Documentarian Susan Lacy Speaks to Fashion Reverie about “Very Ralph”

He’s one of the most globally renowned names in fashion and could be described as America’s world ambassador of style. Ralph Lauren is a name that has been synonymous with style and the epitome of American fashion for decades. Emmy-winning producer Susan Lacy had the privilege of directing HBO’s new documentary film “Very Ralph,” which takes us behind the scenes of how Ralph Lauren came from humble beginnings and built a billion-dollar global empire.

Fashion Reverie had the privilege of speaking with the acclaimed director on how the film came to be, and how Ralph Lauren has defined so much of American fashion over the last fifty years.

Fashion Reverie: Why did you want to do a documentary on Ralph Lauren, and why was this a good time?

Susan Lacy: In the eighties, I created a series called “American Masters” on PBS. It went on the air in 1986 and ran for 30 years. My goal was to make a library of American cultural history. I didn’t know if the show was going to last into the 21st century, but it really became a major institution. My goal was to make films about people who affected our culture in significant ways including artists, writers, composers, architects, theatre people, and choreographers. I branched out into broader areas beyond visual arts and performing arts, but I had never done a fashion film. If I was ever going to do a fashion person and could only pick one, I always said it would be Ralph Lauren.

After 30 years, I left PBS and went to make films at HBO. One day Richard Plepler, who was the long-time head of HBO, who only just left recently with the AT&T purchase of Time Warner, asked me if I wanted to do a film on Ralph Lauren. I said yes, but I have to meet Ralph Lauren first. The kind of films I make are very intense films, they aren’t soundbite films. I try to connect the dots from who the person is, their life, where they came from, what inspired them, and how they then built that into a body of work. I don’t do the flavor of the hour. These things don’t work unless there is some chemistry between me and the subject.

So, I met Ralph, and we hit it off instantly, and he’s not an easy guy to breakthrough. He has always controlled everything that has ever come out about him and the brand. There’s nothing that has ever been done about him or the brand that wasn’t approved by him.

Our first conversation was about how that wouldn’t be the case with this film. He said this would be the one thing in his life where he’d be hands off, so it was really scary of him. The timing coincided with the 50th anniversary of the brand, so I could explore the mystery and magic of him creating that 50th anniversary collection. Getting him to agree to letting me film him at work wasn’t easy, because he always liked to keep his process very private.

FR: What first interested you in Ralph Lauren as a subject matter?

In my opinion, there’s not that many American fashion stories as interesting as his. He’s such an interesting story. He came from nothing, and just had a good eye for fashion, followed what he liked, and built a global billion-dollar business by simply trusting that other people would like what he liked. He was a pioneer in so many ways from branding to lifestyle.

FR: How was the process involved in making this film, from conception to finish?

Susan Lacy: Every film is different. There are certain steps that are the same with every film. For me, I read everything there is to read about the person and I look at everything there is to look at. Ralph Lauren had a pretty serious archive. Thankfully, I have a team of unbelievably good researchers. I begin to figure out what is the story I wanted to tell, and how I was going to visualize it. This was difficult with this film because you couldn’t do a phantom thread about Ralph Lauren. He doesn’t sew, and draw, and drape, and sketch. Where he gets his ideas, and inspirations, and aspirations was visually really tricky. So, I used clips from a lot of movies that inspired his collections. I chose very, very smart people to interview to help put the movie in cultural and social context. His story is more than a pure fashion story, and that’s what I tried to make.

FR: What do you think is Ralph Lauren’s greatest contribution to fashion?

Susan Lacy: He didn’t give us an entirely new way of looking at clothes, but what he did do was create an American style that spoke to millions and millions of people around the world. He made American design and style as important as Italian or French style.

FR: How has Ralph Lauren defined American sportswear?

Susan Lacy: He created the concept of high-low, mixing traditional luxury with more casual pieces. Anna Wintour said it beautifully in the film, “he anticipated streetwear would become the world’s uniform.” He put safari jackets over lamé dresses. He took tee shirts and parkas and made it the world’s uniform. He also championed diversity in his ads on the runway before anyone else did by casting models like Tyson Beckford and Naomi Campbell. 

FR: What do you think sets Ralph Lauren apart from other American sportswear designers?

Susan Lacy: You know, I’m not enough of a fashion industry insider to be able to talk about that, but I will say he had a very different style. Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren were all on the rise around the same time, but they were all doing their own thing. Calvin and Donna were interviewed for the film and had very generous opinions about Ralph. Calvin said the rest of us were thinking about our next collection and he’s thinking about his brand. Robin Givhan, the fashion critic at The Washington Post, said he offered a lifestyle, everyone else offered up stuff.

FR: Ralph Lauren’s fashion career spans over 50 years. How did you squeeze all that time into a 2-hour documentary?

Susan Lacy: I spent a year in an edit room. Storytelling is its own art. The hardest part is taking all this material, because you look under every rock for information, do all of these interviews, and think through the story you are trying to tell. Your first cut is about three hours, then you have to whittle it down. You also can’t treat everything like a bunch of stuff you’re throwing into a kitchen sink, either.  

FR: In the documentary you explore Ralph Lauren as a global brand. Could you talk about that?

Susan Lacy: Ralph Lauren the first designer to have a store within a store at Bloomingdale’s. He also had a freestanding store on the Upper East Side before freestanding stores were really a thing. Now, every major brand has a freestanding store.

Later, Ralph Lauren opened freestanding stores around the world. Now, he has stores in Moscow, Milan London, and Paris. People look forward to the opening of a new Ralph Lauren store or a new ad campaign like it’s a movie about to be released or a book about to come out. He was very conscious about having something that had international appeal.

FR: Aside from Ralph Lauren, who do you think was the most important voice in the documentary?

Susan Lacy: Anna Wintour is an important voice because she is arguably the most important voice in fashion. Her name really carries a lot of weight.

FR: What was the most surprising thing you learned about Ralph Lauren?

Susan Lacy: I was surprised by what a genuinely humble person he is. Sometimes, he’s still like a little boy who can’t believe he is Ralph Lauren. He also cares tremendously about the people who work for him.

Images courtesy of HBO/Les Goldberg

FR: What do you want audiences to take away from this film?

Susan Lacy: What I think people will take away from this might sound cliché, but believe in yourself, and if you have something to give the world, hard work, perseverance, and talent will get you there. Don’t give up on your dreams.

“Very Ralph” premiered on HBO on November 12.

    Kristopher Fraser

Frédéric Tcheng’s More Complete Look into the Legendary Halston

Image courtesy of MB Turner (CNN)

He was one of this country’s fashion designer, completely revolutionizing the way American women dressed. Roy Halston Frowick, better known as Halston, rose to fame by designing Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat for John F. Kennedy’s presidential inauguration. He was the first high-fashion designer to collaborate with a mainstream department store when he launched a collection with JC Penney. He introduced Ultrasuede as a signature material for womenswear. Halston was legendary.

This Sunday, “CNN” will be debut “HALSTON,” a documentary directed by Frédéric Tcheng, detailing the rise and fall of the acclaimed designer. Fashion Reverie had the privilege of speaking with Tcheng, in addition to supermodel Alva Chinn, one of the Halston’s esteemed models during his glory days.

Fashion Reverie: What inspired you to create this documentary?

Frédéric Tcheng: The producer Roland Ballester came to see me. It wasn’t my plan to make another documentary, so, I gave him a hard time in the beginning. I said I was done with fashion documentaries. I wanted to move away from that.

 Like many people, I didn’t know a lot about Halston. I had a very one-dimensional idea about Halston as a Studio 54 regular and all the decadence of that scene. But, when I started reading about Halston, I realized there was a lot more to Halston than partying and Studio 54.

