Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday the 13th

This past Friday may have actually read Friday, the 22nd on the calendar, but for one organization, it was indeed Friday the 13th (and in this case, I mean, lucky 13th). Fashion Group International held its 13th annual Rising Star Luncheon this past Friday, and it was one of the chicest, most festive, celebratory, and highly efficient in memory.

Each year it seems this annual event (a reception, luncheon, and awards ceremony which honors eight “outstanding individuals for their innovation, creativity, and accomplishments”), has become more and more prestigious, more high profile, and highly anticipated, and indeed, it’s become so popular, it was sold out this time around.

In addition, there were a few things that were new, and as it turns out, they were also ‘improved’ (from my point of view anyway). It has traditionally been held on a Thursday, but was moved to Friday, and this year, the venue of choice was the beautiful and very grand Cipriani 42nd Street. Let’s face it: it’s hard to find a space with more elegant ambience or such a central, convenient location. And of course, the food is always wonderful, with a menu that boasted sea bass, asparagus, and lemon meringue pie with mixed berries (ah, spring is in the air!)

FGI President Margaret Hayes made her welcoming remarks noting that the importance of this program is to “support Fashion Group’s mission to promote rising star talent”. She added, “I want to acknowledge the talent, skill, commitment, and fortitude that brought you (the nominees) to this amazing journey”.

The keynote speaker was Nina Garcia, fashion editor extraordinaire, and fashion director of Marie Claire, who is perhaps best known as one of the judges on ‘Project Runway’. Though she was fighting a cold, and seemed to be on the verge of losing her voice, she got through her rousing speech brilliantly, as she addressed the nominees, giving them a laundry list of pointers, tips, and good sound advice to keep in mind on their road to success.

Here is some of what she said:“

“I am pleased to be celebrating the incredible talent in the room today”.
“The future of fashion is in this room”.
“Today’s fashion icons were once rule breakers”.
"You have to know at the outset who you are and what you are.”
“Be yourself. Be your boldest, out- of- the- box self”.
“The ones most self assured, most focused, are the ones who make it. This is not a time to play it safe. Play it smart”.
“Challenge us, inspire us, surprise us. Get in our faces.”
“Never underestimate the power of fashion. It is a reflection of our culture and our times. Be daring. Be bold. Make fashion history.”

This is a list of the award presenters, nominees, and the winners in each of the 8 categories:

Accessories:
Award Presenter: CINDY WEBER-CLEARY
Katherine Fleming - Katherine Fleming LLC
Robin Frances Stern - It's About Time
Shai Levy - Seventy Eight Percent
Adriana Castro - Adriana Castro
Cornelia Petronis - Mark
Amanda Brotman - Amanda Pearl, LLC

Winner: Amanda Pearl Brotman, Amanda Pearl, LLC.

Beauty/Fragrance Corporate
Award Presenter: JANE LARKWORTHY
Jaclyn Rebecca Davis - MAC Cosmetics
Jerome Roux - Coty Prestige
Irina Burlakova - Givaudan Fragrances Corp.
Juliette Karagueuzoglou – IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances)

Winner: Juliette Karagueuzoglou, IFF

Beauty/Fragrance Entrepreneur:
Award Presenter: FREDERIC FEKKAI
Lisa Hoffman - Lisa Hoffman Beauty
Danny Seo - Wholearth Beauty and Bath
Janet League- Katzin - Sphatika International, LLC
Matthew Malin & Andrew Goetz - MALIN + GOETZ
Frederick Bouchardy - Joya LLC

Winner: Janet League-Katzin-Sphatika International, LLC.

Home/Interior Design:
Award Presenter: CLODAGH
Dror Benshetrit - Dror
Luke Vahle - Fifth Season Design
Joey Roth - Joey Roth
Shawn Henderson - Shawn Henderson

Winner: Dror Benshetrit-Dror

Fine Jewelry:
Award Presenter: AMEDEO SCOGNAMIGLIO & ROBERTO FARAONE MENNELLA
Monica Rich Kosann - Monica Rich Kosann
Nina Basharova - Nina Basharova Jewelry Design
Visnja Brdar - Visnja Jewels
Kelly Amorim - Carla Amorim Jewelry

Winner: Monica Rich Kosann-Monica Rich Kosann

Men's Apparel:
Award Presenter: ROBERT BRYAN
Anthony Keegan & Richard Christiansen - Commonwealth Utilities
Paul Marlow - Loden Dager
Loris Diran - Loris Diran
Stefan Dahlkvist, Simen Staalnacke & Peder Borresen -
Moods of Norway International

