Fern Mallis, Honored Guest of the Arizona Costume Institute Interviewed by Bill Dougherty You created Fashion Week, why did you sell it? It really wasn’t my decision. It was a collective board decision. CFDA decided to sell to the event company IMG. They took the event global. It’s been a huge success. What’s your next big idea? I’m not prepared to answer that quite yet. Who do you consider the 2 most underrated designers of all time? Geoffrey Beene and Charles James. The late poet Sylvia Plath said her experience at Mademoiselle was anything but fun. Describe yours during the Age of Aquarius? It all depended on the editor you were assigned to. My experience was fantastic. When I returned from Europe later that summer, the magazine offered me a job. I first recruited in collages throughout the country to find new Guest Editors. Then later I held various merchandising positions for the publication. What do you see as the next big trend? I don’t know. But I can tell you, I think “trends” as we know them have ended. I suspect the focus will be durability of fabric and the quality and craftsmanship of the design. How did you get your start in the business and who was your mentor? All my relatives worked in the Garment District so I guess you could say I was hands on from a small age. It was my family first, then winning the Guest Editor position at Mademoiselle in 1969.
Why did you decide to write your book? The critical masses were interested in what they were reading about. Then Rizzoli pitched the idea to me. We did 90 minute interviews and filled the book with rich photographs to accompany the interviews. The end result was very nice. Carolina Herrera said when she dies so does her line. What do you think about that? I didn’t know she had said that? Very interesting. There are lines rich in heritage. They are comprised of classical styles and often a fragrance. So to throw all that away would be sad. The only problem I see in this is when someone or a business buys a defunct line and tries to resurrect it. Often the designer who is hired, knows little about the original designer or their vision. We’ve seen this with Halston, Andre Courreges and Jack Fath. It would be nice however to take the money these huge lines are making and invest them in a new designer no one knows. What impact do you think social media has had on the fashion world? You have to change with the times. Social media is the result of a new generation. They may or may not have everything correct, but people are listening to them. There is an equal balance. Read what you want, take something from a blogger, then take something from a seasoned professional. We live in a democratic society, so look at both sides. When did you finally say to yourself, I’ve made it? I don’t know that I have. But it is nice when you’re sitting in a restaurant in Honolulu and the owner and chef appear to meet you. It’s kind of fun!
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