She's maneuvering the world of high fashion using instinct, experience and a WILD and ROWDY past!
So. New York Fashion Week is over. Hardly a big success. Designers got twisted up just like everyone else, not knowing how to work under covid-19 health restrictions and if presenting a collection this season was even worth the trouble. Many said fuck it, threw up their hands and went on vacation. Smaller labels like AMEN, CINQ À and OQLIQ saw an almost empty playing field and a chance, at least virtually, to get more eyes on their brand. Kudos to them. But will we, as an industry, make a come back? In time I believe so. Absolutely. It won’t be the way it was pre-pandemic, though. You can count on that. Like ZAC POSEN and his very cool, very weird Central Park Draping Session, I’m rethinking my business focus. With 27 gorgeous models on the roster, there’s must be more that we can do. Until next time…SMOOCHES!
Do you recognize him? He’s a popular actor with a well-documented girlfriend. All up in my face while hiding behind a mask. And if that’s not messed up enough, Fashion Week has completely fallen apart. It’s great that lots of fresh talent got their shot, but several established designers who were scheduled to present simply didn’t. TOM FORD. All we get from a two-time Oscar-nominated director are a couple of slides? Really? In the meantime, BRONX & BANCO presented a full show to a small audience on the roof of SPRING STUDIOS. A slew of beautiful bodies in sexy, slinky pieces. There were at least twenty models on hand and I’m sending up prayers that no one falls ill. That wouldn’t look good for any of us. JONATHAN SIMKAI served up moody, fringy garments, mostly black and khaki with a little plaid. He was smart. He covered his ass with a video AND a slideshow. Way to go, Jon. Lemons to lemonade, baby!
Without the after-show parties and late night dinner events that usually go on during Fashion Week, I actually looked forward to coming home last night, opening a bottle of vino and watching more collection presentations online. I’m excited for the industry! But I’m scared, too. We’re watching the live fashion show die right in front of our eyes. MARINA MOSCONE produced a lovely short film on the creative process of her collection. And while COCHENG gave us sweet little garments in a traditional catwalk presentation, BEVZA got so deep into artsy fartsy movie mode that I forgot where I was. Is this Fashion Week? Or Sundance?
Did you catch The Met’s online convo with Iman, Naomi C. and Bethann Hardison last week? How much fun did they have talking about the days when catwalks were a fucking rainbow of diversity? Things are changing though. And not a moment too soon. I joined an online conversation with Caline Hiyakawa of the New York Times along with Jeremy Fellows of the Bullseye Agency, supermodel Tessa, makeup artist Rodney Parkerson, and hairstylist Jett Reynolds. They bitched and moaned for half an hour about the demise of live fashion and how screwed up everything is. WINONA, INC. is hurting, too. We’re all in that boat. But when I confessed how much I was enjoying the new online platform, baaa-by, you could’ve heard a cat pissing on cotton. Total silence.
At the end of our conversation, Caline asked us all to stand up and show what we were wearing below the camera. Ha! Jett was in pajama bottoms, Rodney had on an interesting pair of olive green khakis, Jeremy was in his usual cargo shorts and Tessa? Gucci thongs. But I anticipated the question and slipped into pearls and a hot CUSHNIE frock beforehand. They’ll never catch me off my game. Never ever.
Yesterday I spent a few hours online watching virtual presentations. ANNA SUI, using four models, was playful and doll-like. Just adorable. BADGLEY MISCHKA came through with just two models and a killer location. But the fashion? Meh. MONSE though. One model. One minute. But they gave it all to you in that one minute. Kudos! Leery, still, about exposing skin outdoors, I pulled a pair of leggings on under my suit and headed out to do an episode of THE TALKS with fashion journalist Tori Fremont. She grilled me, too. About everything! From my honorary degree to way-back-when bad girl moments. But those moments are so well documented. There’s no hiding from the past.