Winner: Anthony Keegan & Richard Christiansen-Commonwealth Utilities

Retail:
Award Presenter: BETH BUCCINI
John Bartlett - John Bartlett
Edward Chai & Paul Birardi - ODIN New York
Helena Greene - Swing Concept Shop
Barbara Moore - B. Moore Design, Inc.
Alexandra Galgano - Charm and Chain

Winner: Edward Chai & Paul Birardi- Odin, New York

Women's RTW:
Award Presenters: FRANCISCO COSTA, LINDA FARGO
Joseph Altuzarra - Altuzarra
Bibhu Mohapatra - Bibhu Mohapatra
Carly Cushnie & Michelle Ochs - Cushnie et Ochs
Matthew Ames - Matthew Ames
Michael Angel - Michael Angel
Nima Taherzadeh - NIMA
Peter Hidalgo - Peter Hidalgo
Prabal Gurung - Prabal Gurung
Brigitte Schwenner - Sievering LLC

Winners (It was a tie): Joseph Altuzarra-Altuzarra; Peter Hidalgo- Peter Hidalgo

-Marilyn Kirschner

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Monday, November 16, 2009

FGI’s ‘Consumer’ Report

Fashion Group International held its spring summer 2010 ready-to-wear collections trend overview this past Friday, November 13th. For those who attended, like me, the date proved to be anything but ‘unlucky’. The event was not only informative, but unabashedly consumer oriented, and consumer friendly, and indeed, the consumer seemed to be on everyone’s minds (understandably so; since he/she holds the purse strings, right?)

First off, FGI President Margaret Hayes made her brief welcoming comments, adding her upbeat observation, “The good news is the economic recovery.” Then, as usual, Marylou Luther, FGI’s Creative Director, did a fantastic and exhaustive editing job; putting it all together and narrating the wonderful audio visual slide report, which details the most important trends for the upcoming season, as seen on the recent runways; the best of the best in every category (ready-to-wear, accessories, and beauty). She did it as only she can, with humor, wit, puns aplenty, and even whittled the trends down to “140 characters or less”: Squeeze/ease; Thighs /knees; Goth/froth; Drape/shape; Reality/romance; Transparent/apparent; Undies outed/utility touted.

But perhaps the most relevant ‘trend’ right now, according to Ms. Luther, is the way in which the clothes are “communicated”, and the fact that designers are becoming “more connected with consumers: some directly, some indirectly via in store videos.”

Exemplifying this ‘direct’ route, was Alexander McQueen, who stated that this season, he wanted to give consumers an “unfiltered view of what goes on at a fashion show” (which is usually reserved for members of the press, retailers, and celebrities). And thanks to Internet technology (for spring 2010 he collaborated with Nick Knight of SHOWstudio.com), this became a reality, as “29,000 hits in one second crashed the online show briefly”.

The emphasis on engaging and attracting the customer, continued with the lively panel discussion which followed the noon time presentation. Comprised of committee members who are among the most highly regarded professionals in their fields, it’s a balanced mix of retailers and members of the press and this time they were:

LINDA FARGO, SVP, Bergdorf Goodman
IKRAM GOLDMAN, IKRAM Chicago
JANE LARKWORTHY, Beauty Editor, W
LINCOLN MOORE, V.P. & DMM Handbags/Accessories, Saks Fifth Avenue
CANDY PRATTS PRICE, Executive Fashion Director, Style.com

The guest moderator was Donna Karan, who was introduced by Ms. Luther, referring to her as “fashion’s favorite agent of change”. ML also pointed out that the award winning multi tasker, who has received countless accolades and honors, has the distinct honor of being the first American designer to have been given the Fashion Group International’s Super Star Award during the organization’s annual Night of Stars back in 2003.

Unsurprisingly, the outspoken designer wasted no time in getting to, what for her, is the most important and pressing issue facing the fashion business; in two words: The Consumer. As she put it, “Fashion changes so quickly, but where is the customer in this?” “As a designer, it’s all about inspiration, but the consumer is the end result. How do we communicate to the consumer”? And so, the groundwork was set for the panel discussion which followed.

When Ms. Karan asked Linda Fargo, “How would you like to be the conduit for change”?
Ms. Fargo answered: “I’ll commit to join Donna in her campaign for ‘Buy now, wear now’. That’s what needs to be re-evaluated. Selling clothes closer to when she’s going to wear it”.

