Posts tagged ‘business’

April 25, 2011

Yes, We Ann

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition. Henry V

I shall never forget it.

I shall never forget my very first photo shoot as a stylist. That’s how I met Ann Wallace. I shall never forget my second photo shoot. That’s how I met Michelle Obama.

My work with Mrs. Obama is already a matter of public record. I like to think I did my part to properly introduce Mrs. Obama to a wider audience. She certainly did (I’ll keep that conversation to myself).

Ever since our second meeting, I have always wanted to find a proper public forum to introduce Ann Wallace. And now I have it in this, the inaugural fashion shoot for aControlledSubstance.

It is in no way an accident that Ann is the first subject of this endeavor. The fashion shoots that I plan to produce for you on this site will not involve fashion models. You can see that anywhere.

I plan to honor the time you choose to spend on this site by introducing you to the sense of style–both in the sense of fashion and life– of people I think you need to know about. (You report to the site. I decide!)

So, back to Ann. I met her when she was the General Manager of Yves Saint Laurent in Chicago. I was given 5 days notice by Today’s Chicago Woman that I was to put together 8 looks for a photo shoot they had already planned with the four female meteorologists at the four major local stations. This was to run in the March issue.

It was the middle of February and they had no concept yet. With only 5 days to get the job done, I decided the easiest and most sensible thing to do was a rainwear theme, so out I ran like a chicken with my head cut off assembling 8 different raincoat stories for women whose sizes I didn’t even know until the 3rd day.

In my whirlwind travels around the city, I spotted the best trench at Yves Saint Laurent. They had only one. It was about a size 10 with a gorgeous rope belt, so I figured it would work perfectly on anyone because you could cinch it in such way that the belt would rightly be the whole story. I was determined to make it work, because, at the time YSL was still under the direction of Tom Ford and, it was the IT label.

I asked the salesperson who thought I was a customer if I could please talk to the GM. A few minutes later a very striking blonde woman dressed in all black appeared and introduced herself as Ann. Was there something she could do for me?

I fawned over the trench in earnest , I explained my predicament in no uncertain terms and then I held my breath, fully expecting her to say no.

“When would you like to pick it up,” she asked smiling?

I remember she was smiling because when Ann Wallace smiles, she makes me weak in the knees.

I didn’t have an exact answer. Would sometime in the next few days be ok?

I left the store and went back to the TCW offices. By then, the managing editor had firmed up the women’s sizes and their participation in the concept.

The next day was spent pulling looks and pulling strings and pulling everything, with the exception of one thing, completely together.

I could not find a piece of jewelry I deemed worthy of the YSL trench and the Jil Sander bias cut trapeze dress that was to go under it. So when I walked back into YSL to take the coat, all stressy as only I can get, I just blurted out to Ann, now of course wearing another magnificent all black outfit,  something like what a shame I couldn’t find a necklace just like the one she was wearing to use with the coat.

Without saying a word, she raised her arms, reached behind her neck, unfastened the necklace, handed it to me and then finally spoke: “Here, take it.  Just bring it back when you bring back the coat.”

She gave me, a complete stranger, the proverbial shirt off her own back. It was a kindness surpassed only by her reaction a few weeks later upon seeing the issue in print. Though the concept was hurried and much too cheekily photographed for my taste, Ann said to me “I see what you were trying to do. You’re a real artist.”

This story may seem a little self serving, right about now, but I assure you it is not.

What I couldn’t possibly have known at the time, as a 41 year old man who had never harbored any intention of doing anything like this is that respect, especially respect by women  fashion executives towards male stylists, is very difficult to come by.

I could tell you some stories that would curl your hair. But I won’t. For now.

What I  will tell you is that retail is perhaps the only business where female executives serve just under the very top of the male executives who run the industry as a whole. It is perhaps the only business where women get to treat men like, well, men treat(ed) women in the business world.

And in retail, an industry full of gay men who do everything from makeup to window displays, to selling women’s clothing for a living, you might just be shocked from the outside looking in–as I was when I started–what demeaning assumptions can be made about you.

I call this part of my (his)tory “the fag that brought the clothes.”

I’ve fought the good fight to change that perception, at least as it applies to me. That’s a story I  may tell you on another day.

What I will tell you today is this. This is Ann Wallace.




Tom Kolovos is Editor In Chief of aControlledSubstance. Ann Wallace is currently the General Manger of Escada, Chicago. She is styled by Tom, photographed by Ernest Collins and is wearing Escada Spring/Summer  2011 and her own jewelry.


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April 6, 2011

The Fashion Vampiress claims yet another victim: Christophe Decarnin at Balmain

Franco Moschino had a term for the havoc the  business of fashion can wreak on the  creative soul.

