She's maneuvering the world of high fashion using instinct, experience and a WILD and ROWDY past!
On Tuesday, Marissa Wilson kicked things off at Spring Studios. Gabriele Hearst took us out to Brooklyn for her show at noon. Bibhu Mohapatra brought us back to Spring Studios and I got a chance to chat with Bethann for a minute. That’s always cool. Peter Do presented at Genesis House on 10th Avenue at 3 and then a late lunch at the agency before the Michael Kors Collection at Terminal 5 on West 56th Street with Brooke Shields, Blake Lively and Ariana DeBose in the house. I can’t believe Fashion Week is almost over. Just when I’m catching my second wind. Day Six.
Winona is wearing Balmain.
Seeing Mrs. H herself at the Carolina Herrera show was a nice way to start the day. So few of the OG’s are still with us. We lined up like little kids to say hello. Red roses were offered at the Coach show on Pier 36 and Bevza was right behind that. Tory Burch was in Midtown, Greedilious by Tilda presented at Spring Studios and LaQuan Smith at 8pm took us all the way back downtown. So we had cocktails at the Maison Premiere Oyster Bar over in Brooklyn before calling it a night. Day Five.
We started out on Sunday morning with Ulla Johnson at the New York Library. And then spent much of the day at Spring Studios checking out this and that, including video presentations, lookbooks, and the Black Designer Showcase featuring three emerging creators of color, Khiry, House of Aama and Third Crown. Then Sergio Hudson’s show at 7:00, before a mad dash to the old Woolworth Building for Altuzarra, followed by cocktails, a late dinner, and boom. Another day done! Day Four.
Winona is wearing Sergio Hudson | Handbag by Fendi
Security is tight in many places. Fashion Week is ripe with firsts. At Spring Studios, the Black in Fashion Council is going all day with showrooms featuring Keama, Megan Renee, Ashya, Justin Wesley and Ndigo Studio. Jason Wu’s presentation was live while Maisie Wilen did a mindblowing halographic show. Lots of video by Nicole Miller, Tadashi Shoji, and Alice + Olivia. Christian Siriano was on the runway at the Empire State Building with Susan Sarandon and Aquaria in attendance and Brandon Maxwell’s show, at the Roth Theatre in Union Square, finished another long day. Whew! Day Three.
Winona is wearing Jonathan Cohen
Here we are. Another Fashion Week in New York City! On Friday, between the genderless fashions by designers Teddy Vonranson, Tristan Ditwiler and A. Potts, Proenza Schouler at the Brant Foundation and Bronx and Banco at the Bowery Hotel, I ran back and forth before landing at Spring Studios for the Art of Rodarte exhibit. For a minute. Christian Cowan showed party frocks at One World Observatory at 7 and Elena Velez was at the Freehand Hotel on Lex even later. It was a busy first day. Day Two.
Winona is wearing Dolce & Gabbana | Handbag by Proenza Schouler
2 years in masks! Who could have imagined it? But like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, Fashion Week continues to find a way not only to survive but to evolve. Winona, Inc. models have returned to NYC and they’re strutting it out on catwalks from Brooklyn to the Bronx, while video watch parties at the agency are becoming the hot new ticket. Long live Fashion Week! Coverage begins tomorrow.
Who dreamed this year would just be a repeat of 2020?? I ordered everything early—decorations, liquor, wait staff—in preparation for my annual holiday party. Scaling back, I limited the guest list to just twenty-five clients and close friends and planned my menu. I was excited! Lobster is practically impossible to find on the East Coast right now so I went hard, flying them in via private jet from New Orleans. My first party since Christmas 2019? I wanted it to be the party that everyone wished they’d been invited to.
Then the virus flipped. Again. And within two weeks things got so juicy, just the idea of two dozen people in my crib made my stomach turn over. My head was spinning wondering which one of my guests would come in and infect everyone else. So last week I bit the bullet. I officially cancelled the party. It broke my heart.
But in spite of all that…we at WINONA, INC. wish peace, light and love to each and every one of you. Be safe, stay healthy and always, always follow your gut. Happy holidays! Keep hope alive in 2022!
So here I am hiding—yes—hiding in the ladies room backstage at the Oscar de la Renta show. It’s Day Three of Fashion Week and Remy, one of my Supers, has been chosen by Mr. de la Renta to open the show. I worked for years before getting that slot while Remy has only a few seasons under her belt. Her rise to catwalk stardom has been pretty spectacular. But right now there’s only forty minutes ‘til showtime. And she’s missing in action. Remy. Is. Not. Here.
I’ve got Clarice on the phone. She a housekeeper at the hotel where I house my models and right now she’s looking at Remy face down on the bed. Can you believe it? That little trick has OD’d on me again. I’ll bet my last dollar on it. I instruct Clarice to ring Dr. Jacobson in Suite 327 and have him come to Remy’s room. The good doctor will know exactly what to do. He’ll wake her junkie ass up like Uma Thurmond in Pulp Fiction.
