PROFILE: ME!!!

imageThe sketch is for some anniversary and by a dear friend……..

I hope you don’t think I am being very self-centered in profiling myself, I thought it would be a fun exercise to answer my own questionnaire.  You already know so much about me, my likes, my obsessions, highlights of my career, etc. but perhaps, just perhaps, I can give you a bit more insight into Nena!

Here goes….

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT AND HOW DID THAT PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW:

I don’t know that I would call my career talent so let’s say when did I realize what I wanted to do…I always knew I wanted to be in “fashion” I just didn’t know what part of it.  Did I want to model, be a designer, be in public relations, advertising, or what!!!???  I had been on many “high school” boards during school both downtown and in Evanston.  That intensified my interest.  Being the daughter of a commercial artist I was very familiar with advertising.  I had begun sewing as soon as I could hold a needle (Mom gave me a beautiful sterling silver thimble with cloisonne on it, I could never use it, can’t stand the sound of the needle hitting the metal of the thimble!) Evanston Township High School offered a dress design course in the art department, (the head of the department was a dress designer at heart) my Junior Year.  I loved the class and did so well I was asked if I wanted to take it again for my Senior Year and do what ever I liked…I did!  I never modeled, but did teach modeling at a local “charm” school while I was in high school…loved doing that.  One day, when I was a Senior in high school I put on my hat and gloves (yes, you heard that correctly) got on the bus and went downtown.  For some unknown reason I felt one needed to know retail before you could do anything else in the business, after all that is where the product ends.  We usually shopped at Marshall Field’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, the first stop on the bus route downtown was Saks.  I got off at Erie and Michigan and went to the Personnel Office (AKA Human Resources), interviewed (lied about my age) and got the job selling in “Debutante Sportswear”…what I thought would be a summer job became a career!  By the way, during that year I found I was a very good sales person, no magic formula just treat people the way you want to be treated and keep up with the trends.  The working title of the book is “A Hell of a Long Summer Job!”  Luck, being in the right place at the right time, the Personnel Director believing in me….who will ever know.  I have taught in all the local fashion schools and have been at Columbia College Chicago for many years, I love to teach and see my students grow and learn more about an industry that I am passionate about  I am still doing lectures, an occasion fashion show and, my new passion, NENASNOTES.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD MADE IT:

When I got the job in the Fashion Office and each and every day for the 53 years, where did they go….I knew that it was, in my opinion, a perfect fit.  I always thought I had the perfect job with the best retailer in the world, I still feel that way. I wanted to be one of one and not one of thousands in New York or elsewhere.  The job grew through the years and, of course, changed not only with fashion but with technology.  I happen to love to work with figures as well as knowing what garments to show to each audience, and adding technology just enhanced the job.  In retail you must be very, very open to change.

imageFashion Group International Chicago Gala, given in my honor, in the Ballroom at the Chicago Hilton (one of the most glamorous and magnificent rooms anywhere!!!!) My wonderful models and I didn’t have to dress them!!!  I have profiled 8 of them…let’s hope I can get more to participate, they all have such wonderful stories to tell. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE?

I firmly believe you need to love what you do you or you will be miserable.  Having said that, I have always wanted to have a independent bookstore/tearoom/needlepoint shop or a bed and breakfast, but instead I am a blogger, who knew!

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MOVIES, BOOKS, THEATER (IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE) TYPE OF MUSIC

Movies: I am particularly found of Musicals, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films in particular, all the 1940’s musicals and, of course, My Fair Lady and Gigi. love them. Recently found LaLa Land charming. I adore Film Noir and The Thin Man series. My most favorite film is Gone With The Wind, in my opinion, everyone was brilliantly and perfectly cast.  Love all the original Disney films, especially Fantasia.  Of course, any fashion documentary or films based on fashion personalities or fashion in general…what could ever top the original 1939, The Women.  Obviously, I could go on and on and on……I do love a good movie.

Books: I devour books, always have.  I couldn’t take gym in school so I lived in my school library.  The Evanston Public School system has amazing schools not only in their teaching but in their buildings.  My grammar school, Oakton, had incredible mosaic tiles (I’m sure they still do, note to self must do a visit!) and it was not only a place that set all of us on the right track with reading, writing and arithmetic…but also with art….and in my case an even greater love of books.  My home was filled with books and I was read to from birth and then read to myself as soon as I could.  Hard to choose one book…Let me mention these authors rather than one book….not in any order: Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Agatha Christie, Virginia Wolff.  Current authors, Louise Penny, Charles Finch, Charles Todd, Cara Black (a review on her new book next week!).  Genres: most English Mysteries (don’t like thrillers, horror or fantasy), novels based on historical figures (concentrating on artists and authors) and, of course, fashion books….it seems to be my goal to own every fashion book printed (I have around 1000 now!)

Theater: 1. Musical Theater 2. Legitimate Theater 3. Ballet 4. Opera 5. Symphony

Type of Music: A very long list (basically the only types of music I’m really not into are Hip Hop, Rap and Country) Here goes….Frank Sinatra, Broadway cast albums, Stanley Paul and his Orchestra (or just him playing piano!), old time Rock and Roll, Simply Red, Adele, Bobby Short, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, anything Gershwin, Porter, The American Songbook, Jazz, Chopin, Mozart, Strauss, etc. etc etc.

YOUR HOME:  Very eclectic, a mix of antiques, Randolph Street Market finds, http://www.randolphtreetmarket.com, lots of art, needlepoint (mine), layers of textiles (in particular, paisley shawls and crazy quilts) and lots and lots of lily of the valley pieces! And, of course, stacks and stacks of books. I guess we could call it Boho!  I have shown you many of my collections more to come.

RESTAURANTS:  Everest would be #1 without question, I have never had anything less than a spectacular meal there and Chef Joho has done many special occasion dinners for me! Les Nomades, RL, Deca at the Ritz Carlton, Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula, Sophie’s at Saks, The Dearborn, Shaw’s, RM Champagne Salon, Kiki’s, Pelago, Uncle Julio’s and Su Casa, RH Three Arts Club Cafe, I’m very fond of Alpana Singh’s restaurants, just about any steakhouse in the City and anywhere I can get a good hamburger and, of course, any Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, Rich Melman is a genius!  I’m a foodie, also am fond of a great glass (or two) of wine and I love the wonderful variety we have, the food is, of course, important but the atmosphere and who you are with are primary.  Love, love, love all the roof “top” terraces we now have, they are amazing.  In addition, all our wonderful private clubs.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES THAT YOU HAVE TRAVELED AND WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO:

I spent many vacations in New York and I adore it to this day…I am an Urbanite and love, love, love big cities, including my home town of Chicago, you do realize that Chicago has CHIC in it! Next would be London and the English Countryside.  Then Paris, I have only been once so can’t really talk about it as much as I would like.  I adore New Orleans, would have, in another life lived there.  Stratford, Ontario Canada, not only for it’s theater but for it’s atmosphere and it’s fabulous restaurants, again I would live there in a minute.  I was fortunate to travel to Russia several years ago and it was a major epiphany…Moscow in particular, magnificent…The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg wasn’t bad either!!!  Where would I like to go…Marrakesh, Cairo, India and China, back to Paris and England.  I do love a cruise, I would sail on the Queen Mary II any day of the week.  A cruise to South America or the Mediterranean would be nice, any offers!!!!???? Oh, I almost forgot, The Orient Express. I had better pack my bags…..

FAVORITE CHICAGO STREET ART:  Oh my, yet another toughie…I’m going to “cop” out and say our architecture, we are, after all, the birth place of modern architecture.  Aren’t we lucky to have ALL the magnificent pieces not only outside but inside public and private buildings.  I will be doing many posts on our street art.

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER PARTY AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE…

I am going to take “author’s” license and do a dinner party of 20 (not the 10 to 12 I have allotted my other Profiles to have!) at one long “King” table in the Chicago Rooms at the Chicago History Museum http://www.chicagohistory.org and change seats between the second and third course, not the heads of the table but the two sides…there will be a seating plan, could be fun…and then for after dinner with demi-tasse, cordials and sweets we will all move into another room and be at 5 tables of 4, also seated and again with different people than for dinner, for more intimate conversations.  Stanley Paul and his Orchestra will play only my favorite standards and Frank Sinatra will entertain us with a few songs!  Perhaps we can get Coco, Fred, Cole and Stephen to join in!!!  Heaven.

