Monday, December 14, 2009
YMA FASHION SCHOLARSHIP FUND (FSF) 2009 FSF ROUNDTABLE:
“Redesigning the Rules of Fashion in Today’s Media”
THURSDAY DECEMBER 10, 2009
THE TIMES CENTER: 242 W 41ST STREET
MODERATOR: MARY ALICE STEPHENSON (MAS) Style Expert, Fashion Commentator, & Contributing Editor Harper’s Bazaar
STUART ELLIOTT (SE) Advertising Columnist, The New York Times, BRIAN REYES (BR) Fashion Designer,
ANNABEL TOLLMAN (AT) Celebrity Stylist & Creative Fashion Consultant,
ALEX GONZALEZ (ALG) Co-Founder/Executive Creative Director, AR New York,
DANI STAHL (DS) Style Director, Nylon Magazine,
PATRICK MCMULLAN (PM) CEO/President, The Patrick McMullan Company,
ABE GURKO (AG) Founder, IMeanWhat.com & CEO, Abe NYC, Inc
Words, Images Judith Ecochard
The YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF), a nonprofit scholarship fund dedicated to investing in the future of fashion via scholarship money and internships for promising students, (and btw staffed with a dream board of directors with the smarts REALLY to get it done)… hosted the annual 2009 FSF Roundtable last week at the scalable (ha ha ha) The Times Center across the street from the decidedly ho hum Port Authority.
This year’s theme: “Redesigning the Rules of Fashion in Today’s Media,” had an evolve or fade away, subjective undertone to it.
We thought how ironic… the building itself, the New York Times mothership (stunning) got finished in a controversial manner (a court’s eminent domain ruling). AND layoffs/buyoffs for the print/online read have been ongoing.
FYI: The chat fest was so interesting and the panel so engaging (and opinionated) that there wasn’t time for students’ questions. We wish there was more time for THAT.
Otherwise, the night was flawless…bonus points to the Calvin Klein attired Mary Alice Stephenson (“I got it on Bergdorf.com”) for asking great questions…and the panel for weighing in with spot on observations...mashed up with heavy dabs of humor.
Prior to the panel, a video featured industry success stories that had benefited or contributed to the YMA ‘s FSF.
The importance of giving back was a major theme of the clip--- as was the need to support and cultivate fresh talent as critical for the survival of fashion as an industry...aka “the fuel and future leaders of our industry.”
We learned how the FSF gives out scholarship funds to expose students to all facets off the fashion biz (accounting, merchandizing), not just design…
WISE WORDS: Students should “learn, make a contribution, have fun…and have “integrity and believe in yourself.”
After the intros…MAS led off with a confession: “I was very scared of Anna Wintour,”… one of her first reports. Imagine.
She then posed a direct question to AG…and frankly it would be tough for us to summarize …so the following are the highlights we jotted down from our front row perch.
What brought me into this industry was Studio 54.
Fashion was the Wild Wild West
I started as a stylist in the 70’s …and got work right away. (Did stints in LA too).
(Advice to online writers) Know and have reference about what you speak…try to have as much reference as possible versus being (just) a voyeur.
I’m fascinated by reading the internet everyday…put my opinions out there (Imeanwhat.com) is a responsibility…and I take seriously…what I want to say is valid (IMHO hilarious too, at times)
Years of experience gives Abe authenticity…does it give on a higher ground?
Me and my team of 35 people see you and you look great…other people use my pictures (i.e. magazines, newspapers)…
My opinion (on everyone looking fab in the shots)…there are no snarkey, no gotchas. A lot of the media today is gotcha. I don’t believe in that.
For me…the next day, it shows up (the pics) and you see it…the photos…the next day…somebody wearing something and tomorrow you and on fashion online… and they want to wear it now.
It’s a democratic process that’s fantastic (the new media)
Now, the feed of information is instantaneous…and changes the creative flow.
Fashion was a cult (back in the 70’s)…created an energy and creative pool that is no longer because …it’s big business now…celebrity driven…and the media (has changed).
I have to make my clients aware of this.
(New Media) helps in a quick manner to tell the story of the brand…we use new media to spread the word as fast as possible.
(But) the process of creation is not about the speed.
What we do is come up with story lines for clients that will be spread at the speed of life.
It’s not just a pretty dress on a pretty girl…to create a public persona.
Pay a lot of attention for what you are doing for them.
Stylists used to be the role of costumers.
(Refers to the glorious Marilyn Monroe…and the stitched on her bod flesh tone, rhinestone sparkler that she wore when she sang Happy Birthday to JFK … if she had just worn a white tee versus THAT dress by Hollywood costume designer, Jean Louis Berthauldt).
There’s no time lag anymore.
(The) image gets used…with the Internet; it’s there for prosperity.
I need to keep up.
Seasonless dressing! (A key change---cites pre-fall, resort collections as bridges to year round attire).
In my business, the relationship between stylist and designer is advantageous.
The idea of having a celebrity wear this is great for business.
Our e –commerce sales are great because a celebrity wore it.
Everyone is a fashion expert…the 18 year old…do you want to read all that?
I want to read it…I like reading blogs…(vis à vis their opinions) you’re never going to please everyone.
It’s hard to get around what editors want to show (print)…even if it’s a laugh.
Even a horrible outfit isn’t that horrible.
The idea of mainstream has totally changed. Now after an event, you can click and have (the look). You have to be so much quicker.
Now you can get the IT boots in so many different ways.
That girl wants the trend of it---how am I going to get the look for less...there’s vintage, there’s street style.
