Tag Archives: TOPH

What the Lilly Pulitzer Sale Means

Hello-Hello, what a delightful Wednesday it is here at The Prepatorium, albeit it a little harried.

We shift directions today in light of yesterday’s big announcement that Lilly Pulitzer has been sold to Oxford Industries.

Via Fibre2Fashion.com

We have had a few queries on the topic, and thought it best to look at this development rather than engaging in our usual blather and drivel our planned post more relative to seasonal goings-on.

Back to the deal: Oxford was prepared, posting a link on its home page to “a retrospective look at the Lilly Pulitzer brand” via a You Tube video.

The clip offers a nice look back at Lilly history, including images of patterns and prints, iconic designs and celebrities in Lilly.

Oxford also co-hosted a conference call with Lilly’s management team to share details about the sale and what it portends for the future.

First a bit of background on Oxford. The company owns Tommy Bahama

And Ben Sherman.

Courtesy Photo via WWD

Here is how the Times’ Dealbook described the purchase:

“In the world of deal-making, prep is still in, and pink is looking awfully pretty.

“One month after J. Crew agreed to sell itself to two buyout firms, the parent company of Lilly Pulitzer — the maker of eye-catching dresses for the horsey set — sold itself on Tuesday to Oxford Industries for $60 million in cash.

And this from Michael de la Merced’s Dealbook story about on Lilly’s place on Planet Prep:

“No less an authority than “The Official Preppy Handbook” declared that the company’s golf skirt and beach dress were must-haves for Muffie and her friends.”

What does it all mean to us, the consumers? Here is what Lilly noted on its Facebook page:

“Good news travels fast! Here’s the juice…Sugartown Worldwide (the parent company of Lilly Pulitzer) was acquired by Oxford Industries. We are smiling ear to ear because everything will stay the same, only better. The company will be under the same leadership – aka Brad and Scott and everyone else here you adore. We are… in love with Oxford because they LOVE Lilly and want us to be JUST AS WE ARE, only more more more.”

From a WWD story on the acquisition:

“…the plan is to add to the Lilly Pulitzer stable of company-owned retail stores and enhance its e-commerce site, which launched two years ago and accounts for more than 10 percent of sales. E-commerce is viewed as “the biggest opportunity,”…”

Jean Palmieri’s story in WWD notes Oxford plans to add 4 to 7 new stores a year to the existing 16 corporate stores.  This may be good news in many respects, but there is significant anxiety from non-corporate stores, as all Tommy Bahama stores are owned by Oxford.

A few thoughts:

  • When a company is publicly traded there are different goals. Shareholders have profit expectations, and those expectations must be met. Having worked for both privately held and publicly traded media companies over the years, there *is* a difference. By the same token, Lilly Pulitzer is already engaged in making money, it hasn’t ever been a not-for-profit endeavor.  However, an additional $20 million dollars is on the table if Lilly meets certain earnings targets. It doesn’t take an MBA to recognize that amount of money can be a strong motivator in finding ways to meet such goals.
  • The current management team will remain at the Pink Palace.  Scott Beaumont and Jim Bradbeer, (CEO & President, respectively) brought the brand back from the grave and have demonstrated they know their stuff, we admire their business acumen. Those two gentlemen are very savvy marketers.
  • The Lilly Warehouse sales will remain in KOP (King of Prussia, home to the Lilly Mothership).

How will Oxford/Lilly react to customer concerns about quality, direction, and brand dilution? That is an unknown. Lilly Pulitzer has an extraordinarily passionate customer base, not quite on par with Apple (but close), with a devoted, almost-cult-like following.  Consumers know prints by name, specific garments by cut and style: the Bowen dress, Paley Cardigan, McKims sandals, and recently, the wildly popular Murfee scarf, to name just a few of the items buyers covet.  (Yes, we have a few favorites as well!) The Re-Lilly Facebook group has grown to more than 2700 fans in just one year, followers who buy, sell, swap and share Lilly merchandise, tips and tidbits.

Some believe Lilly is no longer as “special” as it once was. Messrs. Bradbeer and Beaumont have done a stellar job bringing the brand back from the grave, to be sure.  But recent collaborations have troubled some customers, the LeSportSac partnership seemed especially irksome to many, although it didn’t bother us.

The company has licensed or partnered with firms making everything from electric cars to cosmetics to stationery. (Full disclosure: we are sellers of the Lilly Pulitzer Stationery & Gifts line.)  The enormous Lilly Pulitzer Furniture Collection due out in the spring has sparked conversation as well. (More info and photos here.)  One area greeting the news favorably: the stock market, Oxford shares were up 22% as of this writing.

