nenasnotes THE FASHION BOOK CLUB

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A portion of my fashion library.

I am almost giddy with excitement, why you ask….I am celebrating a year of nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club and what a year it has been. Meeting each month with bubbles and bites, door prizes, goodie bags and give away books with a great group of regular members, their guests and new attendees it has been something I look forward to.  Meeting in an elegant Private Club, in my opinion, just adds to this special series.  We spend a half hour mixing and mingling with each other, then an hour of discussion.  I’m working on taping the conversations so I can share them with all of you….stay tuned.

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Our signature bubbles…..

I thought it would be a bit of fun to review what we have read so far and what is on the calendar for the rest of this year, I’ve left some dates open to slot in new releases.  I have, so far, only done new releases as close to publication as possible and most months I am in conversation, via conference call, with the authors, leaving time, of course, for Q & A.  In addition, I always have the current book and the next month’s selection on site for purchase and work closely with my Independent Bookseller,  The Book Stall

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Some of us at one of the monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club meetings.

Let’s take a look at what we read and a peek into the upcoming books that will be featured this year….

MAY 2018

A book I highly recommended…I recommend all of the books we have studied.  This is a highly researched, detailed account of Loulou de la Falaise and Yves Saint Laurent….great conversation with Christopher Petkanas and here is my Amazon review…

JUNE 2018
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Not a new release, in fact out of print, I thought a fun tie-in to the out-of-town preview of The Cher Show and I could talk a bit about my experiences working with the amazing Bob Mackie (fingers crossed that he wins the Tony award for best costumes….how could that not happened!!). A stunning book loaded with very glam photos and I love the typesetting…totally unique just like the designer.
AUGUST 2018
It is unimaginable that this is the first monograph on the quintessential designer, Norman Norell and it is glorious. Written by Jeffrey Banks, a designer himself and extraordinary author with many illustrations by the amazing Michael Vollbracht.  A must for your fashion library.  Jeffrey is a brilliant interview and gave us so many insights into Mr. Norell, I was so fortunate to have fine many shows with him.  And the cover of the book with the iconic Suzy Parker, probably my favorite of the first group of super models.  A profile of Jeffrey can be found in the nenasnotes Archives.
My Amazon review…
“I have approximately 1000 books on fashion. I must say this extraordinary first monograph on one of the most important fashion designers, Norman Norell, by the talented designer/author, Jeffrey Banks, now tops my list. Each page MUST be devoured slowly, each iconic photograph and each brilliant Michael Vollbracht drawing only add to the beauty of the book. I had the great pleasure of working with Mr. Norell and his exquisite 4 models, Claudia, Claire, Denise and Yvonne (along with four local, Chicago, look alike models) on several fashion shows. The book took me back to the days when everyone dressed magnificently and everyone (me included) coveted a Norell specially a sequin mermaid gown. His talent, his creativity, his humble personality are all emphasized in NORELL. I am beyond thrilled that two of my favorite world class designers have now been immortalized in their long over due books…first, a couple of years ago, Bonnie Cashin:Chic Is Where You Find It by Stephanie Lake and now Norell: Master Of American Fashion, both iconic designers who led the emergence of what we now know as American Fashion. Bravo Jeffrey Banks. I encourage all interested in design, beauty and the history of fashion to hit the buy button immediately!!”

SEPTEMBER 2018

Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It yet another long over due monograph written by the keeper of the Cashin Archives, Stephanie Lake (I have written several nenasnotes post on Stephanie check the archives to sample her lifestyle and that of her husband,  Cory and daughter Odette).  Stephanie sent charming take always and book plates for the attendees.  A fabulous in depth conversation that could have gone on for more that the allotted hour but that is true with all my authors.

OCTOBER 2018

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A brilliant book part Dior biography and part the story of his homes in collaboration with just as talented interior designers.  Loved this book unfortunately I could make the schedule work with author, Maureen Footer…she has promised to talk with us with her next book….let’s look forward to that in the near future.