I was especially interested in the ‘80s period, which was his downfall. I was at a time in my career where I had had similar life challenges. You must negotiate as an artist your relationship with the business side of your craft, and your place within the industry. It’s a cautionary tale, he sold his name and that’s why he lost everything. The more I dug into the story the more I realized how complex it was, and how many layers there were, and in a way, he wasn’t completely a victim. He had made that deal and that deal backfired, but he also profited from that deal for a very long time and became who he was because of it.

Fashion Reverie: Why Halston over any other American designers?

Frédéric Tcheng: As a filmmaker I’m obsessed with a good story. I didn’t set out to do anything about fashion. It wasn’t my end game. I mean, first you can argue that Halston is a very significant American fashion designer, the first to be really recognized internationally.

The story of Halston is just so epic and big:  the dramatic rise and fall, something essentially American, something powerful about a man who completely reinvents himself and rises to the top. There was a whole period of American life that could be explored through Halston and the fashion of that time. That’s how I decided to tell the story. I wanted to see if the story carried enough significance beyond fashion.

FR: What do you think set him apart from other American designers of his era?

Alva Chinn: Simplicity, elegance, and he was ahead of the curve. He was a maverick. Halston, business wise, was ahead of the curve. All these people that have all these subsidiaries under their design umbrella, they learned from his legacy, both good and bad.

FR: Why is this a good time for this documentary?

Frédéric Tcheng: If not now, when? People have forgotten how big and important Halston was, and how he revolutionized not only fashion, but the whole world around him. He was just as significant as Yves Saint Laurent, in some ways more significant because he created a whole new way of cutting clothes and changed what happened on the runway with models of color. He changed the business by working with JC Penney.

 Who talks about him today? No one. Unfortunately, great innovators and thinkers are sometimes forgotten.

Image courtesy of Berrt (CNN)

FR: Halston was known for creating relaxed urban luxury clothes for the American woman. Could you talk about that?

Frédéric Tcheng: He seized a moment in the ‘80s when American women were changing their lives. We had women going to work. They were leading active lives. He transformed American fashion completely from something that was more based on European couture to something that was liberating for the woman’s body. All the women who wore Halston said that they found freedom in his clothes. He doesn’t really try and transform the body of a woman; he celebrated the body of a woman through fabric.

FR: How did it feel to model his clothes?

Alva Chinn: In the front row would always be the ladies who lunch, his clients. Then the fashion editors who knew and understood what fashion. Seated behind his clients and the fashion would be the buyers and other industry people.

For me, the big deal was his clothes felt different from wearing office clothes. Halston was very simple, he could envision a dress by simply cutting a piece of fabric. He could translate the concept of fashion from the past and bring that concept into current times.

FR: Halston was one of the first designers to make a collection for an American retail store, JC Penney. Why did that relationship not work out?

Frédéric Tcheng: He was ahead of his time. Had time been on his side, it would’ve been a different story, because now everyone is doing partnerships with more affordable brands like H&M and Uniqlo. Unfortunately, he was the first, and like many who are first, he had to pay the price and suffer the rejection.

 He was very hungry for the future. He was also in a difficult position he had to compete with Perry Ellis and Calvin Klein. He gambled everything he had into his career and that was very risky. But I loved how he dared to do everything.

Image courtesy of CNN

FR:  Could you talk about his relationship with Jackie Kennedy and the pillbox hat?

Frédéric Tcheng: She was a client of his throughout his fashion career. I didn’t know it went beyond a working relationship. At the time of the inauguration when JFK came into power, I think she was probably trying to send a strong signal to the American people that it would be a different kind of presidency and a different era in American life. He understood what women wanted and how they could express something through clothes.

FR: Halston really seemed to bring celebrity to fashion, was he the first to do so, or did he just revolutionize the concept?

Frédéric Tcheng: He brought celebrities to the front row and he was very smart about it. He had one of the best show spaces at the time. His runway shows were just spectacular at the Olympic Tower. Celebs were at the end of the runway, so they’d be in every picture. He was also one of the first to use video to thematically tape all of his shows. He understood the power of image. He invented the concept of Instagram before it existed, because he was living his life like a series of pictures.

FR: Halston helped elevate the career of so many models of color. Could you speak to that?

Frédéric Tcheng: That was totally revolutionary. He didn’t ask about or take credit for it. Those are the girls he wanted to have wear his clothes. He liked the diversity. Halston wanted different types of people to represent his brand. We’ve seen that in the ‘90s and 2000s the landscape for diversity has completely changed. but it’s a little bit of a pendulum swing.

A lot of people just look back at the ‘70s as the golden age of diversity. There really was a sense of embracing all different kind of looks on the runways and it came from America and Halston, and Europe followed that trend after The Battle of Versailles.

Halston and his models image courtesy of Dustin Pittman/CNN

FR: What did Halston look for in a model?

Alva Chinn: He had a whole crew before I came on, and they were all eclectic. He had plus-size models; he had Beverly Johnson, the first African American on the cover of Vogue. He had Heidi Goldman who was a blonde; he also had Marissa Berenson, who is still a major influence in fashion. When my time came around there was also Karen Bjornson.  Additionally, there was Pat Cleveland, Connie Cook, and Diane Dewitt.

During the Battle of Versailles, a lot of the models were shared by other designers. Most of us just wanted to go to Paris. There were so many of us for the Battle of Versailles show. He loved Amina Warfsuma, she was from uptown Harlem. She had a fabulous, voluptuous, curvy body. She worked for him before I did, and she was the girl from up in the neighborhood, and she acted like it, but he found her amazing.

FR: How do you think this documentary will help people re-evaluate his legacy?

Frédéric Tcheng: I really hope it does show the breadth and scope of his career and gives audiences a little bit of a taste for how his design perspective went beyond the appearance of being simple was revolutionary.

I think it’s time for Halston to come back to the forefront. He hasn’t had a protector whose been able to protect the legacy beyond the grave. A lot of designers have that, whether it’s Yves Saint Laurent or just a company that’s doing the job of protecting the legacy. In his case, corporate structures destroyed the brand. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more work to be done to put him back where he belongs.

Image courtesy of IMBD

FR: How do you think his legacy still has impact today?

Frédéric Tcheng: You can see it everywhere. On the business side alone, the JCPenney deal was groundbreaking and is a formula being followed by every mass retailer now. On the artistic side his minimalism is everywhere.

FR: Could you speak about his use of Ultrasuede, which represented his relaxed luxury American style?

Frédéric Tcheng: He loved Ultrasuede and new fabrics. Ultrasuede was introduced to him by a Japanese designer. What made him fall in love with it was that he could put Ultrasuede in the washer and it didn’t even wrinkle. Ultrasuede was very practical and versatile. He used it in pastel colors, and it became a huge hit. He used it not just in clothing, but home furnishings.

FR: Alva, what was the greatest thing you learned with working with Halston?

Alva Chinn: After a show once he pointed out to me that the audience was paying more attention to me than the dress I was wearing and he said, “ [that was] because your buttocks were swishing from side to side when [I] walked.” It was a great tidbit I found amusing.

He taught me to take constructive criticism as a gift. We all could learn from that.

FR: Describe your favorite Halston show for me?

Alva Chinn: Oh, I can’t do that. I have different memories of different things. My favorite moment though was our Around the World Tour. We went to major cities seeing different cultures. We went to Europe, and we went to China. It was the experience of a lifetime.

Alva Chinn image courtesy of

FR: If you could have said one last thing to Halston, what would it have been?

Alva Chinn: Oh wow, you’re going to make me cry here. (pause) Thank you, and I love you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of what you shared with the world.