He called the entire industry the fashion vampiress. “Not only did his clothes question what became known as the fashion system – the ludicrous cost, ubiquitous ‘styling’, and 15-minute relevance – but his very advertising underscored his anarchic scepticism. Flicking through glossy magazines your eye would suddenly be arrested by Moschino’s black humour. A full-page advertisement depicted a vampire admonishing you, ‘Stop The Fashion System,” read in part his obituary in 1994 in The Independent.

The 15 minute relevance was Moschino’s way of describing the pressure that designers feel to produce something new and relevant every 6 months in a new collection. It is   this intense pressure, which has surely heightened since the 80’s when giant conglomerates had not yet begun to dabble in the fashion business,  that is the now  at the center of the recent infamous dismissal of John Galliano from Dior and perhaps also yesterday of Christophe Decarnin  at Balmain. Writing in The International Herald Tribune, Suzy Menkes, its chief fashion critic, noted recently

“While the vile statements seen coming from Mr. Galliano’s drunken lips on the Internet video deserved the nearly-universal condemnation they were receiving, there is pathos in the vision of one of the world’s most famous — and best paid — designers alone, clutching a glass in a bar. The pressure from fast fashion and from the instant Internet age to create new things constantly has worn down other famous names. Marc Jacobs, design director of Louis Vuitton, ended a wild streak in rehab. Calvin Klein famously rambled across a sports pitch and admitted to substance abuse. And the late Yves Saint Laurent spent a lifetime fighting his demons.”

Mr. Decarnin, who in a very short time established the once irrelevant Balmain into one of the world’s most coveted labels, seems to be the vampiress’ latest high profile victim. Cathy Horyn writes today in The New York Times that:

“Despite, or perhaps because of, a phenomenal run at Balmain, where he made ripped jeans and $5,000 motorcycle jackets seem the coolest thing since, well, Bardot and Brando, Mr. Decarnin hit some kind of personal impasse and lost control of the label.”

Surely, the entire story for Mr. Galliano and Mr. Decarnin (or Mr. McQueen for that matter) has yet to emerge. But it sure does look as if the fashion vampiress is on a feeding frenzy. Stay tuned.

Related Post: “J’adore Dior?”

March 5, 2011

Lady Gaga wears Haider Ackermann on the cover of Vogue (Rachel Zoe wears out her welcome at the Academy Awards)


Yes, the backroom deals in the world of high fashion make trading derivatives on Wall Street look like a silly game for the eTrade baby. Let me explain.

Haider Ackermann is the best designer you’ve probably never heard of. He’s the Colombian born, Belgian trained designer that Karl Lagerfeld favors to take over at  the helm of Chanel. Tilda Swinton has already made a splash on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival in his clothes. He is most certainly  on the very short list of designers to replace John Galliano at Dior.   Speculation will surely be running rampant today at the  showing of his Fall 2011 collection in Paris.

One of the most astounding missteps made by Rachel Zoe at the Academy Awards –apart from arranging the  gluttonous onstage costume changes–  was excluding Haider from her repetoire of gowns for Anne Hathaway. Ackermann is where fashion is headed and it would have said a lot for Ms. Zoe to be ahead of the curve. And ahead of the curve is where she sorely needs to be as it was recently documented that Ms. Zoe copied a dress she styled for Teen Vogue a few years back and passed it off as her own in her  laughably derivative debut runway collection. (All hail the next Tory Burch!)

So who needed to see the tiresome Oscar de la Renta (Raf Simons rip off) dress? The retro Vivienne Westwood ? The mothballed “archival” Valentino? The obligatory Tom Ford?

Not I.

Given that  Cartier paid Ms. Hathaway $750,000 dollars to wear its jewelry at the Academy Awards this year, you’d think she could afford to pay Ms. Zoe to do her homework.

At this point you have to feel a bit sorry for James Franco. Did he at least get a free “I’m with shady” t shirt for his hosting duties? Now at least we have a plausible explanation as to why Ms. Hathaway was over the moon onstage while Mr. Franco was under a rock.

Then again, perhaps it is Gwyneth Paltrow who should be complaining the loudest, not I. Louis Vuitton only paid her  $500,000 to wear its earrings and broach  on the red carpet. (Unfortunately, it occurred to no one to pay her not to sing.)  So the next time Tim Gunn interviews Valentino with Ms. Hathaway on the red carpet he can stop pretending he doesn’t know what “archival” means (DUDE, who are you kidding? Were you on the faculty at Parsons or at Carson’s?) and start asking “who are you wearing and how much were you paid?”

Kind of makes  one want to gag, right?

At any rate, it is thrilling to finally see (the all too often exurb oriented cover of American) Vogue make me go gaga.


Click here to see the entire  Spring  2011 Haider Ackermann on Style.com