The Guest List (in alphabetical order):

Fred Astaire

Cecil Beaton

Gabrielle Chanel

Christian Dior

Carl Faberge

Lucile Duff Gordon

Christian Lacroix

Française Lasage

Norman Norell

Irving Penn

Paul Poiret

Cole Porter

Stephen Sondheim

James Tissot

Diana Vreeland

Vita Sackville-West

Else de Wolff

Virginia Wolff

My Father (at one end of the table)

Me (at the other end of the table)

My favorite caterer would supervise the dinner, with Ruthie, my Mother, overseeing all details, I think Flora Danica as the china, why not (both would prefer being “off stage” and they would join us for the “after-party”)…the menu would be :

Cristal champagne before, during and after!!!!!

Cold beef consomme topped with sour cream and chives

Cold poached lobster

(Everyone changes seats here with another glass of champagne)

Choice of Beef Wellington (my recipe) or Salmon en Croute with seasonal vegetables

Micro greens with Tom Mantel’s secret vinaigrette salad dressing

Baked Alaska (my recipe)

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED:  Wow, that is a very difficult question…to answer and not sound full of oneself…I guess a person who used her career producing fashion shows, special events, chairing galas and being president of many boards, to not only raise substantial funding for many, many organizations, but more importantly to raise awareness of those causes.

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Some of the world renowned designers who came to the benefit of the Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago Place opening September 1990.  The black tie event benefited five charities, Beverly Blettner, seated behind Bob Mackie. was the over-all chair of the event.  Beverly and I worked on numerous events together.  The designers from left to right: Adolfo, Carolina Herrera, Pauline Trigere and Bob Mackie, all of whom I worked with on numerous events.  I have profiled Pauline, I will do in depth Fashion Flashbacks on the others in coming weeks. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

FASHION FLASHBACK: ANNE KLEIN AND THE EVOLUTION OF A BRAND

imageAnne Klein in her studio with her inspiration board, sketches and fabric swatches. She along with Bonnie Cashin, Anne Fogarty and Claire McCardell  were the creators of “American Designer Sportswear”.  I must admit I have always found that description to be ludicrous, they were spectacular visionaries why tag them with the sportswear title.  Yes, they did separates but so much more…just as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren did all considered Designer Sportswear designers….oh well!  I was fortunate to work with three of the four, McCardell died right after I started my career at Saks Fifth Avenue. This press folder photo is in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageAnne Klein with her first husband, Ben Klein, formed Junior Sophisticates from 1948-1960.  I loved Junior Sophisticates and wore many of the pieces.  This photo typical of the time, could easily be an Anne Fogarty with it’s belted waist and full skirt, I wore her garments in high school and when I started working.  The ad from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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Anne formed Anne Klein and Company in 1968 with her second husband,  Chip Rubenstein, the lion logo was immediately identified with the brand. In 1970 Saks Fifth Avenue, New York launched the Anne Klein Corner, it was the first designer in-store “boutique”. Anne received many awards throughout her career and was recognized as the epitome of designer sportswear. At one point in time Saks Fifth Avenue did a series of needlepoint kits commissioned from designers, I needlepointed (a full post on my needlepoint craze, I have done hundreds of pieces, at some point in time….no pun intended!!!!) the Anne Klein logo as a gift along with one from Emilio Pucci, and if memory serves me, Bill Blass. Photo Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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For the Versailles show in 1973, organized by the public relations genius, Eleanor Lampert,  Anne was the only female American Designer to show alongside Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Halston and Stephen Burrows. The five Americans were showing with five Parisian designers, who showed first in a very formal staged production, while quite beautiful they didn’t compare to the modernity of the Americans who did a very quick presentation complete with jazz, twirling models, many African-American  models who went on to become super stars, and Liza Minelli!  They brought the house down and got a standing ovation and cheers from the jaded crowd.  American fashion came into its own that night and has never looked back!  For more on this show read The Battle of Versailles and see the film, Versailles ’73.  Unfortunately, not much footage is available and what there is is really not top quality, however, the film is fantastically done, you will really enjoy it if you haven’t seen it and if you have give it another look. Photo Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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imageThe Anne Klein medallion on the New York Fashion Walk of Fame.

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Louis Dell’Olio and Donna Karan were classmates at Parson’s School of Design and graduated in 1973 and went to work for Anne Klein.  I have had this press photo for years…so glad to finally share it.  It is in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

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When Anne Klein died from breast cancer in 1974, her assistants, Donna Karan and Louis Dell’Olio became the designers from 1974-1985.  They came to Saks Chicago and we did a formal show in the Store.  What fun that was. Several years later, when Donna had her own collection she was making a personal appearance at I. Magnin, they had a store on Michigan Avenue and Pearson (where TopShop  and Uniqlo are now) and were doing a formal show on the street between Michigan Avenue and Rush Street (what is the name of that Street!!!???) on the west side of The Water Tower.  This one block street was closed and chairs were set up in the street without a tent.  I rarely went to other stores shows, unless invited, I thought they would think I was “spying” on them.  Well, I decided to go to this one and sat in the back row.  Donna commentated the presentation and at the end walked the runway (the street), as is usual for a designer at the finale…she came to the end where I was, glanced at me walked about half way or so back toward the Store, came back to me, gave me a hug and said “I know you, you are with Saks…and your shows are wonderful!”  So much for trying to be incognito!!!  The next time she came to Chicago was to open the Barney’s New York store in it’s original location on Oak Street (Hermes now) and she arrived on a motorcycle which drove her into the Store, it was a blast and so was Donna.  I did not have the pleasure of doing a formal show with a personal appearance with her but did do several formal shows with her collections over the years.

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Donna leaves Anne Klein for her signature line, the rest of that story is fashion history.  The foundation to the Donna Karan brilliant 5 Easy Pieces, the bodysuit!

imageThe orginal “cold shoulder” dress! We see shoulders everywhere now, revolutionary at the time.

imageDonna has always been her own best model.  I so miss her basic 5 Easy Pieces, she had the look down for the professional woman, not only professional but rather sexy and very assured giving the wearer a power that a “power suit” couldn’t.  Her talent is sorely missed but we can still get her brilliance with Urban Zen. Above photos are from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageDonna’s plaque on New York’s Fashion Walk of Fame.

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A very blond Nena with Louis Dell’Olio, Anne Klein desinger from 1985-1993.  Louis, while at Parsons apprenticed with the genius, Norman Norell (as you know one of my idols!) during a summer break and won the Norman Norell Scholarship. Saks did several personal appearances with Louis all at formal fashion shows and, as usual, benefits for local charities.  One I fondly remember was held in Stanley Field Hall at the Field Museum of Natural History.  I love using staircases for fashion shows  (my Corporate Office would always ask me if I only did shows on stiarways, my answer “Whenever possible!”) My production guru, Deb Gohr of Ravenswood Studios, was a genius in fulfilling my staging vision for all our shows.  This one used the double staircase at the South end of the Museum lobby (can you believe I can’t find a photo, in my files or on line!!!) I wanted the runway to come off the stairs and be seamless, and Deb did this perfectly. It was flawless at least up to a point….(I think this was one of the first shows Deb and I did together, we are still staging shows!!!!). I was only using the staircase to begin the show with the models coming down, in tandum, on each side.  That worked well.  The rest of the show they entered from each side of the runway, not a problem and then I wanted several to appear at the top of the staircase and walk down the stairs for the finale.  All good so far, I put those few models in their gowns on the elevator, I waited to cue my assistant who was at the next floor of the Museum next to the Hall of Gems. Nothing happened for what seemed like an eternity, the elevator had gotten stuck, after the brief pause out they came, very dramatically (think Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face in her red gown in front of the Winged Venus on the stairs of the Louvre and you get the picture!)  All was saved and actually made a much more exciting finale…everyone thought it was planned!!!!  I have now revealed a long kept not so secret secret!