Kristopher Fraser

Model Spotlight: Georgie Badiel and the Georgie Badiel Foundation

Images courtesy of,, and, respectively

When it comes to top fashion models, no one shines brighter than Georgie Badiel. Having modeling since the age of 15, almost two decades later Georgie Badiel is just as effervescent, sunny, and joyous as when she became a top model and muse for Jean-Paul Gaultier.Georgie Badiel’s infectious personality now extends to giving back to her native country, Burkina Faso. With the Georgie Badiel Foundation, Georgie hopes to help solve the issue of clean drinking water scarcity in her country. And helping she is. In just under three years, the Georgie Badiel Foundation has helped provide clean drinking water to over 100,000 people.

During Fashion Reverie’s “The Nina Sisterhood” editorial shoot, Georgie sat down with Editor-in-chief William S. Gooch and talked about her modeling career, her foundation, and the new love in her life.

                             Image courtesy of the

Fashion Reverie: Could you talk about the Georgie Badiel Foundation?

Georgie Badiel: My foundation was founded about three years ago. We fund for clean drinking water, sanitation, and planting trees in Burkina Faso, Africa. As you know, I am a native of Burkina Faso.

FR: Why did you start this organization and could you detail the scarcity of clean drinking water in Burkina Faso?

Georgie Badiel: I started the organization because people in Burkina Faso need clean drinking water that is not readily available. When I was a child I used to walk three hours everyday with my grandmother to fetch clean drinking water.

My grandmother passed away in 2009 and when I went back to my country because of my grandmother’s death I saw that my sister was getting up very early every morning—even earlier in fact than I did—to fetch water just as I had as a child with my grandmother. My sister was very pregnant at time and having to do the same thing I was doing when I was a child, very little had changed.

In Burkina Faso, less than 80% of the population has access to clean drinking water. So, I decided to start a foundation to change this situation.

  Images courtesy of,, and, respectively

FR: Why is there not more investment by companies to assist and change the scarcity of clean drinking water in Burkina Faso?

Georgie Badiel: There are a few companies that have and still are trying to change the clean drinking water scarcity. Unfortunately, many of these companies are not investing in ways that help the people of Burkina Faso. For example, there are over 5,000 broken wells in my country. A lot of organizations helped people dig and build these wells. Once the wells were working, the organizations left, thinking they had done enough. However, many of the people did not know how to maintain the wells. So, many of the wells went into disrepair.

With the Georgie Badiel Foundation, we not only train people to build wells for clean drinking water, we teach them how to maintain the wells, also. The women of the villages are doing most of this work.

In less than three years, we have provided access to clean drinking water to over 100,000 people. This year our main goal is to reach over 1 million people with clean drinking water. I know that the people of my country are hard-working people and having access to clean drinking water will give them a much better life.

FR: Talk about Georgie Water.

Georgie Badiel: Voss Water who also has a foundation that inspired me to launch Georgie Water. I started Georgie Water so that when consumers by one bottle of Georgie Water they are also giving to the Georgie Badiel Foundation.

          Image courtesy of

FR: You have a book out, The Water Princess. Could you talk about that?

Georgie Badiel: The Water Princess is a children’s book related to my childhood story. This book is about me walking with my grandmother from my village to get water from the only well that had clean drinking water. My grandmother would wake me up at 6am to get water. I really didn’t want to get up so early to get water before I had to go to school, but in Africa, and particularly in Burkina Faso, it is the duty of the women to get clean drinking water. Sometimes, I went to school with a dusty throat because of the lack of clean drinking water.

FR: Was there clean drinking water to drink at your school?

Georgie Badiel: I was lucky that I went to a private school where we had a well. However, doing the dry season the school cut off the water. Still, there was a woman who sold water to the people during the dry season outside of the school. Sometimes, I didn’t have money to buy water, so I would go back inside the school dusty with a dry throat.

How can consumers purchase your book?

Georgie Badiel: They can go on and purchase it. Penguin Books is the publisher and Scholastic has made an animated cartoon about The Water Princess.

FR: We know that you are a top model and that you are still modeling; however, you have found ways to diversify your talent. Looking back on your modeling career, who was your favorite designers to work for?

Georgie Badiel: There have been so many great designers that were a joy to work with. I loved working with Ralph Rucci, Zang Toi, Rick Owens, and of course, Jean-Paul Gaultier.

FR: You are currently working a lot with Diane von Furstenberg. Could you talk about that?

Georgie Badiel: I do most of Diane von Furstenberg’s (DVF) showroom, which I love doing. Nathan Jenden is the fashion director of DVF, and last fashion week I walked in DVF’s presentation.

        Images courtesy of,, and, respectively

FR: What other designers/brands are you currently working with?

Georgie Badiel: My model management company, Major Models, only sends me to designers/brands that I really want to work with because as you can see I am super busy with my foundation, my future children’s books and I am getting married later this year. So, I am extremely busy.

FR: Talk about your fiancé.

Georgie Badiel: My fiancé is from Liberia and a friend of mine introduced us. And we very quickly fell in love. I come from a big family, 10 siblings, so I want to have lots of kids.

—William S. Gooch


Model Watch: Isaac McKinley

What does it take to make it in the fashion industry as a fashion model? It takes more than good looks or an appearance on “America’s Next Top Model.” Speak with almost any working fashion model and you will soon understand that launching a career as a fashion model is an arduous task. It takes good looks, the right body proportions, the right model management company, a sense of adventure, and a whole lot of good fortune.

Isaac McKinley appears to have all of that, and then some. Right at the top of all the prerequisites for a successful modeling career is having the right attitude. And no one has a better attitude and state of mind than Isaac. Fashion Reverie witnessed Isaac’s joie de vivre as he was photographed for the site’s “The Future Is Now” editorial.

With all these attributes, Isaac McKinley is primed for success. And Fashion Reverie has the evidence to prove it.

Fashion Reverie: How did you get your start in the fashion industry as a fashion model?

Isaac McKinley: I started modeling two years ago. What got me started was that I would make a video log of my workouts at the gym. A freelance videographer noticed me recording myself in the gym and recommended that I pursue fashion modeling. After doing a little bit of research, I decided to give fashion modeling a try.

The freelance photographer that scouted me spent about three months in Chicago, my hometown, shooting commercial and fashion editorial images. All this happened while I was a sophomore in college. It was a lot of test shoots. I probably took over a thousand images with this photographer that gave me the opportunity to develop my craft.

FR: Now you very muscular before you started modeling. Did you have to slim down?

Isaac McKinley: I had to slim down significantly. I couldn’t fit into any sample sizes. I had to alter my diet and my weight training to obtain the look of a fashion model and fit into the sample sizes. If you cannot fit into the sample sizes, you don’t get any work. It is just that simple.

FR: Which model management company were you with in Chicago?

Isaac McKinley: I was with BMG Chicago for about a year and then l went to Miami and I got signed to Wilhelmina Miami. My original plan was to work a lot in Miami and work the swimwear market. But I changed my plans and moved to New York City instead.

FR: Why New York City over Miami?

Isaac McKinley: At first I thought Miami would be a good market for me because of my athletic body type. My initial impression was that Miami had swimwear and undergarment work year round; however, I later found out this was not necessarily the case. New York City was a much larger market with more opportunities, so my choice was to go were there were more opportunities for career expansion.

FR: How long have you been in NYC?

Isaac McKinley: I have been here about ten months now.

FR: Which model management company are you signed with in New York City?

Isaac McKinley: I am with State Management New York. I chose them by getting a feel of the bookers who worked there. I noticed that they were not glued to their laptops. At the open call, they really took the time to meet and talk with each model. They liked me and signed me immediately and within a month, I moved to NYC.

FR: You arrived in NYC just before New York Fashion Week: The Shows. Did you book any shows for that season?

Isaac McKinley: I was only able to book one casting because I moved to NYC toward the end of casting for fashion week. I didn’t book the show from that casting. However, I learned something very important. I learned that I needed to be more confident and trust my unique walk and movement, and not try to emulate other models. I was trying to walk like the models I saw walking in big shows on youtube. Casting directors want you to be confident and authentic. Anything other than that is a turn off.

