About the Industry Insider: Adrian East came to retail after holding a variety of senior executive positions at various banks and brokerage firms over a 20-year career on Wall Street. After leaving Salomon Smith Barney and with a background in systems management and marketing, she struck out on her own, becoming a Senior Management Consultant at JP Morgan Chase.
With her entrepreneurial spirit having been ignited, she soon left the canyons of Wall Street and embarked on a career in retail. As owner of Fierson’s, a well-established children’s boutique in Bronxville, NY, Adrian continues the store’s 65-year-old tradition of selling upscale clothing to Moms in Manhattan and Westchester. She has now expanded the business via the establishment of two websites - Fiersons.com and DesignersBestForKids.com, (the latter geared to high-end European imports such as Dolce & Gabbana, Monnalisa, Lili Gaufrette and others).
She currently spearheads an international buying service, DesignersBestBuying.com, which is a children’s buying office targeted to boutique owners who have neither the time nor financing to travel to the European shows. Most recently, she has designed her own line of Communion dresses, which is expected to be ready early 2013.
You can reach Adrian at www.fiersons.com
The eternal appeal of Mad Men and Don Draper
Why 'old-fashioned' looks will never go out of style
My girlfriends and I have been emailing about it, texting about it, tweeting about it, and awaiting it: the long-anticipated premiere of Mad Men.
Yes…it’s coming. Finally. After what seems like an interminably long wait (protracted contract negotiations and network machinations), March 25th will mark the eagerly anticipated return of the show and its ever dapper, debonair rogue, Don Draper.
We will all be watching, my girlfriends and I. There will be no “Season 5 Premiere” party, no “viewing” soirees. Instead we will each be watching the show in solitary splendor. Each, from the comfort of our bedrooms, or in our very own, more upscale version of the ubiquitous “barca-lounger.” Alone in bed - in sweats and fuzzy socks, propped against pillows with our pints of Hagen Daaz in hand - or reclining in that favorite overstuffed chair, microwaved popcorn at the ready, we will tune in to see glimpses of a life and era we are all just a bit too young to remember precisely.
While we may have vague recollections of that time, our memories are primarily spurred by certain visual images. The three piece “modern” silver coffee set used for the bridge game party looks warmly familiar, the lever-operated phone directory that pops up when you move the side arrow to the desired letter is the exact one we had in our kitchen, but for the most part, it is a time and era that for us, remains a mystery.
Despite the familiarity of the visual clues, it is a time that is foreign to most of us: a time when three martini luncheons were the norm, a time when women in the office were routinely called “honey” and “sweetheart,” a time when the threat of a sexual harassment lawsuit was non-existent. It was a time when men wore hats, women wore gloves and everyone actually looked incredibly well-dressed on an airplane.
While we don’t exactly remember it, we relish it. So, if not nostalgia, what then is the appeal? Jon Hamm’s dashing good looks? His aloof, “manly” ways? Certainly that is part of it. But it doesn't nearly explain ALL of the appeal of either Don Draper (Hamm) or the show.
In terms of Jon Hamm? Yes, he is a good-looking guy to be sure, but he has neither the perfect features and mesmerizing good looks of say, Rob Lowe, nor the charismatic charm and Cary Grant cool of “King George” (aka George Clooney).
In fact, it is interesting to note that when not basking in the sartorial crispness of Don Draper, with his meticulously coiffed and Bryl-creamed hair, crisply ironed, bright white shirt and accompanying pocket square, we barely notice him?!
There was little or no buzz about Jon Hamm prior to his landing this role. No one really oohed and ahhed about him when he was playing Tina Fey’s wacky boyfriend in 30 Rock or the FBI agent in Town. While we all acknowledge his versatility as an actor, the swooning that accompanies him in his role as Don Draper is nowhere in sight in his more pedestrian roles. Clearly, it is not Jon Hamm who makes my girlfriends and I, all accomplished, independent women well past their teens, act like, well, teenagers. It is the character he inhabits so seamlessly. It is clearly Don Draper, not Jon Hamm who elicits our girlish reactions.