Yet another of my Amazon reviews….I seem to dwell on my collection….ah well…

“I own over 1000 fashion books (my goal to own all published!), did I need to add another on Christian Dior, the answer is YES, when it is this extraordinarily researched and elegantly presented book by Maureen Footer. It is perfection and gives the reader a different slant of one of the most original and iconic of all fashion designers. Dior’s love for creativity in his fashion extends to his homes and salons and love of his gardens. Given the background of the elegant creators he worked with and Dior’s vision it becomes an intriguing story and the accompanying photographs are the icing on the cake. Adding to that icing an exquisite forward by another iconic influencer, Hamish Bowles. I do a monthly Fashion Book Club and this was a highlight of the series. Get this for yourself and for gifts, you will not be disappointed.”

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Door prize box of Dior goodies and a goodie bag for each attendees

NOVEMBER 2018

Another designer I had the pleasure of working with, Carolyne Roehm, who reinvented herself as a brilliant writer, I am obsessed with each of her books, they are glorious as is this one.  Look at this stunning cover, the photographer non other than our own uber talented, Victor Skrebneski!  You will find more of this geniuses work between the covers.  So much to say about this look at creativity at its very best.  Loved her designs, love her homes, love her floral talent and adore her books.

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DECEMBER 2018

i have admired Valerie Steele forever and have heard her speak on many occasions.  Her work as Director of the FIT Museum is exemplary and her books must reads and have in your library.  I was beyond excited that she immediately agreed to be in conversation, and, by the way, will be back with us later this year with yet another exhibition companion book.  We had a fabulous chat and the group was so enthralled that they didn’t make a sound, I had to ask them to say hi so she would know there were others in the room not just me!

Yes, another Amazon review….

“Book Review and other thoughts on pink in fashion and our lives: The book is brilliantly written, edited and illustrated. Giving us insights into a color that has been in fashion for centuries. I particularly like the layout of the book taking us from the courts of Europe when pink was worn by as many men as women through Haute Couture Collections to Punk to Red Carpets to Pussy Hats to Real Men Wear Pink to pink ribbons fighting breast cancer. We learn about the introduction of Shocking Pink by Elsa Schiaparelli to the iconic Yves Saint Laurent black gown with wide shocking pink bow, a garment, that Steele shared with us in conversation, that was a major exhibition coup and one she was especially excited to include. It is a MUST for your fashion library, but then all of Valerie Steele’s books are meant to be included there.

I have had the fabulous good fortune to have many brilliant authors join me in conversation for the monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club and I must admit Valerie wasn’t an exception, we all learned so much! I hope she enjoyed the hour as much as I did and the attendees were in rapt attention, I might even say in awe with her at ease conversation in sharing her expertise which, in my opinion, knows no bounds. Bravo Valerie and thank you….here’s to the next book!”

FEBRUARY 2019

Another author who immediately agreed to be with us and sent me an autographed copy of her book right away….what a joy to talk with the brilliant yet very down to earth, Caroline Weber, who is working on a sequel and will join us again upon its publication.  While some might find M. Proust a bit of a challenge Caroline’s wit and wisdom and beyond extraordinary research discussing the women who influence his writings made all of us rethink delving into his works yet again.

MARCH 2019

I had to reschedule our January meeting due to inclement weather but was very anxious to talk with the amazing Hutton Wilkinson, I have worked with Hutton when he did his first book Tony Duquette as well as when he visited with his fine jewelry collection, also documented in a book…Dawnridge is as unique as both Duquette and Wilkinson are….nothing remotely like either gentleman nor their creativity exists to my mind’s eye….believe me when I say this conversation took on its own life….great fun.  You can find his profile in the nenasnotes archive.

A book review…here you go….

