It’s A Family Affair (originally published April 2014)

Winona has worked hard promoting Yumi, a fresh, young model with the agency, and lands the exotic beauty a six figure contract with ZEBRA, a superhot hair care line. But Yumi’s mother Kyoko demands that her daughter turn the contract down. There’s one thing Kyoko should know. When you mess around in Winona’s business, prepare for Winona to make a mess of yours.

I have hustled like a street pimp to promote the lovely Yumi. And today is the big payoff. In my office, I produce a magnum of champagne to celebrate her magnificent multi-ethnicity and my persuasive negotiating skills. As the new face for ZEBRA, currently the best-selling bi-racial hair care line on the market, my little princess—an Ethiopian/Japanese blend—will receive a cool half-a-mil per year for the next three years. Not bad for a sixteen year old, right? And it’s a sweet little coup for the agency, too! Financially it’s peanuts but it creates buzz. And I like buzz.

Yumi’s mother, Kyoko, is a model also. While very beautiful, she’s never made it beyond Bloomingdale’s online shopping site. Who knows why? But that’s her main gig. With the news of a contract for Yumi, bitterness and envy flash in her eyes. I see it. She slams on the brakes. “I’m not sure I want my daughter identified as bi-racial,” she says. Really? Really? Just how has she identified up until now?

Later in the day Yumi and I speak again. She’s waffling now, unsure if she wants the contract. I can’t believe it! This morning she was weighing her investment options. But Kyoko takes her home and works that bitter Asian mama hoodoo on her, twisting her daughter’s head around with fears and doubt. Well, I’ve got a newsflash for both of these bitches. I want this contract. Me. And that’s my bottom line. They can just thank me later.

The first thing I have to do is stall the ZEBRA group. I make up a family emergency for Yumi—a sick grandfather in Japan—and promise them her return with a signed contract in two weeks. No problem. They insist on sending her a gift basket. How considerate! I suggest they send it here, in care of Winona, Inc. We crave gift baskets around here! Then I dial Grayson Pugh’s number. A senior VP in the advertising department of Bloomingdale’s, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for me. Especially if he thinks he’ll get something out of it.

A few days later we meet for a quick lunch. Still fine af, Grayson was a very popular model way back when, snagging the cover of GQ three times in one year. And then, out of nowhere, he writes a tell-all book. It’s a big seller, too. But when the dust clears, there are no modeling jobs for him. Anywhere. Finally Bloomie’s take pity and they give him a shot in the ad department as a copywriter. And now, twelve years later, he’s a VP. Not too shabby. Grinning at me from across the table, he phones the online store director and instructs him to cancel Kyoko. For everything. Yes. Even the shoot scheduled for tomorrow morning. After the phone call, he takes my hand and insists we have “dinner” very, very soon. Oh yeah? Alright, fuckboy. I’ll play along.

Next up is Marc, the Winona, Inc. office manager. While Terri, Curtiss and I keekee in the background, he phones Kyoko’s agent and pretends to be a casting director. “I’m interested in booking Kyoko. What’s her schedule for the next two weeks?” I bet Marc a hundred bucks he won‘t get it—agents never release that kind of info—but you should hear his Jean Luc Picard impersonation. Very sexy. And very intimidating. With hardly any resistance at all, he gains access to her entire schedule! For the whole damn month! And that, children, is why he works for moi. Kissing his cheek, I hand over the emergency benjamin I keep stashed in my wallet. He clicks send and shoots her schedule over to me.

Kyoko’s schedule is pretty dismal. Now that her bi-weekly gig at Bloomingdale’s has suddenly dried up, all she has for the next two weeks are a couple of fashion shows for Lord & Taylor and three days as a fit model in Calvin Klein‘s showroom. I almost feel sorry for her. Not! She’s a fool to let her jealousy kill this deal for Yumi. And a bigger fool to piss all over my efforts. You know I’ve got the connects, right? At L & T’s and Calvin Klein’s showroom. I guess Miss Kyoko doesn’t know about me. Maybe she should ask somebody…

Two weeks later Grayson Pugh storms into the agency, brushes by Curtiss and takes the stairs two at a time up to my office. He’s lucky Cee doesn’t cut him. Grayson’s breathing hard and he’s in my face, pissed about me blowing off our “dinner” for the third time. Finally we drop the code-speak. He calls me a devious ‘ho. I call him a married man. Who’s about to catch my Jimmy Choo all the way up his ass. He’s glaring at me when my phone rings. It’s Kyoko.