In the above photo, I am wearing a signature look of Louis, one color combination in three textures and patterns.  This outfit is chocolate brown and cream, the fitted jacket is a silk tweed, the sweater a silk knit and the pencil skirt, wrapped to one side, in another tweed a combination of silk and wool.  I wore it for many years and adored both the man and his esthetic! Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageA watercolor that Louis did for the cover of an invitation for a benefit show we did at China Club.  The finale was red gowns.  It was stunning and perfect in a club atomsphere (that was when we dressed to go out!!!!)  The night before we dined with Oprah Winfrey, who was beginning her Chicago career, a friend and client of Louis.  The last time I worked with Louis was with his glorious fur collection.  I miss his talent and being able to showcase his expertise.  This watercolor is in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageA typical look by Louis Dell’Olio.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageLouis always liked to do the color head to toe…here you see the hose and shoes, (he often included gloves and fabulous jewelry), all Anne Klein and Company, matching the skirt, the jacket in a contrasting red, a Dell’Olio signature. Pinterest photo credit unknown.

THE shows you always wanted to see in addition to Designer Shows were the Designer Sportswear Shows, Louis Dell’Olio for Anne Klein, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.  Each spectacular and each with its own flair and each standing room only…those were the days, my friends!

imageRichard Tyler 1993-1994 became the designer for Anne Klein after Louis left (!!).  He came from a very structured, almost men’s tailoring background.  His garments were magnificently constructed, the Collection, we featured with his personal appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, was all black with a bit of white (you can see the white on my shirt, the black suit is also from the collection, and his t-shirt) totally different from the color of Louis’ era. He came with his wife and new baby and was a joy to work with, very quiet almost shy in nature and a true craftsman. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageFrom the Richard Tyler for Anne Klein and Company.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageThe Richard Tyler stint at AK was short lived and he was followed by Patrick Robinson, 1994-1996.  I adored working with Patrick a true talent and a total gentleman with great style. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago. Since I am only discussing the designers I worked with I will only mention the designers who followed in quick succession they were 1998 Ken Kaufman and Isaac Franco, 2007 Isabell Toledo

imageOne of my favorite designers, Charles Nolan, 2001-2003, left to go into politics (you heard that correctly!!!!) and returned with his own charming and very salable signature line.  He died much too young in 2011, a major loss to all of us.  This picture was taken at a Misericordia Heart of Mercy benefit show.  Charles made two personal appearances for the orgaization and showed his delightful signature collections. I’m wearing a piece from his collection and the fabulous pearl necklace is from his accessories collection, I also have a couple pairs of his shoes (where are they!!!???) also fun. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

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Charles Nolan for Anne Klein, Pinterest photo credits unknown.

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The current creative director, Sharon Lombardo, will she turn the brand back to where it should be….let’s hope so, I for one miss the Anne Klein of yore.  Photo from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

How about a couple of recipes from Donna and Louis….

FROM THE HELEN O’HAGAN SAKS FIFTH AVENUE COOK FOR STYLE BOOK 1983

DONNA KARAN FOR ANNE KLEIN DEVILED CHICKEN

1 2 lb. broiling chicken or 2 chicken breasts with bone in

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon crushed peppercorns

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

Pre-heat broiler at maximum for 15 minutes.

Lay chicken on a chopping block with the breast facing down and split it open along the entire backbone.  Crack the breast bone from inside. (have your butcher do this!) Spread the chicken as flat as possible.  In other words, flaten the chicken until it looks like a mounted butterfly!

Put the chicken in a deep dish.  Pour the lemon juice over the chicken then add the peppercorns and olive oil.  Cover the dish and let it marinate for 3 hours or overnight  Discard marinade. When ready to cook, sprinkle chicken with salt and broil skin side up about 5″ from the flame.  When skin turns light brown, baste with freshly made marinade.  Turn again after 8 minutes.  Cook briefly on both sides again another 3 minutes or so until meat is tender to the prick of a fork.

If you run out of marinade before chicken is done use a teaspoon more of olive oil.  Before serving use another pinch of crushed pepper.

Serve with rice and almost any vegetable, how about broiled tomatoes.

A dry French wine — white, of course!

Serves 2

All from the book with the exception of discarding the marinade that the chicken has soaked in, I have discarded it and done a fresh batch, add ingredients accordingly.

LOUIS DELL’OLIO FOR ANNE KLEIN FETTUCINE AL SUGO DI VONGOLE

2 dozen littleneck clams (the tinest you can find)

1 tablespoon shallots, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsely, chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper, chopped

1/4 cup white wine

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt to taste, but not too much

1 pound fettucine or linguine

Wash clams in cold water, put in a covered saucepan over high flame.  As clams open up, shuck them and put into small bowl.  After shucking all the clams pour the juice from the pan over them.  Set aside.  Put shallots in small saucepan with oil and saute over medium high heat until translucent.  Add the garlic and saute until light gold color appears.  Add parsley and hot pepper, stir a bit, add wine.  Allow wine to boil until it evaporates by half.  Turn off heat. Chop the clams up even smaller than the smallest one.  Filter the clam juice though a seive lined with a paper towel or cheese cloth.  You should have 2/3 cup of liquid.  If there is more, discard it.  Add the liquid to the sauce and boil again until reduced by half.  Add the chopped up clams, they should be turned quickly into the sauce.  Turn off heat.  Add butter and cheese.  Mix thoroughly.  Taste and correct with salt.  Salt many not be required.

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt to 4 quarts boiling water, then drop in pasta and drain as soon as it it tender, but nutty (al dente) to the bite.  The minute the pasta is drained, put it in a warming serving dish, pour the sauce over it.  Re-heat sauce if no longer hot.  Toss thoroughly and serve immediately.  Grated cheese, although not recommended for clam sauce, can be served on the side. Serves 4.

Serve with a dry white wine, French or Italian, and a simple salade Verde (endive, watercress, lightly dressed)

 

 

 

COLLECTIONS: INSECTS PART 1……IN FASHION

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I’ve been seriously thinking about bees and how their demise will effect our beloved Earth, we MUST protect them and see that they continue to exist!!!  It got me to thinking about how insects, in general, are always with us and how they turn up in fashion, beauty, interiors, art, books…etc., etc!  I have gathered so much “stuff” that this will be a two-part post this week and next week.

As I was preparing to do this post I was drawn again to A. S. Byatt’s book, Angels & Insects.  I actually saw the film before I read the book.  I found both beautifully detailed, the 1995 film, in particular, was visually stunning, (I love Kristen Scott Thomas in anything!) but also disturbing.  If you haven’t seen it here is the trailer https://youtu.be/bdqnz-FtIog to wet your appetite.

imageFrom the film Angels & Insects, one of the main characters in costume.  No, it isn’t for a costume party it is a day dress but why, one would ask, would you want to look like a bumble bee???!!!

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imageA Lasage gold embroidered bee that was created for an Haute Couture garment. Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageA truly magnificent gown and hat from the genius of Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.  I am obsessed with the faux tortoise shell detail scattered with gold and tortoise bees. The gold honeycomb and bees are all embroidered by hand.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageThe Lesage embroidered, on net, sleeve of a Chanel Spring 2016 Haute Couture gown.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageA jeweled honeycomb minaudière from Judith Leiber, I mean seriously…what a work of art!!! Pinterest photo credit unknown.  I’ll do a Fashion Flashback story on Judith Leiber in a future post.

imageA needlepoint chair seat on an antique chair at a private club in Chicago.

imageNapoleon adored bees and used them in many forms.  Here is a woven piece.  Perhaps I should adapt it for my logo!!!???  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageBee hives on the top of a downtown Chicago building.  All new commercial roof tops must have green space.  Many older buildings such as City Hall have gone green as well. Bravo Chicago.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

The following is taken from the absolutely fascinating website The Honeybee Conservancy http://www.thehoneybeeconversancy.org  You can sponsor bee hives and learn so much about bees and their place in history as well as today.

