diane Simone Michelle Halfin, to a Romanian father and Greek mother. Her mother, Liliane Nahmias, was a Holocaust survivor and was in Auschwitz just 18 months before Von Furstenberg was born. In an interview posted on the UJA of New York website, Von Furstenberg said that her mother always pushed her ahead in life, teaching her that “Fear is not an option.”
Furstenberg is also vocal Obama supporter. This year, at the Fashion’s Night Out party at her headquarters, Von Furstenberg was shooing everybody out, encouraging them to go home and watch the President’s speech at the Democratic National Convention.
“I think we’re all looking for some lightness and happiness,” Von Furstenberg said at the start of Fashion Week, according to the Associated Press. “And I hope I am bringing that to my collection.”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers arrived in Israel ahead of their first concert ever in the country.
The band landed in Israel on a private jet from Istanbul and traveled directly to the Western Wall, according to reports.
They are scheduled to perform in front of tens of thousands of ticket holders on Monday night at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv.
The band cancelled a scheduled performance in 2001 at the last minute due to the second Palestinian intifada.
Israel is the last stop on the band’s European tour; it will begin its U.S. tour in two weeks.
A Lebanese rock band cancelled as the opening act for the band last week in Beirut, in protest of its concert in Israel, according to the Times of Israel. Several Facebook pages have also called for the band to boycott Israel.
Fashion luminary Zac Posen is showing his new line this evening at New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
The son of a corporate lawyer and artist in Manhattan, Posen always knew he wanted to design fashion. As a child he would take yarmulkes from his grandparents’ synagogue and make dresses for dolls with them. When he was a sophomore in high school he interned with Nicole Miller and then worked under the guidance of a curator at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for three years. And all of this was before he was accepted to study at the Central Saint Martins College in London, famously known for training many of fashion’s big wigs. Posen founded his own company in 2001, just as he was celebrating his 21st birthday. His first show, in 2002, was located in a former synagogue on the Lower East Side. But since its beginning Posen’s company has been fraught with financial problems, it saw too much growth, too quickly, and it received mixed reviews from the fashion industry.
Posen is known for making tiny little cocktail dresses and mermaid-shaped dresses that hug the waist and then flow at the bottom. “Mr. Posen’s signature collections have evolved from vampish, old-Hollywood-style bias-cut silk dresses and flirty butterfly chiffons into intricately themed gowns that take their inspiration from something simple in nature —seashells, raffia or tumbleweed, for example,” according to a mini bio in the New York Times.
So what to expect from Posen at today’s show? Something glamorous, mysterious and fun, and hopefully very, very surprising.
Forget about the religious ceremony: A bar or bat mitzvah is an opportunity for the family to show off its riches, with lavish parties in fancy hotels and enough food to feed a small town. Right?
Well, at least that’s how I remember it, growing up in Rio in the 1990’s.
Every weekend there would be two or three bar mitzvahs, and parents who knew each other too well in such a small community (composed of mostly Ashkenazi Reform Jews) would ostentatiously compete to see who could serve the most expensive champagne; who could hire the most popular band; who could book the swankiest venue.
Then, in those years before the mass adoption of digital photography and video, bar and bat mitzvah parties began to feature a usually embarrassing tradition (for the boy or girl): A “surprise” slideshow for all guests to see, right before dinner was served, featuring embarrassing childhood pictures. There would be those classic shots of you as a naked baby trying to lick your own feet and of you as a toddler during a potty training session; or a photo of your mom with a weird hairdo from the 80’s holding you as you blow the candles on your first birthday cake. But that was about it, and everybody marveled at the time at the corny PowerPoint effects.
This morning I attended a Fashion Week event, put on by the Fashion Law Institute in New York City. In many ways it was like any other show. Models, dressed in tiny floral bikinis and metallic vests, posed in the center of the room, while viewers sipped champagne and snapped photos. But this event was celebrating something more than new designs and creativity; it was applauding the progress the Fashion Law Institute has made in protecting the legal rights of both models and designers.
I spoke to Doreen Small, a stylish, enthusiastic professor at the Institute, who is from the Lower East Side, and “as Jewish as they come.” Wearing a silky white dress and black glasses lined with gemstones, she is both a fashion guru and a lawyer. The Institute is an organization within Fordham University School of Law that offers six or seven courses to law school students who want to work in the fashion industry. “It’s not a monolithic body of law,” said Small. “You need to know about intellectual property, copyrights trademarks, right of publicity, counterfeiting issues, sponsorships, endorsement issues, real estate issues, tax, labeling, advertising, modeling and immigration.”
Models strutted the runway at Fashion Week at Lincoln Center today showcasing BCBGMAXAZRIA’s Spring 2013 collection, inspired by photographer Helmut Newton’s test Polaroid shots from a trip to San Tropez in 1978.
