Tag Archives: Fashion Merchandising Management

A FINAL TIP OF THE HAT TO ELAINE STONE

The audience in the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre was a sea of hats on December 4, when the FIT community gathered to pay tribute to Elaine Stone, professor emerita of Fashion Merchandising Management and one of the college’s true icons.

“She was an old-school retailer,” Christine Helm, coordinator of the Enterprise Center, remembered. Helm worked under Stone since the late ’80s and considered her a mentor and friend. “She was very much a career girl from Queens who knew her industry and was serious about teaching. She had a real presence. It was fun knowing her.”

Stone wore a hat every day—usually something flamboyant. “Everybody had a story of when they saw her without a hat on,” Helm said. “What people don’t know is that she had a very small head. All those hats were stuffed with plastic to keep them on.”

Attendees of the memorial were encouraged to wear hats, and Melanie Reim, chair of the Illustration MFA department, sketched a few of her favorites. Hue thinks her drawings speak for themselves.

Ten people spoke at the event, including President Joyce F. Brown; Peter Scotese, chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees, and Robin Sackin, chair of Fashion Merchandising Management.

As for Helm, she barely said anything, instead showing a video of Stone. “Elaine always did the talking.”

In the spirit of letting Stone speak for herself, check out this compilation of video clips of her. Jump to about 7:25 to see the professor at her cleverest.

THE RURAL LIFE IN QUEENS, PART TWO

As part of her effort to live off the land as much as she can, Ruth Harrigan ’87 keeps four chickens in her backyard.

“My kids asked for a dog; I got them chickens,” she explains.

Ruth Harrigan petting a hen. “They’re mostly feathers,” she says.

She buys one-day-old chicks from a farm in Ohio; they only cost $2 each, but it’s an extra $35 to ship them via a special USPS carrier who deals only in livestock. Local farms also sell chicks, but they don’t guarantee the sex–and New Yorkers are only allowed female chickens. She’s willing to pay extra to avoid a Moses scenario.

As opposed to bees, which can be tricky to take care of, chickens are a breeze. They’re gentle and they live off food scraps–watermelon rinds are a delicacy, apparently.

Chickens are also great for gardens. They scratch at the ground all day, aerating the soil, and they eat the grubs that prevent things from growing.

Not to mention that each chicken produces an egg every day or every other day. The eggs are tastier than your typical supermarket variety.

“The white, normally slippery, is textured,” she says. “The yolk is bright orange. Even the local eggs I buy aren’t this orange.”

These eggs sure get eaten: Harrigan has four kids. Plus a cat, who (surprise!) gets along with the chickens just fine.

“All my friends want chickens now because of me,” Harrigan boasts. “Not that I’m pushing it or anything.”

THE RURAL LIFE IN QUEENS, PART ONE

At first blush (and even after numerous blushes), New York City does not seem like a good place to keep bees and chickens. Hue believed that too, until we met Ruth Harrigan, Fashion Buying and Merchandising ’87.

Harrigan keeps 12 beehives near her home in Douglaston, Queens, and five more in Staten Island. She also has four chickens as pets (more on that in the next post). This summer, she showed Hue said beehives and chickens.

Ruth Harrigan fakes a forest fire.

She approaches the beehives from the back. Apparently, they only leave the hive in one direction, so there are no bees where she’s standing. She fills the bee smoker with pine needles and lights them on fire. A tan stream of smoke pours upward and diffuses, and the bees, sensing a forest fire, crawl back into the hive.

Then she pulls out a frame to show off the honey.

The golden honey is concentrated in the lower left quadrant.

The structure of the man-made hives makes it easier to harvest the honey, but it’s not necessary. Recently, she left some empty cardboard boxes next to the hives, and a feral hive took up residence inside. “For me, catching a swarm is like saving $100,” she says, referring to the cost of buying a new colony.

This beehive was formed in an empty cardboard box.

She’s found a number of uses for the honey. First off, the neighbors eat it to help mitigate their allergies. Prevailing wisdom suggests the pollen content of local raw honey acts as a kind of inoculation for people with a pollen allergy. Supermarket honey can’t do that. “Pasteurized honey has no pollen–it’s just sweet syrup,” she says.