FR: What have you booked since you signed with State Management?

Isaac McKinley: I have booked a mix of commercial and editorial jobs. I have more of a commercial look so I have been booking more commercial than editorial work, and of course commercial work pays more money. That said; I have booked a jewelry campaign, which came from the same photographer that shot the editorial I booked with Fashion Reverie. I also booked jobs with Fila, J.S. Sloane, Heineken, Union Bay Pacific, and Bleu Magazine.

FR: Which designers/brands would you like to work with?

Isaac McKinley: I would love to work with Dsquared2, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, YSL men’s, you know most of the greats. I would also like to continue working with emerging designers and brands.

FR: Where would you like your career to go?

Isaac McKinley: I would like to be based out of NYC, but work in other international fashion markets. This well-rounded approach will be give me a better understanding of where my particular look will get the most amount of industry traction.

                              Images courtesy of State Management New York

FR: A male model once told Fashion Reverie that his main career goal was to be able to make most of his income from working as a male model and not have to work side jobs to support himself. Is that one of your goals? Isaac McKinley: I want to be active at all times and even if I am frequently booking modeling jobs, I don’t want to put all my eggs into modeling. Right now, modeling is my sole focus; each day I practice my facial expression and posing. However, I am looking to transition to theatre and acting later on.

I think it is important to focus intensely on one thing at a time and master that craft. And right now my concentration is developing my skill as a male fashion model.

FR: You have only been in NYC less than a year. How are you supporting yourself financially?

Isaac McKinley: Right now I have three different jobs while pursuing my modeling career. I work at a restaurant and bar as a host. I also cater high-end events. I keep myself busy, keeping myself on point with my vision and goals. I believe I will get there!!

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie Interview: Gloria Steinem at the Apne Aap Dinner

Ruchira Gupta, Ashley Judd, Gloria Steinem, Mona Sinha, and Dorchen Leidholdt attend the APNE Aap dinner  in New York City. (Photo by CJ Rivera/Getty Images)

At Fashion Reverie, we love to give witness to when powerful women come together for a cause. It was a meeting of the activists and the feminist principle at the Cosmopolitan Club where feminist and social activist icon Gloria Steinem, Emmy-nominated actress Ashley Judd, and Apne Aap founder Ruchira Gupta came together for the Apne Aap Dinner.Apne Aap’s mission is to combat child prostitution and sex trafficking, a cause that Steinem has been involved in for many years. This year, the organization presented special awards to Judd, Dorchen Leidholdt, and Mona Sinha. The evening included a screening of a short film by Maemae Dylan (Bob Dylan’s granddaughter) “Call to Action by Girls For The Last Girl,” and a special theatrical performance by Dipti Mehta titled “Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan.”

After the event, Fashion Reverie had the privilege of talking with Gloria Steinem about her continuous activism and involvement with this cause.

Fashion Reverie: How did you get involved with this incredible organization?

Gloria Steinem: Ruchira Gupta and I have known each other since before she formed this organization. We were both journalists who were writing about things that were pretty unjust, so, we became activists. I’m grateful that I have known her as a way of support and extension of what I care about. Also, India is my second home. It’s where I lived when I first got out of college. I lived there for two years, so my oldest friends are there.

FR: So, what do you think the US can do in order to stop sex trafficking abroad?

Gloria Steinem: We can stop supplying customers. It’s what creates the sex trafficking industry, even in this country. We have a massive sex trafficking industry here. The average age of entry into prostitution is something like 12 or 13.

FR: What else can we do to dismantle some of these systems of oppression against young women?

Gloria Steinem: You can make clear to the guys you know that it is not acceptable to buy another human being. Body invasion is a level of trauma that is greater than getting beaten on the outside. You can do so much to just delegitimize sex trafficking by simply reaffirming that it is just not acceptable. If you are going to a business meeting or convention and there are prostitutes or call girls who are a part of it, you can say that is not okay. That can do a lot.

                                      Images courtesy of Seventh House PR

FR: What is the greatest thing that has come out of contemporary feminism that is helping put a stop to things like this?Gloria Steinem: The miracle of individual women, who, with no encouragement, and sometimes opposition from their own families, even facing ridicule and violence, joining the cause in spite of obstaces. It’s the miracle of empathy, survival and community. I see it everyday.   

—Kristopher Fraser


Fiona Lewis Reclaims her Life in “Mistakes Were Made (Some in French)”

Fiona_Lewis1“Writing the story of their own life allows the author to parse their story into examinable segments while continuing to engage in the act of communion and creation.” —Kilroy J. Oldster

Self-examination is supposed to be the motivation behind memoirs. However, in an age where self-examination sometimes renders reveal-all memoirs that titillate the senses but rarely illuminate or celebrate life’s journeys, Fiona Lewis’ “Mistakes Were Made (Some in French)” is a beautiful distillation of a life lived in full, cinematic color with all its fallacies and triumphs.

From her childhood in the proper, but repressive England of the 1940s and 50s to her life as a model and actress in the swinging 60s—many may remember her from her 1968 spread in Playboy parodying James Bond’s “Casino Royale” girls—to her married life to a top Hollywood director in the 80s, Fiona Lewis, while restoring a broken chateau in the south of France, reflects back on her life lived at full tilt.

Fashion Reverie was given the opportunity to speak with Fiona Lewis soon after the release of “Mistakes Were Made (Some in French).”

Fashion Reverie: Why this book at this time in your life?

Fiona Lewis: Ten years ago in my fifties, I had a kind of midlife crisis. I had bought a dilapidated chateau in the French countryside. While I was there, I started reflecting on what had happened to me in my life and getting older. I started to write about everything I had done and what happens to a woman who is getting older and everything seems to be in the past and not so much in the future. So, what do women do at that this critical time and reinvent themselves and their lives?

This topic is a universal topic that many women experience as they are aging and their children have become adults. Many women have to do something and create an adventure to change their life.

FR: How did you come up with the title of the book, “Mistakes Were Made (Some in French)”?

Fiona Lewis: The title just came to me. As I was writing about the affairs I had had and also going through a bad marriage, I was thinking about the mistakes that people make in life with bad relationships and missed opportunities.

FR: This book is set against the backdrop of you restoring this dilapidated grand chateau in the south of France. You go back and forth in the memoir from childhood to restoring this grand chateau. One chapter will be a reflection on your life while another chapter will be about this restoration project. Why this juxtaposition and all the back and forth?

Fiona Lewis:  When I started writing this memoir, I started reflecting on everything that had happened in my life and though I was happily married and I had a very privileged life, something was missing. I didn’t understand why I was unhappy and unsettled. At the same time I was restoring this chateau, working with very incompetent French handymen. So, while writing this memoir I decided to go back and forth between life reflection and restoring the chateau.

FR: Your husband was opposed to your restoring this French countryside chateau, yet, you continued on, why?

Fiona Lewis: I thought in the end that he would enjoy the process. If you live in Los Angeles, you are not used to ruins, and that is where we were living at the time. When my husband first saw the chateau it was a complete wreck and he couldn’t understand why I would take on such a project. Also, my husband didn’t speak French.  He loved living in LA and he couldn’t imagine why someone would want to live in the middle of the countryside in France.

Still, I thought it would be good for him and that he would relax in the countryside and grow to love it.  And of course, I am a bit stubborn and I wanted to provide to my husband that I could make a go of this wrecked chateau.

FR: You grew up in the swinging 1960s, yet, there was a lot of ambivalence about the sexual freedom of that time. You experienced some of that ambivalence. Could you talk about the burgeoning sexual freedom of the sixties and your lack of ease with this new freedom? 

