The Hub Cool News

Elio Fiorucci

    fiorucciThe late Elio Fiorucci created “a funky temple of retail innovation,” writes Ruth La Ferla in a New York Times obituary (7/21/15). His New York flagship store “was a breeding ground for fledgling designers and upstarts of the fashion and art worlds, among them Betsey Johnson and Anna Sui, to whom Mr. Fiorucci rented concessions, and the painters Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf, whose works were ostentatiously displayed. The windows were styled by the then little-known illustrator Antonio Lopez.” The store’s “touches continue to reverberate in the malls of today.”

    “It was culture, it was music, it was lifestyle, all in one, and everybody came: Greta Garbo, Andy Warhol and the king of Spain,” recalls Kim Hastreiter, a founder of Paper magazine. In fact, Warhol “stopped by almost daily,” and a 15-year-old Marc Jacobs says he spent a summer “hanging out” at the store “instead of going to sleepaway camp.” “Before turntables were commonplace at trendsetting boutiques, Mr. Fiorucci enlisted DJs to spin at his store. He was the first to hire a cadre of young fashion scouts to scour the world for the latest trends.”

    Mr. Fiorucci, who described his first store as “an amusement park of novelties,” also introduced a “namesake fashion label, built largely on stretch jeans … and T-shirts decorated with the twin-winged cherubs that would become the brand logo” (image). He recently described his retailing philosophy, saying: “I wanted people to find what they came for, to be happy and spend a little money to get exactly what they wanted … Because in the end the best thing in the world is to be loved. The greatest need of man is to be loved.”

Boston Pride

local-boston-prideDesigner Todd Snyder is creating Target products just for Boston, reports Christina Binkley in The Wall Street Journal (7/16/15). The idea, for Target, is to make the retailer “feel more like a neighborhood store.” It also taps into “the same movement that has urban consumers gobbling up farm-to-table cuisine and patronizing neighborhood boutiques.” In Boston’s case this means $14.99 T-Shirts honoring Marshmallow Fluff and the local favorite known as as the Fluffernutter sandwich, which Todd learned about while out and about, chatting up the locals.

“People were like, you gotta have Fluff,” says Todd, who “went to bars and chatted with taxi drivers, asking them what local products and traditions they cared about.” Target CEO Brian Cornell says he hopes the products will make locals “feel Target understands Boston.” Or at least that they understand the accent: Target will also sell T-Shirts that say ‘Wicked Smaht’ and its associates will wear shirts reading ‘Tahget.’ Products will “initially be sold only in Boston” but plans are to sell them online eventually, too.

Now that he’s done Boston, Todd has arrived in Chicago, where he “discovered Old Style beer, popular among Cubs fans.” He also plans to work football coach Mike Ditka “into Chicago’s Local Pride collection.” After that, he will continue on to “San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities.” “To be able to think small and relate to the customer is so important now,” says Todd. “People want to be able to tweet and get a response from a company.” As part of its “localization” project, Target is also “launching smaller stores known as ‘Target Express‘” in hopes of attracting “trendy consumers.”

Quiet Stores

open-closedGoing shopping before or after store hours — digital-free — is going mainstream, reports Ray A. Smith in The Wall Street Journal (6/18/15). The opportunity to go shopping when the store’s doors are locked “has long been around in high-end stores, but it used to be just for customers in the know. Now, it is spreading to more mass brands, and some stores are being more public about their private shopping hours.” J. Crew, for instance, “has offered private shopping hours for years,” but only relatively recently has begun marketing the service to the general public — you don’t have to be anyone more special than one of its customers.

In many cases, the shopper has an emergency, like needing new clothes for a next-day business trip not being able to get to the store during regular hours. Others simply like the solitude: “Having the store to yourself often means a more peaceful, quieter, less frustrating experience. No crowds, no lines, and no awkward interactions with aloof, harried or unhelpful sales associates.” “Many of our clients enjoy the personal attention and relationships they have with our style advisers and love coming in for a cocktail,” says Sand Ceppos of the Mitchells Family of Stores.