We love to love Don Draper precisely because he is somehow untouchable - emotionally AND visually. He looks untouched, pristine. He never looks rumpled. He never looks huggable or even approachable, he simply looks...well...perfect and sexy. He is our Ken doll fantasies personified.
Much of this appeal comes from the way he dresses. Reclining against the limestone post at the NY Athletic club, sunglasses on, jacket off and puffing on a cigarette, he still looks crisp, clean and impossibly cool. Arriving poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel, he doesn't look oddly out of place in his sports coat, trim pants and hat, he just looks…uhmmmm…great.
He reminds us of a time when men looked “natty.” What we are clamoring for is NOT the mores and priggishness of the era, but rather, it is the undeniable style.
The glamour. The refinement.
Don Draper looks impeccable. Not dated, not out-dated, just dreamy. He typifies the glamour of the era, a bygone era, but one for which we clearly long. An era when pretty much everyone looked well-dressed, put together and perfectly appropriate. You wouldn't catch anyone in the Mad Men world meeting the President in flip flops or sitting at the theater in cargo shorts and a NY Yankees tee shirt.
While he is at the apex of this sartorial pyramid, he is not alone. EVERYONE, even Peggy (post-baby and subsequent fashion overhaul), looks good. Together, they make us feel wistful about a time gone by. If Don is our Ken, Betty Draper - equally cool, equally elegant - is Barbie come to life.
The supporting players are super stylish as well. We watch Roger and Mona and Jane and Trudy Campbell, and we are enchanted.
Whether in her smocked dresses and ankle socks or Lilly Pulitzer-like print shifts, we watch Sally Draper (left) and see ourselves in those looks. After all, didn't our mothers dress us in those same outfits? We like the familiarity, but it’s more than that…..we LIKE the fact that she looks like a girl, not a woman, not a child trying to be a teen. In short, she looks her age.
There is no confusion, no blurring of the lines between childhood and adulthood. We don’t think Sally is 8 going on 18. She may be mixing a Tom Collin’s for her father’s friend, but she is “appropriately” attired while doing so. Don and Betty know, intuitively, that our children need not mimic our looks. They will, in time, but, there is inherent value in giving them the time and opportunity to dress their age, to dress like the children they are; to take their time growing up.
I own and run two websites (Fiersons.com and Designersbestforkids.com) as well as a brick and mortar retail store in Westchester, also Fierson’s). All of these are known for carrying an assortment of classic, age-appropriate styles, such as the Lilly Pulitzer shift pictured to the left. Styles that Betty Draper would be proud to put on Sally. When looks are traditional and timeless, they never go out of style. Like Don Draper and the other Mad Men characters, they ALWAYS look good.
In short, Mad Men has great writing, great characters, great storylines...but more than that, it has great style. The influence of Mad Men is actually helping retailers across the country. Clothes ARE getting better. The pendulum is swinging back to classic tailoring.
That Mad Men style is an inestimable part of the show’s appeal. It makes us want to dress better, be more stylish. We WANT to dress up again. We WANT to look glamorous...maybe even if it means sacrificing a little in terms of comfort? .Perhaps we are realizing that not everything has to be stretchy, jersey knits and wild colors. Perhaps comfort is NOT key…style is!! Sophisticated, age-appropriate style. While comfort may be a great bonus, Don Draper and company already knew ages ago that it should never be attained at the expense of STYLE.
Banana Republic with its Mad Men collection totally “gets” us, my girlfriends and I. They “get” the fact that we WANT to dress up, we WANT to don high heels and high hair and go to the El Morocco. We WANT our children to look sweet and classy.
We LOVE the eternal appeal of the “old fashioned” classic style. We WANT to get out of our sweats, pull off our fuzzy socks...get out and get dressed.
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