Fiona Lewis:  The change from the 1950s to the 1960s was so radical. Everyone was running around and having affairs with a slew of people, but of course we were ill equipped to handle this new sexual liberation or deal with the consequences. Most of us were properly raised young ladies from the 1950s which carried with it lots of expectations. Though we were having a lot of sexual escapades, we still expected flowers the next day, which mostly didn’t happen. It was very odd. We really weren’t ready for this new freedom.

I don’t think much has changed. Women are still looking for romance. In the 60s, we are so busy being hip and groovy that all we were really doing was having sex. And women’s liberation is so much more than that. That came later.

We didn’t speak out at that time that this new freedom wasn’t working for most women because women didn’t speak out at that time. And in England, the British never say what they’re thinking, you just try to be the cool and carry on. Many girls were unhappy, and I was one of them. We really didn’t have skills to adapt. It was an interesting time and for our parents it was a horror. Our parents wanted us to get marry and have children, not run around in a miniskirt. Everything changed very, very quickly.

Fashion_Reverie16FR: You modeled in the 1960s with Jacqueline Bisset, and you talk about in the book that you and Jacqueline were roommates. And though both of your were slender, you both were busty and the look of models were beginning to change. Could you talk about that time?

Fiona Lewis:  Jacqueline and I were not really that successful as models in England because it was the Twiggy era in which models had long slender legs and were flat chested. We were on chronic diets to stay thin. We even took laxatives, I am afraid to admit. We would try to strap ourselves in and flatten our breast, but it didn’t really work because we didn’t have those types of bodies.

We did have a little success but our look was not the current trend. We both had curly hair, so we were constantly ironing our hair to make it straight. We were doing our best, but later we both kind of slipped into acting, which you could do in those days. It’s much more difficult now.

FR: You knew the iconic British photographer Terry Donovan when he was just starting out. Could you speak about your experience with him?

Fiona Lewis: Actually, Terry Donovan was Jacqueline Bisset’s boyfriend and that is how I met him. In the 1960s in England, the class barriers came down. Cockney boys were suddenly photographers and designers, and it was very cool to have a cockney accent, when before it wasn’t. Terry Donovan was one of those cockney photographers that were very good and he did fantastic black and white photographs. And the cockney boys were thrilled to be taking out nice middle class girls because they had never been able to take out middle class girls before.

Terry would arrive in in his Rolls Royce and honk on the horn for Jacqueline to come down and she would be in the process of ironing her hair. We lived in this horrible, tiny flat because we had no money. I would always be cooking something on the hot plate.

I remember one time when he came over, I was cooking bacon and eggs, which is all we could afford at the time. And Terry Donovan exclaimed, “Blimey, you’re going to stink up the Rolls.” He was larger than life and so was David Bailey.

Fiona_LewisFR: You acted in some of Roman Polanski’s early films and you were involved with him romantically. What was it like working with him in the late 1960s?

Fiona Lewis:  When I started acting his Polanski’s films our affair was over and he was already in love with Sharon Tate. I played the small part of the barmaid in Polanski’s “The Fearless Vampire Killers,” and Roman taught me that when acting on screen, you have to take everything way down. You have to say your line almost in a monotone, never giving anything away. He was very good with actors. At the time, he spoke with a very thick French accent because he didn’t speak English very well.

FR: What I gathered from the book that in spite of your romances and heady love affairs, you were very unsure of yourself, not able to enjoy the moment. Where to you think this insecurity came from?

Fiona Lewis:  The kind of English family that I grew up in where my father was a judge, was not a demonstrative or affectionate family. The English don’t express themselves very much and they don’t coddle their children, so it’s hard to grow with a lot of self-confidence. When you don’t have self-confidence, being attractive doesn’t help because being pretty doesn’t always build self-esteem. I knew a lot of English women who grew up the same way I did, and end up sort of adrift.

You are always searching to get that self-worth from a man, which is never a good thing. That can lead to bad romances and relationships. For me, that was a hard thing to learn.  Looking back now, I realize that the best way to have a good relationship is not to need the other person to make you feel good about yourself.

FR: Of all the careers you’ve had, which career paths have you enjoyed the most, and why?

Fiona Lewis:  I have enjoyed writing the most, because when you are an actor you are always waiting for that next job and waiting for casting directors to choose you, unless you are a big star. When you are a writer, you control what you do every day. It is a very solitary life, but that suited me fine. I can create things without trying to get someone’s approval until the very end.

Images courtesy of JRB Communications

Images courtesy of JRB Communications

FR: Did this memoir serve as a kind of catharsis, and if so, why?

Fiona Lewis:  It does because I changed what the book was going to be about several times. I realized what is important in life and not to regret things that happened or didn’t happen to me. You do have to go forward everyday. If you have a relationship, you have to reinvent that relationship and not let it grow stagnant.

It is important to have perspective and to look inward, instead of looking outward all the time. I learned from this memoir to be grateful for what I have. You cannot do anything about the past, but you do have a say in your future.

FR: What do you want readers to get from  “Mistakes Were Made (Some in French)”?

Fiona Lewis: I would like women to see the journey and if they see themselves in any way to identify with things that I have learned and not feel alone. And of course, enjoy the book. This book takes place with my current husband who I was having problems with at the time and through a process of self-examination, I was able to rebuild my marriage.

“Mistakes Were Made (Some in French)” is published by Regan Arts and is available were books are sold.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie Exclusive: Kendall Miles Puts her Fiery Stamp on Footwear

Image courtesy of chicago

Image courtesy of chicago

Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been. — Alan Alda

In this volatile fashion market, bravery and perseverance is necessary for any designer to maintain their brand. But, it has always been that way.

Whether the market is up or down, it takes confidence and a winner-take-all attitude to survive the vicissitudes of the fashion industry. Fashion is risk adverse, so the weak-minded better take flight.

Taking flight is not in Kendall Miles vocabulary. This young designer embraces it all; all the risk in the fashion industry and all the triumphs. And in her short career, Kendall Miles has experienced both.

Kendall Miles’ shoe designs demonstrate that she has lots of great ideas, craftsmanship skills and a fashion-forward sensibility. But Miles also has great business acumen and determination.

Never one to mince words, Kendall Miles knows her own mind and has a clear idea of who her customer is. And above all, she is very, very brave.

Images courtesy of Seventh House PR

Images courtesy of Seventh House PR

Fashion Reverie: You have this passion for shoes. Where does this passion come from?

Kendall Miles: My mom has always loved shoes. She has this fabulous collection of shoes, from Manolo Blahniks to Prada and Gucci. Through my mom, I was first introduced to luxury shoes, superior in quality and designer. When I was younger, I can remember playing in her closet all day, wearing her pumps. I wore my moms shoes out to parties in high school. I was the only one wearing high heels at that age, by the way.

Shoes have always been my passion and then it became this thing between my mom and I. We have this secret language around shoes. If I did well in school, my mom bribed me with shoes.

FR: You launched your eponymous shoe line while you were a senior in college. How did that all come about?

Kendall Miles: That was really hard. I was in college in Los Angeles. I am originally from Chicago, but I was studying at the University of Southern California (USC). I’d had a bad breakup in LA and after the breakup I realized I had very few friends. So, to get over the breakup and with the extra time on my hands, I decided to launch a shoe line. Crazy right!!

FR: That said; how did you source leather, get finances, and mentorship for your first collection?

Kendall Miles: I was majoring in international relations, so footwear design was definitely off the beaten path. First, I had real ideas around shoes that women would want to wear and that lead me to sketching my ideas. The first person I took my sketches to was my mom and she loved them. That was my first stamp of validation. My mom had a friend who worked in fashion consulting. She’d worked for Nordstrom, and had a lot of fashion connections in LA. This friend sent my sketches out to people in her network and from there opportunities fell in my path.

The companies that were interested in me as a footwear designer set up a series of interviews with me to work for their brands. I thought working for someone else would be a good path for me, so I interviewed at global brands and nothing seemed to fit. I decided that I really should work for myself and have complete freedom over everything I was doing.