“The beginning of the book gives us a detailed understanding of Tony’s life, and, of course how Hutton became his creative partner. The book is then organized by the three main houses and the elaborate grounds. Hutton takes us through the painstaking process of repurchasing many of the “lost” treasures of the home, the detailed drama of “reinventing” the original concept and not only enhancing it but bringing the dream into the reality of the 21st Century with its modern technology while keeping the essence and tradition of the original rooms, buildings and grounds in their transformations. The photos of the original rooms and new ones of the reinvented spaces are masterworks. I would go so far as to say an exquisite Phoenix has risen from the “ashes”. I could live in any of the spaces since my motto is definitely more is more and my most favorite color is green, let alone all the Malachite, and the chandeliers, and the layering, and…………totally dreamy!”

APRIL 2019

It seemed fitting to end the first year of nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club as we began with a book on Yves Saint Laurent…another scholarly tome, heavy both in content and heft of the book and one not to be read casually (I do have two novels scheduled for this year, both with designers as their subjects!). It is the first on YSL written in English and not translated from French.  The research is extraordinary.  Yet another for your collection.

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MAY 2019

When we think of Vogue Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington immediately come to mind, well there was a third critical eye with Tonne Goodman whose vision complimented and completed the iconic magazine’s editorial content.  Balancing Coddington’s whimsy with more straight forward, yet visionary, photographs….and photography is what this book is all about.  And the photography is just beyond….I particularly loved the pages of Vogue covers.  Very little text but lots and lots and lots of fabulous photos by all the well known and not so well known photographers of our era….fabulous book!

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JUNE 2019

Another monograph, this time Dawn Mallo, the genius behind Bergdorf Goodman’s revamp and the discoverer of many designers…think Michael Kors and the force who brought Tom Ford to Gucci during her tenure there. John Tiffany brings his investigative reporting to this sensational book with much the same vigor he did with his book on the doyenne of fashion Eleanor Lambert…can’t wait to have John in conversation….it will be awesome.

 

JULY 2019

Our first novel and it’s about Gabrielle Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli….wow, should be  fabulous.  Can’t wait to hear what author, Jeanne Mackin has to tell us about her research.  It is my favorite type of novel, one based on fact…yes, historical fiction..love it!

 

OCTOBER 2019

Who knew one of my favorite male models (actually mad for all my male and for that matter female models….but) Marcellas Reynolds has written his first book and what a book it looks to be…and I’m hoping he will actually be with us in person, he is a Chicago guy…fingers crossed.

 

It’s been quite a year and lots more to come….I’ll, of course, keep you updated and let you know when I can share the nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club conversations with you…we just have to figure out logistics and get the author’s permission to tape them….stay tuned!!  In the meantime you can read along with us, I post here and on Instagram upcoming selections.

More of my fashion library….

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FASHION NOW: SPRING 2018 REVIEW PART 6 MILAN

imageMilan proved to be a mix of straightforward elegance and dramatic presentations such as the Fellini inspired spectacular of Antonio Marras, shown above!

Lots of anniversaries celebrated, Missoni, Etro, Fendi, etc., (remember Italian Fashion is all family-based, that is one of the unique qualities of the presentations) and, the show that had everyone talking, Donatella Versace’s tribute to the founder of the Brand, her brother, Gianni and its dramatic finale with five of the 1990’s Super Models, (pity Christy and Linda weren’t there!) fabulous!  So many shows, so much to talk about, I’m just going to touch on a few and continue to see what I can find that is tieing trends together from New York to Paris you will be reading this until the next series of shows occur!

We began Milan Fashion Week with Gucci and end with Dolce & Gabbana.

Gucci Spring 2018….

imageStripes, shine, pink, orange and black and white.

imageStripes, knit…be sure to notice the handbags and shoes…more socks!

imageDenim, leather, pattern.

imageLeather bomber jacket, layers.

imageThe power suit in pink….a color seen in all collections so far.

imageThe black dress, sexy, a must have, again seen in all collections….a major classic looking new, note the colored textured leg.

Jeremy Scott for Moschino…

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imagePink tutu with black leather very Katy PerryimageimageFloral finale

Fendi by Karl Lagerfeld…

imageimageimageimageStripes, leather and I know you all hate the socks with sandals, but they are most certainly a trend!

