Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

Take Off In A Flight Suit


 Valentino Cash & Rocket camouflage flight suit
$3,590 at stylebop.com

Pondering the demise/ relocation of a few of the major New York fashion hubs of my youth has made me a flight suit risk -- or should I say it's making me risk a flight suit? While I'm not ready to fly off to Kepler-452b (our recently discovered twin planet), I imagine this is the low tech non-insulated version of what one would wear to do so.

I've lamented the closing of the magical Fiorucci retail emporium on East 59th Steet for decades now however the recent death of its creator Elio Fiorucci only made me mourn it anew. (Hopefully, the two little cherubs wearing sunnies which were the Fiorucci logo are watching over him). In addition, after 40 years, Trash & Vaudeville, where The Ramones used to shop, has announced plans to move from St. Mark's Place (the rent's too high) to a new location at 96 East 7th Street. I'm not sure how they will recreate their present space with all of its history. When Reminiscence, another old relic, moved to lower Fifth Avenue several years ago, it became more of a novelty store than the surplus vintage paradise of yore.

Reminiscence jumpsuit

I also reflected on the fact that youth is not the only thing wasted on the young. I wasted my once miniscule mid section in the baggiest clothing imaginable, favoring many of the unstructured Japanese fashions of the day a la various now defunct bands. Boasting more layers than a cake, I remember sporting looks constructed with baggy burlap pants, loose tunics, long skirts, loose vests and other relaxed silhouettes. By the mid '80s I had learned to pare down somewhat, hence one of my favorite go-to items was a onesie of utility chic: the Reminiscence flight suit.



Current Elliott Flight Suit

My first flight suit was black and somewhat more formfitting. Since one of a good thing is never enough, I followed it up with a baggier turquoise one. The flight suits were surplus items, hand dyed in various Easter egg colors. Absent any standardized fit or sizing, you never knew what you'd get. I liked the fact that I had the smaller black one and wore it slightly more dressed up, usually with a higher heeled sandal or boot, while the blue one had a more relaxed, casual vibe perfect for clogs, espadrilles or sneakers. I accessorized both with large funky beaded silver earrings, scarves or bandannas and occasionally a graphic band tee beneath in which case I would leave the front zipper mostly open. The attached belt of the same fabric was meant to be tied thereby allowing the silver latch closures to hang decoratively.


Reminiscence bike jacket

Although the coverall was made of a fairly heavy cotton twill fabric, the loose long sleeves made it ideal for rolling above elbow length which was how I always wore them. The zippers down the legs could also be closed which I did with the black one; the wider legged blue version I left unzipped to billow out. I also got a lot of wear out of an oversized rust colored hooded crinkly cotton bike jacket-- Reminiscence still features these on their website in various colors for $24. I remember pairing the bike jacket with other loose layers such as a sweatshirt tunic over leggings or a casual midi skirt and biker boots.



Pure DKNY V Neck Jumpsuit

A few years ago I thought of the Reminiscence flight suits when I came across a DKNY Pure version in silk. Again, I seem to buy these things in pairs and it just worked out that a smaller one was available in black while I went a size up in the color they call Greystone, a beige-y taupe (no shades of blue-green in the Donna Karan version). While these are a thinner, perhaps more grown up iteration, they don't have the same rugged sprezzatura as the Reminiscence version.



Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Vintage Flight Suit

Determined to satisfy my budding curiosity on the status of flight suits, I did a quick online search. Etsy produced a khaki colored Saint Laurent Rive Gauche vintage flight suit ($188) on which a former owner chose to embellish the lapels.


Bliss and Mischief Reworked Vintage Romper

If you prefer a romper there is the Bliss and Mischief Vintage Reworked Flight Suit in army green suit for $228.

Rihanna in Vintage Coveralls

For those who want to keep their flight suit budget more down to earth (so that they can afford an actual flight) there's always Uncle Sam's Army Navy Outfitters which stocks a non-designer version of the camouflage Valentino at the very non-designer price of $57.   Of course, you'd probably have to be Rihanna, (who's recently been seen rocking some utility looks about town and to the recording studio in L.A.), to pull off actual oversized military garb.