“Although he was never a beekeeper, Napoleon used the honey bee as one of the most important symbols of the power and prestige of his empire.

There seems to be two schools of thought of why Napoleon’s government chose the honey bee as part of its iconography.

One school of thought says the honey bee is representational of the Merovingian kings, the founders of France, with whom Napoleon sought to align himself.

Or...

“When Napoleon moved into the Royal Palace at Tuileries he refused to spend money on new decor. However, he could not allow the drapery – with its embroidered fleur-de-lis (the French Royal emblem) – to continue to hang in the windows of the palace. His solution was to have the rich and elegant drapes turned upside down. The inverted symbol of the overthrown monarchy looked like a bee.  From then on, the tenacious bee became the emblem of Napoleon Bonaparte.

imageI took this photo at last month’s Randolph Street Market at Carrie Homann’s booth, on the Second Floor in the Ballroom, from a collection of insect pins. Isn’t the golden bee especially fabulous!  Carrie always has some insect jewelry at the Shows, but she has so many other collections I would suggest you check her out each month (I’ll be posting more from her especially her Bakelite pieces) and remember if you see something you like, at any of the booths, buy it, it many not be there later that day nor the next month.  When you find something you like be sure to ask the dealer if they have any other treasures you might be collecting, they will be happy to let you know what else they might not have brought that month. http://www.randolphstreetmarket.com

imageA close up of a silver bee pin from Carrie Homann’s jewelry collection.

imageA magnificent necklace (I may need to make this my own, love it!) from the unbelievably talented Stephanie Lake (you remember the week of posts, the week of December 12, 2016, I did on Stephanie, her book on Bonnie Cashin and how she and her husband entertain) http://www.stephanielakedesign.com  Photo courtesy of Stephanie Lake Design.

Let’s switch from bees to beetles….a fascinating story about beetle wing embroidery this amazing phenomenon was brought, along with the site infomation, to my attention by my friend and Columbia College Chicago Faculty member, Virginia Heaven (you have seen some pieces from her vast collections of objects in past posts).  I, of course, needed to do some research on this and found a couple of photos on Pinterest photo credits unknown, that I am sharing with you.,

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The following excerpt is from the scolarly journal,  Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org  It is an absolutely fascinating site.

The earliest form of insect-adorned Western dress derived its inspiration from beetle-embridroidered fabric from India imported by England in the 1840’s and 1850’s.”

Next Thursday we will continue to explore the world of insects in fashion, beauty and home…don’t freak out, we will look at some more beetles and the sheer beauty of the webs spiders spin.  I think you will be interested, and perhaps educated, I know I have been, in how they are used in ways you wouldn’t consider, and no, I’m not doing any recipes using them!!!!!

I leave you with a man and his suit……image

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD

imageWhen I first read this title I thought what……….then I read it was part of a quote from the Fashion Icon, Daphne Guinness, “If I eat, I can’t work. I’ll eat when I’m Dead.”

The story begins with the death of one of the fashion magazine RAGE stylists, Hillary Whitney, who is found dead in a locked conference room of the magazine’s headquarters in New York.  It is ruled that she died as a side effect of the pressure of being thin (not the case!)  Our protagonist, Catherine (Cat) Ono, Hillary’s best friend and co-worker at RAGE, doesn’t believe this to be true.  Like any good mystery in the States or the UK, our heroine becomes “involved” with a detective, in this cases NYPD Detective Mark Hutton.  Along with her colleague, Bess Bonner, Cat sets out to find the truth to Hillary’s death.  We are taken through the often told tale of the seedy side of the fashion business (I’ll give my opinion on that in a bit), party girls (and guys), sex, drugs and rock and roll.  Nothing new here.  It gets interesting when we start hearing about drug induced creams and lotions and the billion dollar cosmetic industry and how all this ties together.  Of course, as in The Devil Wears Prada, everyone is stunning, tiny, ambitious and extremely well dressed, accessorized, coiffed and made-up in the latest whatevers!!! I’m not going to go into the plot as it does a few turns, nothing terribly mysterious but a fun ride none the less.

Some reviews I have read thought it was a satire, perhaps, but I found it to be exploitive. As you know, I have worked in the fashion industry my entire life, am I saying these things don’t happen, of course not, but what I must say is that with all the models I have worked with (and I have shared many of their stories with you…) they were naturally thin, still are (I was among them, not thin anymore, nor was I a model!!!) and didn’t starve themselves to death (actually one did have anorexia, many years ago, we didn’t know what it was then, and tragically, she did pass away) and I never had any compliments from visiting designers on having models who could not fit the sample clothes.  Now let’s talk drugs…yes, I had a couple of models who I knew did drugs, did they do this in front of me, no, of course not, but did talk openly about it and never came “stoned” to a show (or was I being naive!!) A lot of drinking goes on in the novel and a lot of late night parties….of course, that was part of the club scene, but again, not to the point of interfering in their work with me. I find it very frustrating that all novels about the world of fashion always makes it out to be a sleazy business…I would say on the contrary. This one has the young women trying to make it in NYC while the older women are fighting to stay in control, again we have heard this before.  Is the industry competitive, yes, is it exciting, yes, is it always looking for the new idea, yes, is it fast paced, yes, do you need ambition, yes…it is all of those things and so much more.  Fashion is a huge industry, employing millions and pumps billions into the economy.  I’m not wearing blinders and am well aware that there are sweatshops that MUST be eliminated, that wages aren’t equal all over the world, or in the US, again this MUST be stopped, that there are unethical people in the business and, unfortunately, most businesses.

Would I suggest you read it, sure, why not….  In the end, I would say, I expected more from the premise, our author, Barbara Bourland, is already working on a sequel, Maniacs, will I read it, you bet I will!

 

PS TODAY  IS THE ANNIVERSARY OF MY BLOG….8 MONTHS AND COUNTING!!!!!

 

PROFILE: CATHERINE GRACE O’CONNELL

imageCatherine Grace O’Connell in Bhanuni dress at Anthropologie, Michael Stars hat

I want you to meet a new friend of mine, Catherine Grace O’Connell.  We were introduced by Annette Findling, http://www.womenwhorock.com whose profile I posted on March 6, 2017.  I was asked to join a group that was being formed by Catherine, The Fierce 50.  A group of women over 50 who have commen interests, fashion, decorating, books, self esteem…etc. this sounded right up my alley and, obviously, probably because of nena’snotes as well as a trend to featured “older” models in editorials and ads (Carmen, Lauren Hutton, etc.), books and movies…think IRIS and Advanced Style, I was interested in joining.  Shortly after that introduction and being accepted into the fledgling group (hardly that now!!!!) I met Catherine at a coffee get together along with Annette and Kendra Chaplin, Publisher of Chicago Woman magazine  http://www.chicago-woman.com and we all enjoyed a converstion that could have gone on for days not just a cup of coffee.  Plans are being made to take The Fierce 50 Revolution much further than I think even Catherine thought of when she began this new venture.  Now sit back enjoy your drink of choice and hear about Catherine’s journey, I know you will enjoy the ride, her story is impactful and for her, and others, inspirational….she is filled with compassion and a love for life that is infectious!

imageBlue and white stripe StyleKeepers blouse from Aros, Paige Denim jeans, Sam Edelman shoes and Clare V clutch

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT

My first impression was only recently. I came from a family that never gave any positive messages about myself. It took most of my life to undo the original programming and low self esteem that I suffered with for most of my life. I always knew that I had a flair and passion for fashion yet I was told that it was superficial and definitely not a career path. I had no idea that I had any talent when it came to writing and I never saw myself as creative in any way until recently. The launch of my blog http://www.CatherineGraceO.com was a real turning point in my life. I was coming back from having spent an entire year bedridden with seizures and I went down to 100 pounds. My organs began shutting down and on 11/11/14, I went through a Near Death Experience. The creation of the blog is what saved my life. Channeling my energy in a positive way and focusing on living rather than surviving made all the difference in the world. I found an internal confidence that I never knew existed. I had been on a deeply spiritual path and that was an enormous part of my recovery as well. Healing from the inside out, finding passion and purpose and reconnecting with the world and helping others was the key to saving my life.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN

I’m not sure I have “made it” as of yet. What I am certain of is that for the first time in my life, my beliefs about myself have changed. I like who I am and I love what I am doing with my life. Even while a young child, I felt different from others. I always knew that I had a bigger purpose and I was here to make a difference in the world and to try and leave this world a better place. Founding The Fierce 50 was life changing for me. My heart feels such empathy for others. I have never understood why people discount people due to age. To me, age is just a number and our attitude toward life is everything. The Fierce 50 brings a new vibrance, energy and hope to women at midlife and beyond.