Alberta Ferretti (Yes, I worked with her on a show)…Spring 2018 continues her feminine understated looks.

imageLove the silk trench over the embroidered gown.imageimageimageThe scale of the finale.

Prada…

imageStripes and pink.imageimageLooks more like fall to me but animal print always a good thing no matter the season!

imageLook familiar…very Versace but Fendi…a trend in the making!!!???  Let’s watch it!

Versace…

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imageimagePetal pink

imageDenim and Versace signature prints with a touch of lace…love these!

imageimageTHE FINALE TO END ALL FINALES!!!!

Dolce & Gabbana end Milan Fashion Week…

imageHouse of Cards set, a show produced for and attended by Millenials…interesting concept, and we know all the Millenials like to wear tiaras or flowers in their hair…they have come to the right place!

imageimageimagePrint mix always a D&G signature…

imageStripes…yes…

imageimageBlush pink, okay….

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Glitz, of course

imageBlack check….imageAnd mass model finale, double check!

Okay Paris, show us your stuff!!!!!!!!!

All photos were taken from various internet and Pinterest sources, photo credits unknown.

 

 

 

 

PROFILE MODEL MONDAY: MAUREEN MUELLER

imageMaureen’s comp when she was modeling in Chicago.

Here we go again with one of my outstanding models….why would I highlight anyone else….Maureen was another of my models with a unique look, a cross between an all American girl and a femme fatale!  She was always playing a part (that is what makes a model a success, in my opinion!) and did that perfectly so much so she has gone on to a successful career in television.  She has defied the years and looks spectacular to this day…I really must know what my models are drinking to keep the years away, I want what they are having!!!  Seriously!  Let’s see what Maureen has to say, in her own words.

“I was a singer based out of Denver when I was approached to be a model.  I was introduced to an agent from Paris Planning soon after and a year or so later, I hung up my singing career, (I was no Shelley MacArthur), and moved to Paris.  I had always wanted to live in Europe and modeling made it possible.  I worked almost every day and spent all my money on restaurants and traveling. Heaven for a girl from a working class background.
One of my favorite behind the scenes stories came when standing around waiting for my first job, the Valentino haute couture show to begin. everyone was racing around and acting very nervous.  I couldn’t understand this because it wasn’t like they had to sing or perform or anything.  They just had to make it to the end of the runway and then come back. I spotted a beautiful woman on the other side of the room who looked calm and she immediately looked familiar to me.  I was convinced we went to high school together but I couldn’t think of her name.  I asked the guy standing next to me if he knew who she was. He said, Do you mean Beverly Johnson?  I wish I could say that this was the last time that has happened to me but I’ve made a career out sticking my feet in my mouth. I also signed with Ford in New York but wasn’t happy there.  This was 1980 so it was still a bit dangerous and loud and dirty and everything that Paris was not. So back I went.  Still playing hooky.
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All this time, I knew I should be trying to find a way to be an actor.  I heard that Chicago had a thriving theatre scene and I figured I would be able to support myself with modeling while I tried to find a way into the business. But Chicago was not buying what I was selling.  Not for quite awhile. The first woman I met, (who shall remain nameless), didn’t believe that I had done the shows in Paris.  I was dumbfounded that she would think I would lie about such a thing.  She said she had been at the Valentino show and she didn’t see me in it.  She carried a lot of weight in town and I was on her Absolutely NOT list.  Once I finally started working, she would still pop up to torture me.  Sometime later, someone hired me for a show and she said, “I have no idea who that is”.  When she was reminded that I was a regular at the Apparel Center and Saks, etc, she said, “Oh yes, that’s the one that never brushes her hair”. Whatever. I learned a valuable lesson from her.  Some people just aren’t going to like you. So just keep moving in the direction you want to go and try not to take things personally.  Easier said than done, but I still try to practice that.
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I had the opposite experience when I met Nena. There was no interrogation. She sized me up, expected professionalism and left me alone.  I always loved a SAKS booking because Nena ran such a well-oiled machine. She expected you to bring your A game and you didn’t want to disappoint her.  It was no easy task, however, standing next to D’arry or Jeanouche.  Still two of the funniest women I’ve ever met.  Through Nena, we met every big designer in the world. I always loved when Pauline Trigere came to town, (such a character).  Also loved Jacqueline de Ribes and Donna Karan.  But my favorite designer, by far, was Mark Heister!  I adored his clothes.  Such attention to detail and so glamorous.  And the man himself was so lovely.  A gentleman full of humility and grace. He is a world class talent.
imageOn the catwalk.
Looking back, I can’t believe how lucky I was to get to make a living playing “how fast can you change clothes and then walk around for a bit”.  And get to live in one of the great cities of America on top of it.  I had the time of my life in Chicago. I met and befriended some of my favorite people on the planet there.  I’ll never forget driving out of town headed to Los Angeles to start a new chapter.  I looked in the rearview and thought it was raining.  But it was tears.  Buckets of them.  I miss it still.
imageMaureen today, always a stunner!
Since then, I’ve pursued acting in earnest.  I was lucky to be able to get some work in LA. When I got older, (back then it was illegal to get beyond a certain age), I moved to New York.  Just because I always wanted to live there.  I had no idea if I would get any acting work but the gods were with me, at least enough to support myself.  A few years later, I met my future husband.  He puts up with me and I adore him. 
I still work now and then and hope springs eternal.  I’m still ready for my big break.  I feel so blessed to have had such a wonderful life so far, full of great memories.  The best is yet to come.
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Thank you, Nena, for being such a big part of my time in our beloved Chicago.  Carry on.”
Thanks Maureen for sharing some of your journey with us. Let’s all watch for Maureen’s next TV stint, she is always worth watching, what a thrill to see one of our Chicago runway stars become a star in our homes! Love it! 
 