Donna was thrilled, saying it was “the best birthday present anyone can receive”, and “it’s not even my birthday!” (Donna, among others, has long been outspoken in her belief that the consumer is ‘confused’ thanks in large part to all the information out there, in addition to all the seasons being ‘thrown’ at her at one time. She also believes strongly that the clothes on the selling floor, should be in tune with the season. In the same way it’s healthy to eat ‘fresh’ food in season, it is healthy and a good idea to buy clothes ‘in season’.)

DK then spoke with Jane Larkworthy about the idea of beauty, (which she admitted is an ambiguous notion for her). “Is it inner beauty or outer beauty we’re talking about?” she asked. And as for the runway beauty trends, how are they relevant for the consumer?

JL said she was pleased to see “so many gorgeous looks”. “There was a lot of thought and effort put into the beauty looks this season”. But Donna quipped: “Where is the ‘us’ in all of this?” “How do we talk to the customer who’s not a beauty or a model?” JL replied that she sees the runway beauty trends as being a point of inspiration for the ‘average’ woman out there. She may not be able to or want to follow the trends literally, but she can be ‘inspired’ in some way.

Then Donna asked Lincoln Moore: “Lincoln. How would you like us as an industry to be getting together? What is your wish list for the holidays?”
LM: “We need to retrain our staff and talk to the customer about the value of the product, not just the brand. Developing a personal relationship with consumer is the key thing. It’s about more intimate affairs. The relationship between the customer and the designer. Having a vendor relationship is imperative.”

When it came time to ‘interview’ Ikram Goldman, (the revered Chicago retailer who is all but single handedly responsible for collaborating with and dressing the First Lady) Donna could not contain her adoration.
DK: “You’re probably one of THE most influential people in fashion. Thank you! I applaud you for taking a huge challenge and working with Michelle Obama. What is it like to be that retailer?”
IG: “Success is based on the service we give. The sales and special sales (offered elsewhere) are hard on small stores like ours. I try to ignore what happens with other stores. I encourage our employees to love and sell what they believe. It’s important to educate the sales staff to educate the consumer. They have to make the consumer understand that it’s okay to spend a lot of money now, on quality items that will last forever. It’s not buy now, wear now, but buy now, where forever.”

Last up was Candy Pratts Price, who Donna has known for years, dating back to the time she worked her visual wonders at Bloomingdales.
DK: “Candy has love and a passion for fashion (Let’s face it. We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t all obsessive, compulsive.”) Then, she asked her: “How do we instill desire and get the customer to shop?”
CPP: “We have to pay attention to the customer. We need to entertain the customer, as Marvin Traub did.”

At this point, other retailers on the panel chimed in about how to best ‘entertain’ or engage the customer. Ikram Goldman admitted that she tries to give her sales staff “surprises.” “I ask designers to make special pieces for me.” (The notion of ‘surprise’ would surface again as you will see)

As for all the information available to everyone out there, (thanks to the internet), Donna asked: “Is too much information to much information? Is it too much too soon?”
CPP: “I don’t think it’s a negative. A learned customer is a good customer” (This immediately brought to mind the advertising slogan for Syms, “An educated consumer is our best customer.”)
DK: “The Internet is our communication tool right now. But for me, it’s a double edged sword”. But then she re-phrased it, saying “It’s not the information but the timing of the information (that’s problematic)”.

At this point, Donna brought up the endless seasons, the hype that goes along with the large fashion shows, and the markdowns. She admitted, “Resort, without all the hype, is one our most successful sell through seasons”, whereas “the buy on spring is so small.”

This prompted Linda Fargo to immediately exclaim: “Donna, we LOVE all our pre-collections!”

Without skipping a beat, Donna answered: “What if ‘pre’, without all the hype, hullaballoo, and all the markdowns, WAS the collections?”

At the end, Donna asked the audience if they had any questions or comments. InStyle’s Hal Rubenstein was one of several who wanted to make his feelings known. “The most important way to ‘seduce’ the customer and get her (or him) excited about shopping, is to offer an “element of surprise”. “You have to keep surprising the customer. Take your passion and your intelligence, and seduce the customer.”

