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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

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Red Wing reaction to New Yorker

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler is a big fan of Red Wing Shoes - the first outside brand he brought in to what is now a substantial heritage collection. But that admiration does not extend to every style – like the ones favored by Red Wing Shoes CEO David Murphy. While interviewing Murphy for today’s St. Paul Pioneer Press article on how Minnesota brands are benefiting from the American heritage trend in fashion, I asked him about the recent New Yorker profile that detailed Drexler’s visit to Red Wing Shoes headquarters. Murphy said he showed Drexler his favorite boot, the 2156 hiker (pictured.) Drexler’s unapologetic response: “Leave that to the designers.” Nor was Drexler impressed by the World’s Biggest Boot on display at the Red Wing Shoes retail store in the company’s home town. “He wants it to be a lot more hip,” Murphy said. The New Yorker piece quoted Drexler offering to help Murphy open a store in Manhattan. Murphy says retail is not a focus for Red Wing Shoes, but the brand likely will get to New York in the next few years. And when that time does come, Murphy said he will definitely take up Drexler, widely regarded as a retail superstar, on his offer. He’s got it in print.

Gone like the wind

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

StormSister Spatique is packing up its moisturizers and closing its St. Paul boutique at the end of October. After four years of trying to make it work in her west side neighborhood, Becky Sturm is tired. She held on through the worst of the recession, but says she’s found little support from community banks and business organizations. It’s yet another reminder that we have to support the shops that make our city cool and unique if we want them to be around. StormSister Spatique will live on online, which is where it started and has always been the bigger business. And stay tuned: Sturm is developing a beauty product of her own. With her industry smarts and passion for all things pretty, you know it’s going to be good.

Dishing DC Housewives

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Jason Backe wears a lot of hats (if he didn’t, his bald head might get cold): hair colorist to the stars, including Anne Hathaway and Renee Zellweger, co-owner of the Ted Gibson Salon in NY and DC, L’oreal spokesman, social networker and lately, honorary housewife on “Real Housewives of D.C.” He’s at the side of those self-absorbed, but well-tressed ladies every time I flip to Bravo lately, so I called my fellow Minnesota native for the scoop. Listen in on our entire conversation, which aired on Shop Girls, myTalk 107.1 on Saturday, Sept. 11.

He was part of the show before some of the housewives: Backe was working on Mary Schmidt Amons’ hair when she got a call from Bravo asking her to participate. The show has been a huge boon to the Ted Gibson Salon, which opened in D.C. just a couple of years ago. Let’s just say no other advertising is needed right now to fill the chairs. “The response has been great. We are raising the bar for beauty in D.C.”

And about reality TV, Backe offers these insights:

  • Editing doesn’t change the story, but it does make it entertaining: “What they show is not necessarily in sequential order. They might insert an eye roll or a smirk from a completely different conversation to emphasize a point.
  • Even a mother can be fooled: “My mom called and said I was so rude to that store owner when I said (in an episode) “nice barware” when she used plastic cups. In reality, I was teasing a friend. I never would have said that to someone I just met.
  • The housewives lives really are that dramatic: “Oh, it really is like that.”
  • What you meet is not what you get with White House crashers Michaele and Tereq Salahi: “They make a really great first impression. When we first met, we had a blast. Michaele is charismatic, really easy to chat with. Her husband is…odd, difficult to have a conversation with…What guests do outside of the salon is not up to me, but she had a certain sense of entitlement and didn’t want to pay bills. That’s what we’re in business for. She doesn’t come to the salon anymore.”

Fashion, and MNfashion

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Sitting through the underwhelming MNfashion Week preview show this week, I couldn’t help but think about some of the Twin Cities-based designers I’ve talked to in just the last few days, like Katherine McMillan of super cool men’s accessories line Pierrepont Hicks and Jessika Madison-Kennedy of Dadadress. Both rave about Twin Cities – it’s creativity, liveablity and support for the arts. Both are career designers whose fashions are sold internationally. Both are giving back to the local scene: McMillan helped produce tomorrow’s Northern Grade Men’s Market, a celebration of American-made men’s brands, including many local; Madison-Kennedy is running the new fashion design program at the College of Visual Arts.

Neither is involved with MNfashion, the organization that aims to support emerging designers and champion fashion as a viable industry in Minnesota. From Sept. 20 to 26, many of those young designers will participate in fashion shows throughout the Twin Cities – at least two dozen events are planned. Based on the preview, many shows will be fun, but few will be memorable, or lead to commercial placement of the clothes. And that is the goal: to sell the clothes that come down the runway. MNfashion is in danger of falling into the rut it aimed to help designers avoid: staging fashion shows just for the sake of something cool to do on a Saturday night.

In the spring, it seemed MNfashion was finally reaching beyond its core supporters – mostly artsy 20somethings with time to go to fashion shows every night of the week – and exposing itself to the rest of the city, including older women with money to buy the clothes. There were events at Galleria boutiques and designers that are working on manufacturing and distribution, like Laura Fulk and Christopher Straub participated. The only true shining star this time is Joynoelle, which will show on Sept. 23. (tickets available here.) Retailers chose Boutique Week over MNfashion Week.

MNfashion Executive Director Anna Lee continues to work passionately and tirelessly on behalf of local designers. She’s assembled an impressive troop of volunteers. She’s coordinating events with museums and working on securing grants and establishing a sewing cooperative for designers. But the group needs to look beyond its members and the endless parade of wannabes and reach out to the many designers in the Twin Cities who are already doing it – and doing it well.

