Friday, September 19, 2014

Independents' Beauty Day at FGI

Photos: Laurel Marcus

It was "Independent's Day" at the FGI offices across from Bryant Park yesterday as a panel of five women who have successfully launched their independent beauty lines or concepts shared their knowledge on the topic. The panel included Christy Prunier, Founder and CEO of Willa, Patti Pao, Founder and CEO of Restorsea, Rebecca Perkins and Stephanie March, Founders of Rouge, NY and Elana Drell Szyfer, CEO of Laura Geller and the moderator was Karen Young, CEO of The Young Group. The event was sponsored by Conde Nast.

Photo: L-R
Elana Drell Szyfer, Christy Prunier, Rebecca Perkins,
Stephanie March, Patti Pao

These women have all made their own business models; whether they sell through social selling models, social media, e commerce or a brick and mortar store. In the case of Christy Prunier of Willa, a cosmetics and skin care line for teens named after Ms. Prunier's daughter(which I previously wrote about here: in-market-report-by-laurel-marcus) all selling is done through a teen girl's number one influencer. If you guessed it was her friends, you are correct...not her mother as panelist Elana had hoped (she has three daughters, one a teenager so you can't blame her for trying).

Willa sales get-togethers are social events complete with Instagram and Snapchat adding a new twist; this is not your mother's Tupperware party. Girls take a training course and earn money in the form of a Willa debit card. They use an app on their phones to track orders and sales. Willa is also a company which supports matching funds; in this case, the money goes towards college. Speaking of Insta, Christy mentioned that teens didn't like to wear sunscreen because of how it tended to look shiny when photographed, so they created a product that goes on without shine. When the line first was developed they tried selling at Henri Bendel and Harrod's but realized that a teen doesn't relate to "a 35 year old salesperson and a high-end retailer." Next they tried Target, but that too failed until they came up with their current sales plan which was begun in Connecticut with eight girls and is now in 14 states with a waiting list of girls wishing to be sales reps. Christy credits selling the products as a self-confidence boost as well as a way to gain some financial independence for these young girls.

Patti Pao's story is quite an interesting one; a graduate of Harvard Business School, she worked at developing anti aging products for Guerlain and Avon, then founded her own consulting firm: The Pao Principle. She was working with a client on one of her many business trips to Norway when, in order to get out of a hiking trip ("As an Asian, I am genetically predisposed to dislike the outdoors" she says) she spied a little building and asked to take a tour of that instead. It turned out to be a salmon hatchery which practiced "Darwin's 2nd Principle" meaning that the salmon were hatched in synchronicity by using light and were all the same size. "It was the Chanel of hatcheries" she said. While taking the tour she saw that the workers who had their hands immersed in the salmon hatchery water helping to remove the eggshells and herding the just emerging salmon, had hands that looked 20 years younger than their faces.

She discovered that as the salmon are hatched out of their shell they release an enzyme "that selectively exfoliates only the dead skin cells leaving the living cells to flourish." See her tell her story here: and on her website: She was able to buy the exclusive rights to this ingredient and to find financial backers however she found that her own website was the best vehicle for sales. "I love Bergdorf's but I lost money when my product was there" she admitted as well as at Saks, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Macy's. On how she developed an e commerce site: "I was a Luddite and only emailed" Patti claims, but had to expand her internet knowledge quickly in order to grow her brand. She also has celebrity spokesperson/ devotee Gwyneth Paltrow who promotes the line.

Stephanie March and Rebecca Perkins were longtime friends who met on the set of "Law and Order SVU" as Stephanie plays ADA Alexandra Cabot on the show and Rebecca is the show's resident makeup artist. Their company Rouge NY came about as a makeup version of Drybar or Blow where women go to get a quick hair blowout without an appointment. They wanted to get out the word that having your makeup done " isn't just for weddings" and unlike a makeup counter they are not interested in "pushing product" as they call it. Using only their favorites of different lines as well as having developed a few of their own products, the emphasis is still on the technique of makeup application rather than the products themselves. They cite The New York Times article which claimed they are "first to market" with this concept however I remember back in the day, a place called "Beauty Checkers" run by makeup artist Amy Greene (former beauty editor at Glamour) inside the old Henri Bendel on West 57th Street and this reminds me a bit of their concept although they would encourage you to bring your own makeup for application. Their Thompson Street store has been open since last December and they are considering expanding uptown, then perhaps go national and then who knows: "We always say that global domination is the plan." Here is an article about Rouge NY that appeared in Elle.

