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Interview with Teri Agins

Today’s post is an interview with one of my favorite fashion journalists and writers  – Teri Agins. Teri is one of the most respected reporters covering the fashion business, an author of several books about the industry, and a featured byline in top publications including The Wall Street Journal, where she currently a weekly column, “Ask Teri“. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with Teri and pick her brains on everything from fast fashion, to how to best update your wardrobe. I hope you enjoy!

Teri Agins

Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

I’m Teri Agins, a veteran fashion journalist, and author. I write the Ask Teri column for The Wall Street Journal, and am also the author of Hijacking the Runway and The End of Fashion. I live in New York.

You’ve been at The Journal since 1984, and writing about fashion for the last 25 years. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the retail industry over this time? 

The biggest change has been the shift in dress code, which occurred in the early 90’s. It was a seminal moment in the fashion industry, because suddenly the suit was no longer a symbol of corporate authority. Instead, you had cheaper, more casual clothes. People could get dressed and go to work in jeans, chinos, sneakers – and this forced the industry to find new ways for people to dress up and spend money on clothes. That’s when the industry introduced expensive handbags, expensive shoes, and premium denim. All of that was in response to the whole casual dress movement.

The shift towards casual dress put a wrench into the system which it hasn’t recovered from, because when clothes are casual, they don’t go out of style. You can’t tell last year’s items from this year’s things. And you can’t distinguish anymore between who is wealthy, and who isn’t. It’s the democratization of fashion, and a huge game changer. People spend less on clothes per capita now.

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How do the wealthy distinguish themselves now, if not through clothes?

They do it through logos. “It” handbags, the red soles on Louboutin shoes, signifiers like those. Designer watches. These are now the new status symbol, instead of clothes. I remember back in the late 70s, when the whole designer jean trend started – it was all about what the logo was on the back pocket on your jeans were. I can’t even remember now what design  on the back pocket of any pair of jeans these days. So many of today’s status jeans are little known underground labels.

What are some other major changes you’ve seen in the fashion industry over the years?

Another game changer has been the whole fast-fashion movement. Fast fashion has allowed anyone to participate in fashion who wants to. There’s no such thing as “trickle down” anymore. It used to be that ordinary people had to wait a season or two before runway trends were interpreted or watered down for them. Now that’s no longer the case….you have retailers like Zara, Forever 21, H&M, who not only interpret the runway trends faster than the designers do – as in, they can get it to market quicker – they also generate their own trends. Continue Reading

Interview Style

Interview with Ann of Ann’s Fabulous Finds

A few months ago, I wrote a post on where to consign designer items (and also where to shop for some second hand bargains!). One of my recommended destinations was Ann’s Fabulous Finds – one of my personal favorite sites on both sides of the fence – selling and buying. I’ve been familiar with AFF for several years now, and thought that it would be interesting to interview the woman behind it all, who has seen thousands of designer items come and  go. Enjoy meeting Ann!

AFF

Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

I’m Ann of Ann’s Fabulous Finds. I run an online, luxury consignment shop for high-end women’s designer goods, and I live in the suburbs of Detroit.

What made you start your site, Anns Fabulous Finds? How did it all begin?

I first started collecting bags when I was in my early 20’s, while I was traveling and living in Europe. I had no money, but I still found money for bags – usually money that should have been spent on food. In Florence, I spent an entire week’s grocery budget on a Fendi wallet!

So while the love of designer handbags was with me all along, my friends and I later discovered that women were looking for a safe and secure way to buy and sell designer handbags, so I decided to create a space where we could guarantee authenticity, and our customers would feel comfortable.

I have a degree in advertising that I actually never used. Prior to AFF, I worked in architecture and also estate jewelry, traveling to shows and buying selling antique jewelry. I also designed jewelry like wedding sets, and was a manager at a jewelry store.

With a site like yours, you have to have a keen eye for counterfeits. How did you develop your expertise over time? What are some clear signs of an authentic item versus fake?

When we started this site, I personally owned 150 Louis Vuitton bags, so I’m a bit of an expert in Louis Vuitton, but it’s not just me. We are extremely careful to do our due diligence. I have a team of authenticators that we use to authenticate each brand because I can’t be an expert in everything. We have experts in Chanel, Hérmes, Gucci and other brands that we can rely on to guarantee the authenticity of our items before we make them available for sale.