As Lilly’s executives noted on the conference call, they were not actively shopping the company, having declined previous approaches over the years. In this case conversations continued past the initial stage, and the offer transcended others in providing a solid “strategic and cultural fit,” according to Thomas Caldecot Chubb, III, Oxford’s president.

As with any transaction of this magnitude many factors are unknown. From a selfish perspective, we do love our Lilly, although we don’t live in it, in part because of the climate – The Great Midwest doesn’t encourage summer fashions year round. Sigh.  And we want to see the small, independent shops we love (hello Village Palm and many others!) continue to grow and thrive.  So we’ll cross our fingers and our toes, hoping that good things happen going forward.

More importantly, what do *you* think?

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Filed under Lilly Pulitzer Paper & Gifts, preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, preppy stationery

About Those True Prep Reviews, Savings of the Preppish Sort

Hello-Hello, and welcome to a Wednesday.

Today we have our promised follow-up to yesterday’s post.  That piece focused on our recent interview with True Prep author Lisa Birnbach, and we promised to look at reviews for the book. The Palm Beach Daily News speaks highly of the book:

“Like its predecessor, True Prep sardonically skewers the social customs of the blue blooded and Blue Booked — and, in keeping up with the times, is a far more egalitarian sort of social X-ray.

Preppiness is not for everyone, and that is the gift. It is a club that requires a certain comfort in its singularity — and that, book or no, is what continues to give Birnbach plenty to celebrate in her own effervescent way.”

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At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Crimson’s story is fairly negative:

“For the most part, the book—a series of short little features on subjects as diverse as trunk shows, second weddings, and different types of loafers—is an entertaining encapsulation of one of the most recognizable (and ridiculous) styles under the sun, and the author certainly maintains a healthy sense of humor throughout. But underneath the humor and behind the fun, the book has an odd dimension that suggests some things that are somewhat less whimsical.”

Birnbach Defines and Undermines the World of ‘True Prep’” was written by a junior at the Harvard daily paper, James K. McAuley; it is unlikely he is fond of “preppies” real, or literary:

“Naturally, there is never an explanation of why prep culture is something worth glorifying or even a subject worthy of two whole books.”

“It just so happens that almost anyone can assimilate into our world of prepdom,” Birnbach says with regard to the subject of preppy Muslims. But, after 234 pages, one has to wonder: why would anyone want to?”

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Spencer Baily at the Book Beast is essentially positive in his look at the new book.

“Birnbach and Kidd’s book proves that there’s a lot about preppies that you probably never knew, nor did I, despite my own preppy background—boarding school, a good beat-up pair of Sperry top-siders, and, well, did you notice my name? To the contrary, I discovered a culture far more widespread—and diverse—than I ever imagined. In the 21st century, prepsterdom is pervasive.”

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Many articles have used a question and answer format, including Allan Peppard’s story in the Dallas Morning News:

What has the digital age done to the foundation of preppydom?

Rocked it to its core. One thing that defines a preppy is our very primal need for privacy and the digital age has disemboweled that. Privacy is fundamental. Having money was never the goal of life. The goal of life was having fun, having friends and outsmarting the hangover.”

Mr. Peppard notes the challenges of following up on a classic:

“Duplicating a cultural phenomenon is Sisyphean work, but Birnbach is on her way back up the hill…”

Elizabeth Wellington’s story in the Philadelphia Inquirer offers a positive critique in addition to her interview with Ms. Birnbach:

“Certainly 30 years has not been enough time to break through the members-only barriers of some preppy pastimes (still sacred are private school, a second home on the beach, even the three-martini happy hour), but the door to prep fashion is now open to the masses. What once were elitist department store-only brands – Lacoste, Coach, and Lilly Pulitzer – now have their own mall stores (not to mention their own Facebook and Twitter pages). And anyone can masquerade as a preppy, thanks to H&M and Wal-Mart, the modern-day go-to stores for polo-style shirts and khakis.

So much for exclusivity.”

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A substantial amount of verbiage is devoted to the way the prep world has changed since TOPH (The Official Preppy Handbook) was published 30 years ago. (Eek!)  Ms. Wellington posed a number of questions to the author, including one on a topic covered in many interviews:
How has hip-hop influenced preppy, and how has preppy influenced hip-hop?
Hip-hop borrowed this aesthetic in a big way. They went big and bullish with preppy. It was preppy with a twist. . . What happened is it got to be too much. The logos were too big. Tommy Hilfiger had to ratchet it back a bit because he found it corrupted his mission.”
The hip-hop topic also comes up in the Dartmouth Independent story:
There is a classic prep style associated with Dartmouth and other Ivy League colleges. I’ve noticed, however, that the hipster look has been trickling in lately. Some have joked that hipsters, rather than being true counter-culturalists, are actually ironic preps.
It’s funny―I’ve never heard him say it, but I have a son who I think is a hipster, or at least he thinks he’s a hipster.”