During that time, I met someone from Thomas Wylde—a company I interviewed with—we clicked, and this gentleman connected me with an agent in Italy. So all the challenges a designer can have working with Italian tanneries and factories was kind of smoothed out for me. An agent can facilitate factories and material sources.

Images courtesy of Seventh House PR

Images courtesy of Seventh House PR

FR: What was it like studying at the Arts Sutoria, and why the choice to study there?

Kendall Miles: It was actually really tough. They had a cookie cutter design method of how someone should design shoes. My sketches didn’t seem to meet what they were required. That made everything more difficult. But, my challenges there fueled me to work hard and I was getting validation from the other editors. Studying in Italy was an eye opening experience because there was so much to learn.

FR: What was the course concentration at Arts Sutoria?

Kendall Miles: We learned the process and principles around making different types of shoes. So, there were lots of construction courses. There were also sketch classes and pattern-making classes.

FR: How did you get your shoe line financed?

Kendall Miles: I did a round of angel investing.

FR: Who is your customer?

Kendall Miles: My customer base is anywhere from 18 to 55 years of age  She is strong, opinionated, well researched, and passionate about everything she does. And, she likes to make a statement.

FR: What is your design aesthetic?

Kendall Miles: My design aesthetic is very sexy, elegant, timeless; and there is an edge with a refined sexuality.

FR: Lets talk about your spring/summer 2017 shoes. What was the inspiration?

Kendall Miles: Cleopatra, and her relationship with Julius Caesar inspired the spring/summer 2017 collection. I played with the design motif of the breastplate that Cleopatra made from Cesar’s coins when he was murdered. I am an academic, so I do a lot of research.

Images courtesy of Seventh House PR

Images courtesy of Seventh House PR

FR: Let’s talk about your pistol-packing, James Bond-like shoes, where did that come from?

Kendall Miles: That particular shoe design motif came from spats that men wore on their shoes, dating back to the Gilded Age. I took that idea of having a component that you can attach to the shoe and remove at will, and I modernized this accessory.

FR: What are the price points?

Kendall Miles: My price points are $500 to $1600.

FR: Which celebrities are wearing your shoes?

Kendall Miles: Hailey Baldwin, Tinashe, Andra Day, Regina King, Naturi Naughton, and several others.

Images courtesy of Seventh House PR

Images courtesy of Seventh House PR

FR: What can consumers expect from you next?

Kendall Miles: They can expect more fire designs. Designs that  light up your feet and are amazing.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie Interview Exclusive: Miles Ladin’s “Supermodels at the End of Time”

Supermodels_coverIs a picture worth a thousand words? That picture is if Miles Ladin photographed the subject. And the image might just get a few chuckles out of you.

Miles Ladin’s photography is never just about the beauty of the subject, his images evoke mood, stimulate conversation, and even shock. With Ladin’s new book “Supermodels at the End of Time,” Ladin documents that heady era in fashion history where supermodels not only ruled the runways and magazine covers, but suddenly had a huge presence in popular culture.

Still, Ladin’s photographic book is not necessarily a beautiful, manicured photographic dissertation on that time, but a hardcore photographic memoir of the darker recesses and excesses of the fashion world of the 1990s. In his classic, film noir–photographic still, Ladin’ “Supermodels at the End of Time” is revealing, nuanced, and strangely poignant.

Miles Ladin Debuts 'Supermodels at the End of Time' Exhibition

Miles Ladin

From supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, and Claudia Mason to fashion personalities Diana Vreeland, Milla Jovovich, and Chloe Sevigny, “Supermodels at the End of Time” with text by Bret Easton Ellis informs, reveals and tickles the fashion funny bone. On the eve of Miles Ladin’s exhibit of images from the book at the Station Independent Project’s Gallery in New York City, Miles Ladin spoke with Fashion Reverie.

Fashion Reverie: Why did you call this book “Supermodels at the End of Time”?

Miles Ladin: There is a documentary aspect to the images. I was photographing supermodels and fashion celebrities at social events like the Met Gala, the CFDA Awards, documenting notable people and the fashion elite. I created a narrative with these images using Bret Easton Ellis’ text. So, I wanted this book to be a limited edition artist book.  The book has a certain quality; there is satire and I merged Ellison’s fiction with pictures that could be looked at as documentary.At these fashion social events my photography is very stylized, a kind of film noir quality for which I am known for. I manipulate the reality in a certain way with my photography. And we know, that is what photography really is; there is a truth, but also a fiction.

So, how I came up with this title, I wanted the new artist book to directly comment on our most recent fin de siècle. Most historians when they refer to fin de siècle they are referring to the 1890s and the Austrian-German Hapsburg Empire that lead up to World War I. However, I used a little artistic license and referred to the end of the 20th Century that for me culminated in the attacks of 9/11 in 2001.  The title also eludes to the end of fashion as we knew it at that time and the rise of fashion and entertainment evolved by social media and instant celebrity.

Up until recent times, in my mind, supermodels were more than just beautiful; they had personality and a certain charm. They had so much more to them than the current crop of supermodels—Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid. “Supermodels at the End of Time” refers to the end of fashion as we knew it. And the way I like to play around with art meeting fiction meeting science fiction.

FR: Your style of photography is a film noir style. Could you elaborate on that?

Miles Ladin: Film noir refers to cinema. From the 1930s to the 1950s, film noir was at its peak in films like Orson Welles’ “Third Man.” Film noir is mostly in black and white and I shoot in mostly black and white using a handheld flash. I sculpture the reality with my flash and I would get in close to my subject, being short in stature helps in that respect.

I would often shoot these fashion celebrities because I was on assignment with W magazine or The New York Times. I didn’t have the regality and grandeur of Bill Cunningham who kind of did what I do or Patrick McMullen who really loves being a part of the scene. I was kind of a hired hand that was invisible which gave me the advantage or capturing some exquisite moments.

My role was not to flatter the fashion elite, but to capture a moment in time. I also used a short lens to get in really close and I intuitively knew how to use the handheld flash to evoke mood and manipulate my subjects. I would have to move the handheld flash around to capture the moments I wanted and simulate drama and suspense.

 Miles_Laden_02FR: How did you choose your subjects for the book?

Miles Ladin: I chose supermodels first and then I decided I wanted use images from around 2002 and before that time. I’ve been shooting New York Fashion Week until up to two years ago, so that access give me a lot of material. Still, I didn’t want to use runway images past 2002. I also wanted to include the best pictures that I had, signature pictures that had run in W magazine and images that were used in their anniversary issues. Then, there were pictures that were never published or reproduced that I also included in the book.

There are some supermodels that I would have liked to include just to expand the spectrum of models and model personalities, but often that particular image didn’t match Ellis’ text. Sometimes, I had a great image but the supermodel was in the background, not the foreground, so I couldn’t include the picture. And there were some other constraints. But, there are some great images of Iman, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Heidi Klum, Claudia Schiffer, and many other supermodels. I also have images of model personalities, meaning actresses that modeled for specific brands but were not necessarily supermodels. I have an image of Chloe Sevigny, who was a muse for Imitation of Christ and walked the runway, as well. So, the image of Chloe Sevigny really fit in with the photo-narrative quality of this book because Chloe is the name of the character in Ellis’ “Glamorama.” Milla Jovovich is the other model personality in the book. So, a lot of my choices had to do with supermodels that fit Ellis’ text.

“Supermodels at the End of Time” is not like Michael Gross’ 1999 book “Model” which is the reality of supermodels. This tabletop book is more massaged and manipulated.

FR: Do you consider yourself a fashion photographer?

Miles Ladin: No.

FR: Well, have to do define yourself?

Miles LadinW magazine defined me as a paparazzi photographer. But, I don’t see myself that way because I don’t stalk celebrities like Rob Galella. However, I am always invited to events to shoot celebrities; I don’t scurry to shoot them unless they are coming out the back entrance for New York Fashion Week.

