Eleven years after starting “Clothing Icon” in New York – and 61 interviews later – Fern Mallis celebrated the launch of her second book Wednesday night at the 57th Street Nordstrom store in Manhattan.
The stream of devoted investigators cycled through the cocktail party including designers such as Jack McColough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler, Nicole Miller, Dion Lee, Stan Herman, Jeffrey Banks, Yeohlee Teng and Frederick Anderson. On the way to the third-floor event at the NYC Broadway Bar Nordstrom, copies of Mallis’ “Fashion Icons 2” were exhibited in various areas.
Six years ago, Rizzoli published the first installment of highlights from the 92Y Mallis interview, “Fashion Lives: Fashion Icons With Fern Mallis.”
Prior to building his talk series, Mallis served as executive director of the American Council of Fashion Designers from 1991 to 2001. In 1993, with then CFDA president Herman, Mallis centralized fashion week in New York’s Bryant Park by creating 7th on Sixth. She also had senior roles at IMG Fashion from 2001 to 2010 and hosted fashion weeks in Mumbai, Berlin, and elsewhere.
Stylist Ty Hunter, Rickie De Sole, “Real Housewives of New Jersey” alumni Dorinda Medley, Martha Stewart, Amy Fine Collins, Arthur Elgort, Tim Gunn, Peter Som, Hillary Taymour, Bob Morris, Mark Bozek, Bethann Hardison, David Rabin , Sam Shahid, Nicole Fischelis, Patrick McMullan, George Wayne and Susan Magrino were among the performers. While Mallis greeted friends and posed dashingly for selfies, several participants tried on handheld masks illustrated with similarities to Tom Ford, Diane von Furstenberg, Betsey Johnson, and other designers Mallis had interviewed over the years at 92Y.
The guest of honor described the occasion as “amazing”, taking a minute to calm down and shed some tears. “I’m going to get emotional. It’s a sense of accomplishment and the love and compassion of the industry. Between everyone who is here and what Nordstrom has done it blows my mind. Their support for this and what they have done with this party is very confusing,” he said.
More than anything, it validates the Fashion Icon conversation, according to Mallis, who describes it as “a master class and archive for the industry of all of the most creative leaders.”
The idea that their personal stories will live on through the books is important, Mallis said. “As I keep saying, all of these people are more than just a name on a label. They are real people. Who were their grandmothers and why were they so influential? What was the bedroom they grew up in like? What did these people tell? How did they succeed and reinvent their lives time and time again? So many of them went bankrupt, are still there and have great success? I was blown away by it,” Mallis said. “We all read about collectibles and profit stories, but who are they.”
Creating the “Fashion Icons” series was Mallis’ reinvention after 20 years of running New York Fashion Week and realizing that it was going in a direction that wasn’t what he wanted it to be. “It’s almost more important than the tent, because it’s real. It lives on. Tent [in Bryant Park] for me is ‘Brigadoon.’ They were there and now they are gone. Now people talk about tents as they do about Studio 54 — ‘Oh, you have to be there. If you weren’t there, you can’t even imagine how great it would be.’”
New York Fashion Week’s chief security consultant, Ty Yorio, of course. At Wednesday’s book party, he remembered seeing Mallis in action over the years. “In the police force, we call him someone who can think for himself. And he can – instantly,” he said. “My favorite memory is when he put it all together in 1993 with a tent at Bryant Park. It was against all odds and [people asked]’Is this really going to work?’”
Hunter, who works closely with Beyoncé, said she always wanted to connect with Mallis when she started 15 or 16 years ago. Coincidentally, the opportunity presented itself at Stuart Weitzman’s shop, where the two of them happened to be shopping during the holiday season. “He’s fashion week. He was the beginning of all this for me. If that event never happened, where is the fashion wise today? It helps to see fashion from all over the world here,” he said. “I’ve always admired him. Because he’s so iconic and still approachable, I love him for that.”
Like Morris and Herman, Hunter has a book in the works for which Knowles wrote the foreword and Bill Porter wrote the afterword. Titled, “Change From Within: Lessons in Adversity, Acceptance, and Self-Discovery,” the book will be released in October and is now available for pre-order. “Everyone wants me to make fashion books and style books, but I want to tell my story first so they can get to know me. There’s a lot more to come,” Hunter explained.
Herman said of Mallis, “The biggest contribution she has made is what everyone has deified her, putting together a fashion show at Bryant Park – with me, definitely with me. On his tombstone, it will be his moment of greatness.”
But Mallis isn’t relaxed: he’ll be right back at 92Y interviewing Tory Burch on Wednesday.