To see the rest of Ms. Birnbach’s answer to this question, just click here.

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True Prep is dutiful where The Official Preppy Handbook was cheeky and seems more interested in promoting the virtues of prep-dom than taking a satirical look at its foibles.”
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A Continuous Lean

The über-cool Michael Williams at A Continuous Lean was pleasantly surprised by the book:

“When I first learned of the new book I instinctively cringed. Not to be pessimistic, but I just couldn’t see how anything could be as good as the original.
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Though there are a few style related things in the book that I cannot endorse (which will go unnamed here), I have to say that after reading it with the mindset that the book is not meant to be a “part II,” (it is designed to complement the original) I really liked it. I also must admit that I was wrong about Lisa and True Prep. It is a worthy read and money well spent.
Clearly it is a mixed bag among the professional writers, just as it is with the preppy blog world.
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Many retailers are not having the much-improved 4th quarter sales they hoped for, and that means prices are dropping, promotional efforts are underway and discounts abound. We leave you with a sampling of several Sales & Savings Opportunities.

Neiman Marcus

Saks Fifth Avenus

J. Crew

We sign off with a wish and the hope that our military veterans will receive special goodness tomorrow, and every day.

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Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, Preppy People, Sales & Savings, True Prep & TOPH

Lisa Birnbach Wishes She Was Betty Draper Sometimes

Hello-Hello, what a delightful Tuesday it has turned out to be, we hope yours is the same, filled with sunshine and lots of laughter.

It seems like a good time for an update on True Prep, there have been oodles of articles on the book, as well as loads of parties and book signing events, like this one at the Sperry Top-sider store in Kansas City.

Tim Umphrey/Getty Images

And this one at the Lilly Mother Ship store in King of Prussia.

Michael S. Wirtz/Philadelphia Inquirer

There has also been a significant amount of news coverage for many of the goings-on as well. We adore the way this Palm Beach Daily News story begins:

“In the beginning, there was pink and there was green. They mixed, quietly, beyond the fray of fashion magazines and designer mandates.”

Fortunately, the always-gracious Lisa Birnbach us fit into her more-than-busy schedule, we were able to catch up for a chat about the book’s progress and reader reactions.  We started out discussing the book’s popularity, something the author calls “humbling,” sharing that she has been “… surprised at how many people show up at things!”

She has also been taken aback by the intense affection people still have for The Official Preppy Handbook, saying she didn’t realize how much it meant to people, let alone the impact some readers say it had on their lives.

“The number of ‘you’ve changed my life’ stories people are telling me is amazing, I never expected that.”

Reading about the antics of preps getting together in other parts of the country is always fun, below we see two of our faves, Hopsy (aka Monograms & Manicures/Kappa Prep) as well as Miss Tickled Pink & Green at the Dallas event in October.

Photo via Kappa Prep

Discussion about the “commercialization of prep” as it relates to the book prompted us to ask Ms. Birnbach about products and brands heavily showcased in the new book and/or at events on the book tour.
“Is there some sort of quid pro quo with Brooks Brothers? Absolutely not. Not at all, there’s no cash exchanged for events being held at their stores, no. It’s very simple how this all happened, we were very late calling merchants to provide things to photograph for the book, and when I called Brooks brothers they decided they really wanted to get involved.”
The conversation digressed (at length) with chatter about some of the natty Brooks apparel Ms. Birnbach has been sporting at B2 book functions.  Your trusty correspondent has been a little gaga about several dresses worn by the author, especially the one seen below left in Adam Tschorn’s photo.  We think it is the Black Fleece Silk Button Back Dress shown below right. (For more on the Brooks Brothers launch party, click here.)
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Back to that nasty and oh-so-not-done conversation about True Prep and merchandising, there are products being marketed for which Ms. Birnbach does receive some compensation. The licensing agreement with Vineyard Vines is a good example of such an arrangement.

Vineyard Vines

The collection includes a True Prep Polo, a tie and Beach Bag.
We then moved on to the next topic, asking Ms. Birnbach about reader reactions to the book.
“Some people want more rules, there are people who are really not happy about the inclusiveness, this is the area that seems to provide the most controversy.  I don’t think it’s nice, it’s not appropriate.”
As an FYI, the harshest criticism the author can level at someone or something is that it “isn’t nice.”  And when discussing the “too inclusive” crowd, she is understandably emphatic.
“They are old school and they don’t like the way the world is shaping up, and the worst thing is, they spew and use new media and its anonymity to post their rage online, where they can say anything and be safe from other points of view. We have to draw a line in the sand.”
It is at this point where both Ms. Birnbach and TP commiserate about “how things used to be”.
“Life was much more pleasant, I did have to dress up to fly, I miss the soft-spoken courtesy in the world I grew up in. Now my kids know more about plastic surgery and violence and other things that I never knew about at that age.”

