There is no greater fantasy for a writer
and reviewer than to be interviewed by a peer or at least to be asked the
questions you want to answer. So rather than wait for that opportunity to
arrive, it is now me interviewing me. Hopefully this will offer some insight
into why I think the way I do and how my experience has influenced my opinions
when it comes to fashion.
It is here that I would like to mention a
few more people who have enlightened and heightened my senses when it comes to
all things fashion. Firstly to Franck Ford of LOYD/FORD who opened my eyes to a
fashion I never knew really existed and what it really takes to be a designer
in today's marketplace as well as actually having a set of standards with which
to conduct business. Secondly is Ralph Rucci who has been gracious enough to
share some knowledge and increase my fashion education when it comes to the art
and craft of fashion. Another notable personality that I have encountered is
China Machado who has shown me that there are indeed living legends and that
some of them wildly exceed one’s expectations of them
So rather than me go on and on and on as I
have been known to do ….. Here goes……..
do you think you are qualified to be a critic of fashion?
Having spent almost my entire adult life
in and around the fashion business I feel more than adequately qualified to
speak to the topic of fashion. As a quick resume, I started as a textile
designer for menswear when all was done by hand, then began the ladies and
men’s wholesale business on a small scale, then 7th avenue where I remained for
years in charge of sales for some of the preeminent designers of the 80s, then
onto the retail business. There I was given the opportunity to buy designer
ready to wear (Montana, Valentino, Armani, Ungaro, Mugler and many more ) in
Europe as well as in the US and spend time on the retail selling floor. The
retail “era” included Elizabeth Arden when they operated 12 salons as well as
retail stores for apparel and accessories in those locations. From there, it
was onto Miriam Haskell where I was charged with merchandising and overseeing all
design for the relaunch of Miriam Haskell in 1990. From there it was onto
menswear again as design director for several heritage brands which were to be
sold exclusively in China proceeding this gig, I spent 7 years as Design
Director for TIMEX licensed clock products. It should be noted that for the
most part, I was never trained to do any of it but my history and reputation
speak for itself... I was indeed a quick study! My last incarnation was to
write as one finds out that once you have reached a certain level and age, your
positions are filled by four 25 year olds who cumulatively make less than your
asking price. This has been an amazing experience sharing my experiences and
speaking about a business I so adore and lived for many many years. It has
opened doors and provided me with a voice and an audience that actually likes
and is interested in what I have to say... most of the time. Not only is there
writing but as a reviewer of 100s of fashion books, my education has increased not
only by the books but by the so many people I have come to know and respect.
PS there ae other “occupations” that have
been part of me but these are the highlights, the bottom line is that I speak
from firsthand experience and not some fantasy of what I think the business
entails. I speak the truth as I see it which usually ruffles a few feathers.
you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?
Vreeland because she was so much a part of what
made fashion great and what made the pages of magazines come alive. Maybe it is
she who created this hunger for fashion within me even without knowing who she
was at the time. To me, she is everything that is absent in today’s world of
fashion. This was a woman filled with life, hyperbole, fantasy, knowledge, style,
affectations and taste.
Kempner… well she was the ultimate clothes horse,
the most voracious of fashion addicts but she remained dedicated to her family
and various charities. When I would see her at fashion events or on the street,
the thought that always crossed my mind, well thoughts, she was always
impeccably turned out and how did those bird legs support a woman who was larger
than life especially when she was dancing. She loved a party and she was not
some pretentious bitch who thought they walked on water ... she was a good time
girl or gal as Mr. Blass would say. She loved to gossip I am told and we know she
Lagerfeld … he always has an opinion and he is
never short on conversation and most of all he is not shy. Wouldn’t I love to
know really know what he thinks of so much and so many of his fellow designers,
past and present. Karl also has an amazing cache of gossip and life experiences
that few can hold a candle to.
St Laurent because for some reason I have always had
or felt this affinity towards him. I adored what he did and what he stood for
at the time. I was a big Rive Gauche customer and I can say I was in his
company a few times although never formally introduced but somehow I always
felt a kinship of sorts. Yves was a design god with a circle of friends who
were the chic-est of chic in my mind ... especially at the time. And then there
was this ... I was stopped on the street many times being mistaken for him ...
I saw him on a regular basis as were both frequent habitués of Studio 54 albeit
he was always a celebrity and I was just out having a good time and to dance with
my friends. We had always said hello but never engaged further than that. Wouldn’t
I love to reminisce about all those nights, all those hours or fun and well debauchery...?
I’ll leave it at that. Well, maybe I’d like to tell him how smart he was and
how ahead of his time he was when he inked with JCP.
you speak to the changes in the fashion business from a retail standpoint as
well as from a wholesale aspect?