-Marilyn Kirschner

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Friday, January 30, 2009

On the ‘Rise’

Fashion Group International presented its 12th Annual Rising Star Awards yesterday, sponsored by Bebe and InStyle, at the Rainbow Room (with those breathtaking views). In her welcoming address, Margaret Hayes, President, The Fashion Group International, stated that Eight Rising Stars (eight “outstanding individuals”), are “recognized for their innovation, creativity, and accomplishments”. The 90 – 100 nominees are selected by approximately 100 people (FGI members) who vote, using a “numbered scale” and the winners are chosen by their “numerical score”. Ms. Hayes pointed out that the vote “represents a microcosm of the consuming public” and as such, is a good barometer of “future success”. She also added, “You are all to be commended” for this is a “unique, distinctly difficult economic climate.”

Speaking of which, it was noted that young Jason Wu, (who has practically attained ‘rock star’ status ever since his white gown was selected by the First Lady as the gown of choice for the Inaugural Balls), and winner of the Rising Star Award for Women’s Apparel last year, was in attendance, giving interviews, answering questions, lending his support and further validating the importance of the Awards (not that they needed validating of course).

The keynote address was delivered by Tory Burch, who won this award in 2005. She launched her eponymous company in 2004 (it all started with a $6 vintage caftan she found in a flea market) and it quickly became a widely successful lifestyle brand. Built around the idea of affordable Classic American Sportswear mixed with Tory’s own very apparent eclectic aesthetic, it has reached cult status, amassing a huge and loyal following along the way. As Ms. Burch admitted, “When I won this Award 4 years ago, it was one of the break through moments of our business” but she also warned the nominees that today’s climate represents a “bigger challenge than ever for those opening up their own businesses”. She even admitted that early on, she kept asking herself, “Does the world really need another fashion company?” But as she quickly found out, apparently it did.

Her list of the most important qualities that must be present in order for one to be successful:

“You need confidence and a strong point of view”
“You must have a complete vision, a strong sense of what the product will look like from the packaging to the furnishings (every detail must be precise and perfect)”
“It’s all about the product; you must focus on the product (“in this climate, that will be even more and more important”)
“I always try to think if I will wear a product. If I’m on the shelf about something, it’s edited out.” (It doesn’t hurt that Tory is a great looking gal with tons of personal style, an avowed fashion a ‘holic’, she looks amazing in her clothes and she is a walking embodiment of her collection)
“I always listen carefully to my customers - the women who wear my clothes”
“Most importantly the best advice I got from my parents: “keep it all in perspective. Put your family first and then everything else will fall into place.”


The winners in the eight award categories are as follows:

Accessories Presenter: ANN WATSON
Natalia Barbieri & Jennifer Portman - Bionda Castana
Eileen Shields - Eileen Shields, Inc.
Stephanie Owen - Elizabeth Cole Jewelry
Claudia, Laura, Alejandra Laviada - Pantera
Satu & Celeste Greenberg - Tuleste Market, LLC
Winner: Claudia, Laura, Alejandra Laviada- Pantera

Beauty/Fragrance Corporate Presenter: AMY SYNOTT
Marypierre Julien - Givaudan Fragrances
Juliette Karagueuzoglou - International Flavors & Fragrances
Katie Lucas - Avon Products, Inc.
Julie Birns - Prescriptives, Estée Lauder Companies
Winner: Julie Birns- Prescriptives, Estee Lauder Companies

Beauty/Fragrance Entrepreneur Presenter: JANE LAUDER
Cathy Gins - Aromawear LLC
Jessica Dunne - Ellie D Parfume
Tom Wilscam - Hommage
Janet League - Katzin - Sphatika International, LLC
Gerd Schwarzkopf - PHCP, Incorporated, Professional Hair Care Products/Mensgroom
Winner: Cathy Gins- Aromawear LLC

Home/Interior Design Presenter: CHRIS MADDEN
Claudia Kalis - CK Designs
Jaimie Chew - J. Chew Porcelain
Wayne Ludlum – Vestalife
Winner: Wayne Ludlum- Vestalife

Fine Jewelry Presenter: PAUL MORELLI
Ariane Zurcher - Ariane Zurcher Jewelry
Danielle & Jodie Snyder - Dannijo
Darcy Miro - Darcy Miro Metals Shop
Ivanka Trump - Ivanka Trump
Stephanie Albertson - Stephanie Albertson Jewelry LLC
Winner: Ariane Zurcher- Ariane Zurcher Jewelry

Men's Apparel Presenter: ALEX BADIA
Carlos Campos - Carlos Campos
Anthony Keegan - Commonwealth Utilities
Michael Leen, Matteo Gottardi and Hamid Johannes Mahmood - Operations
Prince Williams 3rd - Prince Williams Designs

Winners (it was a tie): Carlos Campos- Carlos Campos, Anthony Keegan- Commonwealth Utilities

