Thoughts on New York, Summer 2012


I forgot how smelly New York is. And how loud. Jack hammers, horns, whistles, hissing grates, chattering tourists. Non-stop noise.

If I was looking for a vacation in New York—a great hotel wonderful meals, some shopping —then, I would say the trip was a failure. I stayed in a hovel in midtown, had only one decent meal and several downright gross ones. I did, however, discover American Renovation and sleep for nine hours uninterrupted.

I was not looking for rest in New York or even planning to enjoy the city. I was hunting for sources. I was trying to find out how the fashion industry interacted with consumers; when magazine editors realized that buyers have minds of their own; how war regulations slowed production in the first half of the 1940s.

I spent most of my time in New York Public Library archives, in the papers of the Fashion Group—a trade organization for retailers, buyers, forecasting experts, manufacturers, editors, and journalists. I trolled through speeches from their bi-annual luncheons and documented when and how fabric designers paired up with fiber manufacturers and the chemical companies. I read what industry legends such as Lord & Taylor’s Dorothy Shaver and publicity guru Estelle Hamburger had to say about the marketing of American style. Even better, I found out how they defiend “American style.”

As much as things have changed in New York (there were only a handful of shops on 5th Avenue that I recognized), they also stayed the same. FIT students still smoke too much. New York coffee is still the best “light and sweet.” Most enduring were the friendships I recharged during this time on my own: a dear pal from graduate school who has become a top curator and a multi-tasking, Manhattan mom; a travelling partner who has danced in many Italian discos with me; and Brad Johns, the man who kept me blonde and hopeful for almost a decade. He hadn’t changed one bit.