“But then, we didn’t have access to so many things that we do now as far as careers and other things go… am I grateful for the opportunities I have had because of the way the world has changed? Of course I am, there is a part of me that is very pro First Amendment, and very independent as a woman, but there is a part of me that wishes for that world where we were polite, and people were admired for actually accomplishing something… sometimes it all makes me wish I was Betty Draper.”

Makeover by The Consort

Amen to that sentiment.

One nice thing about the book parties has to be the food, where else would one see Sperry cupcakes? (Thank you for the photo Miss Wendy!)

Wendy's Picture

And since we are talking about cupcakes we simply had to share these darling pink whales from the big party celebrating Vineyard Vines’ grand opening of its new store in Palm Beach Gardens.

Vineyard Vines Blog

We’ll have a look at some of the reviews for True Prep later this week.

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A quick note geared more toward the MOTH (Man of the House) in your life, the first involving a Princess fave, Bill’s Khakis.  In honor of its twentieth year in business, Bill’s is launching a special pair of khakis, the Camerton Twills.

Bill’s Khakis

A portion of proceeds will benefit the USO, another reason we adore Bill’s.  Our thanks to The Trad for the tip.

On that note we say g’bye until next time!

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Filed under Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, Preppy People, True Prep & TOPH

Is Prep Dead? (More Importantly, How Did We Miss This?)

Hello-Hello, is everyone ready for a weekend?

We thought it was time for another True Prep update, the volume of media surrounding the book is significant, including multiple declarations that ‘prep is dead’; in at least one instance responsibility for this hypothetical occurrence is linked directly to the book.

We begin with this headline from a September NPR story:

We haven’t heard the entire NPR story, but did read what is posted online and were unable to decipher exactly how the book’s existence translated into a sign that prep was dead.  The NPR story does carry a lengthy quote from this story in The Atlantic:

As always, the Atlantic review is very well done, essentially positing that ‘prep’ has  been absorbed by a larger, international class.  From the piece by Benjamin Schwarz:

“Whereas OPH was crammed with fine-grained analysis— defining, say, the subtle distinctions between Brooks Brothers (mainstream), J. Press (old guard), and Paul Stuart (urbane)—True Prep’s analysis seems vague and flabby. Whereas OPH’s preppies belonged to a distinct and inward-looking subculture, the preppies of True Prep, defined largely by what they buy and wear, are in many ways indistinguishable from fancily educated professionals.”

The writer doesn’t fault the skill set of authors Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd, looking instead at the consumption habits of the era, particularly those of the conspicuous kind.

“Cracked heirlooms, threadbare antique rugs, sturdy L.L. Bean boots, duct-taped Blucher moccasins, and workhorse Volvo station wagons defined OPH’s aesthetic. True Prep’s preppies, armed with BlackBerrys and iPods, wear Verdura jewelry and Prada and vintage Gucci loafers, tote Goyard and Tory Burch bags, and adorn their desks with tchotchkes from Smythson (a firm whose success, Ian Jack notes in The Guardian, has been built “on selling baubles to the impressionable rich”).

It’s no secret we whined struggled with some of the brands featured in True Prep. (For Ms. Birnbach’s comments regarding the J. Crew metallic Top-siders at J. Crew, simply click here.) We have been vocal about the volume of J. Crew & Burberry products showcased in the book.  Frequent readers know the tragic truth: TP and The Consort are two boring, old-school preps.  Our style is basically no style.

However, we do take issue with this claim from a column in the Journal, the headline reads “Preppy Pitfall: All That Madras, Not Enough Effort.” It is the subhead that is irksome:

Did Lisa Birnbach’s original ‘Handbook’ drive people lazy?”

Eric Felten cites TOPH (The Official Preppy Handbook) as a factor.

“One simply mustn’t try too hard. A key principle of what Ms. Birnbach called the Preppy Value System was Effortlessness: “If life is a country club, then all functions should be free from strain.”

The notion that Ms. Birnbach is responsible for the work ethic of a generation is ludicrous.

“Unless you actually have a fat trust fund to underwrite your nonchalance, an aversion to effort is hardly a strategy for success. Which may explain some of our national woes.”

We like Ms. Birnbach; she is talented, witty and loads of fun, but while wielding significant influence, she is not quite so powerful as to be responsible for this:

“Over the last couple of decades we’ve seen the contempt for effort spread far beyond the original preppy demographic. Now it’s commonplace for middle-class kids to go to college and behave as though they are scions of the gentry—abjuring studies and indulging in the bottomless kegger that a recent book dubbed “The Five Year Party.”