Retail Presenter: BARBARA HULANICKI
Alexis Maybank - Gilt Group
Hicham Benmira & Brian Cousins - Hollander & Lexer
Alexandra Adame & Nikki Fontanella - The Dressing Room Boutique & Bar
Winner: Alexandra Adame & Nikki Fontanella- The Dressing Room Boutique & Bar

Women's RTW Presenter: PHILLIP LIM
Annebet Duvall & Stephanie Doucette - Doucette Duvall
Gustavo Cadile - Gustavo Cadile
Ina Soltani - Ina Soltani
Christian Cota - Christian Cota, Inc.
Sue Stemp - Sue Stemp
Michalyn Andrews - Trasteverine
Yoon Chang & Je-Won Hwang - Whiste & Flute
Winner: Christian Cota- Christian Cota, Inc.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Troubling 'Times’


Forever 21 black and white spectator ‘Ollie’ oxford pumps

Just when you thought the economic outlook could not get any worse, the Dow Jones plummeted, the unemployment rate surged to an all time high rate of 5.5 percent, and the price of oil rose to a record breaking $140 a barrel. To say this is a difficult time for businesses of all kinds (particularly fashion retail), is an understatement.

And so it couldn’t have more perfect timing for “Retail’s Moment of Redefinition” (in the consumer century), last week’s Fashion Group International event which gave new meaning to the phrase, “retail therapy”. The mission of this reception, luncheon, and presentation, was to explore why merchandising for a mass consumer audience no longer works, forecast business for the remainder of the decade, to examine the ever changing shopping habits of the consumer, the effects of globalization on the market place, and the way in which the current recession is impacting on retail.

The highlight of the event was a panel discussion moderated by Joyce Greenberg, Managing Director, Financo, INC, with panelists Rick Darling, President, LI & Fung, Chris Lee, Senior Vice President, Forever 21 (which Ms. Greenberg hailed as the “king of U.S. fashion with huge global aspirations”), and Diane Hamilton, President & COO, Brooks Brothers (“THE iconic brand” according to Ms. Greenberg).

To kick things off, Robin Lewis, Vice President, Head of Retail Vertical, Vantage Marketplace LLC, delivered his “Economic Overview”. While it was dubbed ominously, "The Perfect Storm” (he explained that currently, there are three weather fronts colliding for that ‘perfect storm’: 1- Sub prime mortgage meltdown, 2-Decelerating GDP Growth, 3-Decelerating income), he was intent on injecting some lightheartedness into the sobering proceedings, seemed intent on seeing that fictional glass ‘half full’ and repeatedly sought to find some “good news” within the bad.. For example, when he was first introduced, he joked that “the good news is that I’m not an accountant” and when he quoted Alan Greenspan, who reported that there’s a “better than 50% chance" we are headed for a recession, Mr. Lewis noted that “we might avoid a technical recession”. And even if we don’t, the “good news” is that we will “finally get rid of some of the excess and reach a balance between supply and demand”.

But perhaps the key point he made is that “the consumer is in charge” and he outlined some behavioral shifts the retailer should understand (these were displayed in large letters on a monitor behind him, summarzied as ‘From’ and ‘To’). The way he sees it, the shift is ‘from’ needing stuff ‘to’ demanding experiences, ‘from’ conformity ‘to’ customization, ‘from’ plutocracy ‘to’ democracy, ‘from’ new ‘to’ new and now”. That’s where the idea of ‘fast fashion’ comes in. As he observed, “It’s a Zaro world and a Forever 21 world. It’s an Internet world, and it’s a world of new products and new services 24/7”.

He then listed 6 key points for an “Emerging New Business Mode” (1- Traditional retail is evolving to a hybrid specialty chain model, 2- There are 'mini' formats for many neighborhoods (the internet, catalogue, and other direct channels of opportunity), 3-Traditional wholesalers are integrating forward, 4- Niche branding by specialty chain brands, 5- Accelerated brand proliferation and new lifestyle cycles (continuous rapid innovation and differentiation), 6- Going global. And then he announced a "new business paradigm" which is exemplified by the fact that the “the consumer has the power of access and control and the supplier has need for access and control” .