All photos from Maureen Mueller.

 

MODEL MONDAY PROFILE: KAREN RYAN

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As with all my profiles, I give my “subjects” a questionnaire to answer and the models questions, are, of course, different from my other profiles.  Karen, along with the other models I have “interviewed” for nenasnotes, was a total joy to work with, taking professionalism at its true meaning…always on time and show ready, glamorous when the garment called for that, sporty if need be, turning into a businesswoman for our Working Women Seminars, etc. Modeling is really acting and letting your audience think what you have on is the most fabulous garment they have ever seen and they must want to add it to their wardrobe!  It is all about “selling” that is, after all, the end result.  She always listened to instruction, and most importantly respected the designers (again, all my models did this, if they didn’t why book them again!!!!) Karen had a girl next door quality, relatable but with an edginess.

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imageKaren Ryan’s first composite.

Let’s see what Karen has to say about her modeling career and what she is up to now….

When did you start your modeling career, was this something you always wanted to do?

I had never even thought about being a model, even though people had always said to me, “with your height (5’8 ½”), you should model”. I had gotten an MA in journalism at the University of Kentucky in 1974, shortly before marrying my husband, Bill, and moving to Chicago.  In Kentucky, I worked for one of the original educational television stations, Kentucky Educational Television (KET).  I got to watch PBS and its wonderful programming years before most of my friends and family.  When we moved to Chicago, I eventually worked for Pioneer Press, the local suburban newspaper chain, and by the mid-’70s, had worked my way up to Promotion Manager.  As such, my staff was responsible for special sections.  We did a fashion section every Fall, and in 1977, it was my responsibility to publish the fashion section with the help of writers and a budget for a photographer we had used in the past.  Ann Taylor was loaning us the clothes, but we had no budget for a model.  My staff and the photographer, Paul McCall said, “what about you, Karen”? I was not really interested in doing it, but I was overruled.

imageFrom another shoot very space age, very of the period!