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Beth Briggs Illustration http://www.bethbriggs.com (Nena’s note, I think she is a brilliant illustrator and the images constantly change looks, fashion and more importantly, body shapes!)

HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW

I was passionate about fashion as a young girl. Believe it or not, I was raised as a tomboy and never had pretty clothes. I had 4 brothers and the house was a very male household with gocarts and motorcycles. I never had a Barbie doll.  When I was old enough to begin working at 13, I spent all my money on clothing. When I was 16, I took a bus to the mall and went to work at Charles A. Stevens. I spent every penny of my paycheck on clothes. It was such a confidence builder. When I would try on something new and beautiful, it would affect the way that I felt about myself. I found fashion to be incredibly empowering and life changing. It’s an amazing way for a woman to use her own creative powers of self expression. Fashion is the way the world views us. It’s kind of like a personal calling card. Let’s be honest, we live in a very image conscious world and people judge us based upon how we look. I don’t believe that you should ever dress for others but it’s a great way to express your personal style. When you look beautiful, you feel beautiful. Beautiful design has a way of shifting our energy and people respond to positive energy.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE

I’m surprised by how much I love to write. When I first began to write many years ago, I was going through a very contentious divorce. I was in a dark place and the writing mirrored where I was at during that time. As I’ve evolved and healed, I’ve found that my writing is coming from a place of pure inspiration. It’s really easy for me. The words just flow very easily. I don’t “think” about it. I just write and allow the inspiration to come through. Great writing always takes teamwork. My business manager is also my editor and he’s brilliant at it. We make a fabulous team. He’s actually my ex-boyfriend who saved my life when I was bedridden with Lyme. That’s a whole story that hasn’t been told. We have a great partnership and work very well together. When you write, it’s difficult to see certain things clearly. It’s always helpful to have a second set of eyes on the creative process.

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Cleobella dress, Michael Stars Hat

I’ve also recently launched a radio show with Kathy Kaehler who was on The Today Show for 14 years. She’s a brilliant radio host and we make a great team. We launched Cat & Kaehler: Fiercely Empowering Women of All Ages Through the Lens of Midlife. It’s really a show about the art of reinvention at midlife. We have both been through a great deal of adversity and we share very openly and authentically. We are also the voice of The Fierce 50 and we can’t wait to share the stories of the amazing women, including yours, Nena! If I were to do it all over again, I would have gone to school for journalism and broadcasting. I didn’t any self confidence and never dreamed that I could be doing what I’m doing today. I went to Vanderbilt University and double majored in Economics and French. I was planning to study International Finance so that I could go to Third World Countries and save the world. The studies weren’t my passion. Serving others definitely was and that’s what I’m doing today in a very different capacity.

YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, THEATER (BALLET, OPERA, SYMPHONY),TYPE OF MUSIC, LOCAL RESTAURANT

Oh, that’s hard. I have lots of favorite books. I’m a voracious reader. I grew up in the library surrounded by books.  I was drawn to biographies and autobiographies as a child. I went through some very dark times in my marriage and I found the spiritual path which lit a fire inside of me. I’m a huge fan of Wayne Dyer. I love his “A Spiritual Solution to Every Problem” and “I can See Clearly Now.” I also love David Hawkens, “Power V. Force” and Danielle LaPorte, “White Hot Truth.” I recently interviewed her over the phone and she’s the real deal.

As far as movies, I rarely get to the movie theatre but I did see LaLa Land and though it was brilliant. I needed to see it as I wanted the inspiration for a Chico’s video and it was very inspiring. Tom Shadyac made a fabulous and eye opening movie called “I  Am” that I found very inspiring. Right now, I’m watching “American Playboy” as I’m studying for an interview with Christie Hefner. She’s coming into the radio studio to do a live show in July and I’m thrilled. I have to admit that I was a bit closed minded about Playboy as I had certain ideas that have changed since watching the series. People may have preconceived notions about Hugh Hefner and Playboy. I’ve absolutely loved the series. Regardless of what you may think about him and Playboy, I’m fairly certain your viewpoint may change upon seeing the miniseries. He was a visionary and a brilliant businessman. I do believe that many women have a secret, sensual side that they may not know they have inside of them. He seemed to tap into this during a time period that was very conservative.

When it comes to theatre, I’ll take Musical Theatre any day. My favorite musical of all time remains RENT. I can sign along to that musical soundtrack any day. Although, you may not want to hear me sing. I belt ut songs at the top of my lungs and lets just say, I’ve never been trained!

I went to school in the South and Country Music and Southern Rock will always be my favorites. I put on the song, “The Fighter” which is a duet with Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban almost daily. I’m an energy worker and this song shifts my energy in an instant!

I grew up in Chicago and moved to LA 7 years ago. I’ve always been a seafood lover. My favorite restaurant is in the Northern Suburbs of Ravinia. It’s called Michaels. It’s run by Michael Paulsen who is also the chef and its’ truly the most divine food I have ever tasted. He starts with these homemade rolls fresh out of the oven covered in the most delicious cheese. It’s heaven! In LA, I live in the South Bay. My favorite restaurant is very casual. It’s the Fish House in Manhattan Beach. I would be great on a desert island. Give me fish and coconuts, and I’m a happy camper.

HOBBIES….

I took up yoga late in life. I started in Chicago in my early 40’s and I never quite found my spot. Moving to Manhattan Beach, I discovered the YogaLoft. If I had more time, I would become an instructor and train there. They have the most fabulous instructors. It’s very laid back with no pressure and I love that. To me, yoga is all about you. It’s not meant to be competitive. It’s designed to create space inside of you and to reconnect you to your mind and body. I also love meditation. I can’t say I’m great at it as it’s hard to stay focused but that’s the point. I went to a meditation retreat in Whistler with Deepak Chopra and Davidji. It was life changing. I remember coming back and people thought I had snuck away and had work done! I had to laugh. Truly. We had a week of 12 hour meditation and it was hard but brilliant. I try and do it every single day. I also do breathwork and energy work.

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I also love to do artwork. I can’t say I’m great at it but I do enjoy simple meditative coloring books and mandalas.

HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC

I had an interior design business in Chicago. I wasn’t formally trained but I’ve always had an “eye” for beautiful design and aesthetics. To me, it’s no different than fashion. It’s all about creative self expression. I’m very eclectic and non-traditional. I did my home in Chicago and did the entire renovation. I lived in Winnetka and made it a very beachy home with soft whites, pale blues and seashell scones and chandeliers. I guess I have always been a California girl at heart! A California couple bought the home. I’m not a big antique collector but I do love the Asian philosophy. I collect things like Buddhas and Quanyin figurines. I love things that have deep, spiritual devotional meanings. My daughter told me if I brought home one more Buddha she was going to kill me. You have to laugh!

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER (LIVING OR DEAD) AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE

Oh, that’s a hard one. I have so many people I’m dying to interview. I absolutely love people’s stories. I’m one of those people that are very open and people love to ask me for advice. I was supposed to go on a cruise with Wayne Dyer right before he passed away. He would be at the top of the list. So would Mother Theresa, Jesus, Mother Mary, and David Hawkins.

FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND WHERE DO YOU WANT TO VISIT

I haven’t traveled a lot but have a deep desire to see the world. My favorite place would be either the beach or the mountains. I’ve never forgotten my first visit to Estes Park, Colorado or the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. I also love the beach. Maui is absolutely breathtaking and magical. I have a huge bucket list for travel. I would start with the Maldives and Bali. I’ve also never been to Italy and Greece. Those are high on my list.

imageAdidas Dress, Asos by Public Desire shoes

YOUR FAVORITE CHICAGO PUBLIC ART PIECE

I love the sculpture at Millennial Park. I can’t recall what they call the sculpture but it’s breathtaking. (Nena’s note, I presume she means Cloud Gate!)