I called for the Town Car this morning because I have not one but two live video podcasts today. It’s a 4-day Fashion Week and we’re busy! My models? They’ve been working! Several did small film and virtual fashion presentations and I’m loving the new energy. There’s an extra layer of creativity now for designers to explore and many—like Macgraw—are having fun making quirky little movies to showcase their collections. Of course there’s still a handful of live shows. Jason Wu, for instance. But you know how things get super-cozy backstage with models, makeup stylists, hair stylists, dressers, pressers, assistants? Many of my kids just aren’t ready for that yet. And I’m not pushing them. Would you?
It’s Fashion Week in New York City. And Winona’s favorite time of year. But due to Covid-19, the fashion industry—already in the midst of a major evolution—has been flipped inside out. Instead of being photographed everywhere, like usual, and cheering her models on the catwalk in the hottest shows, Winona has become a popular guest on virtual presentations and panels all over town. Her phone heated up a few weeks ago and she’s been busy— and loving it—ever since. It’s a brand new day in the world of fashion.
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Winona’s grandmother, Sylvia, is queen bee of the Grande Oaks Active Seniors Community out on Long Island. Her lovely cottage, purchased by Winona almost ten years ago, is a happy place and with Mr. Hines, her longtime boo, they wile away the hours playing Monopoly, sipping Chivas Regal, and running to Atlantic City whenever the mood strikes. But then Covid-19 hits with a vengeance. And Sylvia’s perfect world falls apart.
I get the call just two days after breaking up with Riccardo. My grandmother Sylvia and her boyfriend, Mr. Hines, are both stricken with the Covid-19 virus. They’ve been taken by ambulance from their home on Long Island to Presbyterian Hospital on East 68th street. Within 24 hours, Mr. Hines is dead. Sylvia, on a ventilator, is fighting for her life. I can’t go to her. I can’t see her. All I can do is camp outside the hospital and argue with cops who refuse to wear masks but want to know why I’ve been sitting on this bench all afternoon. “My grandmother is up there. Where else would I be??”
Sylvia is tough. She always has been. And she pulls through. But she can’t go back out to Long Island. There’s still more recovery for her to do. When a nursing home is suggested I don’t think twice about it. I make arrangements for her to come home with me. A hospital bed and a lovely nurse named Fiona is installed in my master bedroom and I sleep on the convertible sofa in the guest room next door. It’s also my office so it actually works. But WINONA, INC. hasn’t had bookings in three months. A handful at best. Who needs a fucking office?
Painting by GEORGE CONDO
Sylvia starts to regain her strength. And a severe case of foulness that grows nastier every day. Nurse Fiona is replaced with Nurses Marguerite, Lucille and Cassandra. Sylvia’s chewing them up and spitting them out like pumpkin seeds and when she gets tired of shredding on them, she turns her high beams on me. But I’m missing my man and kind of in a bad mood myself so we’ve had some squirmishes, Sylvia and me. Don’t worry. I haven’t gone Baby Jane on her. Not yet anyway.
But she’s pushing a bitch real close to the edge. At least one plate of food ends up on the floor almost daily and in less than a month, I’m rolling up and trashing the fine, Tibetan rug in my bedroom! I don’t know when she started this shit but I swear she’s putting the screws to me. Directly. Not her nurses. Me. And what in the hell did I do?? So the night a saucy plate of spaghetti and meatballs land just inches away from her pretty pink Dearfoams, I leave the mess right there. All night. She probably doesn’t sleep a wink but she asked for it. Right? Well yeah. Okay. That might be a little bit Baby Jane-ish. But that’s the last time food finds it’s way to my floor.
I have Katz Delicatessen’s world famous chicken soup trucked up here from downtown. What does she do? Spits out the first spoonful. The broth is salty and the noodles are mushy. Fine. She used to love Melba’s on 114th Street. Couldn’t get enough of them. But now she says their braised short ribs are underseasoned and overcooked.