Parting words of retail wisdom

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Exclusive Uptown, Minneapolis boutique Intoto is closing after 21 years (sale details here). The economy is not to blame. Owner Karen Heithoff is 65, has five grandkids in New York  and other interests to pursue on her bucket list. “It was just time,” she says. If you’re not familiar with Intoto, it’s probably because you couldn’t afford it – the store stocked luxury labels like Dries van Noten, Phillip Lim and Paul Smith and never apologized for it. “When we opened, our customer wasn’t shopping in Minneapolis – they would shop when they traveled,” Heithoff said. “We romanced those customers. They really trusted us.” Despite the coming of the Mall of America and the steady ascent of the Galleria, despite more recent high end boutique arrivals like OPM, and our more recent love affair with fast fashion from the likes of H&M and Forever 21, Heithoff believes there is room in the Twin Cities for another designer store like hers. Here are her secrets:

  • Service. “We would do anything for our customers. We really became friends with them.”
  • Have a point of view. “Our customers learned to appreciate our taste. We educated them. If you confuse your customers by switching directions all the time, it’s the kiss of death.”
  • Don’t be ruled by the economy. If you’re a high end store, stick with it, even in tough times. “Of course it’s been challenging in the last 18 months, but if someone wants a $10 t-shirt, they can buy that elsewhere, not from me,” Heitoff said. “In our case, our customers are loyal and they continued shopping with us.” Her one concession, within the lines she stocked, she looked for a broader range of price points.
  • Don’t underestimate the market. “There’s a refined fashion look in Minneapolis that could be worn anywhere. It’s very sharp.”

Mama wanna model

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Motherhood could be the launch point for your modeling career: Hot Mama is looking for a mom over the age of 35 with a daughter over the age of 5 to appear in a print advertising campaign. The casting call takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 12 at Hot Mama’s 50th & France flagship. Top finalists will be voted for on It’s a smart way for this fast growing mini-chain with 16 boutiques in the Twin Cities and beyond to connect with its core customers and get them invested in the brand.

Iron Mike talks shop

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Iron Mike Ditka stopped by the myTalk 107.1 studio for a live chat with the Shop Girls on Saturday. We think he got lost on his way out of sportsville am1500, but decided to take full advantage. He looked sharp in a black shirt, jeans, boots and aviator glasses. His hair was perfect (I asked about it, but he didn’t give away trade secrets). When we admired his shades, he recounted an amusing tale about wearing them to Whole Foods (he’s so fancy), buying his groceries, paying (no reusable bags), getting in his car to go home – and reading about the entire episode, sunglasses and all, in the gossip columns the next day. “Why is that news?” he asked. Probably because we’d have to think about things like oil spills and the economy if it wasn’t.
Hear the whole conversation – including his thoughts on Brett Farve and Bud Selig and skinny jeans here.
Okay, not skinny jeans.

The death of appointment shopping?

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

The newest Fun Sisters boutique at 216 S. Main St. in Stillwater is open regular hours, seven days a week. Anyone who started shopping this store at its original location at 42nd and Nicollet in South Minneapolis, knows that schedule indicates a significant shift: Fun Sisters was one of the early “occasional” stores, open just one weekend a month years before it was trendy. The philosophy of occasional stores is to build excitement and condition shoppers to show up and buy on specific dates – or risk missing out. “No one is that desperate for trinkets anymore,” the manager of the Stillwater Fun Sisters told me when I stopped by today – a Thursday, just after noon, when at least a half dozen women were ogling the inexpensive bags and accessories. Interesting. Did the recession kill event shopping? Has being less needy, or at least more self-conscious about wanting stuff, made shoppers less likely to pencil in a special trip to a store open just a couple of days a month? Or are there just so many of these stores now that the thrill has waned? And can being available all the time compensate for the frenzy that limited hours can create? Thanks to Fun Sister’s evolving strategy, we’ll find out.

Vote for MNfashion

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

With the fashion week runway shows and hoopla past, it’s down to dollars for MNfashion, the organization dedicated to providing resources and professional development to local designers. The group wants to establish a sewing cooperative that would provide training, workspace and help designers manufacture their creations at a reasonable cost for retail sale – often one of the major stumbling blocks for budding artists. Time to give them a vote of confidence. MNfashion was one of 1,000 organizations accepted into the May Pepsi Refresh Challenge. The 10 with the most votes on May 31 will be given $50,000 to fulfill their mission. If you appreciate our growing local fashion scene, vote (as often as once a day).

Lane Bryant model sizes up the spotlight

Friday, April 30th, 2010

IMG_0402Lane Bryant model Ashley Graham (with fellow LB model Tonya Pittman) was at Mall of America Thursday for the opening of the plus size retailer’s redesigned store. But all eyes were on her, thanks to the controversy over television networks reportedly refusing to air the lingerie commercial she stars in. Once we got the serious questions out of the way about size and prejudice in America (read it in the St. Paul Pioneer Press), we talked about her exercise routine (yoga and a trainer once a week – “If I’m not busy”) and what she’d eaten for the day (yogurt, a ham and cheese omelet with whole wheat toast for breakfast; a chicken Cesar salad and side of fries for lunch). And we talked about being a size 16 – which frankly, has never looked so good. Ashley, who doesn’t seem “big” in the least in person, had not yet changed into her Lane Bryant uniform when we met. She was wearing Robert Rodriguez skinny pants, a Top Shop shirt, a cropped jacket from Barney’s and carrying a Mui Mui bag. What’s that about plus size girls have no shopping options? “I can’t just walk into Yves Saint Laurent and buy a cute shirt,” Ashley said. (Neither can I, honey – wallet size hurts, too.) But she did name several designers that have extended their size run, including Marc Jacobs and Prada. Of course, her size 16 might technically be considered “plus,” but it isn’t exactly the same league – or struggle – as a 26. Ashley said she’d like to see the retail world do away with the “plus” label. Why can’t every women’s department simply feature clothes from a 0 to a 32 without, as she says, “banishing (plus size women) to the back of the room?”

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