HOW DO YOU  WANT TO BE REMEMBERED

I want to leave this world a better place. I’m a total empath and I feel people’s pain as though it were my own. Quite honestly, that’s why I started The Fierce 50. It was painful to me to see how women over 50 were treated. I’ve not had that difficult of an experience myself. I believe it’s because people have always thought I was younger than my age. I’ve never ever lied about my age except to get into a bar when I was under age. Other than that, I have always believed that we should be proud of our age and celebrate every moment. I love being a crusader for women over 50. I intend to be on the forefront of ushering in a new paradigm where we are revered for our age and our wisdom, much like they are in the Far East. Every single year is a triumph and a blessing. Plus, we are sending the wrong message to younger generations. They fear getting older when they should embrace it.

WOULD YOU SHARE A FAVORITE RECIPE OR TWO WITH US

I have an incredible homemade spaghetti that I make. It’s to die for and it’s one of my most requested recipes. It’s called Sensational Spaghetti  http://www.food.com/recipe/sensational-spaghetti-sauce-109761 and I also make a homemade pot roast that’s killer. It cooks for hours so the meat falls apart. I was a vegetarian for awhile and I was sick all the time. I had to add meat back into my diet. I work for a nutrition company that’s on the cutting edge of superfood nutrition. I’m a big believer in healing from the inside out and also finding balance in your life. I don’t believe in diets or restriction. I believe in moderation in everything! I used to have a sweet tooth and was an addict. It’s completely gone now finding superfood nutrition. I start every day with a vegan dairy free chai meal replacement shake. It’s my greatest health secret.

CATHERINE’S BEEF POT ROAST

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs Beef Stew
2 to 3 cups red wine
3 tablespoons condensed beef broth(glass jar in grocery store-not liquid or powder)
2 cans organic tomatoes, 1 crushed and 1 puree
2 bay leaves
2 large carrots
1 large onion cut into wedges
2 green peppers
1 to 1 1/2 packages lipton onion soup mix depending on flavor preference
Wide butter noodles
Homemade Biscuits
In a dutch oven, brown a pound and a half of beef stew meat in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil that you have lightly coated in flour.
Cut up carrots, celery, onion and green pepper. Add to meat when half way browned and saute together until meat is fully browned and veggies are soft.
Boil wine with beef broth and pour over. Add tomatoes and all spices and bay leaf. Cover and simmer on the lowest temperature possible. Keep checking as it has to cook very slowly. Sometimes, I move it halfway off the burner to make sure it doesn’t boil too quickly. Cook until meat is fork tender and melts in your mouth. Serve over the widest butter noodles you can find with homemade biscuits. Enjoy.

imageUrban Outfitters black and white check crop top and pants, Cult Gaia bag, Zara shoes and sunglasses, French Kande necklaces
All photos courtesy of Catherine Grace O’Connell

CATHERINE’S SOCIAL MEDIA INFORMATION

Blog: http://www.CatherineGraceO.com

Radio: Cat & Kaehler

Cat & Kaehler Show Page: http://www.latalkradio.com/content/cat-kaehler

Archives on are this page as well

iTunes: search Cat & Kaehler

Instagram and Twitter: @catherinegraceo

Facebook: CatherineGraceO

Facebook: Fierce 50 Revolution Group Public Group

Newsletter: http://catherinegraceo.com/newsletter-sign-up/

BLOGS CATHERINE FOLLOWS

http://www.GirlMeetsGlam.com

http://www.TheMiddlePageBlog.com

http://www.Chicover50.com

http://www.Agei.st.com

http://www.IntotheFrow.com

PROFILE: MICHAEL R. HAWLEY

imageMichael R. Hawley

As I continue my series of profiles of people I have known forever, new acquittances, and people I think you would be interested in learning about…I have found several that have had major impact on my life and career…one such is Michael R. Hawley.  I first met Michael when he came to Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago as Vice President and General Manager.  He had just, extremely successfully, opened the Bloomingdale’s SoHo store.  We had been without a Store Manager for quite some time and, of course, everyone was excited and a bit apprehensive as to who the new “guy” would be.  (Just a Nena’s note, in the 53 years I was with the company I had 8 managers, my first, Howard J. “Hal” Clyne was my boss for 20 of those years.  Some had very long terms, some very brief…before they left for “greener pastures” and most were 3-year stints.  I must admit I can’t even recall all the ownership and Corporate changes.  Let’s say I’m still a Gimbel girl at heart and am thrilled that the company is once again owned by a world-renowned retailer….Hudson Bay!  Yay, Saks Fifth Avenue!) I must tell you Michael’s enthusiam was contagious…he wanted everyone to participate to their best ability as individuals and as a team and a team we continued to be.  I wanted to have all our new Store Managers to feel comfortable not only in the Store but in their new City.  I hope I helped him with his relocation, I do know we became good friends from the beginning.  I always love that he tells everyone since he knew I was retiring in November of 2009, he decided to leave the company in August, it does make a good story, don’t you agree! It is with deep pleasure that I share his journey with you….enjoy his story….

MICHAEL, TELL US WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT

I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t fascinated by products and brands.  I grew up in Cincinnati, the headquarters of Proctor & Gamble and Federated Department Stores, at the time.  The stores were wonderlands of excitement.  The sense of theater and showmanship had been key to the growth of the industry.  Proctor & Gamble marketed the consumer brands in everyone’s homes.  I taught myself to read, before starting school, by recognizing brand logos in the Yellow Pages. With that accomplished, I opened my first store at the age of 5 on our front porch.  I don’t recall sales being brisk but I certainly enjoyed merchandising the store.  It would seem that I have always been a retailer.

My first paying job, if one considers $1.90 per hour as being paid, was in a fine linen store, as box boy.  Perhaps they had heard of my front porch success.   I made gift boxes after school.  Throughout high school and college, I continued to work in the store.   Whenever a coworker went on vacation, I offered to learn their job.  Through those years, I was exposed to all aspects of the business and was an eager student.

imageHere not only a great article but Michael’s career timeline.  Chicago Tribune.

Many people in my family were very creative.  I was in awe of the beauty of their art and their ability to create it.  Having produced art projects in school that only a mother could love, I did not self identify as creative.  After college I had the opportunity to move to San Francisco.  I was quite confident that with my all my experience in the linen store that I would quickly be snapped up by one of big stores in need of my assistance.  As you might imagine, it didn’t turn out quite like I expected.  I was hired as holiday sales help in the silver department at Gump’s.  It was a fascinating emporium of incredible merchandise from all over the world.  They were legendary arbiters of good taste.  As part of the interview process we were required to pass a taste test.

After Christmas, I was hired as an assistant buyer in the Crystal department.  I was then promoted to my first job.  I was responsible for the textile department, which meant handwoven Persian rugs and various tribal textiles such as camel trappings.   The moths had plenty to eat. The company was in the process of finalizing plans for a major storewide event.  My predecessor had committed to a “textile shop”.  It was scheduled to open in six weeks…and nothing had been done including a workable concept.

I read everything I could find to learn about the rugs and learned about business conducted in the ways of the Middle East.  I found a resource for the most incredible antique fabrics from a couple who dealt in antique couture.  Although the individual pieces were beautiful as they were, they were not particularly saleable.  I created a London “cushion” shop filled with beautiful one of kind pillows that retailed up to $1500.  This is where I first recognized the creativity in myself.  It became successful leading to four collections a year and having my responsibility extended to the lamp department.  It was almost exclusively product that I designed and had made.  I loved the whole process.

imageMichael gave me this magnificent textile pillow when he was Vice Presiden/General Manager of Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago.  I treasure this magnificent addition to my pillow collection primarily because he made it and most of all that he thought enough of me to share his creation with me!
MICHAEL, WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT”

I am not at all sure that we ever make it.  There is always another mountain to climb and new challenges to conquer.  One time that comes to mind was when I was interviewed by the New York Times.  I had just opened a new store for Bloomingdale’s in SoHo as the General Manager.

imageCover of Women’s Wear Daily for Bloomingdale’s SoHo Opening.