Max Azria’s wife Lubov Azria, who helps him design both the BCBGMAXAZRIA and the Hervé Léger lines, explained prior to the show that the graphic black-and-white contrast in the Newton photos would be evident in their new collection. She also predicted that dresses would be the highlight of the show, and of all of Fashion Week. “The dresses are a must-have,” said Lubov, BCBG’s chief creative officer, adding that the dresses play off of masculinity and femininity, with the juxtaposition of leather and lace.
Max Azria calls his new collection “fearless,” and in many ways this has as much — if not more — to do with business than with art. In explaining how the economy has impacted his work, he said, “Today we have to be totally crazy and make stuff that stands out. It takes so much more to get a consumer’s attention because they’re more careful about how they spend their money. We also try and make things very precise, bold and basic so that a woman can wear one item for a lot of different occasions. The color black rules everything.
The 63-year-old Azria, born in Tunisia, began in his career in France, where he was raised. In 1981, he arrived in Los Angeles, where he opened several women’s apparel retail boutiques. He launched BCBGMAXAZRIA in 1989, naming his company for the French slang phrase “bon chic, bon genre” (good style, good attitude). His first runway collection was shown at New York Fashion Week in 1996. Today, BCBGMAXAZRIA and Hervé Léger (Azria acquired the French couturier in 1998) are two of several labels under the Azria umbrella.
Bar Rafaeli’s new photo shoot has us over the moon.
Passionata, a French lingerie company, chose the Israeli supermodel to be the face (and, of course, body) for their brand. The eclectic mix of pictures features Rafaeli as a “lunar swinger” in a “space hammock” that looks like a crescent moon. Perhaps in homage to Israel’s El Al Airlines, she posed as “the hottest stewardess ever” atop some luggage.
Though Refaeli’s tenure as Passionata girl hasn’t caused any controversy, her recent appearance in a promo video for the Israeli start-up MyCheck caused a stir, with some saying it depicted date rape.
The scene in question shows Refaeli eating poisoned cauliflower and ending up in a darkened kitchen. MyCheck’s CEO Shlomit Kugler doesn’t seem too bothered, saying, “Our aim is to entertain, not to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
Rafaeli, an investor in the company, said of the promo: “I enjoyed working on the MyCheck commercial. It was one of the funniest experiences of my life.”
Children’s book author Judy Blume has been diagnosed with cancer. She revealed the news in an apology on her blog to fans who had hoped to meet her at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in July. She did not stick around after the premier of ‘Tiger Eyes’ (adapted from her 1981 novel and directed by her son Lawrence Blume), to greet audience members and sign books because she had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, and her doctors had ordered her to stay away from crowds and not expose herself to germs prior to her mastectomy surgery scheduled for a few days later.
In her highly candid blog post, the 74-year-old author of beloved pre-teen classics like ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,’ ‘Deenie’ and ‘Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself,’ detailed the process by which she learned of her diagnosis of ductal carcinoma and chose a mastectomy and breast reconstruction over a lumpectomy and radiation.
Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson will be speaking tomorrow at the Democratic National Convention, according to news reports. Portman, a longtime supporter of President Barack Obama, is an unsurprising pick. But the choice of fellow actress Johansson, whose support has been far less public, is a pleasant surprise.
More pleasant, we predict, than Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the Republican National Convention. We can be fairly certain that no one will allow any extra chairs onstage this Thursday, when the ladies are expected to speak.
Antonoff is a rising indie darling; his band is best known for its anthem “We Are Young.” According to an interview with HEEB, he attended the Solomon Schechter Day School until the 8th grade, and then transferred to public school where he was teased mercilessly for being gay (he’s not), an experience that made him a vocal supporter of gay rights.
The National Football League kicks off the 2012 season tonight in East Rutherford, N.J., when the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants host the Dallas Cowboys. This year, a handful of Jewish players will be looking to make an impact for their teams on the road to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, on February 3.
Leading the way is Taylor Mays, who plays for the Cincinnati Bengals. Mays, who is African-American, was raised by a Jewish mother. His father is Stafford Mays, a former lineman for the St. Louis Cardinals. Mays, who had a football-themed bar mitzvah, once told his college web site that, “I don’t think at the time I really understood what [having a bar mitzvah] meant. Now, looking back on it, I feel like I have come a long way in regards to maturity and becoming an adult. I think it helped me do that.”
Other Jewish players to keep an eye on include offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, a 2011 first round pick by the Chicago Bears and his teammate, punter Adam Podlesh. The Cleveland Browns recently named offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz a starter in his rookie season; Mitchell’s brother, Geoff, plays for the Minnesota Vikings.
Among the other Jewish starters are Brian de la Puente, a center for the New Orleans Saints, Antonio Garay, a defensive tackle for the San Diego Chargers, and Erik Lorig, a fullback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.