Elana Drell Szyfer came to Laura Geller Beauy by way of L'Oreal, Estee Lauder and Avon. She spoke of the fast paced and incessant need for newness and innovation as their customer on QVC demands it. "A brand is a living breathing thing and is always changing. How many times have you changed your hair in the past 17 years?" she asked referring to how many years the company has been in business. Laura Geller who originally started with event and theatre makeup, now has brick and mortar stores as well as sells online and on QVC where the brand is a top seller internationally. Coming soon: a brick and mortar store in the UK. She claims that Laura Geller herself is very "intuitive" and can predict "what will resonate and what won't" in terms of new product. Referring to the fact that there is never any downtime: "Your foot is really always on the gas," Elana explained.

In conclusion, Karen Young, pointed out that these "independents" are all about "creating relationships directly with the consumer. The companies that are growing are the smaller companies. Sometimes they are owned by the larger companies which is where their growth is coming from." She also mentioned that she had expressed interest in doing a panel such as this for the past two or three years to FGI President Margaret Hayes who was skeptical. "They're not really you think you could fill a room?" Ms. Hayes reportedly said.

I'm happy to report that the room was full.

- Laurel Marcus

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NY Fashion Week Notes: Fashionable Retreats

Of course Fashion Week is all about the clothes, but even the most dedicated fashion maven needs a little down time…

Samsung Galaxy Lounge

Photo: Getty Images

Celebrities and fashionistas alike were given hands-on exposure to some of Samsung’s latest devices at the two Samsung lounges (located in the main lobby and backstage at Lincoln Center) during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Guests interacted with the new Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge, and Gear VR virtual reality headset. VIP’s dropping by the lounge included Dallas star Jesse Metcalfe, Nicky Hilton, Project Runway’s Heidi Klum and designer Betsey Johnson.

Panasonic Beauty Bar

Jenny McCarthy
Photo: Alexandra Wyman, AP/Invision

At New York City’s Salon SCK, Panasonic beauty tools were used to style attendees’ hair to perfection between shows. Other services included manicures by Jamberry Nails; makeup by GIELLA custom blend cosmetics; and refreshments by Java Monster, [yellow tail] wines, AriZona Oaked Brewed Tea, Skinnygirl Sparklers and AriZona Vapor Water. Celebrities stopping by included Project Runway’s Nina Garcia, Whitney Port, Carmen Electra and newly married Jenny McCarthy, who tried her hand at a blowout.

Zappos Recharge Station

Photo: Isabelle Erb

Visitors to the Zappos Recharge Station had a chance to walk the runway right on the street in front of Lincoln Center. The Recharge Station provided hair, make up, and on trend accessories to guests who wanted to strut their stuff or simply pose for a photo. Giveaways happened every half hour, featuring designer clothes and accessories and tickets to New York Fashion Week shows.


Photo: Rhonda Erb

Richard Flores and his team welcomed Mercedes Benz Fashion Week attendees to a new Papyrus lounge in the lobby at Lincoln Center. There they could send one of the complementary, fashion forward, Papyrus greeting cards anywhere in the world and have it mailed directly from the Event, free of charge.

HSN Spring Fashion Lounge

Photo: Rhonda Erb

HSN’s second Fashion Week lounge at the Empire Hotel showcased a selection of HSN fashion, beauty and accessory collections including, KO Stories by Kelly Osbourne, Rara Avis by Iris Apfel, G by Giuliana Rancic, June by June Ambrose, and Snob Essentials by Tina Craig and Kelly Cook. Many of the designers were on hand throughout the day to greet the editors who stopped by, including Snob Essentials co-founder, Tina Craig, pictured with her line of handbags.

Space 530 Fashion Week Lounge

Photo: Courtesy HL Group

Located in the heart of the Garment District, the Space 530 lounge gave editors a place to rest and recharge in midtown as they made their way to shows around the city. Complementary blowouts and makeup touch ups were available as well as a serene workspace to relax enjoy a snack.

Daily Front Row Luxury Media Lounge

Photo: Isabelle Erb

The luxurious Park Hyatt New York Hotel served as the location for The Daily Front Row’s work and relaxation oasis during Fashion Week. Guests enjoyed manicures, makeovers, blowouts, brow shaping, massages, and on-site photography to capture their new look.

