Quotes from fashion’s Tim Gunn

Tim Gunn

Tim Gunn  – Photo Credit: 303 Magazine

Style consultant and Project Runway mentor Tim Gunn is funny. Funny and honest and elegant and incredibly knowledgeable. As well as a terrific yarn-spinner and storyteller. Last winter when I heard him speak at an event I was touched to see that he is the same in person as he is on television – nothing hidden. It was refreshing. So it makes sense that his book, Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible, is like him: honest and informative. I recommend the book if you are interested in knowing more about the history and origins of clothing as well as getting helpful information on how to modernize and wear clothes today. Tim Gunn loves words: I share some of his inspiring excerpts from the book …

You should never shop anywhere that doesn’t seem to have your interests at heart or that makes you feel bad. Shopping is always at least in part about gathering information. Salespeople should help you learn about yourself and what you like. It should not be an exercise in frustration or demoralization. Go someplace with knowledgeable salespeople.” Continue reading

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xox Betsey

Betsey and Lulu Johnson

Betsey and Lulu Johnson

You may want to spend part of your Mother’s Day with designer Betsey Johnson and her daughter, Lulu. Tonight the Style Network will launch the season premier of: xox Betsey. A little over a year ago Betsey Johnson filed for bankruptcy but as she herself says, “The stores are gone, but I’m not!” Which is a very good thing, and I can’t wait to see more of Betsey Johnson! She is a fashion favorite, ever since my mother introduced me to her in the mid 1970s when she took over the fashion label Alley Cat. I will never forget (and I wish I could find) the red plaid corduroy Alley Cat blazer designed by Betsey Johnson. It was divine. I borrowed it from my mother and she never saw it again.

I imagine xox Betsey will be a loving tribute to mothers and daughters everywhere and a lot like Betsey Johnson-the-designer herself: bold, bright, edgy, cooky, a lot of fun and original! I’ll be watching!

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Cindy’s style story …

Cindy and Stacy when they launched Style for Hire

Cindy and Stacy, launching Style for Hire

One remarkable day five years ago, Cindy McLaughlin and her friend, well-known stylist Stacy London, realized they had a great idea: to help regular people on regular budgets feel good about their clothes, their bodies and themselves. That was the day that Style for Hire, a network of top personal stylists handpicked by Stacy, was born. Cindy is not only the Co-founder of Style for Hire, but she is also its original client. I asked Cindy about her own style story …

MKG: Have you always been in the fashion industry?

CMI’ve been in the industry since 2000 – which, by now feels a bit like ‘always.’ Prior, I worked at a consulting firm doing banking technology research + consulting, and before that I was in the Peace Corps digging latrines and wells in Congo. Either of those jobs is as far as you can get from fashion, really.

MKG: Tell me where you were emotionally in 2008 when you called Stacy London to help you with your wardrobe?

CMI was schlubby. I was a restless stay-at-home mom of two young kids wishing I had something more intellectually fulfilling. I couldn’t muster the energy to apply for a job, though, because I didn’t fit into any one my work-appropriate clothes to wear for interviews (much less to the job if I got it.) One of the more inane reasons not to work, but if you’ve ever tried to navigate a day of shopping at Bloomingdale’s, exhausted and solo with a toddler and an infant, you’ll know what I mean.

MKG: What did you experience as you began to recapture yourself?

CM: Here’s what happened: Stacy took me shopping for a couple of hours. She made a bunch of clothing recommendations and they were spot on. Every single piece she helped me find was well within my (limited) budget and still lives in my closet 5 years later. And it was fun! I felt like I had a moment for myself that I hadn’t had in months. Then the result: I simply looked MUCH better. With that, I was inspired to make more incremental improvements. My posture improved, I bothered to brush my hair and put on a touch of makeup and I grew excited to get out there and be a part of the adult world again. That’s all the internal stuff, and then I started getting compliments from friends and family and noticed by strangers. It’s impossible not to feel more cheerful and open and even more powerful when people are smiling at you and telling you all day how great you are. Maybe years of psychotherapy could get you there too, but a couple of hours of intense retail therapy is more my speed.

MKG: Tell me about the moment when you and Stacy decided to start Style for Hire? What was your goal?

CM: We were having wine on my porch after the fact, talking about the unexpected psychological impact of feeling good about your style, and it hit us like a ton of bricks. The mission was – and remains – to help our clients look great, and save them time and money in the process. Of course, there’s only one Stacy and a whole world of clients, so we had to figure how to scale to include the best personal stylists in the country.

MKG: How is the company changing since you started?

CM: Nothing at all has changed about the mission; it’s still at the core of everything we do. Reading our client’s testimonials keeps us inspired and reminds us everyday that we’re still on the right track. Of course, some of the tactics have shifted over the years. We’re ramping up the frequency of our workshops (the vetting and training ground for all new stylists) to be able to extend the service to more people; we’re offering our stylists lots more in the way of ongoing information and training directly from Stacy and we’re helping to connect our stylists to each other. It’s exciting to watch our stylists become friends and bond as colleagues within a community rather than competitors. We’re always focusing on how technology can be used to help our stylists and clients interact more effectively.