Some people do consider me a fashion photographer, so I don’t correct them. Still, I don’t consider myself a fashion photographer because I am not interested in fashion as it relates to designers and what celebrities are wearing or chronicling fashion. I like to photograph parts of society that are not exposed to everyday folks. I shot New York Fashion Week for 15 years, but more to document that scene, not to promote the clothes.

I call myself a photographic artist. I started photography as a photographic expression, in addition to drawing and painting. My clients like The New York TimesW magazine and more recently WWD, gave me carte blanche to shoot in my photographic style.

FR: You photograph the dark recesses of beauty. Could you explain that?

Miles Ladin: The pictures have humor and there is a satiric element to them. I was never seduced by the glamour of celebrity or the fashion industry, so my perspective on those worlds is quite different. I never try to make my subjects look unattractive; I am just attempting to photograph something that goes beyond external beauty. There is this one photo in the book of Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, and Naomi Campbell sitting at this table with an ashtray filled with cigarette butts, coffee cups and wine glasses, and all three of them looking very bored. There is a sense of ennui in that image. Of course, one would think who doesn’t want to be any one of those supermodels? But, again the image says something else, maybe. I don’t know if every moment of every day is so fabulous for them, and certainly in that moment in the picture, there is a moment of reality.

My images have a sardonic quality. You have the film noir quality of the pictures in black and white. There are shadows, and shadows visually make things look a certain way.

There is a photograph in the exhibit that did not make it into the book of Tyra Banks posing on the red carpet for Fashion Rocks. Tyra Banks is posing beautifully, but in my shot there is also the publicist telling us to stop taking pictures because the red carpet is over. A PR person might be pissed at that, but this image details how supermodels and celebrities are prodded and pushed, and it is not always so nice and polite.

We are now in this overdrive of celebrity culture, which existed in the 40s and 50s. However, with social media it is really insane now. And what precipitated this current celebrity extreme, in my opinion, were the supermodels of the 1990s. These women were so famous for being beautiful. But, there is a dark side to all of this.


FR: What are some of your favorite photographs in the book?

Miles Ladin: There are some photographs in the book that have never been reproduced. But, my top three photographs are the image of the three supermodels—Kate, Naomi, and Linda—at the table at the movie premiere party at the end of the evening. That photograph had never been published until this book. The other one is of Claudia Mason being made up backstage and the women next to her is looking at this Vogue magazine, hoping she’ll be on the cover one day. The third one is of Lauren Hutton.

FR: Which models did you always hope to photograph at these events?

Miles Ladin: Well, I always had a tip sheet, so I knew who would be at the event. I knew my role at these events was to get the money shot. Obviously, getting an interesting shot of an A-Lister was more important than photographing someone on the C-list. Still, sometimes it was like a dog looking for a bone because occasionally A-Listers didn’t show up so you had to work with who was there. Unlike, everyone having their 15 minutes of fame due to social media, it took a while to get on the A-list, which back then was Linda Evangelista and other supermodels.

FR: What do you want readers to get out of the book and viewers to get from your exhibit?

Miles Ladin: I think the book is a fun ride. I believe my work, without being mean-spirited, holds a mirror up to society and in this case it is the world of supermodels in the 90s. The 90s was a narcissistic time; however, now the narcissism is beyond reason. It is very disturbing, particularly if you look at who’s running for president. The accepted notion of narcissism that feeds into our selfie culture and everyone having the own sense of self-importance was, perhaps, borne out the 1990s. And this book documents that in a time capsule kind of way. Have we evolved past that time, or not? Hopefully, this book will stimulate the conversation.

Images courtesy of Station Independent Projects

Images courtesy of Station Independent Projects

FR: What’s next for you?

Miles Ladin: I have another exhibition opening in December at an alternative space, and the theme of that exhibit is the idea of the American dream. This exhibit will have a much stronger polemic than “Supermodels at the End of Time” exhibit. It is very objective with installations to promote stream of consciousness while viewing the exhibit. Beyond these exhibits, I have been photographing and developing a multimedia piece on zombies. I have been shooting zombies for the past five years.

By zombies, I am referring to people who vote from an emotive headset or people  who are so entranced in their Smart phones that they have accidents, get hit by cars, etc. They are so entranced by these devices they hold in their hands that they don’t notice the world around them. They might as well be in the Matrix.

There is also humor in these zombie images, very much like my photographs of 90s supermodels. I am not trying to change the world, just show people things that are all around them that maybe they haven’t notice before. Maybe these images will cause people to elevate the future in a way they hadn’t considered. Or maybe, they will just have a good laugh!!

Miles Ladin’s fashion photography will be on exhibit at the Station Independent Gallery through October 30.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie Exclusive Interview: Karen Harvey of Fashion Tech Forum


Change is inevitable and change stimulates growth. However, with several well-known fashion brands in recent months closing shop and the constant shifts in management at top fashion brands, one has to wonder if all the reshuffling and the constant quest for new direction is impeding growth, causing a kind of fashion bewilderment and stagnation.

Oftentimes, fashion brands, in particular, are associated with the brilliant aesthetic approach of the people who founded the label. But if market demands and perpetual stimulation of the consumer shopping palette causes continued reorganization, where is the industry to go?

Enter Fashion Tech Forum. Realizing that the only constant in life is change and that the fashion industry is always primed for innovation and new perspectives, founder Karen Harvey felt the time was ripe for a forum that examined the synergy between technology and its effects on the fashion industry.

In 2014, Karen Harvey Consulting Group launched Fashion Tech Forum (FTF) to bring awareness to an ever-increasing war for talent, and the cultural shifts impacting both the fashion and technology sectors. FTF host an annual conference with 500+ top industry leaders, including CEOs, creative directors, designers, founders and investors in fashion, retail, media and technology. FTF curates intimate conversations with industry leaders to address, discuss and educate on the specific needs of a particular city, function or demographic.

Karen Harvey spoke with Fashion Reverie about the synergistic relationship of fashion and technology, as well as her goals for FTF and the new direction of fashion.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Fashion Reverie: How did the Fashion Tech Forum come about?

Karen Harvey: I think importantly we need to think about my original company Karen Harvey Consulting Group that sits at the center of the luxury fashion retail innovation space. As our core business has been bringing talent to some of our industry’s largest global brands and some of the most significant emerging companies, we sit with boards of directors and CEOs all over the world and they share what they are thinking about.

When you are fortunate enough to be privy to these types of conversations, of course, we realized that these powerbrokers were paralyzed about their concerns for the future. When you start to hear the same things from a variety of executives that could dramatically impact the future of fashion, this was a motivation for us to address these issues.

What also was simultaneously happening—and Karen Harvey Consultants was front and center—was organization issues, and how to think about structure for the future because so many of our companies were solvent. Naturally, you began to recognize that these asylums became barriers into the new world of digitalization.

Many of the new companies coming into the fashion digital world were emerging tech companies and we discovered that most of them didn’t really understand fashion. But, they understood online marketing, sustainability, social media, and any number of things. Because of our incubation division at Karen Harvey Marketing Group and as an affiliate member of the CFDA, we have always been sensitive to new and emerging designers. We have always had this open door policy for entrepreneurs to contact us. Coincidentally, as all these inquiries were coming in from the tech sector, I was really interested in what they were doing and the conversations they were having, even though I knew they probably couldn’t afford our services.


Image courtesy of Fashion Tech Forum

I began to realize that there were real shifts in the fashion industry from the way that millenials shop and purchase product, and interact with brands using innovative technology, I felt we had to consider how the tech industry was going to grab some of our best talent. For example, Joe Zee—former creative director of Elle—is now at Yahoo. My background in training and development for companies like Nike and Benetton, primed me for doing live content and putting programs together that bring value to brands.

