If you think the newly retired Joan Kaner is now resting on her laurels (or just plain resting)…think again. Though the well loved Neiman Marcus VP and Fashion Director formally retired at the end of October, this past week she found herself immersed in a hub of activity and the center of attention. And her expertise was called into service just one more time before heading off to a much deserved rest in Sarasota with her family.
Just days after her well attended farewell cocktail party on Monday evening (where everybody who was anybody in the fashion world seemed to be), she was one of the panelists at Fashion Group International’s Trend Overview for Spring/Summer 2006 where she once again, “told it like it is” in the words of Marylou Luther, FGI’s formidable Creative Director. First came the audio visual presentation narrated as always by Marylou, which highlighted the most important looks and trends of the season. Her picks for “most likely to make it from runway to retail” are The Dress, The Evening Dress, The Pant, The Coat, The Shirt/The Shirtdress, Shorts, White, The Belt, The Big Bag. Afterwards, Mary Lou introduced the panel saving Joan for last.
She took a few minutes to talk about her dear friend and colleague (apologizing for having to stop now and then as her voice cracked with emotion, illustrating her palpable heart felt sadness that Joan will not be a permanent everyday part of all our fashion lives) and acknowledged that Joan not only nurtured designers and “nurtured Fashion Group”, but she also made “tons of money for Neiman Marcus”.
Joan took her place on stage with Vogue’s Sally Singer, In Style’s Alice Kim, Saks Fifth Avenue’s Michael Fink, Kirna Zabete’s Beth Buccini, and moderator, Bryan Bradley, designer of Tuleh. The New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn was supposed to be one of the panelists, but at the last minute, found herself having to care for her sick pooch.
Bryan Bradley focused the panel’s discussion on the idea of “anything goes” which was something alluded to during the prior presentation, but his question was, “Does anything and everything REALLY go”? Sally Singer said that for Vogue, it continues to be about personal style and a well educated customer who is attuned to what’s going on in fashion. It’s not about things matching perfectly, which is “old’ but rather, all about the mix (as perfected by designers’ muses, Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, and Sophia Coppola). She also said the magazine tries to help people be their own stylists and also said the New Minimalism is right for now because it’s understandable, relatable, and easy.
Joan Kaner immediately chimed in and took her to task on certain issues. “I’m ready for good taste” she said, in reference to the eclectic look and the notion of mixing things up. “Most people are not that secure, they want a ‘how to’, and magazines have let the customer down. Magazines are too hip and they have neglected that (professional) woman”. The one who leads a busy life, does not necessarily want to be ‘hip’, too fashion-y, or stand out in a bad way. Joan also remarked that when all is said and done, most women want to be well groomed and “look pretty”.
Bryan Bradley noted that from his experience, “women want to know 3 things each season”:
1-What should I wear to work?
2-What should I wear for a special, formal occasion?
3-What shoes should I wear?
Beth Buccini said her downtown shop has a very hip, in the know, customer and she credited Style.com with having had a lot do with that. “Style.com has revolutionized shopping” and has created a savvy, educated customer. When the subject came up about knock off houses and the speed with which so many influential designers are being copied, Beth observed that H & M and others like it “keep high end designers and business on their toes because they are being knocked off so quickly”. She acknowledged that it’s also raised the couture like handwork and attention to detail that we are now seeing (at record breaking and skyrocketing prices of course) simply because these things cannot be copied.
At the end, Bryan asked the audience if they had any questions, and some did. I couldn’t resist directing my questions to Joan: “What will you miss MOST about leaving the fashion business, and what will you miss the LEAST?”
Without hesitation, she responded: “The anticipation of a show…the thrill that comes with thinking this may be ‘THE SHOW’ where you discover that amazing design. That, and the love of fashion and the people that are special to me”.
As for what she will not miss…unsurprisingly, it was all about the well- documented grueling bi- annual show schedules (of which she has been a verbal and vocal voice). As she put it, “The 45 minute wait. There are far too many shows. Something has to be done about the schedule.” And then she spoke about her dislike of off site locations. “Off site locations ruin the whole day and don’t make the clothes look any better”. Since it was the day after Mayor Bloomberg’s re-election, it was rather timely that she also added perhaps “he could do something to help”. Fashion is big business in New York, after all.
For the record, Fashion Group has been using FIT’s Katie Murphy Amphitheatre as a venue for these events the last few years, and in my opinion, the space (right across the street from the FIT Museum) is far more intimate, personal, and appropriate, than the imposing midtown office buildings that had been used in the past.