This was a perfect segue into the panel discussion that followed. Rick Darling enumerated on four major trends which are making a difference: 1- "globalization of sourcing, 2- the economies of the world are very much in sync, 3- international retailers are entering markets they had once been afraid to enter; 4- it's all about differentiation (exclusive brands for retailers). Chris Lee proudly described Forever 21, founded in 1984, as a "fast food department store", somewhat akin to a "candy store" with "Wal-Mart prices". They made 1.3 billion last year and their goal is to "get the best merchandise as quickly as possible" and as such, they compete with H&M and Target. When asked asked by a member of the audience if there is a 'target' age group, he wisely answered that "the 21st century is about lifstyle, it's not about age." Indeed it is. My most favorite recent purchase was acquired through www.forever21.com. They are a pair of wonderfully distinctive black and white spectator ‘Ollie’ oxford pumps which are comfortable enough to really walk in since they sport a chunky 1 1/2 inch heel, never fail to illicit compliments, and cost a mere $20. Now, that's what I call ‘retail therapy’, recession or not.

As part of their expansion plans, they are building malls in South Korea and getting more into menswear (this will give the guys who shop with their girlfriends, wives, etc., something to buy.

Expansion plans also figure prominently in Brooks Brother's future. According to Diane Hamilton, it's all about "the history of a true American icon" (the company was founded in 1818 and they are celebrating their 190th anniversary). She admits the biggest challenge she is faced with is how to "redefine an iconic brand" which is known for offering a "high quality product at good value for our customers". Ms. Hamilton admitted that attempts to change it's identity in the 70's, 80's, and 90's were unsuccessful. She said the new Black Fleece Collection by Thome Browne, (a "better luxury brand") is doing well, and so are the brand's 100 regular price retail stores in the U.S. (though outlet business "continues to be strong"). In the final analysis, it's customer relationships that are "major" .Happily, their customer has "given them the go ahead to expand brands" (so expect to see men's and women's fragrances, among other things, in the future).


A New York Times Gaffe...

By the way, speaking of troubling 'times' (and in this case I mean that literally)...perhaps one can blame it on disorientation caused by the horrible state of the economy, the suffering heat wave, or the distraction of two climbers who (within two hours) ‘scaled’ the heights of The New York Times building on Friday….but still, none of the above can explain or condone the glaring typo that I found in the Evening Hours section of ‘Sunday Styles’. In the -column showing pictures from last Monday’s CFDA Awards, one guest, Mara Hutton was described as wearing a “vintage Jeffrey Beene”. We all make mistakes for sure…but how someone at the NYT did not catch this is unbelievable. I showed this to a friend who is not even involved in the fashion business, and she caught the mistake immediately. I'm sure there were a lot of red faces on Sunday morning -- and not from the heat of the day.

- Marilyn Kirschner

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Rage" of the Age

It seemed that the main topic of discussion this past Thursday, was aging and the age issue. I began the day reading Cathy Horyn’s front page New York Times Thursday ‘Style’ section article, "Older, Better, But Harder to Dress", which dealt with (what she and others) perceive as the challenges facing ‘mature’ women as they shop for clothing these days. Say what??? Of course, I was not asked my opinion but if I had, I would have gladly given my opinion. And to all those women over a “certain age” who complain that they cannot find suitable clothes for them, I have two words for you (to paraphrase Joan Rivers), “Grow Up”!

The suggestion that the majority of styles 'out there' are only suited to the very young is like complaining that you can't lose weight or stay on a diet because the restaurants only serve “fattening food” or that the stores only stock high caloric items on their shelves. I say, "Seek and ye shall find"! As a consumer over a ‘certain age’ myself I can attest to the fact that my problem is not finding 'age appropriate' stuff (whatever that means) but being able to pay for all of it.

We’re at a moment in fashion which is marked not only by variety in terms of styles, but variety in terms of how to buy clothes (in retail and thrift shops, vintage stores, online, at auction, etc.). If anything, it’s a perfect time NOT to be an adolescent because the 'growing' trend has been towards the decidedly ‘ladylike’, more grownup, and sophisticated, as well as for covering up rather than baring. (It’s all about fabric these days). And that includes arms (admittedly, one's upper arms and going sleeveless has long been an issue for the older woman). Not only are there many designs that feature sleeves, but sleeves have become an obsession with designers who continue to focus on their shape, length, silhouette.

And if you feel as bad about your neck as Nora Ephron, (who penned the entertaining book about aging, “I Feel Bad About My Neck”), not to worry, there are mock turtlenecks, high turtlenecks, dramatic sculptural collars, a variety of interesting necklines, and a myriad of scarves in every length, width, fabrication, and color which would make both the perfect camouflage and fashion statement.