With my talented team I was able to bring this conversation to a very high level and that is how Fashion Tech Forum was borne.

Fashion Reverie: We are aware that there is a lot of synergy between technology and fashion, in your opinion what are some of the most innovative combinations of fashion and technology that’s driving the market right now?

Karen Harvey: We did out best to curate a group of speakers and panelists we had their fingers on the pulse of this synergistic melding of fashion and technology. I felt very strongly that the conversations around the invisible technology that is beginning to influence wearable clothing that does not require sewing or seaming was groundbreaking and incredibly exciting. On a product level this is very fashion forward.

Fashion Reverie: In one of the panel discussions at the recent Fashion Tech Forum Andrew Rosen expressed that the fashion industry is going through an adjustment period. Do you agree with him and would you care to elaborate on his perspective?

Karen Harvey: I was glad to have Andrew Rosen acknowledge that we are going through seismic shifts. At our core, we have to be aware how we communicate with today’s consumers. We know that brick and mortar shopping is not going away. It is about what the consumer wants and it always was about product and what the consumer wants. That will not change; however, what has changed is how we communicate with consumers.

Andrew Rosen was referring to adjusting to this new paradigm. And each brand has to think about this new shift to better position and market their product. This adjustment period, as he defines it, is being played out in retail sales, social media, technology and marketing, and quite frankly some brands are just not keeping up with the change. That is one of the reasons that we are starting to see some brands that had market value falter. And, unfortunately some of those brands are being eased out of the market. Fashion Tech Forum is positioning itself to look all these new paradigms.

Image courtesy of Lividini & Co.

Image courtesy of Fashion Tech Forum

Fashion Reverie: Recently, there have been articles in the press on the return of onshore manufacturing. In the current market where there is such a scramble for cheap labor, is onshore manufacturing sustainable?

Karen Harvey: I am not an expert in this area; however, I think there is a huge motivation in many cities in the US to revitalize their manufacturing history; to bring more affordable manufacturing to their cities. Just look at Shinola and think of the number of brands that are attempting and some successfully beginning to manufacture in the US. And some of those brands are solving and/or tackling labor issues, employing workers at a living wage while making their product affordable and accessible. Innovative technology is helping to forward this onshore movement.

Fashion Reverie: Do you feel that the celebrity culture is still driving the fashion industry or has its time past?

Karen Harvey: Well, I think there is a new celebrity. The way we have normally thought about celebrity is changing. The new celebrity is the social influencer. I don’t mean the framework in terms of following everything that a celebrity wears or following a celebrity’s every move or motivation. That framework does not have the same market value it once had. The difference now it is not about the perfect celebrity, it is about authenticity and a connection that is more related to the brand and how that celebrity reflects the brand whether it is a lifestyle brand or just a clothing or beauty product.

Image courtesy of Lividini & Co.

Image courtesy of Fashion Tech Forum

Fashion Reverie: How is social media currently having an influence in the market as opposed to fashion blogs and older social media outlets like Facebook of five years ago?

Karen Harvey: The millenials and generation X are not using Facebook the way previous users did in the past. That said; they are pivoting brilliantly. They have creating platforms for brands to communicate with their massive interface. They are creating content that will be incredibly powerful. The information that they are able to drive to consumers will have a tremendous impact on those brands that are apt to engage with it.

Fashion Reverie: That said: what is the market value of social media when it comes to moving product or selling clothes? 

Karen Harvey: It is about engagement in the brand. If a consumer is not engaged in the brand there will be a dip in sales. Engagement definitely leads to sales. Currently, there are marketing and digital content companies that are aggregating guest bloggers and all types of social media that are driving sales in the millions to brands due to engaging customers through social media. And there are algorithms that accurately measure this engagement as it relates to sales. Influence and engagement equal sales.

Image courtesy of Lividini & Co.

Image courtesy of Fashion Tech Forum

Fashion Reverie: What do you hope that people take away from Fashion and Tech Forum?

Karen Harvey: I want FTF to be a creative petri dish of ideas and solutions around the growing intersection of fashion and technology.

—William S. Gooch

NYFW Profile: Nicole Miller Up-Close and Personal

nicole-miller-premiere-bad-teacher-01What’s it like to be a designer the week before New York Fashion Week (NYFW)? Designer Nicole Miller gave Fashion Reverie a window into her world. The designer is currently preparing for a September 5 showing of her Brazilian-themed spring 2015 collection.

Fashion Reverie: Next week you’ll be showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (on September 5). Where are you at with your preparations?

Nicole Miller: Everything is piled up and backed up; everyone is busy sewing away. Most of our stuff has come in from overseas so we don’t have to worry about that. Shoes are really the biggest panic, but those are in so that should be okay.

FR: What’s your spring 2015 collection about?

Nicole Miller: I was inspired by Brazil. I was listening to some song about Rio and was feeling a bit nostalgic about it. And then I got news about an art opening there. So that’s really how it started.

FR: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about the fashion business?

Nicole Miller: Well, ever say never, and you can’t kill a trend. When you think you’ve had enough of a trend and it’s going to make you ill—like peplums, and then, the next day, everybody is doing peplums and you’re like “Oh, my God, I just threw those out.” Platform shoes; are they going out? No. Nothing goes away anymore.

FR: What’s been the biggest change you’ve observed/experienced in the fashion industry since you got into the business?

Nicole Miller: Global sourcing for sure. When we started making clothes, there was just not a lot of techniquey things available. Now, all this beading we get done in China and India was just not available in those days. So global sourcing has, I think, upgraded the quality of clothes in America.

Nicole Miller pre-fall 2014 image courtesy of

Nicole Miller pre-fall 2014 image courtesy of

FR: A lot of people have been talking about how much NYFW has changed and not necessarily for the better. Why do you still show during NYFW and what do you feel you get out of it?

Nicole Miller: I think the minute you stop showing everybody forgets about you so that’s never a good idea. I know all the editors complain about how there are too many shows and (designers) should do presentations. I disagree. I like to have a show. There are always new kids on the block and a lot of them fall through the cracks. There’s always a constant recycling of new people and people falling out of the ranks. I think there are too many shows. But the thing is (as a designer) you just can’t stop having shows because then you would just fall off the planet.

FR: I also have heard designers comment about how much the business has changed—so many seasons, etc. Your business is so expansive. But it seems like that’s a necessity to stay in “the game.”  Has that been your mindset?

Nicole Miller: We’ve always had a 12-month calendar … so it really doesn’t make any difference to me. You have to do everything. I think we want to have longevity and if you want longevity it’s important to be in all the different categories.

Nicole Miller spring 2014 images courtesy of

Nicole Miller spring 2014 images courtesy of

FR: What will you do once the show is over? Vacation? Take time off from the business?

Nicole Miller: We get so excited and my whole team gets excited about the collection. It’s just a real high when we have the right inspiration and everyone is coming up with ideas and doing research. It’s such a great team spirit thing. We always have such a great time.

We never think about it as a business. Sometimes we’re not professional enough because we get so excited about the idea and the concept. And then (we have to) try not to be too literal.

But we have a great time. I have a great team. These girls are great. They’re like my best friends. And we just love the team spirit of when we’re all pow-wowing and coming up with ideas.

Everybody does talk about the fashion shows being a nightmare and they are a nightmare for a lot of reasons like getting your shoes an hour before (the show), or where a girl trips on the runway, or worrying about if your sweaters are coming in on time. The last week is chaotic. We have 20 girls who have to come in for fittings and the sewers are here until midnight. So it’s a very chaotic and stressful week. It is a nightmare. But within the nightmare, it is fun.

And we complain about it, but if we didn’t do it, we would be looking at each other like “Oh, those people are doing it. Why aren’t we doing it?” We would feel left out if we didn’t do it.

—Karyn D. Collins





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