But even though we still use experts, you start to become one yourself. When you see 50 Birkins in a row, you start see how they’re put together, how they smell, and I’ve learned a lot just from the inventory we get in. Continue Reading

Beauty Interview

Interview with Patricia Pao

This week’s interview is with Patti Pao – founder and CEO of Restorsea, and superwoman extraordinaire. I felt honored to have the opportunity to interview Patti, who is a fountain of knowledge on not just skincare, but also starting your own business, and finding happiness in one’s career. I truly enjoyed learning about Patti’s journey and learnings along the way, and I hope you do as well. Enjoy meeting Patti!

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Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

My name is Patti Pao.  I am the founder and CEO of Restorsea, a prestige skincare brand, and I live in New York City.

Can you share a bit about how your career evolved to where it is today? How did you decide to take the leap from working at a large company to founder and CEO? 

When I graduated from Harvard Business School all I wanted to do is work in the beauty business.  My poor dad asked me, “Why can’t you be an investment banker or consultant like everyone else?”.  My first job in the beauty business was with Avon Products. It was there that I learned that I was really good at finding new technologies/ingredients and turning them into blockbuster brands.  I discovered the potential of glycolic acid as an anti-aging active ingredient and helped to create the billion dollar Avon ANEW franchise.

In August 2010, I was touring a salmon hatchery and saw that the workers’ hands, which were constantly submerged in the baby salmon post-hatching fluid, looked like they were twenty years old while their faces looked much older than their actual ages.  The reason why is because of an enzyme that baby salmon release at birth. Unlike a chicken who can physically peck its way out of its eggshell, a baby salmon can’t get out of its eggshell unassisted.  Therefore, when it is ready to be born, it releases an enzyme.  This enzyme is designed to only dissolve the eggshell so that the baby salmon can swim safely out of the opening carved by the enzyme.  When this enzyme is applied to human skin, it only dissolves the dead skin cells leaving the living skin cells untouched and able to thrive.  Plus, we believe that the amniotic fluid from the eggshell has anti-aging properties and the eggshell fragments have skin strengthening properties.  The workers’ hands, submerged in the post-hatching waters, were constantly exposed to this enzyme.  This is why their hands looked so much younger than their actual ages.

I spent a year formulating a day cream and an eye cream and in August 2011, I sent lab samples to Pat Saxby, VP and Divisional Merchandising Manager of Beauty at Bergdorf Goodman.  A month later she called and said that she would take the brand.  And that was the beginning of Restorsea.

Restorsea treatments

What were some of the proudest moments with Restorsea? 

1.  Finding Aquabeautine XL® which is the greatest ingredient I have seen in the 25 years I have been in the beauty business
2.  Securing distribution at Bergdorf Goodman based on lab samples of the Day Cream and Eye Cream which I carried around in a Ziploc® bag
3.  Raising my first round of financing in six weeks (I never thought I would raise a dime)
4.  Securing the 20 year global rights to Aquabeautine XL®
5. Raising over $55 million dollars; it’s very expensive to build awareness and trial. Things never turn out the way you think they will (both good and bad) and they take much longer than you think they will. This is why it is important to have a long runway.

There are so many skincare brands out there, which each seem to tout something special. How do you distinguish between the “good” ones, and the ones that are just hype? What should we look for?

You need to look for:

1. Transparent, easily understandable technology
2. Unique and differentiated technology
3. Strong clinical results
4. Ingredient composition.  Are the formulas natural and free of toxic/harmful ingredients?

That being said, there are a lot of products out there that smell good and feel great and they are making lots of money.  And that’s cool too…If the user loves them, that is what is the most important.

gwyneth restorsea

Gwyneth Paltrow for Restorsea

What are the most important factors to consider for having great skin? 