Second, she sells it as HoneyGramz, cute 2-ounce bear-shaped bottles with a gift message. And third, she puts it in her line of skincare, Mee Beauty. Sadly, the intoxicating scent of real honey fades quickly, so the products don’t smell like honey. Buyer beware: any beauty product that smells like honey relies on an artificial scent.

Based on customer demand, though, Harrigan is adding a honey scent to her body wash. “It’s the most natural fake fragrance you can get.”

WHAT I DISCOVERED IN COPENHAGEN, BY RENEE COOPER

Renee Cooper, Global Fashion Management ’08, professor of Fashion Merchandising Management, taught at KEA, a school of design and technology in Denmark, this spring on a Fulbright scholarship. Here are a few things she learned. (All photos are by Professor Cooper, except the headshot, by  Nikita Gavrilovs, and the bikers in the snow, photographer unknown.)

Students in Denmark are not required to attend every class. When I walked into my first class, there were only five students. Fortunately, they were all very interested and engaged.

Danish food culture is all about rye bread, and smørrebrød, open-faced sandwiches, are the most popular way to enjoy it. Smørrebrød are made with a slice of rye bread topped with meat, fish or vegetables and different spreads. There are lots of understood rules about what to combine and what not to. As a Dane, you just know.

Copenhagen is truly a biking city. There are more bikes than cars!

There are no plastic bags at the grocery stores. You always have to keep one in your pocket. Otherwise, you have to pay for a bag.

The public transportation is clean, convenient, and easy to navigate. I did not get lost once.

In Denmark you can’t find a Starbucks except at the airport. The students told me Starbucks was banned. Instead they have coffee shops called Barista.

My husband and I went to a museum near our apartment. At the end of our tour, we saw this sculpture made of copper pieces. It was gorgeous. We’re sitting there and my husband says, “That looks really familiar.” It was the statue of liberty in pieces. New York is everywhere!

TV is mostly in English! Amazing!

You often see this type of cart attached to a bike. Parents put their kids inside to nap during a journey; when the parents shop, they leave their kids inside! Needless to say, it’s really safe here.

Read more of Professor Cooper’s thoughts on her blog.

THOUGHTS ABOUT ELAINE STONE, PROFESSOR EMERITA, AND HATS

by Alex Joseph, managing editor of Hue

“Fashion fades; style is eternal.”—Yves Saint Laurent

The subject of the day is hats.

Those of us who knew Professor Emerita Elaine Stone, who died August 6, knew her as a hat wearer par excellence. I never saw her without one.

Elaine Stone once told me she had 60 to 70 hats.

Thirteen years ago, when I first came to FIT, I was a little afraid of Professor Stone. She was tall. She was always impeccably dressed. Tales of her steadfast, iron-clad will approached legend. But it was her hats that fascinated me. I didn’t yet know anything about fashion, so that’s what I thought they were: I thought her hats signified fashion.

As time went on—and those of you who’ve been at FIT a while, you might know how this happens—I caught the fashion virus myself. I watched as what I paid for individual items of clothing went up…and up…  I bought a few hats myself. Then a few more. For a while, people referred to me as “the guy with the hats.”

When that phase passed, my feeling for hats died out. Elaine kept right on wearing them.

Stone began wearing hats when she worked as a buyer at Macy’s.

At first the persistence puzzled me, but as I watched Professor Stone more, I slowly came to understand. For her, hats weren’t just a phase, or a trend. They weren’t a slavish attempt to fit into some time period. They represented ideas, if you will. They—she—stood for something.

That something was not ephemeral; Elaine had been in fashion business all her life. She wrote the book on it—literally. Although the industry changed over time (“That’s the definition of fashion,” she reminded me), the need for outstanding merchandising never flagged. That’s what Elaine Stone stood for; those were her values.

So I came to learn that a piece of clothing, an accessory, can come to mean something quite deep. More than achieving a surface effect, it can indicate character.

And that was the richest lesson I learned from Elaine Stone.