Blaming These Challenging Times on any single author just doesn’t work for us.

Next on the review list, AOL’s Daily Finance offers this:

Bruce Watson’s story takes a more reasoned approach:

“…she attached a philosophical component to the look, explicitly wedding the preppy style to a hodgepodge of social values, including traditionalism, thrift, and brand loyalty. In Birnbach’s analysis, preppies buy Brooks Brothers and Orvis because these companies have been in business for over a hundred years and have proven reliability.”

As the monolithic 1980’s preppy culture has fractured into a variety of brands and styles, from Gossip Girl to hip-hop Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren to Vineyard Vines, it’s worth wondering if this explosion of prep may also signal its demise.”

Mr. Watson points to the efforts at updating the fashions offered by some of the stalwarts, like LL Bean’s Signature and Black Fleece at Brooks Brothers, a necessity if such establishments are to compete against trendier, “hipper” (ahem) offerings at retailers like J. Crew. Unfortunately the writer misses an important point in this portion of his story:
“In True Prep, however, conversation positively drips with references to the signs of wealth, as Birnbach instructs readers: “Your car wasn’t in the shop; your Mercedes was getting fixed. You didn’t wear shoes; you wore Manolos.”
The book isn’t instructing readers to converse in this fashion. To the contrary, this specific segment laments the way people speak these days, bemoaning the ostentation and name-dropping and label flashing.  Melanie Spencer’s story in the Austin Statesman illustrates this distinction with a quote from the author:
“”People are oft misbehaving and name-dropping and talking about money,” she says. “It is vulgar. It’s becoming normal. I’m here to help correct. Something as benign as ‘Sex in the City’ sort of sanctioned gross materialism. Instead of saying, ‘Oh, my shoes hurt,’ it’s, ‘My Manolos hurt.’ You are sending all kinds of messages. You can say ‘My car is in the shop.’ You don’t have to say, ‘My Jaguar is in the shop.’ It would be so refreshing for people to go back to those basics.”

We had to laugh aloud at this part of the story, it seems not everyone in Austin was fond of the prep aesthetic. (Gasp!)

“”Preppy fashion was the lowest point in the history of women’s attire,” says longtime Austinite, style and design writer and Austin Monthly Home editor Helen Thompson.”
Oops.  Hopefully Melanie, I Pick Pretty and other notable Austin denizens won’t tell Ms. Thompson next time we visit.
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Enough of the deep thinking, we have an eye-popping Pretty in Pink & Green to share:
The Argyle Pullover is available at Elegant Baby, and there is also a version in blues if looking for something a little more sedate.
With that, we are off to enjoy the weekend, and hope you are able to do the same!

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Filed under Gossip Girl, preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, True Prep & TOPH

Win True Prep *and* an Original Preppy Handbook + Preppy Goodies

Hello-Hello, here at the Prepatorium it is a stellar Thursday, in part because we are *finally* getting around to our much-delayed giveaway!

The good folks at Random House sent us an amazing gift bag filled with all manner of treasures, we’ll get to those momentarily, however, the first gift bag business involves reading material: the giveaway includes both “True Prep” from Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd, as well as an authentic copy of The Official Preppy Handbook.

 

"Two! Two! Two Preps in One!"

 

Yes, TP is surrendering one of her copies; we must all make sacrifices, and today we offer this up for The Planet’s greater good. (Heh, heh, heh.) With 1.3 million copies of TOPH sold, and True Prep’s continued presence on the NY Times Bestseller list, clearly this is paradise for one lucky prep.

Also included in the fabulous prize package:

 

LL Bean Signature

 

 

Vineyard Vines

 

We admit to being excited about our Giveaway; it’s crisp and cool outside, a good time for a little fun and frivolity, oui?  Here is the scoop on how to enter.

  • For one entry, leave us a comment, any old comment will suffice;
  • For a 2nd entry, post the Giveaway on your blog or Facebook page & leave a comment telling us you did;
  • For a 3rd entry, Tweet about the Giveaway on Twitter & let us know you did (here’s the Princess on Twitter);
  • For another entry, become a Preppy Princess fan on Facebook & let us know you did (If already a fan, just let us know so you receive this additional entry!)
  • For another entry, become a True Prep fan on Facebook & let us know you did (If already a fan, just let us know so you receive this additional entry!)
  • For multiple additional entries, tell a friend! For each friend leaving a comment that mentions your name (or your blog or email or other means of identifying you) you receive two additional entries!

Entries will be accepted until midnight on Wednesday, October 13th and we shall announce the lucky winner in Thursday’s post.

Enter early, enter often, and please come back to visit with us again!