BTW, if you haven't yet seen it, check out Miss Piggy (she's a flying pig as long as it's in first class! HA) "singing" Bad Girl RiRi's latest "Bitch Better Have My Money."





- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

In the Market Report

A New "Slant" On Heels


Gucci Arielle eel slingback pump with Kangaroo lining
and satin finished half moon shaped heel with Swarovski

While I love the summer, I am much more of a cold weather person, and now am eagerly awaiting the advent of fall. Of course, at this time of the year, it’s virtually impossible to escape the barrage of daily emails from myriad online websites advertising their new fall arrivals. And because I am basically always on the hunt, and never want to miss something, I invariably click on in hopes of finding something I simply can’t live without


Miu Miu red patent slingback with white buckle and  blocked heel fall 2015

For the most part, my every day sartorial choices are defined by a rather simple, classic ‘uniform’ (which varies depending on the season and the weather), so my choice of accessories is all the more important. There is no question that the right shoe (or boot) can be a game changer and make all the difference in the world (don’t most of us dress from the feet up?) There’s something so chic about wearing distinctive shoes while being otherwise rather simply and classically turned out. Also, I love to walk briskly and I prize my comfort (I myself wear very high heels only occasionally), I am always on the lookout for great looking AND practical footwear. I don’t just mean sneakers, (which are indispensable but let’s face it, they have their limitations), or even flats for that matter.

One of the best ongoing 'trends', is the merging of form and function within the footwear arena; across the board: for both day and evening. There’s been no shortage of distinctive looking shoes and boots featuring ‘manageable’ low heels. Specifically, low blocked heels which are made even more interesting and arresting by virtue of their sculptural shapes, and the employment of metals (and other materials and finishes).

Among the standouts:


Gucci Arielle ankle boot with Swarovski encrusted  gold slanted heel    

Gucci’s ‘Arielle’ tall leather boots ($1650); ‘Arielle’ side zip ankle boots ($950); ‘Arielle’ kangaroo lined eel pump ($1200), all of which feature a 1.5 inch satin finished half-moon shaped heel punctuated with a black Swarovski crystal (www.gucci.com).



Gucci Querelle sling back sandal

Gucci’s ‘Querelle’ slingback sandal with wide lamb straps, Velcro closure, and a 1 inch gold satin finished heel, ($1850, www.gucci.com).



Jimmy Choo Mercer black textured over the knee  boot

Jimmy Choo’s ‘Mercer’ textured leather over the knee boots with 2.5 inch silver block heel, ($1450, www.netaporter.com).



Miu Miu suede ankle boot with jeweled heel

Miu Miu’s dark navy suede side zip ankle boots with 2 inch jeweled heel, ($1100, www.neimanmarcus.com).



Nicholas Kirkwood Prism polka dot flocked satin  pump
with pale gold tone triangle block heel

Nicholas Kirkwood’s ‘Prism’ polka dot flock satin pump with his signature 1.8 inch pale gold tone acetate triangle block heel, ($760, www.lanecrawford.com)


Robert Clergerie Patsy black patent leather loafers
with gunmetal tone metal heel

Robert Clergerie’s color blocked ‘Patsy’ patent leather loafers in black and ivory with a metal block heel, ($575, www.lanecrawford.com).


Stuart Weitzman Discopoco pumps with glistening  
diamante encrusted block heel

Stuart Weitzman’s ‘Discopoco’ lame pumps (available in black or gold) with a 1.8 inch rounded rubber capped Diamante glitter lame heel, ($498,www.lanecrawford.com).




- Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

"Uniformly Challenged"


Lately I've been reading and thinking a lot about uniforms and how easy it would be to reach for the same thing or same type of thing day after day. For all of you indecisive clotheshorses (whinny if you hear me) a uniform is something that would enable us to get out of the stable and trot around the pasture a lot sooner.



True, we would not necessarily be showing the world our most scintillating sartorial side but sometimes having a go-to outfit or outfits can be liberating, or so I would imagine.  Many cliques already have a de facto "uniform": artistic types and downtown denizens tend to favor all black apparel, well-to-do Upper East Siders can be ID'ed by their Birkins, Brooklyn hipsters by their eyeglasses and hats; but what do young executives newly entering the workforce wear? (Yuppies are so last century). Again, it depends where the work place is, and what type of work.