Tech Style Lounge

Photo: Rhonda Erb

In the Meat Packing District, at The House of Bumble And Bumble, The Tech Style Lounge gave fashionistas a downtown outpost where they could check out some of the latest fashion, beauty, tech and lifestyle brands, while enjoying cocktails and refreshments. Featured brands and sponsors included Pinch Me Free Samples, Skinny Girl Cocktails and Flickable Luxe Lip Gloss ;(pictured).

- Rhonda Erb

Check out the new Better Bets:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Editorial: Fatigue Hits Fashion Week

Marc Jacobs
(All photos

While this fashion week was exciting, and well-attended, the dominant players showed a lot of the same themes and designs, disappointing the press and public alike. Even Marc Jacobs, who usually stirs things up, debuted a camouflage collection which covered little new ground. The key trendsetters such as Jacobs, Schouler, Wu, Lim, Wang and Altuzarra stuck to their usual attire with little innovation. The sheer, floral, camouflage, black & white and fancy sportswear trends have been repeated tirelessly over the past couple of years. It is baffling that despite all the new technology and innovation in fashion, designers are choosing to stay routed in tradition - and in essence boredom. This field which should epitomize creativity and innovation has become mired in static and inertia. Lady Gaga's masks and plastic coverings have been replaced with sheer, boob-showing garments, with the net effect being a reversion to an objectification of the female anatomy without the fashion breakthroughs the public anxiously awaits.

Jason Wu

After viewing more than 30 shows in person, and reviewing others on-line, my overall impression was: so what? Moreover, some of the displays were downright morose; Jacob's collection which featured army like attire with angry looking models was an ode to military upheaval if I ever saw one. Have the global crises in Russia, Syria and Iraq influenced the dismal state of fashion this season, or have designers run out of new ideas reverting back to the status quo? It is hard to tell, but a cursory review of the spring 2015 shows indicates that fashion is in a state of purgatory and needs a rapid rejuvenation.

Ralph Lauren

Paradigmatic of this depressing shift, was the Jason Wu show which opened fashion week with a huge yawn. Wu who can usually be relied upon to wow us with brilliant fabrics and lush colors, opted for fatigue green, white, black and navy. Gone were the ruby reds and wondrous whites of his prior collections- despite this being a spring display. The last two gowns in red and black exhibited plenty of skin but very little design and beauty. The models appeared dour and inconvenienced and even Wu closed with a frown. Similarly, Ralph Lauren who usually astonishes with his lush, classic collection showed dresses, pants, skirts and gowns in mossgreen, conjuring up the battlefields of Normandy. It is difficult to comprehend why he dragged people to Central Park to view this drab, predictable collection.


Plaudits to Altuzarra for experimenting with gingham dresses and floral gowns, and to Gurung for his asymmetrically draped sweaters and mountain climber aesthetics; however, these looks were not as fashion forward as past collections. Alexander Wang who began his show with the ubiquitous black and white combo and then progressed to neon lime, electric blue and light grey was edgy and cool. Wang has the sportswear acting as both daywear and evening wear look down to a science. However, this is old news; Adidas becoming high end couture is so last year Chanel's runway.

3.1 Phillip Lim

Phillip Lim's robe-tied tops and tunics in drab colors reminded me of the old "Karate Kid" apparel and should be saved for an afternoon of lounging at the Canyon Ranch spa, and not for a formal affair. The models in the Lim show had their hair pulled back with little makeup, a frequent trend on the runway this season and one which makes me long for the big hair and glamour of an 80's Versace show. Where has splendor and embellishment gone? Thank the fashion gods for some great evening wear collections by Naeem Khan, Marchesa and Dennis Basso who make excess accessible to those who can afford it. However, even Oscar de la Renta showed a tame- I have been there one thousand times before collection, using the omnipresent Karlie Kloss to close his show in a floral mint green dress. This is almost as predictable as Oscar's George Hamilton tan.


The conclusion of fashion week at the Park Avenue Armory, a fitting venue, had Marc Jacobs presenting bare faced models in military garb and black wigs. This show summarized the collections of the past week- gloomy in appearance and short on fashion milestones. The headline story at the Jacobs show was the headphones distributed to those deemed worthy, with little attention heeded to the garments. Gimmicks that add excitement to the apparel should be embraced; however, when they are extrinsic to the clothing, they become unnecessary distractions. What happened to the days when Jacobs sent the press into a tizzy with his "grunge collection"? The dearth of talked about shows this season is surprising when taking into account the rebounding economy and flourishing fashion houses. Have designers come down with "fashion fatigue syndrome"? With the advent of laser technology and 3D printing it seems that a whole new wave of fashion innovation is on the horizon.