In addition, fashion designers have been enamored with experimenting with proportion, and playing with volume, which by definition contributes to a wide range of creations that could easily be considered supremely suitable and flattering for the more mature body.

As for the complaint that there are far too many baby dolls, minis, low rise skinny jeans, prepubscent pinks, etc., the way I see it, for every babydoll, there's a chemise or shift; for every low-rise skinny jean there's a high waisted full cut trouser; for every cloyingly sweet pastel there’s black, navy, tan, white, and gray; for every mini dress there's a knee length shirtdress. (As for that mini dress, put one over a pair of pants and you've got yourself a chic tunic!). And it's positively 'democratic'. The article's focus on very expensive labels (like Lanvin, Marni, Dries Van Noten) and the contention that the cut and fit (that can only be found in high end design names), is the key to looking good, is ridiculous. Sure it's nice if one can afford the best but there are smart trench coats, neat safari jackets, crisp blazers, great white shirts, knee length pencil skirts, a plethora of 'tailleur', matched and unmatched suits, great knitwear, little black dresses, evening gowns, etc. at every price level, from couture down to mass chains like H &M, Target, and The Gap.

While I'll be the first to admit that looking smart and chic in the summer (a time that's more difficult to cover up), is more of a challenge to those over a certain age, my suggestion would be to take a lesson from octogenarian Iris Barrel Apfel, a woman whose amazing personal style was the focus of a last year's exhibit at the Costume Institute of the Museum of Art, "Rara Avis". (And a woman who also single handedly negates Linda Well's observation that “The choice is to wear something juvenile or be a total killjoy”). She is far and away t he best dressed, most modern, and hippest looking woman in the room, and she usually chooses solid colors and unfussy, clean, architectural lines (which are a perfect foil for her statement making accessories).

When I asked what her urban summer uniform is, without hesitation she said, "a crisp white shirt and a pair of jeans" (men's jeans in fact). Add a fabulous necklace and great bag and simply put, the age less, timeless look is hard to beat. And let’s not forget that we're at a moment when accessories 'rule'. They can be used to dress up, add personality, and literally transform the simplest, most classic basics.

I think one of the biggest mistakes older women make (and perhaps most women in general) is that they often complicate their lives and their fashion by trying too hard to be ‘fashiony’ while they overlook the obvious: that it’s most often the simplest, most basic elements that not only stand the test of time, but are the least aging and look the best.

And speaking of looking the best and aging both subjects, including “The Anti-Aging Phenomenon”) were served up along with fresh fruit, chicken breast, and chocolate dessert at Fashi on Group International’s “The Con vergence of Health & Beauty Luncheon” held at the New York Hilton. The Moderator was Gregory Stock, PhD, CEO and President of Signum BioScience who has appeared on such high profile TV shows as Charlie Rose, Oprah Winfrey and Larry King. His passionate and upbeat introductory speech was fill ed with hope and optimism about what the future holds and he observed that “we yearn to defy aging, and we can almost b elieve it’s possible here and now. We’re in a very amazing, special time and entering unchartered territory.”

Two major unprecedented events which he singled out as contributing to the “watershed moment we’re living in right now”: 1- The Silicon Revolution (thanks to technology we’re actually “animating the inanimate”; 2- The Biotech Revolution (“life has begun to understand itself”). He promised that in the future, we’ll be talking about reworking our biology, slowing down and reversing the aging process, managing our emotions, and changing human reproduction.

He then addressed the three highly credentialed and equally qualified panelists who sat on stage, and engaged them in discussions which focused on the connection between nutrition, health, beauty, and skincare; customer loyalty to brand and customer expectation (is it greater these days? you bet!); the connection between the skin and the rest of the body; what we can expect in the future and pondered whether or not the “new status symbol” was “aging well without surgery” (the jury is out…it’s a matter of choice).

For her part, Nicole Fourgoux, AVP, Garnier Nutritioniste stated that “we are what we eat” and noted that “we want our products not only to be attractive but consumer friendly and down to earth.”

Howard Murad, M.D., CEO and founder of Murad, Inc. talked about the connection between the skin and every organ in the body and emphasized how important it is to find what can be done to minimize damage. He attributed his success to the know ledge that “understand ing the person is as important as understanding the product”. He also stated that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “our goal is to get you to believe you are beautiful”. “It’s not about perfection but about feeling good about yourself.”

