Thursday, June 21, 2018

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

FGI Tastemakers Series Weaves a Breakfast Tapestry with Rose Marie Bravo & Victor Luis

Rose Marie Bravo, Victor Luis, and Margaret Hayes
Photo courtesy of FGI by 
Bruce Borner
Click images for full-size views

It was a very festive and intimate atmosphere on Wednesday morning in the lower level of the Cosmopolitan Club (a welcome change of venue from the usual 21 Club). FGI held their Tastemakers breakfast featuring former president and CEO of many brands as well as CBE (Commander of the British Empire) Rose Marie Bravo posing thought-provoking questions to Victor Luis, CEO of Tapestry. Before you start singing "I feel the Earth move under my feet," this Tapestry refers of course to the multi-brand umbrella including Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman.

The breakfast
Photo: Laurel Marcus

FGI President Margaret Hayes issued a welcoming introduction by FGI President Margaret Hayes likening the setting to a 'mini-wedding' while remarking that the Cosmopolitan Club was a female based establishment much like Fashion Group International. She also informed us that we had 25 minutes to consume scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage and bacon, hash browns, assorted danish, fresh fruit and a yogurt parfait (pretty much encompassing all food groups I'd say).

Rose Marie Bravo
Photo courtesy of FGI by Bruce Borner

Bravo, wearing a colorful Versace-esque blazer, led off with "It's been 12 years since I stepped down from Burberry -- my how things have changed! How do you (as CEO) deal with the speed of change? How do you get a team to deal with it?" Luis responded that you start off with a "clear direction beginning with the Coach brand which needed a big change. Once you have a focus, the hard part is to implement it". Of course, it's important to do that in a way that will "surprise and delight" the customer. How to transition from a single to a multi-brand? How do you know you are ready? Luis spoke of the acquisition of Stuart Weitzman saying that his team didn't want to buy SW at first, "they didn't think they were ready. I decided that we were and the team was ready."

President of Movado, Efraim Grinberg, event sponsor with Victor Lewis
Photo courtesy of FGI by 
Bruce Borner

On the subject of multi-group luxury, Bravo wanted to know why the companies who own them are always French (no doubt referring to LVMH and Kering) -- "why not American?" she asked. She also inquired about the moniker -- "I had enough trouble just taking the 'S' off of Burberry -- how do you come up with a whole new name?" Luis explained that when Coach acquired Kate Spade, there was a social media backlash. "The Kate Spade customer didn't want to buy Coach thinking that they're going to be the same," so a new name for the multi-brand preserving each brands unique DNA was needed. Many proposed nomenclatures were already taken -- "I was shocked that Tapestry wasn't registered. It's a great metaphor -- different threads coming together in one tapestry. Yellow is very New York -- the taxis are yellow, and it's a happy color."

Luis went on to explain the difference between "good product pickers" and "good storytellers," the latter being the real key to a brand's success. "It's not as much about retail as about brand," he explained. "Consumer habits are more online now, but we give narratives and stories through marketing and translate them globally versus the good product pickers locally. As a brand-led company, we want to be the best storytellers. We are building a brand for a decade in our business model. Our European competitors have companies passed down for generations -- we are creating a brand business model."

How did Luis take a brand like Coach upmarket? By differentiating from the past and its competition. "We had to make Coach a better more relevant brand. It never had the fashion cred of Michael Kors, Tory Burch or Kate Spade which all had more of a lifestyle image. " How do you do that? By hiring the right person: Stuart Vevers as Creative Director who sought to build credibility over time. "We are surrounding ourselves with the talent needed to do that. We asked 'what do we want to be?' and 'who do we need to make that happen?" In team building Luis refers to "green shoots," (not green shots lol) -- people that can take a brand to the next level while recognizing and allowing that each brand has its different culture and DNA. Luis credits optimism, innovation and inclusivity (more on that later) as the three most important values at Tapestry.

Is the business model of a business person and a creative director together, such as YSL and Pierre Berge still the norm? "People are becoming schooled on both sides these days. There's no way Virgil Abloh would have been a creative director 20 years ago," remarked Luis. Bravo went on about her tenure at Burberry where they had "20,000 SKUs of beige trench coats" and needed creative talent to elevate them. First, it was Raf Simons who had come out of Jil Sander followed by a "refresh" from Christopher Bailey from Gucci who was a youngster (28) but "the perfect person. It wasn't easy to change designers at that point," she said. "Angela Ahrendts did a great job utilizing his talents. Now there are two Italians at the top of Burberry (Marco Grobetti and Riccardo Tisci)." Because this is 2018 and everything is politicized, cue the immigrant discussion as Bravo points out that both she and Luis are immigrants whose families came to pursue the American Dream.