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Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, True Prep & TOPH

A Conversation With Lisa Birnbach

Hello-Hello, welcome to a Wednursday (Wednesday + Thursday) post, we are so swamped this shall have to count for two days.

Today we share our interview with the woman we call the Grand Pooh-bah of Prep, Lisa Birnbach, the author of True Prep.  Yesterday was the book’s official release date, and we still cannot believe she found time for an interview; some readers may recall Ms. Birnbach’s day started with an appearance on the Today show, and it only grew busier after that.

NBC Universal

To say we were flattered to even be on the interview list, let alone on the book’s first day, would transcend understatement. (We will share a little secret: at the last moment throwing on a strand of pearls seemed prudent, because after all, she *would* be able to tell through the telephone what we were wearing here at the Prepatorium, right down to the accessories.  Somehow. she. would. know.)

Ummm, not exactly. From the outset Ms. Birnbach was warm and witty, if anyone was wooden and stiff… well, yes. It was I. Me. Us. (Whomever, honestly Princess, get a grip!)

Sadly, our first question was truly tasteless, we asked the obvious, what (who) were you wearing on the Today show?  It turns out the ensemble was a combination of new and old, both the skirt and the blouse were Brooks Brothers (although we have to apologize for being a witless wonder right off the bat, one was Black Fleece and the other regular Brooks, but it appears we were quite incapable of properly noting which was which), and the shoes were older Manolos. (Because they are still perfectly good shoes.)

NBC Universal

Almost all of the jewelry was on loan from Verdura, including the Beehive Pendant Watch, not unlike the one shown below in a 2007 Christie’s catalog.

Via Christie's

Verdura is covered in Chapter 4, “I Just Found it in My Closet,” sure to be a favorite for most fans, as it covers the contemporary sartorial choices one confronts in clothing and accessories.  Ms. Birnbach explained a bit of the process for borrowing the jewelry, it is not something undertaken lightly.  As mentioned, not everything was on loan, the pinky ring worn by Ms. Birnbach was her own, marking the occasion of her son’s birth.

We only had one other matter to handle before getting into the meat of the interview, a minor issue we felt compelled to discuss before we could comfortably move into more intense conversation.

TP: “There is just one little thing I need to bring up before we move on, um…well….uh, it’s….ah, it’s just something that is very troubling, actually, it’s fairly traumatic, I think some people might classify it as bordering on tragic. I’m worried it might derail our whole conversation, but have to bring it up anway.”

LB: “Oh, really? What is it??”

TP: “The Top-Siders featured on the Today show this morning.”

LB: “The Top-Siders are tragic? How are the Top-Siders tragic?”

TP: “They’re metallic.”

(As a brief refresher, below we share a snippet from our post on the topic earlier this year:

“The women’s Original 2-Eye metallic boat shoe seen below is at Crew, offered in platinum.

J. Crew/Sperry Top-Sider

(TP has stepped away for the moment, she is struggling with the word ‘metallic’ adjacent to the words ‘boat shoe’.)”

There, enough of that tedious blather the background, now back to yesterday’s conversation.

Ms. Birnbach was gracious in responding to our angst about the shoes.

LB: “Susan, let’s talk about this, allright? I know what you’re saying, I really do. But the metallic Top-Siders are sort of like the bad boy in school. You remember? You knew he was not the guy for you, you absolutely knew he was not the guy, and you may even have been repelled by him, but at the same time, there was this attraction, something drawing you toward him. I think the Top-Siders are kind of like the bad boy.  I’m not saying you should get them. I’m just saying I’m open to new ideas.”

TP: “Oh. Okay.” (Heh, heh, heh.)

Of course that exchange was understood by both parties as being in jest. Fun. Funny. Entirely couched in humor, intended to be taken as such, and returned in the same vein.

And Ms. Birnbach is *very* funny, immediately grasping the enormity of a “Princess tragedies” on the level of a metallic Top-Sider. This was helpful, allowing us to feel safe bringing up the next crisis.

TP: Since we’ve dealt with the shoe, can we talk about the skull? Did you see the CBS Early Show Monday morning, that segment on hypothetical Preppy Fashion? They said ‘The new preppy icon is the skull.” What is up with that?!” (Insert a full blast of righteous indignation to achieve the proper sense of total outrage.)

LB: “The skull? No, no, no.  Just no.  The skull of course, is rugby.  And rugby and preps do go back. It’s the Jolly Roger pirate, it’s everywhere, Smathers and Branson have the pirate, all sorts of things have the pirate, the Jolly Roger is everywhere. But it isn’t the new preppy icon.”

Phew. Another close one.

For a sense of that CBS story, here is one line:

“After lying low in the nineties, preppy has once again reinvented itself, this time led by pop stars and gossip girls.”