I was recently faced with this dilemma when my daughter graduated from college and took a job in finance. According to a June 2015 study performed in the UK, women ages 18 to 65, spend a full five months of their lives (approximately an hour a week) choosing outfits for work, evening or weekend wear. I'm almost willing to gloss over the fact that this study was done by British uniform company Simon Jersey and is therefore biased towards selling uniforms, because, even if these numbers are somewhat exaggerated, the point is indeed taken and overall rings true.

In response to this ticking clock phenomenon, especially for those in corporate America where there may be an almost unwritten dress code to decipher as well as the written one, many women have adapted a "uniform" of sorts which they keep on rotation in one section of their closet. This is basically what I've tried to facilitate by organizing my daughter's closet with a "professional clothing" section in which no party or play clothes need apply. This begs the question, If the denim and flannel of my daughter's college days are out of sight, will they be out of mind? Unfortunately, work attire doesn't "work" that easily when dealing with someone who willingly admits she is more Bonnaroo than Brooks Brothers. Despite having interviewed for and held former summer office jobs requiring business attire as well as the ridiculous college business presentations, in which one is required to dress professionally, there is no slow immersion; no spoonful of sugar that makes this medicine go down in the most delightful way.

In addition to the painful realization that T-shirts and sweats will not cut it  when you oversleep (no doubt after a long night spent at the office rather than the frat rager), the problem becomes even more, well, problematic.  Where to buy this "uniform" while retaining some level of age, comfort and cost appropriateness? Bloomingdale's Y.E.S. (Young East Sider) department which features their contemporary designers is mostly lacking. I propose they add on a Y.E.S. which stands for Young Executive Style. If you've ever tried to outfit someone for their first job, you know what I'm talking about. This market is so underserved that I cannot think of one store or brand to recommend. My daughter and I first realized this problem at least a year ago when she needed a serious, yet stylish suit to wear to interviews. She had gotten by with a black pantsuit from Comptoir des Cotonniers during her early college years along with various black pants and H&M or Theory blouses.



Nanette Lepore suit


When it came time to interview for that all important post-college job, incredulity followed by panic set in. I got the dreaded phone call that I had anticipated for months..."Mom, I need a skirt suit ASAP!" The non-dowdy yet not "slit-up-to- there" skirt suit or dress and jacket combo is a rarity harder to lay claim to than a unicorn sighting. Ann Taylor was proclaimed too boring, BCBG too slutty, Theory (even on sale) too expensive, ElieTahari expensive and matronly, Express has a few good basic pant styles and maybe a pencil skirt but not much else, and the beat goes on. Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I needed smart professional clothing, Nanette Lepore carried some stylish career wear, now not so much. I managed to find a skirt suit and a dress with a short jacket on sale from Nanette at Saks.com as well as a drastically reduced Albert Nipon black and white herringbone suit from the back of Neiman's catalogue where lesser brands go to die. Amazingly, these served their purpose as interview suits and second interview suits for the same company (unlike a man, heaven forbid you can't wear the same suit for both!) and in them, my daughter miraculously landed her dream job. Whew! I felt every bit as victorious as she did!

Albert Nipon Houndstooth suit

What came next reminded me of the conclusion of the 1972 movie "The Candidate," in which, once Robert Redford's character has expended all of his efforts campaigning to be likeable rather than endorse policies that he really believed in, he is elected to the Senate. "What do we do now?" he asks his aides. In our existential crisis of sartorial proportion, now that the interview suit had served as appetizer, what would we serve up for regular fare? Everyday attire must still read corporate but less so, requiring an entirely new wardrobe known as business casual. This seemingly easy-going phrase sounds harmless enough, but is, in actuality, a virtual land mine to navigate.