At Nylon, it’s always been mix and match, high and low…what you can afford and what’s cool.
Are style experts the new designer?
With the Factory Girl Column…I’m writing in a first person way, now videoing it …contents of video is different than timing of the magazine. It’s really fun.
It’s not about wearing the latest ---it’s more behind the scene.
The effects of reality TV…people want to be taken behind the curtain.
You are providing extreme fashion.
(Online content) still speaks to an audience and brings that level of enthusiasm to people who can only dream about it.
(BTW: responsible for some legendary adverts like Calvin Klein’s)
It goes back to what I said earlier…inherent in any great brand is a story.
Construct a story line to reach as many people as possible.
It’s not a beautiful image but a consumer experience.
(Importance of a “similar story online”) ---no longer mystique of the brand but the emotional content. It’s helping to define a story for each individual brand.
It’s brand dependent -- an emotional approach is not appropriate for every brand. (i.e. Lanvin vs. Banana Republic).
There is no one type of women…she wears all the brands. (AMEN)
The fashion industry is on the bleeding edge…always changing and evolving…it has to adopt more quickly.
Its bottoms’ up media-consumers themselves are the editors and stylists.
Everyone on planet earth can read your stuff…with the new media revolution and on top of that--- you’ve had the effects of the economy---(cites Walmart getting fashionable).
It’s amazing trying to keep up with all the changes.
I find myself asked to speak more and more…what can one do with this dress in an authentic way.
Nowadays, wherever we are styling there’s a video camera.
Street style is jetset.
How has the economic crisis changed it all?
It’s had a very profound effect …don’t think consumer behavior is temporary…excess frivolity is gone for a long time. It’s terrifying and exciting, (For example) Levi Straus going back to the roots of the brand…appeal to young people tapping into authenticity, It’s right for today’s times and it doesn’t cost a lot of money.
It’s important to be perceptive and understand your client.
It’s a business…nurturing a business is important, so much more than just being creative.
(On E commerce) Return percentages make it risky but viral advertising really promotes shopping online.
Isabelle Toledo is only interested in making exquisite clothes (and not selling on the web…though Mrs. O’s inaugural dress really got her name out there).
There’s always room for the artisan…(Isabelle Toledo) has 25 years in business and is still a young women, She is obsessed by creating and not obsessed by business. She has to create.
So many designers want to be a brand and I applaud that…but it important to remember that you must create.
Banana Republic has a fantastic design team (and is big business).
It’s about the love of designing.
There has to be some sort of balance so it’s not your personal art project. There’s a balance without losing sight of the artistry.
The Internet allows people to find you…it’s the creative way to use the Internet…
It’s still the Wild, Wild West (i.e. Webisodes) …and wide open as to how the ad agencies understand how the consumer shops.
I believe in creative first, you have to plug into it and invest in great designers. Without that, the technology is meaningless…you have to have the soul of the house.
Young designers get trapped with how do I manipulate the web to get out there.
But you need love, talent and passion.
Throwing the gates wide open with the Internet.
You have to be prepared.
(Re: Do it yourselfers) …now people want to individualize everything. Everyone wants to be a star…consumers can play with it (fashion) and mix it up.
More people are being creative with how they look.
Women still want to shop in a store…and want to see how it fits.
The Internet is recreation.
There’s always going to be multiple realities. The explosion of technology drives business in a different way.
The experience of a beautifully wrapped box …and it’s social, it’s interactive (the shopping in store experience).
What will change drastically is the price point of things.
We’re living through a reality check.
There is guerilla warfare…secret sales…Black Friday everyday.
A lot of companies are using twitter (to announce specials)…another way to make a connection…and make the consumer come to you and make it interesting.
(Refers to the English woman who is now a “ star…giving makeup tips in her English working class accent.”)
The Internet will not replace the store experience.
(Re: Fashion Week- FW) It’s still the thing. It’s a meet and greet…check it out.
The Internet opened up the availability of a different experience.
It’s (FW) becoming small, difficult to get in and a return to exclusivity…like Marc Jacobs show.
There are consumers out there that will always want a curator’s eye. Many realities will live at the same time.
WE WANT A VULCAN MIND MELT WITH Mr. Gonzalez
(Fashion Night Out). We just wanted to kick it out…it’s the democratization of fashion; they were all in their stores. Anna (Wintour) was right on the money…
We are always fascinated by the dictators…like Anna…the duality of the world.
Celebrities in fashion industries are not new. Some work, some don’t.
Find a muse (advice for fashion students).
Use it (the internet) to your benefit and to get people’s attention…the Internet levels the playing field.
People can show how talented they are through the new media…more open and accessible.
You still need to work your butt off.
And you have to love it.
There is so much glamour attached but it is work.
Create your own rules.
Be strategic, pr wise. Internships are the gateway…the best way to learn.
At the reception we learned that a private client biz is in the works for Brian Reyes. We can’t wait to see what he is up to for NY Fashion Week. And yes, we monopolized a Board member and chatted about…TIGER!!!!!!
We wish there was more time…for questions…we would have love to get the scoop on what the panel is up to…say in 6 months...whether there is going to be a change to their business models---to keep relevant. And NOT HEARD---- WHAT WAS ON THE STUDENTS’ MINDS.
Plus: comments on the differences of being creative vs. being a brand…on a global basis. We lived in Europe…and find the reality/experience ---of being a designer or an artist…is different in many ways- than that of the USA dwellers.
FACTOID: YMA stands for Youth Mentoring Association…but it's now an acronym...a good thing
INFO: YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund
SPECIAL THANKS: DOW XLA™ and LIM COLLEGE