The 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!
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.
Fashion 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, 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 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):
Lucile Duff Gordon
Else de 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.
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.