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Sadly JC Suarès passed away. I have known him since the 80’s. He was always somehow in my life. Jean-Claude was faithful to his friends and friends of friends. Love was a real commitment: he had been with his wife for over 30 years. He was an inspiring and inspired creative director.
I saw him again when I was editor in chief of France-Amerique, a then weekly publication in French for the French and frenchspeaking people in the US. The new director who had bought the magazine from Le Figaro wanted to revamped the publication. Of course I thought immediately of Jean-Claude. Not a given deal: France-Amerique had a limited budget and was not as prestigious as some periodicals Suarès was coaching. Also the man was a grande gueule, a very outspoken person whose style did not fit everywhere. One thing one had to know about JC was his love for horses. It defined him. He had a few thorough bred and rode a lot. Like his friends he was addicted to freedom..
I was not sure he would be a match in the context of a specialized publication. But he was … Jean-Claude never renounced his french-speaking backround ( his mother was a Jew from Tunisia and his family spent some years in France ) and was happy to be associated to this project. The director was convinced by Jean-Claude’s personnality. In the end, in a different way, both were flattered. Jean-Claude shook our world upside down, bringing in colors, titles, photos. The weekly became a biweekly, ( later to be revamped in a monthly as it is today). The publication was flashier than its precedent version to the dislike of some subscribers. But it was finally alive and that was what really mattered.
The first time I met Nicole Fischelis, it was in Florence. She was Senior Vice President of Fashion Worlwide for Ferragamo and I was writing a story for Le Monde on the famous fiorentine family that continues to create fashion on the footsteps of its founder Salvatore Ferragamo. Nicole had left Sak’s Fifth Avenue where she was Senior Vice President and Women’s Fashion Director to come to Italy. She was the lively soul in this rather stuffy environnement of Palazzo Spini Feroni taken over by the Ferragamos since 1938. Not that she did not enjoy working there, helping to revive this historical brand. Nicole who was born in a family of furriers has always known how important the history of fashion is to fashion and will quote the great Yves Saint Laurent whenever is needed. In Florence, she also appreciated being closer to France and her family. Yet, History so present in a close surrounding can be at times suffocating. How many times a day to do you want to cross Ponte Vecchio…. To me, Nicole was somewhat of an anachronism there. Little did I know that I was right and that her future would bring her back to America where she is today Vice President of Ready-To-Wear at Macy’s and one of the most influent persons in the fashion industry in the US: On Tuesday Night, Nicole was honored by the High School of Fashion industries.
The Frenchwoman is calling New York her home. There she likes to always be on the move like the city itself, enjoying the youthful energy of Manhattan. “ I have always been curious.” Said Nicole, mentioning her first escape from Paris to London in the Seventies when Carnaby Street was still tinted with Mary Quant, but new kids were making a name for themselves – Claude Montana, Karl Lagerfeld or Jean Charles de Castelbajac. She knew how to recognize talents then, and still does today. This is why Nicole has been a supporter of the High school of Fashion Industries and a board member for many years now. “ She is passionate on youth and education” said Rose Marie Bravo, a fashion industry icon in her own rights, who earlier in her introductory speech praised the shrewd analysis of Nicole Fischelis on fashion trends always pointing at “ the good, the bad and the ugly”.
Yes, Nicole likes to turn her gaze towards the future, towards these students, designers of tomorrow who, on Tuesday night , showed their unique designs on the catwalk.
Little did I know, back in Florence, that I was going to make a real friend, – a rarity in the world of journalism! -. Nicole has been my best indicator at New York Fashion Week that I have been covering for the last 7 years. But above all, she has been a true , generous friend who I am very honored to have kept to this day.
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I took the chance…. taking my 16-year old to the concert. Last Thursday at the French Institute Alliance Francaise, a world music duo, Ballaké Sissoko a Malian griot playing a kora harp-lute – and French cellist Vincent Segal were performing.
I was partly saved by Ballaké Sissoko’s name, and was informed right away that this first name and surname are regulars in soccer teams. That helped! Sure enough, we learned later from Vincent Segal, in his broken English, that Sissoko’s son –a 17 year old as well- was on the junior team of the PSG, Paris Saint Germain of course!. (That was effectively checked as soon as the Iphone could be connected to the Internet.) Still cello and flute did not seem like an easy combination for a teenager.
An official from the World Music Institute co-presenter of the concert introduced the two musicians as they sat on the stage. It took us a few minutes to apprehend Sissoko’s instrument – a harp with bulky round body and a long and thin neck. I regretted not having more informations on this exotic instrument from the musician himself. Wikipedia came handy: “ A kora is a harp built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator with a long hardwood neck.”
If Vincent Segal has been trained as a classical cellist, Sissoko has worked with Blues musicians like Taj Mahal and of course West African kora players.
They started playing music, chamber music as announced but with multiple influences, Arabic, African, western… in other words, world music. It was very peaceful and serene and very beautiful. And yes, my teenager was transported as I was as was the public in this packed auditorium at the Florence Gould Hall. It was different, “elevatingly” different, and good for the soul.
I discovered that my son had grown up to become this inspired young man open to a world music experience, and I discovered Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal. It was a full evening.
(Dee Dee Bridgewater last night at the Apollo Theater)
Cecile McLorin Salvant, a name to remember! A French American born and raised in Miami, Florida of a French mother and a Haitian father. What a voice! She performed last night at the Apollo Theater in Apollo Club Harlem, an original production celebrating the theater’s own history.
No need to present the Apollo, this mythical theater created in 1934 in West Harlem where the best jazz musicians and singers of all times performed including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday. Well, last night it was no less than DeeDee Bridgewater who starred in the production. Sharing the stage with her was amazing Cecile. Both singing I don’t mean a thing gave an impressive show of vocal jazz. In the Apollo’s tradition of the Amateur Night contests started in 1934, in the show hosted by Maurice Hines, different dancers, singers, tap dancers performed one after the other.
Another great moment was Storyboard P performing his HipHop dance called Mutant.
A perfect New York night ending with a drink at Red Rooster.
Cecile McLorin Salvant