Lynne Greene, Global President of Clinique ( who received perhaps the most rousing applause when she was introduced) described her company’s products as “Hope in a J ar” (and there’s “more and more hope”) and went on to talk about the part illusion plays in the business. “We’re at an interesting illusionist place…the feeling seems to be, “If I look young than I am young” (a thought process similar to “I think therefore I am”). She said women “expect to look good as long as they can and they don’t care HOW (and she emphasized HOW) they achieve that”. “We are in the world of beauty” and it’s all about “the quick fix”. “The ability to quickly change one’s appearance is where it’s at right now.” In terms of customer loyalty, she had no delusions about what the most important factor is: “The claim vs. the reality of what it is BETTER be there.”

Speaking of ‘Hope in a Jar’, in addition to the delicious three course lunch, each attendee received his or her very own “Hope in a Jar” goodie bag filled with the following samples: DDF’s Cellular Cleansing Complex; Murad’s Energizing Pomegranate Moisturizer SPF 15; Garnier’s Nutritioniste ‘Skin Renew ’ daily regenerating serum and their ‘Nutri-Pure’ detoxifying wet cleansing towelettes; and Pearl Ice’s Cooling Eye Mask. I intend to try then all. Where there’s hope there's life.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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Friday, January 26, 2007

'Rising' to the Occasion

Yesterday, Fashion Group International held its 10th Annual Rising Star Awards at a jam packed luncheon which took place in the Trianon Ballroom of the New York Hilton. The Awards were created a decade ago, as a way to celebrate new and emerging talent and to pay homage to the “innovation, creativity, and accomplishment” of 8 individuals.

Margaret Hayes, President, Fashion Group International, delivered the opening Welcome address and introduced the event’s Keynote Speaker, famed designer Joseph Abboud. The dapper and popular veteran posed the question, “Who is the American Designer Today?” noting that it’s “the designers who breathe life into a label”. He went on to say that when a designer can prove his or her creativity and formidable talent, they can then become legends.

In reference to his longevity, years of experience, and dues paid along the way, he jokingly observed, “My hair is grayer now than when I started in 1988” and he went on to engage the room in a number of personal and amusing recollections, which were meant to prove thought provoking and relevant to the young hopefuls (and everyone else) in attendance.

He described in full detail how he scored an all important interview with the House of Chanel (for the position as head of design for menswear, an enviable position he eventually nabbed), a veritable 24 hour comedy of errors which took place between London and Paris. He then addressed the issue of creativity, and what it means to stick to your guns and never compromise. This time, his story focused on his discovery of beautifully colored rocks on the beach in Nantucket, and what he had to go through in order to find someone who would be able to translate them into colors for an upcoming collection (he found one such factory in the far reaches of Scotland). The moral to both stories is that a young designer should “never give up, even in the face of great odds and obstacles”. “It’s about YOU and fulfilling yourself creatively” he said.

And then came the ‘Main Event’: the awards were handed out to 8 emerging stars, in 8 different categories, presented by 8 proven stars in each category:

Accessories - Award presenter: Donna Kalajian Lagani; Winner: Margret Karner, Massivesilver, Inc.
Beauty/Fragrance Corporate - Award presenter: Jane Larkworthy; Winner: Shirley Dong, Avon
Beauty/Fragrance Entrepreneur - Award presenter: Sonia Kashuk; Winner: Dr. Steven Victor, Victor Cosmeceuticals
Home/Interior Design - Award presenter: Jamie Drake; Winner: David Ashen, D-ash Design Fine Jewelry - Award presenter: Gerard Yosca; Winner: Coomi Bhasin, Coomi
Men's Apparel - Award presenter: Robert Bryan; Winner: Duncan Quinn, DQ, LLC
Retail - Award presenter: Nicole Fischelis; Winner: Fraser Conlon, Amaridian
Women's Apparel - Award presenter: Carolina Herrera; Winner: Lyn Devon, Lyn Devon LLC

By the way, the event was sponsored by TARGET, Cosmopolitan, Solstiss/Bucol, and the crystal Awards were generously provided by Movado.

Alas, while attendees were not given Movado goodies as table gifts, we were treated to a wonderful luncheon and all of us did receive a fabulously oversized laminated tote bag printed all over with a colorful, pop art, vintage inspired collage from Target. (This will certainly come in handy especially for those of who will be attending the upcoming New York Fashion Week and will be in need of something roomy and lightweight to carry around notes and personal affects). And inside, was a cooly packaged lipstick "Glamorous" from Target's Sonia Kashuk, in a wonderful shade of vibrant pink -- a reminder that spring is just around the corner.

--Marilyn Kirschner

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