Quite possibly this is where the extended closet time happens. Not only is it a tightrope act to walk that fine line between over and under dressed, regarding both propriety and climate in the work place, but according to the aforementioned study, some women will even return home later in the day to change if they don't feel like they nailed it. Arrivederci sandals, Ciao pumps (I told my daughter to invest in Band Aid Friction Block and keep it on her at all times) although I believe she defaulted to flats after not heeding my advice during week one. The trouser/button down blouse combo (make sure the buttons don't pull or gape) are fine but if you go for a more form fitting pant you better be certain that it won't be mistaken for a legging. A cardigan or blazer topping it off makes it more businesslike assuming that the skinny legged pant is even alright? A skirt can't be too short, or too tight and sitting must be possible with ease and modesty. It bears mentioning that if you are on the tall side, the right skirt length just doesn't exist--they are only made to hit mid-thigh or well below the knee. Dress Down Fridays (DDF's) may as well have been called WTF, as in Wear That Friday? Not willing to be tripped up so early in the game, my daughter ignored it altogether her first week and dressed in usual corporate attire. As the lone holdout, she now knows that sandals and dark jeans are fine as long as you feed the $5 office kitty. Sweats are of course, verboten...


Banana Republic offerings

In my constant role as self-proclaimed wardrobe stylist to the next gen, I am now resigned to trolling the sale rack at Banana Republic as well as H&M for summer dresses that can be worn in an office environment. It's truly amazing to me that so many ads and emails tout "wear to work" items that are cut-out in the back or on the sides, short enough so that several inches of thigh are exposed, or feature a model wearing them on a yacht in the south of France.  I always want to know where these people work because it certainly isn't corporate America! I also check online sites such as Rue La La, My Habit and Haute Look which I will occasionally order from just as long as nothing is final sale.


Amy Schumer in a Blazer

I found it entertaining that Comedian/Actress Amy Schumer deals with the corporate closet issue in her new film "Trainwreck" as well as in another potential real life role. Her thinly veiled character, a writer at a men's magazine amusingly named "S'Nuff," dresses in office attire in her work scenes. In an interesting twist, Ms. Schumer herself has gone on record as saying that she was one of several candidates considered to replace outgoing Jon Stewart at "The Daily Show" however something stopped her: she was not a fan of the possible wardrobe. Turning down the job, reportedly saying: "I just pictured all the fittings -- all the blazers I would have to wear. I was like, 'I don't want to do that!" she joked. (Apparently Trevor Noah, who was ultimately selected as the replacement host, didn't have a problem with it).

Amy Schumer "almost a blazer"

Obviously, the "blazer" excuse was not the real reason yet I would have to say in her defense that female comics don't really do the lapelled jacket thing. Even when paired with jeans comediennes may see blazers as too restrictive, too structured, off putting and unfunny. Truth be told, I can't remember ever seeing Chelsea Handler, Kathy Griffin, Sarah Silverman or Lena Dunham quite so conservatively dressed. I suddenly sense a new comedy troupe forming. Upright Citizens Brigade could become Unite Contra Blazers. Or as a homage to SNL, I suggest "The Not Ready For Professional Tailoring Players."





- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Southampton Shelter Sixth Annual Gala


Sharon Bush, Oscar Plotkin & Lady Cavendish

The Southampton Shelter held its sixth annual unconditional love gala at 6:30 PM this past Saturday. The event's theme was the "Great Gatsby" and the home where the event took place was nothing short of Gatsbyesque. Being a Jewish Sabbath observer, I was confidently told by the manager at the hotel that Gin Lane, the address of the soirée, was a ten minute walk. However, three miles later I arrived at my destination dripping sweat from my face and sequined dress and an "ohmigod your makeup is smudged" reaction.

Jean Shafiroff in Oscar de la Renta

The venue for the event was nothing short of spectacular, with acres of land on the water and big white tents set up with chandeliers and white flowers. The chair of the event was Jean Shafiroff who has become the "first lady" of the Hamptons. It is nearly impossible to open up a Hamptons magazine or newspaper without seeing Jean on the pages, either running the event or being interviewed about her charitable causes. Jean is an ardent animal advocate and has adopted numerous dogs from various shelters, appearing at the dinner with her husband, daughter, and two of her dogs. Jean, wearing a vibrant Oscar de la Renta gown replete with a floral pattern and pink bow, managed to keep her hair tidied to perfection; while my frizzy confection left me embarrassed and hopeless. Jean spoke enthusiastically of the shelters' importance in finding homes for animals and for employing a "no kill" policy, ranking it among the top ten percent of shelters in the United States.