“Is the ZEBRA contract still on the table for Yumi?” she asks.

“Gee, Kyoko. I hope it’s not too late,” I say. “Let me get back to you.”

Mission accomplished! I blow a kiss in Grayson’s direction as Curtiss shoves him back down the stairs. And to think, I was planning to send over a case of his favorite 21 year old scotch. But running up in here calling me names? Now I’m not sending him shit.

Three days later Yumi is floating on air as I escort her and Mama Kyoko to ZEBRA’s Brooklyn office for the contract signing. And the strangest thing happens. Just as a company rep opens the magnum of Veuve Cliquot I sent over yesterday, Kyoko gets a phone call from her agent with great news. She’s been booked for a four-day photo shoot with Saks, a two-day shoot with Nordstrom’s, and a go-see with my buddy, event planner Mr. Gigi. Remember him? That hookup can lead to runway shows every day if she wants. Kyoko gives me a sly side eye. I shrug. “You know this business, doll. Sometimes just a single phone call can make all the difference.”

THE END

The Return of the Met Gala

The Monday after Fashion Week is this years’ Met Gala. It’s one of Winona’s favorite parties. But a faulty elevator in her building throws a curve and tests her patience almost to the breaking point. As building maintenance work to get things going again, she wonders if she’ll miss the Gala? And how many heads she’ll have to roll because of it.

The Met Gala is back! After 18 months of Covid-19 insanity, it’s back and I am so ready! The theme this year is American Fashion and Lisa, of LISA MCFADDEN MILLINERY, proposed another exclusive hat design. Remember the Gala of 2019? And then she brought fashion designer BYRON LARS into the mix. He’s the Big Daddy of Mattel’s Black Barbie Collectible series. (I’ve got eight dolls. How many do you have?) These two, along with his partner SHEILA GRAY, got together and they ballgowned the denim, baby. That’s right. Denim. Now tell me. What’s more American Fashion than that?

It’s the evening of the gala and in my wardrobe closet, Byron and Sheila help me into the gown. It’s a smash-up masterpiece of puffed sleeves, intricate seaming, tote bag-sized pockets and a whole lot of leg action! Lisa’s hat is a wonderful, tricked-out stovepipe, it’s deep band encrusted with brass snaps and rivets. It’s just so fly— Rosalind Russell fly— and it really tops the gown off nicely. “There’s going to be lots of denim tonight,” Lisa says. “But nothing like this!”

Lisa is wearing a custom Rose Collage Walker Wear Silk Suit by APRIL WALKER

They head downstairs to the limo, along with the heavy-ass jewelry from Cartier I’m to wear, stashed in Lisa’s hatbox. It’s gorgeous earrings and neck wear, but I’ll wait and don that drag when we pull up in front of the Met. Staying behind for one last peek, I look myself over. Byron and Sheila wanted converse sneakers, to the knee, but I opted for granny boots. Stilettos, of course. You know I’ve gotta rock the pumps! And look. I could be one of his Barbies, right? This Gala is going to be epic!

Sliding on a mask, I gather my train and step inside the elevator when it reaches my floor. I’m worn out behind Fashion Week. I could collapse right here. But who’s got time for that? So much is happening right now, in spite of the virus and it’s nasty mutations. Life does, indeed, go on. The elevator stops on seven. The doors open and who’s standing there but actress Kim Cattrall. She’s been working in Canada and I haven’t seen her in ages but still, even partially masked and wearing shades, I’d know her anywhere. “Miss Samantha Jones,” I said. “How the hell are you?”