“Really?” I ask, chomping on a mouthful of fabulousness. Hmmmm. “Well I’ll just call them right up and issue a formal complaint, Your Majesty. Right after I lick this plate clean.”
Once she acquires an Air Hawk power chair Sylvia becomes mobile. Yay! Now she gets to spread her joy all over the building. Whoever ends up on the elevator with her bunches her panties by the time they get to the ground floor. She argues with Caitlyn at the front desk, the doormen, the chauffeurs, she even fights with maids of the other tenants. And she never bothers to tell me she’s rolling out. Oh hell no. She just disappears while I’m in my office and then I get the inevitable phone call.
“Ms. Warner? Come get your grandmother. Please.”
My circuits are jammed. I don’t know what to do. I ask her doctor if maybe she’s had a stroke. I mean, she’s always been feisty. But Miss Thing threw her shoe at me yesterday! What in the Naomi Campbell is going on? Dr. Nang shakes his head. “I see this type of thing with many patients, Ms. Warner. Your grandmother is angry. She misses her friends, being in her own home and living her life. How long was she and her boyfriend together? Over ten years? And now he’s gone. No funeral. No goodbye.” He shakes his head again. “She’s depressed and she’s angry. Who wouldn’t be?”
While I’m sad and horny missing Riccardo, for all intents and purposes Sylvia has been widowed. And I’ve got to do better. The next day I select a caftan for her to wear, the bright and colorful kind she likes. I help her to put on earrings, her precious diamonds, her favorite gold cuff and a little mascara. In the foyer mirror, I tie a pretty head wrap over her hair and we head out with a picnic lunch to snag a table in the building’s gated courtyard. The fountain is on, the sky is bright blue, there’s a sweet breeze blowing, it’s a gorgeous day.
Sylvia perks up once the sunlight hits her face. She’s come a long way in her recovery, in spite of her shitty attitude. And she’s looking mighty fine today, sitting here nibbling on cold chicken and pasta salad. Nothing like that scary old witch who rolled through the building lobby last week terrorizing everybody. Taking a sip from the small cup of scotch I’ve poured for her, she leans towards me and whispers, “A man over there is staring at me.” I turn to look but she stops me. “Don’t be obvious,” she says and then, “Oops. I think he’s headed this way.”
I pull my mask up over my nose and mouth and tell her to do the same as the man, on a cane and assisted by a teenage boy, walks slowly to our table. His brown eyes are twinkling above his standard-issue surgical mask. I can almost see his smile behind it. “Aren’t you Sylvia Warner from CityMeals on Wheels? We volunteered at the same facility about ten years ago. I’m Simon,” he says before lowering the mask to his chin. “Simon Baladashi.”
Sylvia smiles. She remembers him right away. “How have you been, Mr. B,” she says. He sits down at the table next to ours and in-between bites from a super deluxe Z Grill sammie, he tells us all about his son and daughter-in-law, two bigtime cosmetic surgeons, and how he, a widower, moved in with them last year after a stroke. He leans towards Sylvia and admits, in a loud whisper, that he doesn’t care for the arrangement. She cocks her head and gives me the side eye.
“Go on and say it,” I tell her before excusing myself. “You don’t like living with me either.”
It’s been a pretty good day. That evening, after lights-out for Sylvia, I open a bottle of pinot grigio and get ready to videochat with Belle, Desi and Lourdis. It’s been three months since our last Thursday night at the Peninsula’s rooftop bar—our spot—and I miss my sisters like crazy. Poor Belle is literally trapped out in Queens with her foul-to-the-core mother. Look. She’s smoking again. Desi is sequestered downtown with Truman, doing that monogamy thing whether he likes it or not, and Lourdis, in the Village, is rolling solo. She put her last squeeze out soon after I let go of mine. Such a copycat.