Margo and John Catsimatidis

The event was emceed by Chuck Scarborough who is paradigmatic of the Hamptons man- tan, svelte, and educated. Some other notable attendees were John Catsimatidis, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Southampton mayor Mark Epley and Sharon Bush. I had the privilege of sitting next to Bush, ex wife of Neil and sister-in-law of W, and bonding over our mutual admiration for Joel Osteen, whom she counts as a close personal friend. Sharon's radiant complexion and demeanor were inspiring and she led the dancing with her boyfriend Oscar.

Mayor Mark Epley

Another glowing skin attendee was Mayor Mark Epley whose tan would incur the envy of George Hamilton, proving that being mayor of Southampton is a rewarding endeavor as he was able to meet all three Kardashian sisters last year as well as mom Kris (the mayor commented that Kris was more attractive than he expected). The mayor said the Kardashians presence last summer was a "nonevent" as Hamptonites are used to seeing famous people and were unimpressed.

Melissa and Laura Pashayan

The mayor estimated that there were at least 20 billionaires in Southampton and that prices had risen about 25 to 30 percent in the past year. The mayor extolled the eclecticism of the Southampton community but the only diversity I viewed was that of the village's Ferrari collection.  The mayor has built up Southampton village by installing dog parks and boardwalks and continually developing the town, which is both immaculate and mobbed.

Ladies in Gatsby attire

As the guests returned to their seats for dinner and an auction I noticed the dinner was meatless, as expected at an animal loving event. The live and silent auction offered numerous goodies including a stay at the Golden Door Spa and the Fairmont hotel in Washington and bidders bid enthusiastically. While it was evident from the money raised that this was a well heeled crowd, most of the attendees appeared understatedly elegant wearing monochromatic colors and plain dresses, except for those in flapper dresses and gowns who adhered to the Gatsby theme. As the crowd began to dissipate at the early hour of 10:00 PM the Alex Donner orchestra continued playing Elvis and Sinatra songs.

As I exited the tents to the tune of "start spreading the news", I wondered why no one had spread the news that the Hamptons is one of the great playgrounds for the rich and famous and worthy of at least one anthem paying tribute to its preeminence.




- Lieba Nesis

Monday, July 20, 2015

In the Market Report: Safari Jackets

His, Hers, Ours...

Yves and Betty Catroux in safari jackets,
Photonews - Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint-Laurent

Numerous indispensable and eternal wardrobe staples were shown on runways (and in informal presentations) during the course of the menswear 2016 collections (which formally ended in New York last Thursday). Among them: the trouser suit; the pussycat bow blouse; the rope soled espadrille; the pea jacket; the trench coat; le smoking; and the safari jacket. They are not only unisex (I continually found myself looking at the shows, thinking, “I would totally wear that”); unsurprisingly, they were also signatures of the late great Yves Saint Laurent, a designer credited for having “first brought the discussion of gender to the fashion table”. FYI, in case you're wondering, yes, pussycat bow blouses are now unisex thanks in good part to Gucci's Alessandro Michele, who has been proposing them for both the guys and the gals.

 YSL Style Is Eternal Exhibition

Coincidentally a retrospective, “Yves Saint Laurent: Style Is Eternal”, opened on July 11th and runs through October 25th at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, North East England (thebowesmuseum.org.uk). The exhibition is fittingly divided into 4 main themes: Art, Spectaculaire, Transparency, Masculin/Feminin. In the words of Pierre Bergé: “If Chanel gave women their freedom, it was Saint Laurent who empowered them”, by making use of traditional male dress codes.

Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking
Photographed by  Helmut Newton, Paris 1975

There’s no question that YSL’s impressive body of work resulted in some of the most iconic images in fashion. Who could forget the Helmut Newton photograph that ran in French Vogue, 1975, featuring an androgynous woman, standing in a dimly lit Parisian alley, with her hair slicked back, holding a cigarette, dressed in a black tuxedo, and entwined with a model wearing only black stilettos?