Kim’s handbag by GIVENCHY

Kim pulls a mask over her nose and mouth before stepping inside. She leans back against the wall of the elevator and crosses her arms. Taking me in from top to bottom, she says,“Heading to the Gala, I suppose?” What’s this? Do I detect snark? “I could never get an invite,” she sighs.“You-know-who made sure of that.” Of course, you-know-who is Sarah Jessica Parker and I open my mouth to squelch that nonsense right away. SJP doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the Gala guest list. That’s Anna’s domain. Totally. But before I can get a word out, the elevator makes a grinding noise. And then with a sudden jerk, it stops.

Kim takes off her sunnies and we look at each other, bug-eyed. I press the lobby button. Nothing. Then I press all of the buttons. The elevator doesn’t budge. A man’s voice comes through over the soundbox above the panel. “Hello, hello. How many passengers are in this elevator?” I speak up. “There’s two of us. Winona Warner and Kim Cattrall. And we need to get out of here ASAP! What’s going on?” The voice replies, “We’re so sorry, Ms. Warner. Just be patient and we’ll get things moving as quickly as we can.”

A few minutes later, Kim begins to tug at her mask. “Have you been vaccinated?” she asks. “Tested?” I nod yes, and in perfect Samantha-speak, she says, “I have too, a thousand times, so…” she takes off her mask and dangles it in the air. “Fuck this, shall we?” I take off my mask, too, and try to remember the last time I was trapped in an elevator. It was in the Bronx. The Patterson projects. Way different from the burled wood box we’re in now. “Alright, Miss Kim,” I prop myself on the handrail.“Spill it. I know there’s bad blood between you and my girl but honestly, why aren’t you doing the reboot? What’s the deal on that?”

“It has nothing to do with bad blood,” Kim says. “I simply believe that you can beat a dead horse for just so long. And let me tell you. That horse died when the series was over. Bringing it back for two movies was more than enough in my book. But this latest resurrection?” She waves her hand dismissively. “After almost twenty years, that horse must be pretty stink by now.” I laugh, imagining a poor horse with it’s tongue hanging out and flies buzzing around. But it’s the certainty in her snicker, though. They’re having a hell of a time selling this thing without her and she’s gotta be loving that. “I hear they’re killing you off,” I say. She rolls her eyes. “Whatever.”

Lisa, Byron and Sheila must be out of their minds by now, wondering what’s taking me so long to get downstairs. Do they even know that I’m trapped in the elevator? Neither Kim nor I can get a phone signal, so I talk to the building desk manager over the squawkbox and ask her to inform them of what’s going on. “They know, Ms. Warner,” she says. “They were here in the lobby for awhile, but I think they’ve left for the Gala.” What??! “Can you believe it?” I shout at Kim. “Those bitches have left me stuck in the elevator like Cinderella while they skip out to the ball!” She laughs at me. “You would have done the same thing!” But I don’t care. “Somebody better get their ass in gear and get me OUT OF HERE!!”

At the Gala, a reporter for NYFW.com stands along the velvet rope. She overhears Byron talking to another guest. “Winona looks amazing in the gown we created. But she and Kim Cattrall are trapped in her buildings’ elevator. It’s been over an hour. I don’t think she’s gonna get here tonight.” He scans the crowd for Sheila but doesn’t see her. Anxiously he counts every passing minute before finally throwing up his hands.“I’m going back to the building,” he says. Lisa joins him. “I’m coming with you.” The reporter, waving for her cameraman, asks, “Can we come, too?”

After almost two hours, the elevator motor revs up. The cabin shutters a little, descends, stops, and the doors inch open. We’re in the lobby! Kim and I run out, screaming like preteens. Byron, Lisa, the building’s maintenance team, the desk crew, two firefighters, and an excited reporter and cameraman break into applause. Byron hugs me and starts fluffing up the gown. Brilliant thinking dude, bringing the press back with you. All is forgiven! The reporter interviews me and Kim. Byron and Lisa, too. What a juicy piece of PR for everybody! It’ll get picked up by the New York Times, Vogue, Good Morning America. It’s the kind of publicity that money just can’t buy.