I went to a makeup shop on Oak Street, learned how to do makeup for black & white photography, and we did it!  I wish I had kept that fashion section, but my first comp has pics from the photo shoot (see comp at top of profile).  I think I looked silly in a couple of them, but that was 40 years ago!  I found out that the camera didn’t love me (my jaw is too square) (Nena’s note, I so don’t agree!!!!), so I didn’t do much print work.  I started auditioning for fashion shows and was very surprised to feel comfortable and natural walking the runway. To use an old expression, the rest is history…I was lucky enough to meet Nena Ivon and work for Saks Fifth Avenue!

imageThis isn’t Karen’s favorite comp but I love it so I am including it…apologies, Karen!

imageFrom Karen’s scrapbook.

What was your favorite Saks Fifth Avenue Show(s)?

My favorite Saks shows were the Misericordia benefit shows.  Backstage we were usually so rushed that we didn’t pay attention to the happenings outside the dressing area curtains.

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But I remember the first time I heard the voice of an angel, Sister Rosemary Connelly.  She spoke from the heart and to our hearts about the special people who live and work at Misericordia www.misericordia.com.  I should backtrack here and tell you that before we married, my husband taught special needs adults. We’ve been avid supporters of Misericordia for many years, and I joined the Women’s Auxiliary over 25 years ago. The Auxiliary does many things, but my favorite event is the annual fashion show.  I always get a couple of tables at the show and get to catch up with all my besties from our runway days, including Nena of course. (Nena’s note, I will profile Misericordia in a future post.)

imageSome of the “gang” at this year’s Misericordia Fashion Show, all profiled in nenasnotes with the exception of Debra Balchen (Candace Jordan wasn’t one of my models but did model and was a room mate of Jeaounche).  The gentleman is Avron Fagel, a dear friend to all of us and the “music guru” for all my shows!

Who was your favorite designer and why?

Adolfo, hands down!  He was so nice to the models…before we walked out onto the runway, he would say, “You look so pretty”!  Other favorites were Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, Bob Mackie, Alexander Julian, Halston, Bill Blass (also very nice to the models) I especially remember the elegance of Saks’ Jacqueline, Comtesse de Ribes’ show at The Casino. I never actually worked with Diane von Furstenberg, but she is one of my favorites and I wear her wrap dresses today!

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imageNewspaper clipping with Terri D’

What was your most favorite “behind the scenes” story?

Of all the people who assisted backstage at Saks Fifth Avenue, my favorite was Ruth Ivon, who we affectionately called Ruthy.  In 1981 we were doing a series of shows and I wore a full-length strapless gown just one week before this incident. The next week I was to wear the same gown and Ruthy could not get the top of the zipper to go up, even with me pushing it together with both hands. I was 3+ months pregnant at the time, which of course both you and Ruthy knew. She called Nena backstage, and sweet person that you are, you said: “skip it”! Who knew the body could change that much in just one week. (Nena’s note…this doesn’t only happen when we are pregnant but as we age our rib cage settles….its called gravity! and our bodies change and I would have to adjust what I pulled for my models!)

What are you up to now and how did you begin your new career/passion?

My career now is grandmother!  And it’s been my favorite stage of life…the joy and love that my grandchildren bring me are unbelievable.  As I mentioned before, another passion is volunteer work, especially with Misericordia. I also volunteer at a soup kitchen once a month along with hubby Bill.  Another passion is gardening!  We have a summer home in Wisconsin which I have landscaped with very little help from professionals.  The only landscaping I kept from the original plan when we built the house in 2003 were trees and shrubs. I have planted hundreds of flowers and shrubs on my own.

imageWith Ruby when she was a baby.

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With the gorgeous grandchildren, Ryan and Ruby.

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Karen in her Wisconsin garden with Ryan this Fourth of July.

What did your modeling years teach you that you are using now?

