Tag Archives: Fashion Merchandising Management


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.


Some people use their January break for a Caribbean cruise. Others catch up on sleep. Not Vincent Quan, associate professor of Fashion Merchandising Management. He researched the malls of Shanghai, surreptitiously photographing storefronts and interrogating sales clerks.

Hue bets he’s lots of fun to travel with.

China sells the same luxury brands as the U.S.—Coach, Louis Vuitton, and gobs of Gucci—but many of the mass-market brands are different. Yet some of the stores he saw look awfully familiar…

These people don’t look Chinese…

The popular brand “E-Land.” Hue wonders what the E stands for… certainly not “End.”

Hue’s favorite is Plory, a horribly misconceived portmanteau. Sounds like a pesky little bird.

Nothing says America like “Plory.”

Quan discovered that many of these stores are Korean brands trying to gain market share by leveraging existing “American” looks. All the major Korean conglomerates—Samsung, LG, and Hyundai, for example—have fashion divisions.

In addition to Uggs, Quan found Iggs, Jumbo-Ugg, and Uggworld. Because there just aren’t enough Ugg-like boots in this world.

“Mom! I’m the only girl at school without a pair of Jumbouggs! Do you WANT me to be unpopular?”

This unabashed celebration of mistranslation reminds Hue of a popular toy made in China.

Benign Girl, the most inoffensive doll of our time.

After all that shopping, Quan went home empty-handed. Because China’s retail model includes a string of taxes and middlemen, one could get PTSD from the sticker shock. A pair of Allen Edmonds shoes cost $800. A Brooks Brothers dress shirt cost almost $300.

“You’d get a much better value in New York City,” he admits.


On a sleety snowy day like today, Hue, like many fashion merchandisers of yesteryear, likes to curl up with a good old paper catalog. (Sometimes a digital catalog will suffice, if it captures the spirit of the paper one.) And nothing beats J. Peterman, with its illustrations instead of photographs and hi-larious blurbiage worthy of the best Hue Too posts.

Yes, the celebrated merchandiser (and catalog) from Seinfeld actually exists, and he has the show to thank for putting out the catalog today.

Some of Hue’s favorite Peterman copy:

For the J. Peterman Panama: “This hat is for leaders. However, should a follower pick up this hat, they will be looked on as a leader and discover hidden leadership skills.”

Looking good, pardner.

For the J. Peterman Shirt: “Of the thousand castles, mansions, châteaux you can walk through today, only Monticello, only Jefferson’s own mansion, makes you feel so comfortable you want to live in it. I think you will feel the same about his 18th-century shirt.”

For men, women, or Thomas Jefferson.

For the Long-Sleeve 1947 Dress: “Rita Hayworth wore it. Coeds and secretaries wore it. Your mother wore it. Women looked wonderful in it. Still do. And always will. Unless the female form undergoes some kind of radical transformation.”

Diane von Furstenberg, eat your heart out.

Ah, but that’s not all! Search through the “Containers and Buckets” section to find a one-of-a-kind $450 gunpowder flask or a $495 copper cauldron. Just in time, too: Hue has been searching high and low for a cauldron to replace the one stolen after his community production of Macbeth.


As Hue always says, one gal in a charming chapeau is enchanting, but a flock of femmes fatales flaunting their fantastical fascinators is nothing short of a fabulous affair.

Hats off to the Hat Ladies of Charleston, who toured FIT during a trip to New York. And to Vernell Washington, Fashion Buying and Merchandising ’81, for organizing the visit. Washington, diva-in-chief of GrandDiva Enterprises, sells hats made by Grace Mark, a millinery magician from Nigeria.

Vernell Washington ’81 in a hat that could turn any wintry day into springtime. She has great taste in magazines, too.

The self-anointed Top Hat of the group is one Archie Burkel, whose grandmother was the famed Hat Lady of Chicago. Burkel organized the Hat Ladies 12 years ago because she didn’t want to be the only one in the room sporting a wild head topper.

“We are dedicated to loving hats and doing good deeds while wearing them,” she proclaimed. “It’s fashion with compassion!”

The Top Hat in a top hat: Archie Burkel, founder of the Hat Ladies.

In Charleston, the Hat Ladies lead house tours and bring hats to the children’s hospital, assisted-living facilities, and homeless shelters. “Hat is part of heart,” she pointed out.

The next day, the Ladies held a Hats of the World Luncheon (HOWL) for the women of the United Nations, at the Permanent Mission of Romania.

“Oh, we pull a lot of things out of our hats,” Burkel said with a smile.

The Hat Ladies of Charleston, posing in FIT’s David Dubsinky Student Center. Grace Mark sits on the left, next to Vernell Washington.


In Hue‘s fall/winter issue, etiquette experts Yvonne and Yvette Durant ’72 solve common office quandaries, on appropriate outfits, cubicle decor, and texting during meetings, among others. Our beloved Liz Starin ’09 illustrated the piece.

Now Hue wants to hear from you, gentle reader! We’ll be posting some of the most contentious topics in the coming weeks. This week, let’s talk about headphones:

Please leave your thoughts in the comments field. (Be nice! Hue is a stickler for decorum.)