Veruschka wearing the iconic Yves Saint Laurent safari jacket
 photographed by Franco Rubartelli for Vogue 

Or the one of resplendent Verushka wearing YSL’s lace up safari tunic, photographed by Franco Rubartelli for French Vogue in 1968? This particular article of clothing was so closely identified with the designer (who first presented it in his 1968 spring collection), the house even created a perfume, ‘Saharienne’, which was dedicated to the “homonymous famous safari jacket”.

Balmain Resort 2016
Photo: Style.com

And it could not hold more appeal at the moment, given the season, or the current relaxed yet pulled together mood and vibe that permeated many of the menswear collections. The way Michael Kors sees it, “People in the city are dressing down and they’re more polished on vacation” he recounted to Style.com’s Nicole Phelps. Like ‘le smoking’, ‘la saharienne’ never loses its appeal for customers (both men and women) or designers, who are always inspired by the romantic notion of safari, and all that it symbolizes (although the way each interprets it may vary greatly). To wit, Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing tapped into safari’s idea of discovery and traversing the globe, putting his own high style, unabashedly sexy spin on the spring 2016 menswear collection he showed in Paris last month. He even included a few of his safari themed womenswear pieces from resort 2016 on the runway, to further emphasize the point.

Belstaff spring 2016 menswear

In London, Fred Dyhr, Vice President of men’s design for Belstaff, (a luxury brand with a strong recognizable British Heritage), paid homage to the British Armed Forces in North America in the 1970’s, thereby re-imagining the house’s iconic moto jackets in a safari -esque way.

Michael Kors menswear spring 2016
Photo: Style.com

Here in New York, Michael Kors’s relaxed “Island” collection (played out in a signature neutral palette of ivory, sand, khaki, navy, and black) included some handsome knitwear, stellar trench coats, well-tailored blazers, cargo pants, and one fabulous belted safari jacket.

Greg Lauren menswear collection
Photo: Style.com

Greg Lauren’s second menswear collection (the painter and designer is Ralph’s nephew) was a study in artistic individuality, and he focused on handmade tattered linen and hand distressed suede and leather to create a vintage, artsy, nomadic vibe. It all looked well-worn and lived in, down to the jackets, some of which resembled deconstructed safari jackets.

Jeffrey Rudes menswear collection
Photo: Style.com

For his minimal and elegant freshman menswear collection, Jeffrey Rudes (you might know him as the “J” in the popular J. Brand) focused on clean lines, and slim, tailored, close to the body pants and jackets. His take on a traditional safari jacket (his was made of tan suede), was notable.



Rare YSL lace up safari tunic offered by Jennifer  Kobrin on 1st dibs

Naturally, there are some good safari pieces available right now. If you’re after the real deal, 1st dibs dealer (www.1stdibs.com) Jennifer Kobrin is selling a rare, vintage YSL lace up khaki safari tunic from 1968 ($895) as well as a 1980’s Azzedine Alaia khaki safari style 1 piece ($550). Although, for the price, you can’t beat Ralph Lauren’s Denim & Supply (link to jacket) belted cargo jacket in marine olive, $185, or Banana Republic’s Heritage belted safari jacket in khaki, $150 (link to jacket). Made of a cotton and linen blend, it is guaranteed to wrinkle somewhat, which is an added plus based on what I’ve been seeing. Many designers, including Greg Lauren, made a statement with rumpled, wrinkled pieces. So I guess you can say, wrinkles are the new black!




- Marilyn Kirschner


Friday, July 17, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

FGI Tastemakers: Pamela Baxter & Rose Marie Bravo

Pamela Baxter,  Margaret Hayes & Rose Marie Bravo
Photos: Bruce Borner, FGI

Pamela Baxter has always known what she wants and how to get it. As a young girl growing up in South Dakota she worked on her family's ranch to get money for school clothes. As a 12-year-old Vogue reader, she decided to place a phone order for a pair of black patent shoes with a zipper that she had spied amongst the magazine's pages. When they were delivered C.O.D. her father paid the postman, then sent her to her room with the warning that she would be working all summer to pay for the fancy footwear. That "passion for fashion" along with the work ethic instilled in her by her family, is what propelled her from Mobridge, S.D., population 5,000, to Paris and New York and eventually to become President and CEO of LVMH Perfumes and Cosmetics for Christian Dior.