Luis's father brought the family from the Azores taking a job as a barber here."Education, education, education" was the key -- "Education plus the opportunity to leverage it along with hard work. How do I instill these values in my kids since they have a lot? When you have nothing then you're more concerned about how you treat people," Luis said. (IMO -- he's correct for old-school LEGAL immigration on which this country is based).

An intelligent audience member asked the best question: "With a multi-brand portfolio is it hard not to love one child more than the other?" Luis answered that he tries to "get the absolute best team for each brand," one who "understands their vision. The Coach brand gets the most attention and has the biggest funds attached to it."

Bravo raised the diversity of talent issue including race and age as "very important." "WWD did an article about the dearth of women at the top of beauty companies and Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times recently wrote about how few women were actually at the top of fashion companies as designers." Luis spoke of Kate Spade (after Bravo mentioned the "beautiful tribute in the stores to Kate Spade") which has "all women at the top of the brand. Of the top 30, 28 are women. As a white male without an accent, you have blind spots. This is a discussion in every boardroom across the country."

Key things to look for while hiring key people? "We want nice people, smart people, and technical skills. We look for team players -- no high performing jerks. We want high performing nice people -- it feeds on itself. I liken it to a sport -- some people play baseball, we play luxury retail. To play you need the right people on the team," adding that he's "laying the groundwork for the next person. Bravo mentioned Tiffany's changeover: "Once the person at the top changed, the whole company changed. Because of technology, everyone got the message very quickly."

Interestingly, Bravo recounted a "luxury shopping experience" that she recently had at, wait for it -- B&H Photo, buying bird watching binoculars for her husband's birthday. "I didn't want to buy them online, and I wanted someone to explain them to me. I was in and out of there in less than 15 minutes -- they were efficient and knowledgeable."

What about future acquisitions to the Tapestry "quilt?" "We filter 20-30 brands we'd like to acquire. You may want to get married to a lot of people, but they have to say 'yes,'" he quipped.

Other Luis quotes: "If people feel good about a company they do great work." "If it's playing, it's great. When it becomes work, you're in trouble." On work/life balance: "Balance is such a difficult word -- everyone has to find it for themselves. I try to keep the pendulum in the middle and not have it swing to one side or the other. For the past 12 years since I'm at Coach the most important issue is the work/life balance."

- Laurel Marcus

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

Charlotte Moss Entertains

Michael McGraw, Diane Clehane & Charlotte Moss
Click image for full-size view

I love when the topic of discussion with my weekly lunch dates serendipitously corresponds with something in the air. Today, I can say without question, I was thrilled that my conversation with Charlotte Moss was the polar opposite of the ugliness that has taken over the news cycle and consumed so many people’s every thought.

Charlotte Moss is all about beauty – seeking it out and creating it in everything from interior design to the dinner table to the backyard garden and, of course, in the pages of her latest lush illustrated book, Charlotte Moss Entertains. Having just returned from France last night, Charlotte sailed into Michael’s at the appointed hour with looking fabulous, pleasantly perfumed (Portrait of a Lady by Frederic Malle) and not a bit jet lagged. “I’m fine! I’ve been up since 3 o’clock this morning,” she told me as we settled in for our chat with Michael McGraw of The McGraw Agency, who arranged for us to meet.

This multi-tasking lifestyle maven is a renowned interior designer, author of ten books and a dedicated philanthropist to a host of causes that a close to her heart. In addition to her 34 year-old interior design firm that caters to a small number of select clients (Michael Bloomberg was one of her first), Charlotte has created a myriad of collections of furniture, carpets, fabric, china and jewelry (more on all this later) while somehow still managing to write and produce gorgeous “coffee table” books every few years. “I’m from a military family. My dad was in the military,” she told me between bites of soft-shell crab when I asked her how she keeps all the balls in the air. “I learned as a child how to manage my time.”

But the secret ingredient to her success is “passion,” said Charlotte. “If you really want to do something, you will. The minute you lose your passion, try something else.” Charlotte’s passion for creating beautiful environments and collecting objects goes back to her childhood in Virginia where she rearranged her mother’s furniture and loved to find ways “to make anything better.” She told me it was her maternal grandmother who introduced her to the idea of creating a welcoming and inspiring home for entertaining. “She had a way of setting a table and arranging family buffets,” said Charlotte. “She had that ‘je ne sais quoi.’ I got that gene.”