It was a very successful store opening and created a shift in the paradigm for the company.  Reading about oneself in the NYT provided a certain feeling of having arrived  http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/04/nyregion/public-lives-a-merchandise-snob-out-to-exceed-expectations.html  Soon after being pursued by Saks Fifth Avenue for the Michigan Avenue store was also very flattering.

imageChicago Magazine piece 2006

MICHAEL, HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW

I am a passionate guy.   I can’t imagine spending a significant amount of time, let alone a lifetime, doing something for which I lacked passion.   To do so would feel like my own personal hell.

My path has been far from linear.  It does not look at all similar to what a career counselor describes to their soon to be college graduates.  Early in my career, I failed to get whatever position I wanted at the time.  I was open minded towards the opportunities, and trusted that it was in the company’s best interest to place me where they saw the greatest potential for success.  I was willing to learn and one thing led to another.  I just kept saying yes.

MICHAEL, WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE

This is an excellent question.  I was not someone with career angst.  When I was young, I never considered doing anything else.  Not once.  Having any particular talent frankly did not occur to me.   I just loved merchandise and never thought about another path.

There are two distinct roles as a retailer.  Merchandising is one and management is the other.  As my career developed, I found leading large teams very rewarding and I was good at it. The team at Saks Chicago numbered more than 300.  I like to think that leading a store family helped me become a better person.  There was no shortage of opportunities for me to learn the impact of my actions on others.  As a leader, I believe it is my responsibility to understand what my team members need from me to be successful and then provide it.  I want to make it fun and rewarding.  Winning is fun.

imageSkin Dimemsoms Team.

I get to enjoy watching people achieve more than they believed possible and that provides immense satisfaction.  If I had known then, what I know now, I would have studied Clinical Psychology and opened a private practice.

imageCheering on the Bloomingdale’s SoHo team.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, THEATER (BALLET, OPERA, SYMPHONY), TYPE OF MUSIC, LOCAL RESTAURANT/AND/OR TYPE OF FOOD

Beyond raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, I have a favorite everything.  Just another aspect of life where my passion comes to play.  I enjoy reading biographies.  It is fascinating to learn about someone whose life may differ greatly from one’s own, yet beneath it all, we all have the same wants and needs.  I just finished WAR PAINT, by Lindy Woodhead.  The beauty industry that we know today was created in large part by two early entrepreneurs, Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein.  The book was adapted for Broadway and I can’t wait to see it on my next trip to New York.

I don’t recall a time without music in my life.  As a kid, I loved The Motown Sound.   My taste has expanded and is rather eclectic.  I listen to music everyday and love to sing.   Following a brief stint in the choir at church, I now headline only in the shower or car.  No thanks for this kindness is necessary.

imageHaving fun at a black tie gala.

My favorite restaurant is Parachute on Elston in Avondale http://www.parachuterestaurant.com.  Beverly and John have created a unique space with outstanding food drawing inspiration from Korean American cuisine.    Their passion is apparent and we already know how I feel about that!

WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES

I am a genealogist.  Frustrated about my family’s inability to answer my questions, I decided to do some research myself.   This has developed into a 20 year never ending project that I have found incredibly fascinating and inspiring.   We study history and learn what our culture has determined was so.  Even family histories are biased and frequently revisionist.  It is quite special to have some visibility into who were our ancestors as human beings and having enough knowledge to determine why they made the choices they made.

MICHAEL DESCRIBE YOUR  HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC

My taste is rather eclectic and has evolved over time.   It is primarily mid-century modern coupled with Asian antiques.  After many years of collecting, I find, like many others, that I am editing, and quite happy doing with less. (Nena’s note, his home is exquisite!!)

MICHAEL’S FANTASY DINNER GUEST LIST

  1. Diana, Princess of Wales
  2. Forrest Trefz, maternal grandfather
  3. Jackie Onassis
  4. Jesus of Nazareth
  5. Joseph Hawley, 1603-1690, 9th GGF
  6. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
  7. Mohammed
  8. Moses
  9. Ray Hawley, paternal GF
  10. The Dalai Llama
  11. Thomas Jefferson
  12. Michael Hawley

I would serve Cincinnati Chili, of course.

imageI am mad for “original” recipes, Michael’s well used orginial copy from Cincinnati newspaper.  Sounds yummy, enjoy!!!

  1. MICHAEL’S FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND WHERE HE WOULD LIKE TO VISIT

    I most enjoyed a trip China several years ago.   My list of destinations is quite long and includes, Antarctica, The Galapagos, and Mars.

    HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED

    Ah, to be remembered at all is very special.  It is important to me to have impact.   I want to be remembered as a person of contribution.   I am one of the founders of BEAUTYKIND, http://www.beautykind.us, an online retailer.  Our mission is to provide a more meaningful way to shop for beauty products.   We donate 5% of the purchase price to a charity of the customer’s choice.    It is an idea whose time has come.

    One of my charities of choice is charity: water.    While I was running Saks, I challenged the team to build a well.   I am very proud to share that we built it in Eritbo, Ethiopia.   It provides 400 people with water everyday that they would not otherwise have. Link to our well  https://vimeo.com/4247997

    imageMichael’s grandparents, his grandfather, the well driller.

    MICHAEL’S FAVORITE CHICAGO PUBLIC ART PIECE

    Chicago Botanic Gardens is one of my favorite places anywhere.   The property is so beautifully designed and executed, I could spend eternity there.
    SOME BLOGS MICHAEL FOLLOWS

    I am obsessed with wellness and self improvement.  I read Well + Good http://www.wellandgood.com, The Fine Line and A Mishfit Life http://www.mishfitlife.com and, of course, http://www.nenasnotes.com.

    https://beautykind.us

    imageMy current most favorite photo of Michael taken in New York.

    All photos courtesy of Michael R. Hawley with the exception of the pillow photo courtesy of it’s proud owner, Nena Ivon!

FASHION FLASHBACK: PAULINE TRIGERE

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It’s a Sunday afternoon and the phone rings, a deep throaty voice with a magnificent French accent “Nena, Pauline….” it could not be anyone else!  Most every Sunday for many years I would get this call and the same introduction.  Always just a short hello and touch base for the week.

Sit back, pour yourself another cup of coffee or a glass of champagne this is a long one….

imageA treasured photo that hung on the “designer wall of fame” in my office.  The criteria was that you had at least made a personal appearance in the Store.  It is now part of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago and I am using it with their permission.

I was a very, very lucky gal to be able to work with the best of the best during my career at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago.  I have done several posts of some of the designers I have worked with, I’m trying to do them in some order, not always working, I’m sorry to say, but that is my intent.  Having done shows, personal appearances, etc,. with well over 150 fashion personalities we will have lots of time to explore their importance on fashion and, for the purpose of nena’snotes, on my life and career.  Of course, there are those who impacted me more than others, Adolfo, Bill Blass, Bob Mackie, Oscar de la Renta, Norman Norell, Mark Heister, to highlight several that I worked with and admired most, and who became friends (sorry all others….loved almost all of you…those are other stories to be told!!)  And for this post, Pauline Trigère.

When I began at Saks, Pauline was showing her collections at Millie B. Oppenheimer (located at 1300 North State Parkway in the old Ambassador Hotels) and worked with the dynamic Ellie Pope, one of the Chicago fashion icons.  Since I was totally into knowing as much as I could about all the “name” designers, the name Pauline Trigère was totally familiar to me.  We did carry her line in Chicago and, of course, in New York.  I got to see her garments up close and personal when doing the annual St. Luke’s Fashion Show (now the annual Rush Medical Center Fashion Show) in which Oppenheimer always featured her garments.  When Oppenheimer closed we were fortunate to have Pauline join us for personal appearances and formal fashion shows.