When they ask about Sylvia I tell them how she called my lavender scented candles funky, that everything I watch on television is trash, and she complains every morning about the motor on my Thermador refrigerator keeping her awake all night. In the meantime, I can hear her snoring like Godzilla through the walls. “Her doctor says she’s mad at the world,” I tell them. “But today she ran into an old friend and that seemed to cheer her up.” I give them the 4-1-1 on the widower, Mr. Baladashi.
“That’s your answer right there, hunni.” Lourdis says. “What Grandma Sylvia needs is a man.”
“Stop,” I say. “She just buried one.”
“Well, now she needs another.”
Mr. B invites Sylvia to lunch. “We’ll play Monopoly,” he tells her. It’s her favorite game. With his great-grandson Thomas, they drop by to scoop her up. That shirt, though! It’s crazy on the eyes. But Sylvia always did like a peacock so he gets extra points right out the chute. There must be an Old Dude’s code—never let a lady drive her own wheelchair—because he insists on pushing her, to the elevator, through the lobby and out to the table he’s got on reserve in the courtyard. It gets around fast and some are oooweee-pissed about it. Mr. B, apparently, is hot stuff for the ladies of a certain age in the building. Ladies who have been trying to catch his eye for months. Who knew?
Painting: REAL LIFE by COSTAL IARCA
Sylvia orders several new caftans from Saks and sniffs every bottle of perfume on my vanity before choosing Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb. She polishes her toenails and rummages through my mask collection. Yeah. She’s still got game. After their third date, she rolls back in with a 24-piece box of Godiva truffles nestled in her lap. I call Lourdis and we can’t stop laughing. “That’s gonna be you, girl,” she screams. “That’s gonna be YOU!” Then there’s the flowers. Delivered almost every day. It broke my face the first time I read the card and realized they weren’t for me. Tulips. Big, colorful gladiolas. And lavender arrangements that smell like what? My candles. But guess who’s not bitching about the funky scent now?
While in the kitchen early one afternoon, I hear the front door open suddenly and Sylvia’s power chair motor. She left with Mr. B and Thomas not even an hour ago.
“Hey,” I call out. “What are you doing back so soon? Have a fight with your boyfriend?”
She blows right by me and rolls toward the bedroom. All I see is the back of her head. She doesn’t say a word. I start to follow after her when the doorbell rings. Oh-oh.
Painting: CHARITY by JOSEPH HOLSTON
Through the peephole I see it’s Dr. Baladashi, Mr. B’s son. The scrawny doc is frowning at me over his black, space-agey N95. “I would like for you to keep your grandmother away from my grandfather,” he says when I open the door. This is how he kicks it off. But last night’s anger-management session with my support group has spared him. He doesn’t know it but Zoom has just saved him from the beatdown of his life.
“Whatever do you mean?” I ask calmly. “Has something happened?”
He hems and haws and then finally blurts out—“I just caught them upstairs. They were in his bedroom pleasuring one another!”
Painting: CHRYSALIS NO. 230 by CAT TESLA
All kinds of kinky, geriatric shit go through my head and I just can’t help it. I burst out laughing! Get after it, Oldtimers! Then the elevator door opens. It’s Mr. B! He scurries out, sees his son and starts apologizing. “I’m so sorry, Winona. He shouldn’t be here. Benjamin, what’s wrong with you??”
But I’m dying to know all the dirty deets.“Mr. B, what were you and my grandmother doing??”
Benjamin cuts in. “Things they shouldn’t be doing!”
“Who says they shouldn’t?” I ask.
Things heat up fast. We’re going back and forth about two grown people having the right to do what grown people do when Sylvia appears in the foyer. And OMG! Miss Thing is walking!
“Everybody just shut the hell up,” she says and holds her hand out to Mr. B. When he shuffles passed me I smell Flowerbomb all over him. He stands next to Sylvia and she waits, watching attentively as he buttons his shirt and tucks it in before cupping her hands in his.
“We’ve got news for both of you,” she looks at me and then at Benjamin. “When Dr. Nang says it’s okay for me to return home, Simon will be joining me. We’ve decided to become roommates!”