But now Clarice is giving me grief. She wants to call an ambulance. I’m thinking she also wants to call Entertainment Tonight, The National Enquirer, Star and People magazine, too. I have no choice but to rope her in with the promise of five bills if she can deposit Remy and Doc in the backseat of the Towncar that I’m sending there in exactly fifteen minutes. Five hundred bucks. Fifteen minutes. Now she’s cooperating. Ha! Just like I knew she would.
I’m not out of the ladies room for even ten seconds before Mr. de la Renta rolls up on me. He asks about Remy. “Where is she? The show will be starting very soon. There’s hair, there’s makeup…” yadayada. He’s a genius, of course. The master of masters. We go way back and this just isn’t the vibe I want between him and me. “Crosstown traffic is a beast,” I say. “But she’s on her way. She’ll be here any minute.” He gives me a questionable side-eye but says nothing else.
I dash outside to wait for the Towncar, slapping on my shades just before Bill Cunningham gives me a thumbs up and takes my picture. The paparazzi is thick around Lincoln Center and they surround me, screaming my name. “Winona! Here!” “Over here Winona! Over here!” Now what can I say? Old habits die hard, right? I was a model for twenty years so when I see a camera, I strike a pose.
But Remy! Good grief! Cocaine? Heroin? Who knows what she’s on from one day to the next? She may bring fat coins into WINONA, INC. but she’s got to get a grip. Or I’ll have to release her. The media vultures are having too much fun digging up my old shit and the haters are using her drug issues as proof that I’m out of my league. Now she’s got me looking raggedy in front of my fashion god? I can’t have this!
Finally the Towncar pulls up. Doc jumps out and literally hands Remy over to me. “This was a close one,” he says. “She was pretty much dead by the time I got there.” Remy’s flopping around in my arms like Raggedy Ann and girlfriends’ breath is dragon-foul but I hold her up straight and do my best to keep the enormous shades she’s wearing on tight, covering much of her flushed face. At least she’s alert and coherent. But just barely.
I manage to get her backstage. “Open up,” I say before dropping a couple of bennies into her mouth. Popping the top, I hand her a can of Red Bull to wash them down with. She takes a sip. “Girl, you better drink that shit!” I hiss at her. “Every drop!” Humble and obedient, she empties the can in one long swallow. Finally I pour out at least a dozen TicTacs and watch her cram them into her mouth. It’s all I can do before passing her off to the makeup crew with a warning. “Get yourself together. It’s showtime!”
Out front, guess who I run into? Miz Anna Wintour and Mister Andre Leon Talley. VOGUE is in the house! Smooches all around, we shout over the music sharing details about the other shows scheduled for the day and the Conde Nast party at Cipriani’s later on. Desi, my bestie, is all eyes as I try to pin Anna to the wall about shooting a feature with Clementine, my latest acquisition. We play this game all the time and Anna, like always, never says yes or no. She just smiles.
I plop into a chair next to Desi. The show starts and Remy opens, hitting the catwalk looking as fabulous as ever. Who would believe that she was clinically dead less than an hour ago? Desi asks about Anna Wintour. Is she really the bitch they all say she is? Thinking of the catastrophe I’d just avoided—and the laws I’d broken to do it, I remember what Chaka Khan once said to me. Hanging out backstage after a show, she passed the blow along with a bit of advice. “Sooner or later they’re gonna call you a bitch,” she said. “But remember, babygirl. It’s the bitches who get things done.”
Winona has worked hard to promote Yumi, a fresh, young model with the agency, and finally 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, though. 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. She meets Yumi at the agency and I share the fabulous news. “Your daughter is the new face of ZEBRA!” And I see it. Bitterness and envy flash in her eyes before she suddenly 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 before her mother showed up Yumi was weighing her investment options. It was adorable. But Kyoko takes her home and works some of that Asian mama hoodoo on her. She’s twisted baby girl’s head all around. Well, I’ve got a newsflash for both of these wishy-washy bitches. I want this contract. Me. And that’s my bottom line. They can just thank me later.
The first thing 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 Grayson. Anywhere. Finally Bloomie’s take pity and they give him a shot as a copywriter in the ad department. 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. Alright, fuckboy. I’ll play along.
Next up is Marc, the Winona, Inc. office manager. While Terri, Curtiss and I keekee in the background, Marc 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, Marc gains access to her entire schedule! For the whole month! And that, children, is why he works for me. Kissing his cheek, I hand over the emergency benjamin I keep stashed in my wallet. He clicks send and shoots me her schedule.
Kyoko’s calendar 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 feel sorry for her. Not! She’s a fool to let her jealousy kill this deal for Yumi. And a bigger fool to cross-cut 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 to my office. He’s lucky Curtiss doesn’t cut him. Grayson’s breathing hard and he’s in my face, pissy 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 in 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 down the stairs. And to think I was planning to send over a case of his favorite 21 year old scotch. But to run 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’ve sent over, 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 with as much fake innocence as I can muster. “You know this business, doll. Sometimes just a single phone call can make all the difference.”
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?