Tag Archives: Verdura

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 Update & Book Tour Details

Hello-Hello,

Welcome to a Monday, once again marked by more than a little madness here at the Prepatorium.  Today’s big news involves this:

Random House

Our initial copy of True Prep arrived Friday, along with the press kit; to say we were excited would be an understatement.  We have been busy scanning the book, looking at all of the great illustrations and photos and going through the marketing materials.

One of the more notable items in the kit, the dates and locations for the book tour: this is not your standard book tour, not by a long shot. The majority of functions are not at bookstores, but at fun, fashionable prep locales, like LL Bean in Boston and at Tyson’s, Vineyard Vines in Greenwich and Georgetown, multiple Cole-Haan stores, and J. McLaughlin’s Charleston store. There are many book stores as well, including Powell’s in Portland, a fabulous establishment we have enjoyed visiting on many occasions.

The tour officially kicks off in a major way at Bloomie’s, as part of Fashion’s Night Out (FNO is briefly discussed here) on September 10, and then moves on.  The schedule shows multiple appearances at Brooks Brothers in particular; this makes sense as we have word there is a Brooks Brothers/True Prep item that customers will be able to purchase in the not-too-distant future.  (There is a strong possibility you will also see the item at the Princess, it is in stock, but the crush of business has prevented the Consort the IT Department from getting it up on the site.)

Another preppy icon, Sperry, figures heavily in True Prep promotion, with tour stops at several new Sperry retail stores: Kansas City, Dallas and Westchester. Sperry is also co-hosting events at several Nordstrom stores; can you say “merchandising opportunity”?

Also well-represented on the calendar, Lilly Pulitzer, with functions slated for the Pink Magnolia in St. Louis, and the KOP (King of Prussia) Mother Ship store, in all of its remodeled splendor.

Via The Love List

Jenn over at the always-delightful Love List has more pictures of the fabulous re-do at the store, just click here.

One other site sure to be a hit, the “For the Love of Lilly” exhibit at the Museum of Lifestyle and Fashion History is the location for a True Prep event.

Via the Sun-Sentinel

One of the major contributors to that exhibit is the very talented Kristina from Lotus and Lilly, she has more about it on her blog.  The nearby Lilly store in Boca Raton will host Ms. Birnbach for a visit, near the end of the tour in December.  Other retailers hosting events include the always-stylish Stubbs & Wootton, and jeweler Verdura.

The material in the press kit indicates savvy marketing minds at work, with outstanding venues for the book tour, and word of solid merchandise tie-ins. (Although the stops are heavily concentrated on both coasts and in Florida, a few more in The Great Midwest would make us smile.) Methinks there will be several fun co-branded products with this one, not limited to the upcoming jewelry piece at Brooks and the Princess.

Our initial reaction to Ms. Birnbach’s latest offering is very positive, True Prep is similar in tone and tenor to The Original Preppy Handbook. We presume the light treatment of the topic is what most readers are looking for; the same irreverence that made TOPH such a hit is present in abundance, with lots of tongue-in-cheek comments and witty asides. We enjoyed our quick glance through the book, and look forward to settling in with it for a dedicated read, cover to cover. We hope to have our review posted at some point this week.

One other note before we scram-a-rama, because we somehow have multiple copies of the Original Preppy Handbook, we’re thinking a giveaway offering one of each might be in order.  Does that make sense?

Until next time, g’bye!

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

Preppy is Back. Again. Also, Brands You’ll See in True Prep

Hello-Hello, happy new week!

We must begin with an enormous “Thank You” to everyone who left such kind and lovely comments following Friday’s post, not to mention the Tweets and Facebook comments.  There is no adequate way to explain how touched we were by the sentiments, it made our day extra special.

Today we have breaking news just in to the Prepatorium: there is another preppy resurgence! Oh my!

Umm… not exactly. We apologize for our poor step into hyperbole, we were unable to resist the temptation. The not-breaking-news comes via our friends on the far side of the pond.  In yet another look at ‘preppy style’ this story from Sunday’s Independent asks: “Are you Ready to get Preppy?” with the following as a subheadline:

“After 30 years in the doldrums, the relaxed East Coast look is back – along with a new handbook to help you wear it with elan”

The story is pegged to this fall’s release of “True Prep” from Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd, a topic covered previously in this space. Here is the story’s opening paragraph from writer Susie Mesure:

“Can’t tell your Top-Siders from your Sebagos? Unsure how high to roll your chinos? After some preppy shopping primers? Well, unfurrow your brows and raise a gin and tonic because help is at hand from a new book out this autumn that will exploit the current clamour for East Coast style.”