Humility, sometimes I simply didn’t get the gig.  I never asked why, and when one door closed, another usually opened.  Some of my best fashion shows were last minute replacements. This was before the days of cell phones. Early in the business, we worked directly with the fashion director at the store. If a friend could not get in touch with the director, and could not make a show,  she would call me and ask how fast I could get to Saks or wherever.  The models were very supportive of each other, hard to believe for those who don’t know the business, and maybe it’s different in 2017, but we had each other’s back.  Some of my best friends to this day are the people I worked with back then:  Nena, Jeanouche, (I am her son’s godmother and she is mine) Shelley, Shauna, Terri, D’Arry, Dori, Elsa, Diane, Debra … I know I’m forgetting many, please forgive!

imageKaren and Jeanouche in a photo shoot back in the day have no idea what this was for?????? Interesting composition! (Definitely a Nena’s note!)

imageThe best friends having lunch at Jeanouche’s home a couple decades later, from Nena’s photo album.

imageA Nena’s note…..at a “reunion” show when I was doing a “Hooray for Hollywood” lecture and had my model girls in garments from Saks Fifth Avenue to illustrate the garments in the films I was discussing, a fun show.  They still all can, most definitely, walk the catwalk.  Karen leads the parade on the left ombre blue chiffon one shoulder gown.  Of the ten pictured,  I have profiled six in nenasnotes….I hope I can persuade the rest to come on board!!!!  This is from Nena’s photo album.

I also learned patience and grace under pressure…occasionally we had wardrobe malfunctions backstage, and had to make the most of it, walk out on the runway cool, calm and collected. And most important: posture, posture, posture! When I was in high school (back in the stone age), it was not “in” to be tall.  I slouched, but for some reason, when I walked out on the runway, my shoulders were back, my tummy was in, and I felt a confidence that I had never had as a youth.  The models who worked for Saks Fifth Avenue had the best posture on the runway because we had the best example, Nena Ivon!  Thank you, Nena.

No, thank you, Karen, for being the consummate professional, loving friend, caring individual and perfect wife, mother and best gran ever!

All photos, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of Karen Ryan.

PROFILE: MICHAEL RAMION

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Michael in an early comp.

imageMichael today!!!

In my Model Monday Profiles, I have been featuring my “girls” with the exception of Marcellas Reynolds (go to the archives of nenasnotes for his profile)…I also worked with many fabulous “guys” who were professional, extremely nice, looked fantastic in the clothes, and were drop dead gorgeous!!!!  And best of all, no egos were apparent which made them even more attractive.  I started using the male models as “props” in many of my shows wearing a piece or two and always in black tie for the glamourous finales.  If a designer did both women’s and men’s garments they usually didn’t show them in the same show (this is still the case with many of the designers although they are getting more integrated).  When I first started using the gentlemen I would do a fitting (all men’s clothing had to be tailored, at least the hem of the trousers, we didn’t do major alterations, it is the model’s job to “fit” the clothes not only in size but in attitude), and I had to pull for each model since they were different shirt sizes, inseams, etc.  Once I got to know them, just like the ladies, I would just pull and we would baste the hems.  It always worked well.  I had my “stable” of male models just like my females.  I knew who wore what looks best and how they would project to the audience.  I must admit that whenever I had male models in the shows the audience, mostly women, would go wild.  It was like I was doing a show with the Chippendales!  We did many, many all male shows for visiting designers and from stock both in and out of the Store.  The comradery between both sexes was wonderful and we all had great times.

When I asked Michael Ramion to answer my model’s questionnaire he did so without hesitation….here are his words and some super photos from his portfolio.