 Perhaps, when there is a change in our military fortunes, levity will enter the fashion lexicon, and designers will surprise in unprecedented ways?

- Lieba Nesis

"The Daily Bet" by Rhonda Erb

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The Admiral Watch by Vince Camuto

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Monday, September 15, 2014

In the Market Report

‘Shirting’ the Issue

Bill Cunningham's September 14 The New York Times Style Section
"On the Street" Column featuring shirts
(Click images for larger views)

I have been covering fashion for decades, and it’s fair to say I’ve seen my share of designs and fashion shows. But it never ceases to amaze me how it’s often the simplest of things, that are ultimately, the best and most satisfying. (On second thought, that really does not come as any surprise at all). Case in point: the ‘humble’ cotton button down shirt. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. They are easy to wear, effortlessly cool, flattering on everyone (regardless of age or size), and versatile. You can primly button them up or keep them seductively unbuttoned to reveal a bit of lace lingerie or skin. You can tuck them in, leave the shirttails out (do a little of both), or tie at the midriff. You can keep the sleeves down, with the cuffs open and loose, or roll (or push) them up. They can be worn as simply, minimally and straightforward as possible, or used as a foil for great accessories. They are fabulous under an impeccably tailored jacket, but can easily stand alone. They can be edgy or classic, casual or formal, are completely season less, and unisex (you can borrow them from your husband or significant other, and visa versa LOL).

Guest leaving Ralph Lauren proves the ageless appeal
of a crisp button down shirt

Because I love to add that boy meets girl, tomboy element to my dress, my cache of crisp cotton button down shirts have always formed an important part of my wardrobe.  They are what got me through the sticky months of summer (where they substituted for a lightweight jacket), and most recently, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. And I was not alone. It was hard not to notice that the shirt (whether printed or plaid, in menswear ticking stripes, blue oxford cloth, faded or dark denim, or white), was the common denominator in the uniform like ensembles worn by many of the best dressed show attendees. (That, and all manner of athletic footwear and sneakers, which is a another story and yes, a big one).

Keeper Chambray shirt

And naturally, this did not escape the always observant Bill Cunningham, who literally sees it all. As it turns out, days before his “On the Street” (“On their Sleeves”) column that appeared on Sunday, (which was all about shirt dressing in all its forms, as captured during Fashion Week), I began writing a blog about the great white shirt, my hands down favorite. FYI, coincidentally, I was included in his pictorial, wearing my trusty J.Crew chambray shirt - see red marked image in column ($78, - the same one worn by J.Crew’s creative director Jenna Lyons, who was also pictured. (They don’t call it the Keeper Chambray Shirt for nothing, and it’s wisely available year round).

Michael Kors white shirt with exaggerated cuff and black skirt

In any event, there are certain things that cannot be improved upon from my point of view, such as the combination of a crisp white shirt and a black skirt or pant (regardless of the length, shape, or silhouette either takes). Many women simply overlook this as an option but really, you cannot go wrong (its fail proof), and it’s dramatic simplicity will undoubtedly always stand out in a room filled with women in their fancy printed frocks, tweed skirt suits, pantsuits, little black dresses, embroidered gowns, etc. Which explains why, when the white shirt with exaggerated cuffs and black ballet length skirt came out at Michael Kors (it was the second from last outfit out on the runway, in a collection that featured a variety of elements, including floral prints and classic Breton stripes ), I really took note.

Ralph Rucci in his white shirt and black pants

In fact, this combination can be considered the perfect non fashion victim ‘uniform’, which is why many designers have adopted it themselves. Marc Jacobs, who endorsed uniforms for his spring 2015 show, took his bow in a white shirt, black pants, and white sneakers (rather than a multi pocketed army green fatigue jacket, like the ones he proposed); Carolina Herrera, opted for her signature crisp white shirt and knee length black skirt at the end of her flower inspired collection; and Ralph Rucci looked cool as a cucumber in his perfect white shirt and perfectly tailored black trousers, after his wonderful showroom presentation.

- Marilyn Kirschner