The six parameters  to having great skin are as follows:

1. Low amount of fine lines and wrinkles
2. Low level of hyperpigmentation
3. High evenness of skin tone
4. Lots of skin clarity
5. High level of skin firmness.  You should be able to pinch your skin and have it spring back immediately.
6. High level of skin smoothness. Continue Reading

Interview

Interview with Lynn Liou

I am very excited to introduce today’s interview subject – the fantastic Lynn Liou, all around extraordinaire and editor of the luxury lifestyle magazine Phoenix International. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to ask Lynn some questions that spanned career, work/family life balance, the future of luxury in Asia, and of course her wonderful style. Plus, can I just mention that she is just so, so beautiful? I’ve included some of my favorite photos of Lynn and her style (as well as her beautiful family!) throughout. Enjoy meeting her!

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Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

I’m a wife, mom to a toddler boy, travel enthusiast, avid reader, sport shopper (that is, I shop as a form of exercise), food lover, California girl, and founder/editor-in-chief/publisher of a Chinese American luxury lifestyle magazine called Phoenix International. I currently split my time between  the suburbs of LA and Taipei, Taiwan.

You have one of the ultimate dream jobs – editor in chief and publisher of a magazine. Can you share some more about how you landed here?

Prior to founding the Phoenix International, I was publisher and editor of Vivid, another Chinese American luxury lifestyle publication originally founded by a well known LA-based Chinese jeweler. Due to the unexpected passing of my boss in 2012, the magazine was shut down after 8 years in existence. After four years at the helm, I had built up a loyal following of readers and advertisers so I felt compelled to continue with my mission of bringing a high quality luxury publication to the Chinese community. So, I partnered with my printer and launched Phoenix; my first issue came out when I was 8 months pregnant with my son!

highres_103785742What have been the most surprisingly positive things that you’ve experienced in your current career? What about some unexpected difficulties?

When I first started out at Vivid, I had little experience and no connections in the publishing industry. Despite having received my graduate degree in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School of Communications, I took a detour in my career early on when I quit my marketing job to help my then-boyfriend (now-husband) build our business in a completely unrelated industry. During that time, I dabbled in blogging (Xanga!) and occasionally on-camera hosting to fulfill my creative side. It wasn’t until many years later that the opportunity to edit Vivid was presented to me, and of course I jumped at the chance.

I learned the magazine business from the ground up with only my instincts guiding me. The previous editor-in-chief had been terminated from the position, so I was essentially given a blank slate and no directions, which was both frightening and exhilarating at the same time. When I look back at my first couple of issues, it’s with a mixture of delight and embarrassment. I made a lot of mistakes, but I’m proud of the fact that, despite my lack of experience, I was able to grow a small regional publication into an industry recognized, internationally circulated magazine.

Today, Phoenix International has an esteemed roster of luxury advertisers such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Omega, Chopard, Rolex, Dior Couture, Versace, and many more. Last year, we were recognized by Media Industry News as one of the fifteen “Hottest Launches of 2012”, alongside titles such as Du Jour and Cosmopolitan for Latinas.

Phoenix Magazine on the newstands in Taipei

Phoenix Magazine on the newstands in Taipei

As a little girl growing up, I used to draw, write, and then staple pieces of paper together to create my own “magazine,” so I feel really blessed to be where I am today in my career. To be able to combine my love for luxury and fine living with my passion for media communications is a dream come true. I’ve always been very involved in the Chinese American community as well, so to be able to contribute by creating a product that has been so warmly received is something I’m very grateful for.

You have fantastic style. Can you share what a typical day and night look are for you? What are you typically doing day/night?

Thank you, I’m so flattered! My style has really evolved since becoming a mother. I’m much more relaxed now in my dress, which means that J Crew t-shirts, Rag and Bone boyfriend jeans, baseball caps, and sneakers or flats generally make up my outfit du jour. When I’m heading out and taking my son with me, I’ll wear leggings or skinny jeans with a relaxed, flowy top and pair it with boots (Chanel or YSL) or kitten-heel pointy-toed pumps (I’m obsessed with Valentino Rockstuds). Black, grey, and neutrals are my staple ‘colors,’ though I have an affinity for stripes and the occasional print (mostly leopard). The truth is, I’m pretty conservative when it comes to fashion. I prefer the French attitude towards dressing these days; my style mantra is “easy, timeless, and sophisticated.”

c9a049228e3911e3919e124f792e77d9_8 Continue Reading