Finally we pile into the limo and head for the Gala. Lisa remembers the Cartier jewelry still in her hat box. Oops! It didn’t occur to any of us during the interview that our look was incomplete. “They’re gonna be pissed, missing out on all of that free pub,” I laugh. “I’ll send our apologies tomorrow. But right now I’m starvin’ like Marvin! Can we stop for a burger or something?” Sheila, on the phone with Byron, overhears me and laughs. “No worries, mama,” she says. “Just get here! We’ll keep your plates warm!”

Necklace by SHEILA GRAY COLLECTIONS

The press is still lined up and taking pics outside the museum. Hot damn! We leap out of the car and charge up the stairs, forgetting the Cartier pieces again. Thirty thousand dollars in jewels are just rattling around in Lisa’s hatbox. Oh well. In spite of being trapped in an elevator, I look incredible. But what’s this? I see a few American designers getting love on the carpet but not what I expected. There’s JLo working Ralph Lauren’s signature brim and Kate Hudson and Regina King in Michael Kors, but I can’t believe it. Moschino? Balenciaga? Chanel? Valentino? Even Anna is wearing Oscar de la Renta and he was Dominican. How’d she miss her own damn memo?

THE END

Pre-Gala 2021

The Met Gala’s theme on Monday night was a celebration of American Fashion. Some didn’t get the memo but Winona sure did! Don’t miss the coming episode of WINONA, INC.—dropping today!— with very special guests, fashion designers BYRON LARS and SHEILA GRAY, along with Winona’s favorite milliner, LISA MCFADDEN. They ballgowned the denim, darlings! Here’s a peek—

NYFW September 2021 – Day Six

On the last day of Fashion Week, practically right outside Winona, Inc. on Mercer Street, TORY BURCH presented colors and textures and a refreshing mix of pieces that played well against each other. She showed many looks in layers but somehow it all worked. Still a little old-ladyish sometimes, this collection was one of her best, imo.

In a dark, murky basement on the lower east side, strewn with leaves and vines from ceiling to floor, KHAITE‘s show was so gloomy and darkly lit, we could just barely see the clothes. What’s the point of that? I couldn’t decide if this location, after the hurricane a few weeks ago, was clever and on point or stupid and tone deaf? People drowned in basements, you know.

Returning to Fashion Week for the first time in a few years, ALTUZARRA featured a mostly loose and flowy silhouette, giving me old school hippie vibes with the beads and tassels. Remembering pictures I’ve seen from back in the 60s, I pictured his models down in the Village, hanging with Jagger and dancing around the park with flowers in their hair.

TOM FORD is an L. A. boy now and it shows. Tank tops, baggy shorts, cargo pants, joggers, everything in this presentation was ultra-casual and, from sequins and satins to metallics, way too shiny. I get it. The pandemic has truly changed our lives and for some, it’s all about lounging around the crib all day, sipping cocktails in-between Zoom business meetings. Come back to the Apple, Tom! This show just left me cold.

The house of OSCAR DE LA RENTA presented his collection in digital form only. I felt a little wobbly when I heard that. But I think Mr. de la Renta would be pleased. The short film, only about five minutes long, is CUTE CUTE CUTE. Beautiful models, beautiful clothes, tipping around beautiful Bryant Park, there’s nothing innovative or groundbreaking here. There never is. Just the best of the best. Every season.

So that’s it. Another Fashion Week has come and gone! Tonight is the Met Gala and baaa-aaaby, my gown! It’s extra-extra. So extra-extra, I’m done talking about it. Tune in on Wednesday for the big reveal! SMOOCHES!

Winona is wearing SAINT LAURENT. Handbag by MARC JACOBS

NYFW September 2021 – Day Five

Abrima Erwiah and Rosario Dawson’s STUDIO 189 collection was too relaxed for even a pair of shoes. Every model was barefoot in loose, pattern-heavy, comfort wear. Love this stuff for around the house. The show included singers, musicians, some spoken word, and a moment of remembrance for 9/11.