There is plenty of evidence of that in Charlotte’s new book that is filled with page after page of beautiful table settings at home, outdoors and in spectacular spaces – all coordinated down to the smallest detail. She took almost all of the photographs in the book explaining to me, “These are photographs of actual lunches, dinners, and parties. How do you have a photographer live with you and get all that?” Still, Charlotte doesn’t consider herself a photographer. “I love being behind the camera. When you’re writing, it’s a pretty solitary activity, but behind the camera it’s you and ‘it’.” Being both writer and photographer of the book, she said, “allowed me to stretch.” Then added, “Intellectually, we all need that push.”

Our far-ranging conversation covered, among other things, the indecipherable design tastes of millennials, the scourge of the selfie stick and the well-earned label of the ‘Ugly American’ rightly bestowed on tourists who show up in fine French restaurants in Europe wearing flip-flops and shorts. “Americans are always the worst dressed,” said Charlotte of her observations she’s made traveling around the world. We can’t say we disagree.

When it comes to “dressing” a house, Charlotte told me there are similarities in her work as interior designers and writing a book. “In both cases, you’re telling a story.”  When working with clients, she told me, “Knowing what to ask is important. Sometimes it’s a matter of me getting out design books and putting Post-its on pages. A ‘no’ tells you what not to do.”

I’d venture a guess that’s not a word Charlotte hears often judging by the impeccable, inspiring spaces she created that are featured in the book. All the photographs are of “real meals, real parties and real events (some featuring Charlotte and her friends who are lucky enough to attend her annual “Caftan Caucus”). Gatherings of family and friends are at the heart of the book for a very specific reason. “Now, more than ever, people need to come together,” she said. “Too many kids are eating alone at the kitchen counter. We’re all hither and yon. It’s about having a conversation, checking in with each other and talking about your day.”

Besides the engaging photographs, Charlotte Moss Entertains is a treasure trove of advice and insight the designer has acquired over the years ranging from how to seat your guests to keep the conversation flowing to creating an element of surprise. All the basics are also covered highlighting the finer points of creating a theme, decorations, and menus.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a section in the book devoted to “Entertaining Ladies” where Charlotte pays tribute to many of the style icons whose influences are still felt today including Audrey Hepburn (“She was a great mom who loved to cook!”), Betsy Bloomingdale (“The ultimate hostess”) and, of course, Jacqueline Kennedy. She did the same thing in her New York Times best-seller, Garden Inspirations. “It’s important for me to a have history, not just have [the book] be Charlotte Moss going off.” I don’t know what made me ask, but I had a feeling Charlotte, being such an avid collector of beautiful things, would have bought something at the famous Jackie Kennedy auction years ago. It turns out she had bought a few things at auction that once belonged to the former first lady – but it was at another smaller Sotheby’s auction where she inadvertently stumbled upon a set of watercolors that Jackie had owned as well as her housekeeper’s notebook from her time at White House. It contained the typed menus of White House dinners as well as the guest lists, a vitamin chart, and even handwritten notes written in Jackie’s distinctive loopy script. “There was a note from her saying she wanted these daisy placemats used to serve the children dinner one night because they made her happy,” said Charlotte. “It’s all in the details.”

That’s the name of the last section of the book which is a stunning collage of all the details needed to create the perfect event big or small -- placements, tableware, and her signature floral arrangements. We both agreed the much-maligned carnation gets a bad rap. “I love the smell!” she told me.

In her work as an interior designer, she creates “couture” for clients and no detail or job is too small. “We’ve done bookplates, stationery, China, embroidered linens. We’ve been asked to do libraries and monographs on artists.” For such a personalized task, Charlotte has called in a specialist to find the right books and install them.

She has interesting advice for a client once she’s finished designing their living space. “The minute we’re done, we make sure the client has planned a party,” she said. “It breaks in a house.”

Books play an important role in Charlotte’s leisure time. She’s a voracious reader and is never without a title on her nightstand (currently it’s Proust’s Duchess by Caroline Weber). “People ask me, ‘What are you reading?’ and I say don’t ask! I’ve always got a book.”

Her other passion (there’s that word again) is philanthropy. She sits on many different boards including American Corporate Partners, which mentors veterans returning to the workplace. Charlotte just completed a year of mentoring a returning female serviceperson and is set to get a new mentee at the organization’s next meeting. She is a trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello and has been working with the Bone Marrow Foundation, which helps families ease the financial burden of treatment, for almost ten years. The work of the Foundation is especially important to Charlotte, who was a donor for her late brother who died of leukemia. “Treatment can be very expensive and there are many people who can’t afford it.”