“I started my modeling career in late 1979, and I actually stumbled into it by accident. I was a hair stylist at that time, doing quite well at it and enjoying the lifestyle that the styling biz offered…a crazy bunch in that business and at that time it was a really diverse crowd to work with.  I was at a party in Indiana and a beautiful woman and her husband approached me and asked if I would be interested in doing a photo ”test” with them…didn’t have the slightest idea what they were talking about, but they gave me their card and we traded info and I thought nothing would come of it but three weeks later Curtis Kulp did indeed call me and set up the test shoot! His wife was Debbie Gephardt, and she was with a new agency called Susanne Johnson that specialized in runway shows…again nothing I knew a thing about, but this whole situation was foreign to a small town boy from Indiana! We shot the pictures, and Debbie took me into the agency to meet with her agents…they signed me on the spot without seeing any pictures and my first booking was a bridal show for Carson Pirie Scott and Co. and that’s where I met the majority of the models I would end up working with for the next several years…Gayle, Tina, Elaine, Shelley and Shauna, Diane, Val…it goes on and on.
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As far as a favorite Saks show I don’t think I could pick one to be honest…you always had the guys dressed to the 9’s and I always appreciated your taste in clothes, so it was always a sure thing when we got hired that we were going to look great! I remember having to go to the Saks store and audition for you and being extremely nervous because the agency placed such high expectations on working for Saks…obviously it ended up being one of the best working relationships I ever had in my career and it was always a joy to do those shows! (Nena’s note ditto, Michael!!!)
My favorite designer in those days was Armani, without a doubt…just that classic Italian style was right down my alley and the fit was right for me…he was ahead of the game when it came to making clothes for the more ”athletic” type body and I was always a bigger type than the regular 40R type that was prevalent in those days. To this day I have a box with at least 20 pairs of Armani dress slacks that I keep because they were so beautifully made and the fabric is still amazing…couldn’t bring myself to let them go!
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As far as behind the scenes stuff goes I can’t pin any particular moment down…the crew that you always hired were people that became great friends to me and to this day I stay in touch with some of them…it was always a good time doing those shows and working with those people made ”work” way more fun than anything resembling what I was used to doing for a living!
I’ve done a variety of things over the years and actually have stayed in the modeling/commercial acting biz off and on all these years…and a few years back I actually took off from that business and decided to ”drop out” and went to school and acquired my Class A CDL license to drive 18 wheelers, and after that I drove fuel tankers in Pennsylvania for a bit then worked in the oil fields of North Dakota during the big oil/natural gas rush that was happening up there. The oil business was just about the most chaotic world you could work in because there was so much money to be made and basically not enough drivers willing to work the hours that they demanded from you, and basically there was no such thing as holidays or a normal schedule…my actual work schedule was 12 hours a day, 30 days on and a week off, but that was a joke because I usually worked at least 14/18 hours a day in Montana and ND delivering fuel to frack sites and oil rigs, and it was very physical work and I didn’t mind that at all, to be honest! That oil boom obviously fell apart and pretty much everyone lost their jobs or moved on after the money dried up…we got spoiled because of the amount of hours we worked added up to some big paycheck,s to say the least. That lifestyle in ND was basically all work, very little sleep and that’s about all we did…there was no free time and it was an extremely dangerous environment to be in…driving 5000 gallons of fuel that burns, on mostly roads that were made just to get you into wherever they could drill or frack for natural gas…crazy business!
imageOn a motorcycle instead of a rig!!!!
I actually was home on my break when my agent called to see if I was in town because he had a client that wanted to use me in a commercial that was shooting while I was home…no audition, the client saw my stuff online and hired me from that…ended up that I basically did that job and a few other things came up and I was right back in the business…shot new headshots, did a bunch of updated pictures for a new composite and got right back in the game…it’s obviously a much smaller window of opportunity for guys my age but there’s still work for my age bracket out there…boomers still have disposable income and advertising knows it!
imageI, must once again, state that my models don’t age….I want what they are having!!!!
As far as learning anything from this career goes…I always approached it like it was any other job I had, and there were plenty of those over the span of my life…be on time time, be professional in your approach, have the necessities the job called for, be prepared as best you could be and just be kind and courteous to people no matter their station in life…I never considered myself to be special in any way, I considered myself lucky to have been fortunate to work in a business that paid us well for doing what we got to do, and for that I’m always going to be grateful…for what I thought would be a nice way to make some extra money I’m still at it 37 years later!”
Nena’s note…I would hire Michael in a split second…next time I do a “reunion” fashion show, I can guarantee that I will include both my male and female models…the “older” generation (what does that even mean!!!!) is definitely the news of the day!  Yay!!!