Wow. Leave it to my grandmother Sylvia to roll out of the Grande Oaks Active Seniors Community with one man and walk back in with another.
They say you never really know a person until you live with them. When Winona and Riccardo decide to self-quarantine together at her luxury condo on Central Park West, each day brings a new revelation. A new truth. Some are sweet. Others not so much. It’s three weeks of mad discovery.
Covid-19 has taken over the planet! Riccardo suggests we shelter-in-place at my condo and I agree to it although my gut is in don’t-do-it mode. Jumpy jittery. Is it just me being me? I’ve lived with only one man in my life, many years ago when I was still modeling. I was in and out of the country a lot so it didn’t seem like a full-time situation. This time will be different. We’re on lockdown for at least three weeks, going out only if absolutely necessary. Can he and I survive 24-7 of togetherness?
One thing’s for damn sure. When sheltering-in-place, it’s nice to have an in-house piece to lock it down with. We eat, knock boots, order more food, knock boots some more, sleep, wake up and go at it again. But we’ve got to climb out of this bed eventually. Right? Maybe tomorrow? What day is it anyway??
Riccardo is working on a new novel and my little salon-slash-media room has become his office. This man’s daily routine is whack! Lounging about in silk pajamas, he drinks tea, smokes weed and shouts at the tv while switching back and forth between CNN, MSNBC and the local news broadcasts at noon, six and eleven pm. He does manage to get some writing done, though. He’s old school, working out his story details in longhand, and there’s ledger paper all over my floor. It’s killing me.
I dress and put on a face every morning before sitting down at my desk. Or better yet, pacing back and forth across the floor while talking on the phone with retailers, fashion editors, casting agents. My broker. The agency is closed, my models aren’t working, and all business is at a standstill. I’m losing a small fortune every single day. Riccardo’s barbershop emporium on Malcolm X Blvd. is shut up tight. So are the three food trucks he has parked outside The Met on 5th Avenue. Life as we know it has ground to a halt.
Spreading out like a virus himself, Riccardo is occupying more and more of my space. Every day there’s another delivery. Clothes, gadgets, toiletries. My man comes with a lot of baggage. Literally. The frig is crammed with cartons of juice and jars and containers of I don’t know what. And the worse? Those white whiskers! They’re everywhere! I finally snap and not just about his beard hairs. I throw the media room mess into the mix, too. Things get testy. But then we discover a mutual love for J. R. Ewing. Who knew? Snuggling on the couch, we snack for three-and-a-half days while binge-watching DALLAS on Amazon Prime.
One afternoon, on my way to the kitchen, I hear him in the foyer talking to someone. It’s a young woman. She looks Latina behind the mask. He hands her several bills and she extracts a plastic baggie of weed. They see me and freeze. He introduces her as Ariana, his “weed guy”. She’s giving me the sneaky side-eye but it barely registers on my radar, which is turned all the way on him and set on blast. Really, bruh? Pandemic or not, how about a heads up before inviting strangers into my space? After all, it is my space.
After two and a half weeks inside, I’m just tired of the whole ordeal. It’s time to break out of here. I call for the town car to take me downtown to the agency. They assure me that the limo has been thoroughly disinfected, shields are up and in place, and my driver has a clean bill of health. Okay. Deciding on which mask to wear, I’ll confess that I’ve developed a thing about it. The mask must work with my outfit. Even just going downstairs for the mail. Silly? So what? It gives me something to do. But Riccardo is mocking me. He rolls his eyes and calls me the s-word. Shallow.
At WINONA, INC., in blissful silence, I do a wellness check on each of my twenty-seven models. They’re scattered all over the world, trapped in Spain, Italy, France, and it takes hours to reach them all. Afterwards I stretch my legs and walk twelve empty blocks to Lourdis’ place in the Village. She’s been holed up for two weeks with a hunky twenty-two year old. We drink champagne and practice our social distancing while she tries on a shipment of new fashions from her favorite boutique in London. “How’s things uptown with the writer?” she asks. Should I admit that it’s been somewhere between sheer nirvana and a bad dream, depending on the time of day? Nah. Instead I laugh. “It’s like living with Hugh Hefner. His pajama game is insane!”