As we sipped our cappuccino, Charlotte filed me in on her upcoming appearances and projects. She’ll be in Summit, New Jersey, next week for a book signing and reading at A Home. Her calendar for fall is packed with product launches including a jewelry line for P.E. Guerin which will include cuff bracelets, a collection of occasional furniture for Century which debuts in New York in September and a collection for The Ibu Movement, an organization founded by minister-turned-artist Susan Walker whose not-for-profit supports the handmade work of female artisans around the world. “It’s all women. Talk about timely!”

I was exhausted just listening to everything Charlotte is doing and plans to do, but she showed no sign of jetlag after our two-hour lunch. Do you ever just do nothing at all? I asked her. “In my next life I’m coming back as a client so I have more to time read and relax!”

Seen & Heard Around the Room...

Jane Flom at Table One … Wayne Kabak on Two … Joan Jakobson and Mary Murphy onThree … Frank McCourt, former owner of the LA Dodgers on Four .. Andrew Stein on Six … Author Daisy Kahn, whose new book, Born With Wings: The Spiritual Journey of a Modern Muslim Woman, is a must-read and producer Beverly Camhe on Seven … New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Emilia Saint-Amand at his usual perch, Table Eight.

And There’s More...

The New York Post’s media columnist Keith Kelly and Dawn Bridges in Twelve …Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew on Fourteen … Carol Anne Riddell and pals in Sixteen … PR maven Liz Kaplow on Seventeen … Discovery ID’s head honcho Henry Schleiff and attorney Paul Levy on Eighteen … Jack Myers and legendary ad man Martin Puris on Twenty-One … Sara Beth Schrager on Twenty-six … And Kira Semler and Vi Huse enjoying a champagne lunch at the bar.

I’ll be taking an extended ‘Lunch’ break starting next week and won’t be at Michael’s for most of the summer this year. I might pop in for a few special lunches in July, so stay tuned!

Monday, June 18, 2018

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

Resort 2019: The Duchess’s New Clothes

The Duchess of Sussex wore Oscar de la Renta resort 2019 to a wedding
All photos - click images for full-size views

As I review the 2019 resort collections, which are now underway, I keep thinking of Meghan Markle. It’s almost impossible not to as her images are literally posted all over the internet and staring up at you from magazine covers. Plus, I’ve been seeing pieces that I think would be perfect as she settles into her new life as a Duchess. Meghan was an untraditional, unexpected choice to be Prince Harry’s bride, and her fashion choices should ideally reflect that and be similarly untraditional and unexpected. Not that I expect her to completely break the rules of course, just bend them enough. She can still look aristocratic but tempered with a dose of California cool.

She has already broken protocol in several instances, appearing barely legged at official events (she is supposed to wear stockings). She has not given up wearing trousers or jeans for that matter (they’re just not of the ripped variety). And while she raised some eyebrows at the Trooping the Colours with the pale pink off the shoulder Carolina Herrera dress, that is not why I didn’t care for it. I thought she looked like she was trying too hard, and it looked like something she would wear if she were playing herself in a made for TV movie. The white custom-made Givenchy cape dress, chosen for her first public outing with Queen Elizabeth, was chic and minimal (even if it looked a bit like a straitjacket lol). And she kept nervously fidgeting with her hair (she clearly has to figure that one out!)

But hey, she is still learning the ropes and settling in so there are bound to be some hiccups along the way. And when she attended the wedding of Harry’s cousin Celia McCorquodale to George Woodhouse in Stoke Rochford, England on Saturday, she wore a billowy Oscar de la Renta long sleeved loose wrap-style maxi dress in a blue and white toile-like pattern accessorized with white high heels and a white fascinator (her hair was wisely pulled back in a low bun). It was a rather surprising choice (she doesn’t wear many prints) but it worked on her and shows her range. (See lead photo) The dress was actually from the Oscar de la Renta resort 2019 collection that was presented in New York one month ago. Of course, Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, wore an Oscar de la Renta pistachio hued coat and dress from resort 2019 her daughter’s wedding last month.

Meghan Markle attending the 70th birthday celebration for Prince Charles

Probably my favorite moment, as the newly minted Duchess of Sussex, was when she attended a garden party in honor of Prince Charles’s 70th birthday wearing a simple blush pink long sleeved sheath dress by Goat with that recycled pink Philip Treacy hat, her hair neat and tidy in a low bun.

Meghan obviously has so much potential as a fashion influencer; I just don’t want to see her turn into a Kate Middleton clone (at 5’7” she is about 3 inches shorter than her sister in law). I certainly don’t want her to start looking bourgeois, like the rest of the royals. She is clearly on the right track. Here are some suggestions from resort 2019 that I think would be perfect for updating the Duchess of Sussex’s wardrobe.