It was a barefoot kind of day because halfway through the RODARTE outdoor presentation, the models were suddenly shoeless, appearing in the same long, silky, full cut frock, one after the other, like some sort of angelic cult. It was kind of weird to see twenty-five models all wearing the same dress. I want to claim that I’ve never seen that in a show before. But I’m sure it’s probably not true.

ANNA SUI, at Indochine, was pure fun! We sipped the special cocktail designed for the occasion as she presented a relaxed, colorful, beachy kinda show. The caftans, bikini tops and bottoms, dusters, and shorts and rompers got lots of positive feedback from the audience. Er’body’s ready for a vacation. She took us to the tropics, if only for a few minutes. Thanks, girlfriend.

JONATHAN SIMKHAI offered up soft and easy with lots of fringe. His palette was pastel-sweet mostly, but the necklines were often complex, with extra straps and halters, which made things interesting.

The day was over early. And no parties were on my agenda (none to make me redress and come back out for) so I ordered in and watched the film and videos on NYFW.com. BRONX AND BANCO were back on the rooftop and sexy as hell, LORING was beautifully shot, offering a cool, old movie vibe, and DES PIERROT, with funky club wear, did their entire video in a grungy unisex bathroom. There’s just so much talent on the scene these days who would never get a shot if it wasn’t for this site. Bravo! DAY SIX

Winona is wearing RODARTE. Handbag by FENDI.

NYFW September 2021 – Day Four

Day Four started early with MICHAEL KORS. His collection was worth getting up for. Kendall Jenner opened the show and she looks great. I would try and woo her away from her current agency, but the fam. They’re just too much trouble. There was more skin than usual in this collection. The little bra tops and pencil skirts—one in a leathery lace—were fire! And the precision of his tailored pieces were, as always, swoon-worthy. Kudos to another gorgeous season, MK.

There were flowers at the JASON WU show. Lots and lots of them. The runway decor as well as pieces he presented. He loves florals, of course, and many of his prints were indeed that, but he’s been experimenting and the patterns flowed, like paintings, taking on a new freshness that kicked everything up a notch or two.

The Super Grump t-shirt pretty much said it all for me at the COACH show. I left there frustrated and annoyed. There were, as always, stand-out leather—cute little bras, outerwear, purses—but the grungy presentation forces you to pick each outfit apart and wash the grime out of your eyes before you can really see it. It’s just too much.

I took a moment at the agency to watch ALICE + OLIVIA‘s video drop at 6pm. It was way too short. The colors, the dresses, the suiting got me so hyped, I slapped on two masks and made a mad dash to the Highline Stages on West 15th for the live presentation. As usual, it was lit! Models posed in front of painted sets, the crowd was thick, and everything was interactive. Too interactive. I didn’t hang for long. We are, after all, still in the midst of a fucking pandemic.

BRANDON MAXWELL at 9PM gave us lots of strong, swirly graphics. It was a different path for him. But the sexy bra tops (a theme this season it seems) and hip-huggers pants for evening were interesting, and his oranges, emeralds, reds, and hot magentas really fired things up. My fave was the turquoise moc-croc trench. I’ll take that in a size 6. Please and thank you. DAY FIVE

Winona’s ensemble inspired by OSCAR DE LA RENTA. Booties by MANOLO BLAHNIK

NYFW September 2021 – Day Three

Day Three was wet. And long. And not in a good way. MOSCHINO was playful, fun, even kind of silly sometimes. I mean, they gave us classic Chanel-like suits but what grown-ass woman would wear one in such a childish pattern? Toys and stuffed animals? It was like women’s wear—for toddlers.