During my history in fashion, I got to
experience the glory days of retailing when specialty stores ruled the roost,
the great doyennes of U.S. retail ( who I was lucky enough to meet them all) who
included Martha Phillips, Hattie, Joanne Loevner, Sara Fredericks, Grace Jones
( from Texas not La Vie en Rose), and
stores like Lou Lattimore, Amen Wardy, Giorgio, Ultimo, Nan Duskin, Bonwit
Teller, Montaldo’s ( all of whom I worked with) and many many more. These
giants of retail are all gone and now we are left literally with a handful of
department stores who basically buy everything they can and think they are
unique. In some instances these stores arrange “trunk show only” resources that
do special orders but are never stocked. Then there is this matter of doing
business on consignment that only benefits the retailer rather than the
designer in the long run. IMHO, the future lies not within the States but abroad where there has been exponential
growth when it comes to top shelf retail doors. In years gone by we actually
had buyers who didn’t carry sell thru computer sheets, well now I pads, and
actually knew their customers’ preferences if not knowing them personally; they
possessed intimate knowledge of their day to day businesses. Fashion has become
a business of numbers where it is all about negotiations and allowances and “what
will you do for me this season?” rather than about design, creativity,
discovering new talent and personal attention. To me, the specialty stores that
remain still rule the roost when it comes to what’s new and there are still a
few who lead the pack rather than follow the herd ... it is just too sad that
there are so few true merchants and literally shopkeepers!
advice would you give to those who wish to make the business of fashion their
profession and why do you think your advice is valid?
FIRSTLY, I WANT TO SAY THAT MY ADVICE IS A
MATTER OF OPINION ... MINE! My advice is steeped in having worked in all
aspects of fashion from product development to retail to wholesale to selling
to buying and from menswear to womenswear to fashion jewelry to home
accessories to clocks! In other words, my advice comes from having made a
living from being in fashion and having actually watched clothing go from
sketch to production ... from piece goods to finished product to actually
experiencing the product’s sale from a showroom as well as from a selling
floor…. SO Now!!! I preach knowledge. Knowledge is power whether your future is
in designing, the back end, photography or any fashion related area. Learn from
the best… read, research, keep your eyes and mind open, and learn! Now more
than ever you can delve into the past, learn of all the masters who made
fashion a viable profession. You cannot be part of the future if you have no
clue of what happened before you. Too many fashion professionals have a frame
of reference that doesn’t span more than 5 years and in some cases 5 seasons ...
go back in time, see who was great, discover, and make a mood board study it,
revise it and know why any of it attracted you in the first place. Believe in
your abilities and take criticism BUT ALWAYS consider the source!!!!
you name 6 fashion personalities (designers, media, etc. ;) who have influenced
or effected change within the business of fashion and why?
Avedon was a pioneer of modern fashion
photography. I believe he changed the way we look at fashion and models and
spawned an amazing new crop of photographers that have also become pillars of
that world. Think of it this way, Aberdeen, as DV once called him because she
couldn’t remember his name, he had vision and the vision was fed with Mrs.
Vreeland’s imagination and confidence in him. His magazine work is as valuable
today as it was then, if not more so. He
designed with a camera.
Dior was one of the greatest designers of the
20th century. It is he whose brand lives on and is still revered as
one of the most creative and innovative in his output. One might say he was
part of the foundation on which today’s fashion has been built. His was fashion
in its purest sense as it must never be forgotten that his rise to eternal and
international fame came from the haute couture and not ready to wear. If you
take it to the base level, he is the daddy from which spawned an amazing new
generation of designers.
Mellen: her contributions are vast and
memorable. She is a woman of HUGE imagination and possesses immense talent when
it comes to the printed page. Yes, another acolyte of DV but she is one of
“hidden” bright lights that helped give fashion that Vreeland imprimatur as
well as her own. One might say she was Vreeland’s Coddington ( so to speak)
except Vreeland was much more hands on and much less concerned about the
dollars and cents of it. Mellen was brilliant in delivering what is so sorely
lacking in today’s world of fashion. Ever a free spirit ... a never ending
explosion of possibilities and an unsung hero when most speak of fashion.
St Laurent: he was the young man who was
lucky enough to have had a Pierre Bergé to steer the ship that became a juggernaut
of modern fashion. Yves’s creativity and Bergé’s business savvy were nothing
short of a revelation. The fragile, or seemingly so, Yves who was prescient in
his body of work no matter what his state of mind. He was a product of the 60s
,70s and 80s ... in that he was this tortured soul, yet this bad boy and yet this shy insecure
designer who changed the world of fashion forever.
Vreeland: it might be blasphemy, of a sort, to
exclude her, but how could I? I think that her truest words were to “give them
what they knew they wanted!” and that included her. She was an original in every
way. Whether it was her version of the truth, her appearance, her bon mots or
her vision for the future, she rocked the magazine world, she rocked the fusty
stuffy museum world and even after her death she remained a “singular sensation”
in both film and print. Her years at the Met were astounding and she literally
opened the doors to the Met for so many new and fledgling designers by
literally hosting the “party of the year” in NYC. For those us lucky enough to
have been part of it…well, they can tell you …
Balenciaga because maybe he was the
precursor of minimalism and after having read more and more about him, he was
designer, architect, businessman, gentleman and when he didn’t like the way
fashion was moving he just simply collected his toys and moved on. He was the
darling of so many of fashion’s elite and again one must recall this was all
about haute couture. Imagine that he had 3000 employees producing couture as
well as what he had to farm out. If you can wrap your head around that, then
you can safely presume he was indeed the “master of us all!” He showed us the
pure side of fashion, the most modern and seemingly simple was just a case of
don’t judge a book by its cover as nothing was as simple as it looked.
PS.. if space would have allowed, I would
add Coco, Gianni, AW (scary but I would
have), Giorgio and more to the great “influencers” of fashion