Ms. Baxter and Rose Marie Bravo, Vice Chairman and former CEO of Burberry, Inc. were the draw at a Fashion Group International (FGI)Tastemakers breakfast at the 21 Club on Wednesday morning. Both of these top women executives in the fashion and beauty industry shared their experiences in shaping and branding of their respective companies however Bravo served the function of interviewer to Baxter's interviewee.  The event was well attended by many retail fashion and beauty executives including Linda Fargo of Bergdorf Goodman.

Baxter's dream out of school was to become a makeup artist which she did, working at a Seattle department store. She sold a car that her mother had bought her in exchange for an airline ticket to New York,  in order to interview for a national Makeup Artist program for Charles of the Ritz. She stayed at the New York Hilton and, as she tells it, "Thank God I got that job!" Her mother of course chided her for being "so stupid, so irresponsible." At Charles of the Ritz which was then part of Lanvin, Baxter learned that the "beauty business is intense and it covers everything that is involved in fashion" namely building a clientele ("clienteling") and importance on space and location. Her next move was to Estee Lauder where she was responsible for introducing Creme de la Mer and launching the Prescriptives brand. "This would have been enough if I had wanted to stay in beauty," she said of her two decades with the Lauder company.

She struggled to find a way to bridge the perceived gap between knowledge of the beauty business and that of fashion, as she attempted to make the transition to a fashion brand. After a lengthy process she eventually came to work for Bernard Arnault (or B.A. as she knows him). "Dior was broken in the US in a bad way and he (Arnault) wanted someone to fix it for him" she said. She started with revamping the beauty side in 2004 and was given "the fashion keys to the kingdom" in 2007. Interestingly, she told a story of how even though she was leaving his employ, Leonard Lauder had her best interest at heart. Upon hearing that she had accepted the Dior job he said, "Young lady, you have no idea what you're getting into. You will need someone to watch your back." She took the VP of Prescriptives with her to Dior with Lauder's blessing.

Working for Dior and living in France, Baxter had to adapt to the French way of doing business. "The French are very analytical and like to debate. They are also slow in making decisions." In short, she heard the word "No" (or "Non") a lot until she "learned to maneuver around it" by reading books about French culture and the educational system. She mentioned that although we live in a very globalized economy the French don't embrace e-commerce particularly at the luxury end. "They are worried about the accessibility of a $5,000 handbag" she said.

When Baxter finally broke through to the other side (meaning the fashion aspect) she realized the importance of the fashion working together with the beauty. "Strong DNA to brand needs to inform all areas of the business. If one gets disconnected, the customer gets confused." As a brand builder who came onboard 11 years ago, "Beauty and fashion were completely separated and not even speaking to each other" she remarked. There were about 500 licenses diluting the brand which Arnault thankfully put an end to. Dior was making logoed canvas handbags at an average price of about $750 when they decided to go back to their roots as a couture house. This was during the Galliano period and subsequent debacle after which Raf Simons came aboard the sinking ship. With his minimalist aesthetic as a menswear designer, not to mention that he'd never done couture, Simons was an unlikely choice who miraculously turned the house around. As for how he is managing his role at Dior, Baxter remarked that she has seen the film "Dior and I" about ten times and she cries each time. She gives credit to Simons for showing his vulnerability and to the company for allowing him to do so. "It really does give a heart and soul to the company" she said.

Speaking of couture, it is apparently alive and well. "We have about 20 new couture clients and they are younger, in their 30's and 40's. They're not just buying gowns but also dresses and suits."  The number one place that new clients are coming from is Asia followed by the Middle East however Baxter also said there were a few from the States, especially Texas. She added that there are about 250 workers in the Couture department and many of them are young people in their 20s, which is perhaps not what you would expect.

When asked by an audience member how Baxter (a grandmother) juggles it all, her answer was "I don't think about it. You just figure it out." As a shout-out to some of the young women executives in the audience trying to get ahead in the industry while raising young children she told them not to worry: "Mothers are always more organized because they have to be."




- Laurel Marcus