SERGIO HUDSON‘s presentation gave me the big, fat shot of joy I needed. He served up a level of sophistication that’s been missing on the catwalk for a long, long time. His monochromatic coats and trousers, lean, mean, body-conscious dresses and knee-high boots never fail to conjure up my mentor, Signor Versace. Had me all in my feelings. I damn near cried. A few of his models came this close to hitting the floor but he’s blowing up. You GO, Sergio!

CAROLINA HERRERA appears to be going after the youth market this season with high hems and puffed sleeves. A few greatest hits showed up. The signature black and white stripes in particular. But what had me scratching my head was the model selection. So many of the women seemed weirdly out of place, as if they were booked for the wrong show. Who’s doing the casting over there?

LaQuan, LaQuan, LaQuan… 9pm at the Empire State Building, it was a location to kill for, and LAQUAN SMITH slutted us out once again with nasty thongs, booty shorts, sleazy negligees and big fishnet stockings. Most of his offerings felt so thoughtless, they seemed to have been whipped up the night before. It’s just his thing. Season after season. And his growing market eats it up. Oh well. Onward…DAY FOUR

Winona’s dress inspired by BALMAIN. Tote by FONTANA.

NYFW September 2021 – Day Two

Since so many fashion shows were digital on Wednesday, with so many WINONA, INC. models walking (or floating) online, I hosted a watch party at the agency. We drank champagne and cheered for each other in BADGLEY MISCHKA, NICOLE MILLER, and TADASHI SHOJI, who’s presentation, while a little frumpy at times, really showcased his exquisite detailing. That’s something you really can’t appreciate in a live show.

PROENZA SCHOULER presented on Manhattan’s new Little Island just before nightfall. What a coup for them! There was lots of great color, lots of fringe, and the trench coats were totally popping! Especially those wild zebra prints. Love!

PRABAL GURUNG sat New York’s brand new governor on the first row and served up bright colors, feathers, and florals, as always, on men as well as women. Many of his offerings were very pretty but boys in ruffly, corset-like tops? Fight me. It’s just not my thing.

Last stop was Spring Studios and Bella Hadid’s party to officially launch herself as a partner in Kin Euphorics. We’d just seen sister Gigi in the Proenza Schouler show earlier. Yikes! I liked her slinky party en-som so much better. What’s that saying for the lucky designers getting all of the attention this week, huh? And those who aren’t? It’s something to think about…DAY THREE

Winona is wearing PRABAL GURUNG

NYFW September 2021 – Day One

Wassup my people!! Fashion Week is back! It’s not a full week this season but a stuffed 5 1/2 days with so much happening all over, it’s just not possible to see even half of it. But I’ll do my best.

Yesterday, COLLINA STRADA was out in Brooklyn but come on. How were we to be out there for 6:00, and then back in the city for the CHRISTIAN SIRIANO 7:00 show at Gotham Hall? We’re forced to make choices, right? The trick is making the right ones. With deep, rich mustards and bright, chartreuse-y greens, several of Christian’s pieces stood out in the drama department. But truth? It felt like I’d seen most of it before.

The drive up to 125th Street for the HARLEM’S FASHION ROW presentation was a long one and by 9:20, I just knew I’d missed everything. Not even! The night went on and on with speeches and awards. Even Anna got one! She didn’t get the warmest reception from the Harlem crowd but they didn’t boo her at least! The show’s designers, all male—seriously?—delivered some interesting work with lots of diversity between them. But while some don’t think it’s so important anymore, it was clear by the craftsmanship who’s had professional training and who hasn’t. That’s all I’m saying. Day One? Done! DAY TWO

Winona is wearing FENDI

WHAT SHE WORE DURING FASHION WEEK – SEPTEMBER 2021

It’s Fashion Week in New York City! Winona’s favorite time of year. But due to the continuing Covid-19 situation, the fashion industry—already in the midst of a major evolution—has been forced to make adjustments. Live shows are coming back and her models are as busy as ever, but the digital world, which has opened so many doors, won’t be shutting down. Now the shows are available in real time online, or she can slip into something special and attend in person. Choices abound in this new day of NEW YORK FASHION WEEK so let the games begin…