Indeed.

During the interview we had a splendid talk about the breadth of choices available these days when looking at clothing and accessories, from relative newcomers like Smathers and Branson or Tucker Blair for needlepoint goodies, or Vineyard Vines, to old standbys like Brooks Brothers and Lilly Pulitzer.  The number of bright, gifted entrepreneurs now making things appealing to preps of all ages continues to grow.

The writer shared a story about her own preppy look from years ago when she had one of her very first jobs in the business, this one at the oh-so-liberal (the horror) Village Voice newspaper.  As might be expected, the style was très casual, everyone dressed down. Way, way down. What was a prep to do? Ms. Birnbach went wild, and purchased a Lacoste polo shirt. In black.

No one will be surprised to learn we had fun talking about the Anti-Prep Wall of Shame, we sensed unspoken approval of our existing members. For the uninitiated, this select group includes both humans (think Paris Hilton), as well as other entities (Abercrombie & Fitch) displaying gross negligence to standards of good taste, good manners, or basic decency .  The conversation moved on to the sorry state of what passes for “celebrity” these days.

“Doesn’t anybody miss the day when you actually had to accomplish something to be a celebrity? What is it that says being on a reality tv show makes someone a celebrity or authority on life?”

Amen.

We talked about the challenge of writing True Prep. It was not easy, the enormity of following an iconic book like The Original Preppy Handbook was more than daunting.

“It is scary to come out with this book, it really is.  The writing part itself, the sitting down and typing the words actually wasn’t the difficult part… it was the going through the day, trying to look at every single thing that could have changed in the last thirty years…that part was hard. I hope people have fun with it, I hope they enjoy it, I always worry.

We also chatted about what I perceive as the challenge of the upcoming book tour and other public appearances, almost everyone approaching with a “Why didn’t you include _____________________ in the chapter on preppy colleges?” Or, “I cannot believe you think that _______________ is preppy.”  Miss Birnbach explained that she is not saying absolutely, unequivocally, that a certain school, or community, or club, or sport, or item of clothing, or anything else is the “one and only.” Nor that it should be. And she also said she learns an awful lot when from questions and comments, she very much sees the process as a learning experience.

Again, we stress the fun factor, using the following as a brief example of the writing style:

On thrift:
Do keep repairing old appliances to try to extend their lives. Don’t store them on your front porch or driveway.”

It is very much like the witty irreverence found in TOPH back in 1980.

As far as we’re concerned herein lies the crux of the interview, as well as the new book, the old book, and the entire topic: this is not meant to be taken seriously now, nor was it ever intended to be.  A simple look at the book’s classification makes things clear.

humor, n.

  1. The quality that makes something laughable or amusing; funniness: could not see the humor of the situation.
  2. That which is intended to induce laughter or amusement: a writer skilled at crafting humor.

Both True Prep and its predecessor, TOPH (The Original Preppy Handbook) are meant to be humorous, one need look no further than the chapter and section titles: “Rehab: The New Boarding School,” “What Happened to Mummy’s Face?” and “Truly, Madly, Deeply Preppy: The Second Wedding.”

We didn’t have enough time to cover a few of our most whined-about issues favorite topics, like the documented increase in diagnosed cases of Logophobia, or the deplorable loss of civility accompanying all this new technology (need we even say the c— p—- words), nor were we able to get a verdict on things like Spanx, or an even bigger issue: the Snuggie. (What do you think of one for… oh, let’s say Groton, or perhaps Spence?)

In wrapping up the conversation Ms. Birnbach mentioned the possibility of another gabfest at some point in the future, something we would enjoy enormously. She is much more than fun, and bright, and sophisticated, she is simply a delight to spend time with.

Perhaps the best way to understand Ms. Birnbach is through her simple post last night on the True Prep Facebook page, an example of very few words saying quite a bit.

“I hope all of you enjoy the book. I’m under a lot of pressure to make you happy. I’m a giver, but I’m only one slightly used preppy woman. Hoping you all have a great DAY ONE. xLisa

One quick note before leaving, if there are questions you might have for Lisa, do leave them in a comment; we’ll gather them up in a bit and put them aside for a future (cross your fingers) conversation with Ms. Birnbach in the next few months.  Again, our thanks to Lisa Birnbach, and also to Sara at Random House, they made things fun.

Until next time, g’bye!

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Filed under Lilly Pulitzer Paper & Gifts, Logos, preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, The AntiPrep, True Prep & TOPH

True Prep Tuesday

Hell-Hello, welcome back to reality. Sigh. (Truth be told, we are happy campers indeed, the reality is that for us the work week is something to be enjoyed, not endured, so you shan’t hear any complaints from these quarters, we are blessed to do what we love, and love what we do.)