I have talked about going to the New York Fashion Weeks for many years and when I began the shows were primarily in the designer’s showrooms, Pauline never varied from this practice.  Her shows were intimate (usually done over two days, two per day) and at the beginning of my attending the shows she commentated them, then she became a back of the house last minute check while a number or name of the garment was read.  When she did shows for us in Chicago she always commentated the shows and her audiences loved her insightful comments…we sold her clothes like popcorn!!!

imageMaybe if we look very closely we can find me in the audience….this coat was very typical of the Trigère look (I remember having many conversations with her about her major regret of not “licensing” her coats.  She wanted to keep complete control over her garments, rightly so.)  You could always identify a Trigère garment it had her creativity all over it.

imageHer signature coat, it spells PAULINE TRIGÈRE!  Two of my coats are in the Columbia College Chicago Fashion Study Collection, one in a royal purple mohair and the other in a cranberry wool with wide notched collar.

Let’s go back to the beginning of her story.  Pauline was born in Paris, France in 1908 (some references say 1912) to Russian émigrés, Alexander, a tailor and Cecile, a dressmaker.  She wanted to become a surgeon but instead at age 15 apprenticed with a Paris Couture house and afer a few days she was told that they couldn’t teach her any more than she already knew, she stayed a year when she returned to work for her parents where she had begun as a young girl picking up pins and scraps from the floor.  Her first design was a party dress when she was in school it was made because there wasn’t money to buy one.  .

At age 19 she married a another Russian immigrant and tailor, Lazar Radley with whom she had two sons, Jean-Pierre and Philippe. In 1937 she, her two sons, her brother and mother fled France with the intention of going to Chile.  Instead, after having a layover in New York for 6 weeks and a trip to Detroit to visit an uncle, she decided to stay in New York (she has stated that she wouldn’t live anywhere but New York!).  She knew no English and learned to speak by watching movies.  She became a design assistant at Ben Gershel & Co. and then an assistant to Travis Banton at Hattie Carnetie (FYI Carnegie never had a woman designer, didn’t believe in them) from 1937 until 1941, leaving just after Pearl Harbor.  She separated from her husband and opened her own company, the House of Trigère with her brother Robert in 1942, by 1945 she had a respected label and shall we say the rest is history!!!! Throughout her career she made clothes for a woman with an active lifestyle.  She designed for herself and was always her best model.  She planned her clothes to move with the wearer, using fluid jerseys, chiffon.  Her forte was wool, and she loved working on the bias, using sheer wools for afternoon and evening gowns.  She usually added a jacket, a full length coat or a cape to go with each dress, and as I mentioned, always cut her garments into the cloth rather than making a pattern or muslin. Pauline won every fashion award, the Coty 3 times and in 1982 the highest decoration of the City of Paris, La Medaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris.

imageIn her workroom working on a garment draping and cutting into the fabric which she then turned over to her pattern maker…you are looking at a genius at work.  Image from Pinterest, photo credit unknown.

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The finale of one of her shows in her New York showroom.  From Pinterest, photo credit unknown.

imageThe finale of her 50th Anniversary Show 1992.  The finale was a retrospective of her collections.  It was a huge hit with the audience at a private club in Chicago.  We did a show for the Club for many years.  Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago, http://www.colum.edu.

She was 5’4″ tall but gave the impression of being 8′ tall with her wonderful personality and unmatched talent.  She draped and cut directly into the fabric, didn’t  do a model she just DID IT!!!  On one occasion I flew into New York to surprise her, she was doing a lecture/demonstration at FIT, I stayed at the back of the room and listened along with the students and guests to her explaining how to design while working on a dress, which she completed at the end of her talk.  She looked up and saw me and the smile I got was worth the entire trip!  She was thrilled that I thought enough of her to surprise her.  I also attended her 50 Anniversary Gala, it was some party!!!!

She adored her home in Connectcut, La Tortue, so named because when she was looking at the property a giant turtle was basking in the sun on a big rock in the pond on the property.  I once asked her about her love of turtles, she replied “I didn’t really love them but since the country home is named for them everyone gives me turtles…pins, boxes, paintings, etc.” so now I love them!”  Her signature scarf is an abstract turtle print.

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At home at La Tortue.  Image from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

She adored entertaining at her New York apartment, which had a wonderous red room (think Diana Vreeland!!) and she often did the cooking (I’ve included one of her recipes at the end of this post). When I was in New York, which was at least twice a year sometimes more and I often spent my summer vacations there we would go to dinner in small neighborhood restaurants, always French and always delightful and beyond delicious.

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Some stills from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Givenchy did all of Audrey Hepburn’s costumeas and Pauline Trigère did Patricia Neals!  Neal’s character was the Trigère woman, elegant, self assured and moneyed, a perfect collaboration.  Pinterest photos credit unknown.

She adored men and, in my opinion was quite the flirt in a totally charming way.  When she was in Chicago for events I would oftens take her to dinner with some of my gentlemen friends and she found them delightful, so much so that they were invited to join me at her shows in New York on several occasions (on these trips we all stayed in a three bedroom suite at The Mark and would cross the street to the Cafe Carlyle to hear Bobby Short with much champagne and caviar…those were definitely the days). And did I mention the foyer of our suite was always filled with dozens of Cassablanca lillies…glorious! The guys loved going to the shows and were always treated royally by my designer friends…a totally different world from their businesses.  She closed her ready-to-wear business in 1994 but continued to design her scarves and jewelry as well as produce her incredibly delicious fragrance.  She also designed a collection for Gold Violin a line of accessories for seniors.

Her sketchbooks are housed at Kent State University in her dear friends, Jerry Silverman and Shannon Rogers Collection. Pauline Trigère gave the KSU Museum more than thirty dresses and ensembles, as well as sketchbooks spanning her entire career, from 1944 through 1994. The Trigère sketchbooks are currently housed in the June F. Mohler Fashion Library, located in Rockwell Hall, where they can be viewed by appointment. I visited the archives serveral years ago, they are amazing.  In addition, the Pauline Trigère’s papers are held by Brandeis University Archives & Special Collections.  And, of course, her work is part of every major costume collection in the world including our own Chicago History Museum Costume Collection, http://www.chicagohistory.org.

imageIn her red room surrounded by items she created for Gold Violin. Pinterest photo credit unknown.

Pauline was always beautifully dressed, of course she was, coiffed and always, always, always wore a wonderful red lipstick and shaded glasses.  She came to all our special shows, such as SFA/USA, our 50th anniversary Party in 1979 and the opening of the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Chicago Place in 1990.  Also in 1990 she was an honored guest at the Fashion Group International of Chicago gala held in my honor at the Chicago Hilton…needness to say she was the life of the party!

imageFrom New York’s Designer Walk of Fame.

imagePauline and Nena at the Mayfair Regent in the main floor lounge.  I did many events coordinating with the then PR guru of the Hotel, Biba Roesch as well as many dinners in the Hotel’s Ciel Bleu restaurant, still miss it!  This photo was taken at one of the breakfasts with designers we did.  Informal get togethers with personalities who would share their stories….always fascinating.  I think it’s time to do this again, any takers!!!!????  Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

Pauline remained active, with her great personal charm, French style and joie de vivre, into her 9th decade, she passed away in her sleep on Valentine’s Day 2002.  Oh, how I miss those Sunday “Nena…Pauline” calls!!!!

FROM HELEN O’HAGAN’S COOKING IN STYLE COOKBOOK

PAULINE TRIGÈRE’S CRAB SOUP

2 cans celery soup (PT’s note any brand will do, NI’s note, I use Campbell’s)

1/2 can water or chicken bouillon

1 large onion, grated

Salt and white pepper to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg

1 pint heavy cream

1 pound crabmeat (preferrably fresh can be frozen not canned!!!)

1 cup light sherry

Chopped parsley for garnish

Put celery soup, water or bouillon and the very finely grated onion to heat in a saucepan.  Add salt, white pepper and nutmeg.  When warm, add the cream and crab, and the cup of sherry.  Do not allow to boil, correct seasoning. Top with chopped fresh parsley.  Serves 6.