MKG: Can you explain the role of a professional stylist? How do you select the stylists?

CM: A professional stylist earns a living by helping others build flexible, functional wardrobes. Generally speaking, this means the following:

1. Making sure the garments in the closet are all wearable, visible and clean/mended/tailored. Those that don’t work are sent to charity or consignment so that the client can milk the value of what s/he already owns.

2. Making sure that as many outfits as possible are made out of what’s already in the closet. This can save clients a tremendous amount of time and money as they look at old garments with fresh new eyes.

3. Making sure that any additions to the wardrobe make more outfits (so you’ll never have an ‘orphan’ garment that doesn’t go with anything else) and that money is invested wisely. All our stylists use ‘cost-per-wear’ as the metric for investment. It’s how a businessperson evaluates assets. It’s OK to spend more on something you’ll use everyday, but you’ll want to be careful for things that are only good for a few occasions/year or even a single wear (Bridesmaids – listen up!).

Stacy handpicks our stylists after a rigorous process in which we view their resume + portfolio, gather client testimonials, interview them 1:1, and spend two very intense days in a challenge-based workshop getting to know them. What’s great about the network is that our stylists help us find other top-tier stylists because they now trust that we’ve brought the best stylists out there. It’s a virtuous circle. We also take on newer stylists who have great talent but who lack experience, train them, and help mentor them through their career.

MKG: What is your favorite thing to hear from a client?

CM: I love variations on the phrases, ‘you’ve changed my life,’ and ‘I’m shocked at how powerful this was!’ I hear both all the time, I’ve felt them both myself, and I know them to be true. I get inspiring emails every day from clients – most recently a woman whose daughter got styled as part of a Make-a-Wish program. That reminded that what may on the surface to be a bit superfluous or indulgent can be incredibly deep and a source of great joy.

MKG: Finally, have your feelings about your personal style changed since starting Style for Hire? And … do you ever get a little closet touch-up from time to time?

CM: Yes on both counts! I see one of our stylists periodically and know a lot more about how to dress my own body. I’ve sat through a whole mess of Stacy’s workshops by now, so I know the theory of ‘science of styling’ cold. I also have more fun with fashion. I like to take more risks now and I’m more comfortable with my choices. Literally comfortable, too. This spring I love wearing sweatpants or leggings, a slouchy sweater and booties, as long as they’re flattering and kind of edgy. (It’s possible I’ll get a raised eyebrow from Stacy for this …).



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Visiting Daniel’s studio

Daniel, me and Chris

Daniel, me and Chris

Last week NBC’s Fashion Star was an emotional turning point for designer, Daniel. He struggled with the notion of compromising his artistic vision to meet the needs of the buyers. But he managed to stay true to himself and win the hearts of the buyers and his mentor Nicole Richie, not to mention winning a new Fiat! Well done, Daniel. You are an inspiration to designers everywhere!

When I met Daniel and Chris at 100%NY studio, I was impressed with their warmth and openness. Daniel is the co-founder, designer and creative director, and Chris is the brand manager and an important member of Daniel’s team. Daniel explained to me that he has two managers; one manages Daniel Silverstein, and Chris is responsible for managing the branding strategy for 100%NY. And what is the essence of 100%NY? According to Daniel: “to create beautiful things that don’t have a negative impact on our environment … Our brand is futuristic, but not in the space-movie sense; more in terms of where design is going. The look of our designs are body conscious and tend to use mesh and surface embellishments. But equally important, is that we are making everything in our own studio here in New York City. The goal is to slow fashion down while creating a no-waste environment.” It is also important to Daniel to make a difference for future designers: “I have always loved working with my hands. I want to educate people in the noble work of construction and give them pride and the skills to make their own designs. I would like to bring back to the notion of made in America.”

Chris added that there are several groups in New York City who are helping to facilitate designers. Manufacture NY and Maker’s Row, two such groups located in the heart of the Garment District, are doing just that.

I am looking forward to seeing how far Daniel will go on Fashion Star. But he has already won my heart!

Daniel and Chris with 100%NY Spring 2013 Collection

Daniel and Chris with 100%NY Spring 2013 Collection

Daniel's 'no-waste' creation - constructing a skirt

Daniel’s ‘no-waste’ creation – constructing a skirt


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Make it work!

Me with Tim Gunn

Me with Tim Gunn

I was struck by the luck of the Irish today! Not only did my thoughtful friend Lois deliver her delicious homemade Irish soda bread, which of course, in the spirit of tradition my family devoured within a few hours. But this evening I had the opportunity to hear (and meet!) Tim Gunn of Project Runway in an inspiring conversation with Budd Mishkin, correspondent for NY1. He was endearing and genuine – elegant, honest, funny, and opinionated – a joyful storyteller and a great New Yorker. I learned many things about Tim Gunn during these two hours …

– he lives on the Upper West Side of New York and rides the subway at least twice a day.