We doubt Princess readers are struggling with the issues mentioned above, but we could be wrong.  The photo accompanying the story shows looks from the spring 2010 Ralph Lauren collection (our post on the collection may be found here.)

Courtesy Polo Ralph Lauren

If given a choice of designers to illustrate the Independent story, we lean more toward these Brook Brothers promotional pieces…

Brooks Brothers

They promote the Summer at the Cape collections.

BrooksBrothers.com

An editor from Gentleman’s Quarterly is quoted in the Independent story:

“Robert Johnson, associate editor of the fashion magazine GQ, said: “Preppy is back. Every season, particularly summer, there is always a nod to classic Americana but preppy is a big trend this year.” He partly attributed its popularity to the fact that people are “bored” with denim.”

To read the story in its entirety, click here.

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One of our favorite blogs, All the Rage, also previews the upcoming book in this piece by Adam Tschorn.  This photo collage is used to illustrate his story.

Brooks Brothers & Tory Burch via All the Rage

Mr. Tschorn (aka ‘Cuffy’) offers the perspective of someone who actually attended prep school.  In today’s post his interview with Ms. Birnbach offers insight on what brands readers can expect to see in the upcoming book:

“…familiar favorites are revisited. Among them are Lacoste, Sperry Top-Sider, Brooks Brothers, and Ralph Lauren. “I was very, very stingy with [Ralph] in 1980. I think he’s referred to maybe once,” she said. “But this time he gets a lot of play.”

She said that some additions are labels that actually pre-date the first book, including Burberry, Barbour, Hermès, Verdura, Kenneth Jay Lane, Hunter Wellies, and J.M. Weston (“They have these beautiful loafers from France,” she explains).”

Many brands included in the upcoming volume did not even exist when TOPH (The Official Preppy Handbook) was published. More from Mr. Tschorn’s story with Lisa Birnbach:

““We’ve got Vineyard Vines – they started in 1998, and of course J. Crew — which wasn’t around then either [it launched in 1983 as a mail-order company]. And we’ve got some Kenneth Cole [1982] and a little bit of Robert Graham [2001].”

Below, two shirts from Robert Graham.

Ms. Birnbach also chats at length about Tory Burch in the story.  We recommend popping over for a read, it is a fun piece.

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Perhaps the most amazing thing we’ve seen yet on the book was in today’s Book Bench from the New Yorker site.  In a post titled, “Prep is Dead, Long Live Prep” Meredith Blake mentions yours truly (prompting a most unPrincess-like shriek):

“While the original handbook advised that “you should appear in print only three times in your life—upon birth, marriage, and death,” today’s prep is virtually screaming for a little attention; the wasp mystique, it seems, has faded. Like everything else, we can blame it on the Internet, where there’s a thriving community of bloggers dedicated to all things prep-related. At the pink-and-green themed The Preppy Princess, Susan Kelly defends her love for Lilly Pulitzer, while Melissa Morris’s May December has such an impassioned following that its author was the subject of a profile in the newspaper of record. There’s also The Trad, a slightly more idiosyncratic blog dedicated to classic American-made garments.”

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We conclude all this blather with a cautionary note: it is likely we shall encounter an increasing volume in the mainstream media about the preppy aesthetic being raised from the dead (ahem), in sync with the calendar’s movement toward True Prep’s September release date.
And with visions of books dancing in our head we say, g’bye!

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Filed under Prepalicious, preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, True Prep & TOPH, When Preppy Goes Wrong

More on J. Crew’s Disdain for Preppy & a True Prep Update

Hello-Hello, welcome to another wild and wacky day here at the Prepatorium

We have follow-ups to two topics we initially covered last week, J. Crew’s fall line and True Prep, the new book from one of the TOPH (The Original Preppy Handbook) authors, Lisa Birnbach.

Friday’s post on Crew’s fall line offered a number of photos but little editorial blather from either the professionals in the trade, or your utterly unprofessional hostess here at Princess InterGalactic HQ.

Courtesy Photo

As AOL’s Stylelist noted:

“”This is all about Edie Beale-goes-to-Girl Scout camp,” J.Crew Creative Director Jenna Lyons tells StyleList. “There’s a bit of that grandma-chic that we always draw from. There are elements borrowed from the boys, but we decided she’s at Girl Scout camp.”

Here are more detailed looks shot by WWD’s Kyle Ericksen:

And two more:

The review with the most telling perspective on Crew’s path may be this brief story in today’s Women’s Wear Daily (subscription req’d.). While many perceive the company to have preppy roots and/or preppish products even now, this quote from design director Jenna Lyons suggests a different direction:

“Classic outerwear with a military feel was worn over girly sequined pieces, creating an eclectic layered look intended to further shed J. Crew’s preppy image, which makes Lyons cringe. “We had a story in The Guardian recently, and the opening line was ‘the preppy retailer,’ and I was like, really? Still?”