Ralph Lauren resort 2019

Recent CFDA honoree Ralph Lauren is synonymous with Great American Sportswear. His focus is on clean, streamlined, timeless, wardrobe staples and impeccable tailoring which is by definition quite aristocratic. This was exemplified by resort 2019, a study in monochromatic blue (navy and baby) and a perfect juxtaposition of day and evening. Among the standouts and Ralph Lauren signatures: the black tuxedo jacket, turtleneck, and chiffon evening skirt.

Ralph Lauren resort 2019 

The navy blazer paired with navy beaded trousers. Any way you look at it, they are right up the Duchess’s alley.

Dior resort 2019 

Maria Grazia Chiuri’s resort collection for Dior had an equestrian theme and nothing is more authentically royal or noble than this ancient sport. I don’t know if Meghan can even ride a horse, but I would love to see her in any number of these impeccably tailored pieces, down to the flat sturdy boots (perfect for England’s often inclement weather).

Dior resort 2019

The new animal printed toile which showed up in a number of incarnations (including a lovely crinolined full skirt), would be perfect on safari with Harry in Africa (admittedly, this is my decidedly romantic, dressed up notion of a safari lol). In addition, Meghan is an avowed feminist and feminism is always at the heart of Chiuri’s collections, so that is right in sync.

Erdem resort 2019

Erdem Moralioglu’s eponymous British label emphasizes couture-level craftsmanship and modern elegance and can best be described as aristocratically quirky, down to the hats and high Elizabethan collars. It’s not surprising that the designer has admittedly been inspired by the royal family, specifically Queen Elizabeth for the spring 2018 collection (he actually researched her wardrobe at Windsor Castle for inspiration).

Erdem resort

Resort is particularly romantic and flowery and flowy, with enough empire waists and trapeze shapes to come into play if or when the Duchess gets pregnant.

Delpozo resort 2019

After a decade of shows in New York, Delpozo’s Josep Font moved his runway presentations to London in February 2018. The Madrid-based creative director, who is a trained architect, is not only a longtime fan of the city but a longtime fan of surprises (he believes that fashion is all about surprises). Wouldn’t it be a delightful surprise to see the Duchess in one of his couture quality and famously unique, eccentric, and colorful designs?

Pringle of Scotland resort 2019

Pringle of Scotland is a heritage brand which is all about knitwear and the use of traditional patterns, done in a way that is sporty yet elegant. I could easily see Meghan wearing the argyle knitted pieces on a trip to Scotland.

Pringle of Scotland resort 2019

The same can be said about the plaid trench and matching pants.

Carolina Herrera resort 2019

Meghan has already worn Carolina Herrera, now designed by Wes Gordon. It is undoubtedly geared for special occasion dressing and considering the Duchess’s busy social schedule which is filled with special occasions, some of these dresses could fit right in. And how great would it be to see Meghan in more color!

Tome resort 2019

Speaking of color, this Kelly green blazer and micro-pleated dress by Tome, designed by Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin would look amazing on the Duchess and how perfect would it be for St. Patrick’s Day?

Victoria Beckham resort 2019

If you love denim, trench coats, and tall boots (as the Duchess does), what could be better than Victoria Beckham’s raw denim tailored trench with matching boots no less?

Giorgio Armani

This season Giorgio Armani focused on tailoring but added an easy sportswear vibe, so the result was a look that was formal and informal, dressed up yet comfy; just the perfect thing for lounging around the castle or palace (whichever one the Duchess finds herself in).

Giorgio Armani resort 2019

And I love everything about this long-sleeved splashy floral chiffon dress with matching clutch and flat pointy-toed mules. And based on what the Duchess has been wearing, I bet she would love it too!

From the moment it was announced that Prince Harry was engaged to Meghan Markle, the world has been transfixed by the biracial American actress, divorcee, and United Nations women’s advocate and she has quickly changed the perception of the royal family; modernizing it, and bringing it into the 21st century. She is beautiful, stylish, and loves fashion.  Whatever she wears (and thus far it’s been a good mix of British, Canadian, American, and French labels at a variety of price points) is instantly photographed and documented and sells out immediately.

Websites like are entirely devoted to her style and she has put some under the radar labels on the map. The website of Canadian brand, Line (, crashed the day she announced her engagement wearing their white wrap coat (it immediately sold out but is now being offered again). She has been heralded as a major fashion influencer and rightly so, even though she doesn’t have the millions of Instagram followers to prove it (she is not allowed to have her own Instagram account).

Fashion Influencer of 2019? Now, that would be a coup for the CFDA if she were to be so honored, and actually attended the award ceremony!

- Marilyn Kirschner