We begin today with an update on True Prep, did everyone see author Lisa Birnbach on the Today show this morning?

NBC/Universal

The appearance marked the official release of the new book, an expanded, updated partner to The Original Preppy Handbook, aka TOPH.  The segment kicked off with a look back at Ms. Birnbach’s appearance on the show thirty years ago, when the person hosting the segment was….

NBC Universal

Yeppers, that would be Tom Brokaw. (How about the Madras skirt, we love that.)

There was also a look at updated preppy fashion during the segment, including new styles from the just-launched Brooks Brothers Fleece line for the young Masters and Misses at your house, as well as looks from Lilly Pulitzer.

NBC Universal

Of course, if interested in purchasing the book, we still have a few copies available, with one cautionary note: Random House has already had to order a second printing, but those books won’t be available until at least the end of September.

We are also down to only two copies of prep classic Take Ivy, that has also had to go into a second printing. (Did we get crazy lucky with our first two books for the store, or what?)

Next, we have to say we love the fab madras jacket Ms. Birnbach is sporting in her on-camera interview with the Borders. This is very similar to one yours truly has, although ours is ancient. Seriously old. But we love it and haul it out every summer.

Via Borders.com

Today’s Pretty in Pink actually features Ms. Birnbach, she was looking at Lilly Pulitzer styles for possible inclusion in the Today show fashion segment.

Via True Prep Facebook

BTW, we were fortunate enough to spend some time on the phone with Ms. Birnbach this morning, and we’ll share part of that extended interview in tomorrow’s post. (Let’s just say that her thoughts about possible additions to the Anti-Prep Wall of Shame are entertaining.)

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Next, several quick updates on all manner of things preppy, beginning with a story in (of all places) the Financial Times. In “A Hipper Preppy Look is Back in Fashion” the writer posits that students aren’t the only people going back to school this time of year. “…fashion is too.”

“Take the long list of preppy brands enjoying success: British-owned Jack Wills recently launched three East Coast stores in the US; Boden is set to join the fray this autumn with Johnnie B, a new preppy tween line; Gant and Tommy Hilfiger, both forebears of the look, are revisiting their waspy roots with updated fashion twists; and LL Bean has put itself back on the map with a range of archive-inspired designs, following in the footsteps of Brooks Brothers, which has experienced a renaissance thanks to new collections from men’s wear luminary Thom Browne.

The story quotes Barneys‘ creative director and author Simon Doonan, offering his philosophy on the style’s popularity.

“It’s a nice antidote to the slutty porno-chic which is the dominant trend in our culture,” he says. “Maybe people are craving a bit of wholesome Americana to counteract the [MTV Reality show] Jersey Shore situation, and The Situation.”

Thank you a thousand times Mr. Doonan, thank you.

More from the FT story.

“Preppy’s previous old-fashioned jolly-hockey-sticks dowdiness is being replaced with a new, hipper image.

The styling in many preppy brand campaigns is taking an eclectic approach with old-fashioned tweed jackets being worn over baggy ripped jeans; traditional fits and trouser lengths are being played around with to give a new fashion edge.“It’s being subverted. There is the patrician privilege aspect, but there’s also a flirty, kinky side,” says Martin Raymond, co-founder of The Future Laboratory, a trends prediction agency.”

While not concurring with the notion of ‘kinky preppy’ (gasp!), we do think you will find the story interesting.

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Speaking of Brooks Brothers, we stumbled into a sale over the weekend with amazing prices on a limited number of Black Fleece items.  The sale was at another ubiquitous off-price ‘invitation only’ site, Gilt.com.

Gilt Groupe

The pieces included a Black Fleece Chesterfield coat originally priced at $1000 for $249 (L), as well as a $950 Black Fleece Cotton Dress priced at $69.

It’s probably a good thing we didn’t notice the sale until after just about everything was sold out; the B2 pooh-bahs can’t be thrilled to sell pieces at 75% off. Ouch. The sale ended this morning at 9am. (If in need of an invite for future sales, just click here.)

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Back to our primary topic, True Prep’s official release. There are any number of news stories related to the book and author Lisa Birnbach, we have a brief sampling of a few more:

We must admit to some most unflattering conduct here at the prepatorium, we’re quite proud today’s post didn’t engage in yet another annoying whineathon lots of chatter mentioning that for many of us, the style isn’t “back,” it never went away.

For those interested in staying on top of all things True Prep, the Facebook page is a good place to start, and if you enjoy Twitter (as we do), you can also find Lisa Birnbach tweetingClick here for the entire Today Show segment, give the video player a few moments to load.

With that we say g’bye until next time!

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Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, Pretty in Pink, The AntiPrep, True Prep & TOPH