Some may remember this post where we highlighted a quote from a lengthy interview Style did with Ms. Lyons:

“Preppy” style is often mentioned in the same breath as J.Crew. Is today’s preppy different from yesterday’s?

I have a hard time with the word “preppy.” To me, it’s a way of styling. Classic things mixed a certain way—especially special color combinations—look very preppy. We still have the same pieces: polo shirts, khakis, a great classic blazer, a beautiful white shirt. But what we’ve been trying to do is change the way things are presented. Maybe that little cargo jacket that we would have shown ten years ago with a polo shirt we’re now showing with a little sequin top and high heels. And the thing about preppy is it can be alienating to some people. It’s very coastal and it leaves out a lot of Americans who aren’t yachting or going to the beach club.”

It remains to be seen if Ms. Lyons will continue the move away from ‘preppy’ toward trendier pieces, or if the brand will retain some of its more traditional styles.

Another tableau from the presentation:

Courtesy Image

From The Cut’s review:

“… models wore rugged tweeds, textured tights, and outerwear with Mongolian lamb accents. J.Crew creative director Jenna Lyons described the look as “Edie Beale goes to Girl Scout camp.” The saucer-sized jewelry and homemade headpieces would definitely be at home in Grey Gardens, and Lyons suggested “slapping brooches all over everything” to achieve this eccentric, layered look.

More looks:

More from StyleList:

“The predominant tone in the presentation was olive. “I’m olive obsessed,” Lyons says. “My olive fixation goes back to wanting to touch on the military moment.”

We don’t do olive.

The following thoughts on the men’s styles are also from WWD:

“As for men’s wear, shown before the women’s presentation, J. Crew brought its American heritage to a new level with sophisticated and clean looks.”

Most of the men’s styles we saw looked quite stylish.

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Our other topic with some life to it, True Prep, first discussed here.  An interesting connection to the story above: the new book has multiple references to Crew: in just one diagram the man is described as wearing “J. Crew Head-to-Ankle,” the woman’s striped shirt and khakis are by Crew, and she is carrying a J. Crew handbag.

More to the point today, news about the upcoming publication hit the Times.  On the front page.  On Sunday.  “Rejoice, Muffy and Biff: A Preppy Primer Revisited” looks at the upcoming release while also briefly meandering back to TOPH:

“The original volume, a slim, plaid-covered paperback that poked fun at the gin-soaked polo-shirt and loafer-wearing set, started out as a piquant bit of mockery but…  it ended up being adopted as a kind of guidebook for those who wanted in.”

Why do another book? Perhaps this sentence from writer Motoko Rich says it best:

“But even for prepsters, it turns out, the world has changed.”

As previously mentioned, a good portion of the new book deals with the impact of technology and things like cell phones, while also updating style trends.

“And while “True Prep” dispenses a dollop of the upper-class frugality, many of its featured items are a bit more upmarket than the duck shoes and other L.L. Bean duds that dominated the first volume. Think Tory Burch, E. Goyard bags and the luxury jewelry brand Verdura.”

We simply adored seeing quotes  in the story from other preptastic bloggers:

“The blogosphere is filled with fans eagerly awaiting the new book. The first handbook “was like a bible to us,” said Alice Richardson, 44, who blogs about preppy things at “Summer Is a Verb” (summerisaverb.blogspot.com).”

Along with Hopsy:

“Helen “Hopsy” Goblirsch, a 25-year-old event planner for a real estate developer in Dallas who blogs at “Monograms and Manicures” (kappaprep.com), said she discovered the original handbook when she was a sophomore at the Taft School in Watertown, Conn.”

While reading the story was a delight, looking at the online comments is always an eye-opener.  BTW, True Prep is no longer slated for an August release, it is due out mid-September.  To see an interview with Ms. Birnbach and co-author Chip Kidd (and to also see what brand of loafers the hypothetical preppy male is wearing in the new book), click on the link in the video:

Sunday’s Easter dinner was quite a gala, TQM graced us with her presence and we were off to the Consort’s ancestral home to visit with scads of other relatives.  We close with an Adventure in Argyle, compliments of our hostess for the dinner extravaganza, the Consort’s mother. Not only is she an amazing cook, look at the place cards she created for everyone!

PHOTO CREDITS:

Additional J. Crew images: Kyle Ericksen/WWD

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