It’s early evening when I return home. There’s a guy, real regular, standing outside the building. He’s one of those characters who’s made the willful decision not to wear a mask and Don the doorman is struggling to keep him at a distance. “Good evening, Ms. Warner,” he says. The stranger turns, sees me and extends his hand. “Hey girl”, he says. “I’m Tyrone.” I take a few steps back and he stops. “I just wanted to say hello,” he snarls. “Your man had me bring some of his things down here. You got a nice crib upstairs. You been living here long?”
In the elevator, I’m reeling. He did it again?! He’s had someone else in my house? Just what part of don’t-invite-strangers-into-my-home doesn’t he get? No. Riccardo’s not stupid. He’s just acting like it, trying to impose his will on my territory. Pissing all over my boundaries? I’m the wrong one, boo. And I can’t wait to tell him! The elevator door opens and I step into the vestibule. Hold up. What’s that odor? I put the key in the lock and open the front door. “What’s that I’m smelling in here?”
Hef is in the living room, in a fresh pair of pj’s, holding onto an enormous glass bong. I can see from here how lit he is. Wow. He truly enjoys the ganja life. A lot more than I ever realized. Several beat-up cardboard boxes are scattered across the floor and a guitar leans against my coffee table. I’m relieved to see the Lysol spray and a roll of paper towels nearby. But wait. “What is that you’re cooking?” I ask again. He nods towards the kitchen. “Check it out.”
When I lift the lid on the stovetop, it takes me a moment to figure out just what it is I’m looking at. How long has it been? Over thirty years? My grandmother wouldn’t allow them in the house. Not even on holidays. But I turn my back for one afternoon, just one, and this man is in my kitchen cooking pig’s feet! I almost vomit, but it’s rage that’s driving me now. I slam down the lid, grab oven mitts, snatch the pot off the burner and head for the front door.
In the trash room, I fling open the garbage door and pour huge chunks of chopped celery, onion, garlic and five, no, six pig’s feet straight down the chute. It’s gonna stink. All the way down. But I don’t care, as long as this foulness can’t be traced back to me. “I live here, Riccardo. And I don’t want that kind of stench coming out of my crib! If you had just ASKED me, I would’ve told you that and saved you the trouble!”
He follows me back inside and shuts the door. “Well excuse me, Miz Central Park West,” he throws it at me like a slur. “I didn’t realize I needed permission from you and the condo board to cook something that, in many places, is considered a delicacy.” His combination of address-shaming and epicurean mansplaining makes me ache to throw this pot at his head. “So you don’t do pig’s feet?” he asks. I count to five to calm myself. “What makes you think I do pig’s feet?” I hiss. “I don’t even do YOUR feet!”
My gut warned me not to do it. I am a woman set in my ways. Having my own space means way too much to me. And it’s get-to-steppin’ for the man who tries to take it from me. Letting Riccardo go—for the second time—hurts. It hurts more because this time, I gave so much more. But right now, watching him roll his accumulated crap out of my condo, I ask him with as straight a face as I can muster, “Think you can manage with all of your shit? Maybe you better call Tyrone—”
Winona is to FASHION WEEK what fireworks are to the 4th of July. The show might go on but without her it sure won’t be the same. Back in the day she was in such high demand on the catwalk that designers were known to adjust their show dates to work around her schedule. And now, as the agency owner with six of the fashion industry’s top models on her roster, they still do! Ah…it’s nice to be on top. But hard as hell to stay there.
She shows up on everyone’s web page and blog site during FASHION WEEK. Covering her fashion choices for the next few days is just as important as anything happening on the runways so stay tuned. WHAT SHE WORE DURING FASHION WEEK starts NOW…