– he was a teacher long before his time as a mentor and consultant on Project Runway, and what he loves most is watching a “student ascend.”

– his love of words and the written word runs very deep: he had a debilitating stutter growing up. At nineteen, he had speech therapy that changed his life forever, and now he is “making up for lost time” with his use of an extensive vocabulary.

– his father worked for the FBI during the time of J. Edgar Hoover.

– his favorite show growing up was I Love Lucy! (did I ever tell you that I start every morning watching that show? I like the good karma!).

– this season of Project Runway (Season 12) is his favorite season ever! “I love the teams and the level of talent of the designers.”

– he is not fond of the legging trend: “Since when did a legging become a pair of pants? It’s a cousin of hosiery! It’s preposterous and it’s all over the place!” Continue reading

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Daniel: A fashion star

Daniel Silverstein, Creative Director, Co-Founder of 100%NY

Daniel Silverstein, Creative Director and Co-Founder of 100%NY

Daniel Silverstein is Creative Director and Co-Founder of 100%NY: Contemporary designer sportswear for the eco-conscious woman. He is also about to raise the fashion stakes for him and his company, as one of thirteen contestants on tonight’s Season Two premier of Fashion Star, on NBC. And guess what? Daniel is only 24 years old!

I sat down with this very thoughtful and talented individual and asked him how he turned his passion for creating beautiful clothes and his vision for a more eco-friendly design environment into a reality. Here is part of my conversation with Daniel …

How young were you when you realized that you wanted to be a fashion designer? Was there a moment?

DS: There’s not one particular moment. I’ve always been a tactile person. I remember growing up and loving movies and Hollywood and The Olympics. The gymnastics uniforms intrigued me. When I was in pre-school a boy came to class with kimonos for show-and-tell and I came home drawing kimonos and cherry trees – I think my mother knew then that I had my own style of expression. I would always find a way to dress Barbies in costumes of tissue and tape, or whatever materials I could find. When I was eleven years old I went to summer camp and had my first sewing lesson. That was the turning point. From that moment, there was no stopping me. The rest is history – it’s more than a decade later (I just turned 24) and I’m still doing the same thing … Continue reading

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The Rachel Zoe Project: “It’s Everything!”

Rachel Zoe with her husband Rodger

Rachel Zoe with her husband Rodger – The Rachel Zoe Project, Season Five

Season Five of The Rachel Zoe Project premiers tonight on The Bravo TV Network at 9:00pm and Rachel is adding to her collection of “Zoe-isms”with her latest phrase, “It’s Everything!” It’s time to see how Rachel Zoe’s life and career have transformed since we saw her last year. So Maje! comes to mind!

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Spring dream

My white lace Valentino blazer

My white Valentino blazer

In the midst of more dreary winter weather ready to drag me down I found a moment to Spring dream! My new favorite stylist, Stacy London (co-host of TLC’s What Not to Wear, now in its 10th season!), revealed the spring style trends. Illuminating! So let’s talk! …

white and lace. Flirty and feminine, the combination of white and lace will be big. I have this one covered with my Valentino blazer (it’s white eyelet, actually) that I snatched at my local high-end consignment shop. Find a consignment shop for yourself, if you haven’t already! Go!

gladiator sandals and ankle-strap sandals. Watch for gladiator sandals, especially, with the designs reaching every length, even up to the knee! Continue reading

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Stacy’s Truth …

QVC Presents "FFANY Shoes on Sale"

Stacy London
QVC Presents “FFANY Shoes on Sale” – fall 2012

Many of you know Stacy London as the co-host of the hit television show on TLC’s What Not to Wear. Did you also know that she has written a book called, The Truth About Style?

I picked it up today and by all accounts it looks to be honest and forthcoming, and in the spirit of helping nine women transform their lives, focuses on the person inside rather than simply ‘what to wear.’ I can’t wait to read Stacy’s book, because I agree that your style choices affect your self-esteem. You know I love that!

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Heavens to Betsey!


Designer Betsey Johnson, Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images for IMG

Betsey Johnson is a fashion icon. A designer who never ages. Perhaps it’s because her designs are youth-inspired with a rocker-girl whimsy. Or perhaps it’s because she ends every one of her shows with a cartwheel (something I haven’t been able to do since 7th grade!). But this Peter Pan of fashion is starting over at age 70 and it appears, doing it with vim and vigor. I was surprised to discover that Betsey Johnson’s company had filed for bankruptcy last April, 2012, when I read Tim Murphy’s story on Betsey, entitled Betsey Johnson, Back In the Pink (The Collection – The New York Times).

What is next for Betsey? A new line of more moderately-priced clothing to be introduced to department stores, including Macy’s and Nordstrom (designer Steve Madden is her new parent company), production of a reality TV show with her daughter, Lulu, premiering this spring on the Style Network, and her third fragrance, Betseyfield, to be released this summer.

I have loved Betsey Johnson’s clothes since my mother introduced me to her line in the 1970s. I wish her much success in her second act. Keep on cartwheeling, Betsey!!

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