Mitchells — a high-end retailer — actually includes “personal phone numbers for a key executive at the store in case of a fashion emergency. The executive is typically a Mitchell family member or store manager who has keys to the store.” The practice certainly helps build a strong bond of loyalty. It does tend to put pressure on the shopper to buy, of course — although that’s exactly the point. “It’s all about the efficiency, not dillydallying,” says Celine Kaplan of The Webster in Miami and Le Bon Marche in Paris. “You know these clients, you know it’s going to be worth it for you.”


z-tailorGeorge Zimmer wants “to transform millions of ill-fitting garments into like-new items,” reports David Gelles in The New York Times (6/1/15). “It’s Uber for tailors,” says George, the recently ousted founder of Men’s Wearhouse. His new venture, zTailors, is an “app and website that allow customers to schedule a tailor to come to their homes or offices, where they will measure and refit suits, shirts, jackets and dresses for a set price. The altered items are then returned in a few days.” By years’ end, George expects “to be operating in all 50 states … with more than 1,000 tailors.”

“In the closets of Americans, there is billions of dollars’ worth of apparel that has accumulated over the years,” says George. “It doesn’t all appear on the good side of the closet. It doesn’t all fit. That’s either because it has shrunk, or you have grown.” Or you have lost weight — like Nathaniel Burns, who lost 30 pounds. “I had $1,000 suits that I no longer could wear,” says Nathaniel. A zTailor seamstress came to his home, measured him, “and returned the suits a few weeks later,” both downsized and modernized, “for $450.” Nathaniel now plans to use zTailor “to refit several of his sports coats and some of his wife’s outfits.”

Prices are as low as “$20 to taper a shirt and $16 to hem a pair of pants,” but George predicts that once a tailor establishes a customer relationship, the money will follow. He believes zTailor can be a boon to tailors, whom he says average about $38,000 a year. “Tailors deserve this opportunity to take advantage of smartphones, to double their incomes and to enjoy the fruits of their labors,” he says, predicting that zTailor could help them double their income. zTailor does take a hefty 35 percent cut of all jobs, but George thinks it will be worth it to tailors. “As long as you’re a go-getter and you like working, the sky’s the limit,” he says.

Old Navy News

old-navyOld Navy is on a tear thanks to its new approach to selling clothes, reports Hiroko Tabuchi in The New York Times (5/18/15). Old Navy’s old approach — selling “clothes by the pound” — emphasized low prices with little to no regard for “the aspirations of low-income shoppers.” The basic idea was “to combine the style and quality of Gap clothing with the low prices and big selection of a Home Depot.” Its styles were adapted, “often clumsily,” from items its merchants would pick up from “higher-end retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue.”

“We were taking a product that was in the marketplace and we were bringing it to market maybe a year later,” says Jill Stanton, formerly of Nike and now Old Navy’s design chief. This has been replaced with a strategy Jill calls “fabric platforming” that allows “designers to quickly test various prints, shapes and sizes in small runs in stores before increasing the production of styles that were a hit with shoppers.” A new design team includes recruits from places like “Coach, Reebok and North Face” who obsess “over every detail.”

Old Navy also recruited Ivan Wicksteed, a former Coca-Cola creative chief, whose first order of business was cultural. “You have to start with the employees,” says Ivan. “If you can’t get your own people to want to get on board and change direction, then you’ll never persuade your own customers to do it.” One of Ivan’s first moves was to infuse its headquarters with “pop photography and upbeat music.” Last year, “Old Navy took in almost $6 billion in sales” — nearly as much as its sister chains — Gap and Banana Republic — combined.

Ugly Ducklings

birkenstocksA homely style of sandals is enjoying a run as haute couture accessory, reports Ellen Emmerentze Jervell in The Wall Street Journal (5/11/15). Birkenstocks — “clunky, orthopedically formed slabs with a rubber-cork-mix sole” have long been “a countercultural standard with hippies and tree-huggers,” and considered “the antithesis of fashion.” This image took an unlikely turn two summers ago, when Glamour “named Birkenstocks the shoe of the summer.” Vogue later endorsed the look “with a fresh pedicure and a ladylike dress.”

This came as a surprise to Oliver Reichert, chief executive of Birkenstock, a “240-year-old” German footwear manufacturer. “Fashion trends tend to roll over us,” says Oliver. The marketing budget for Birkenstock sandals is “close to nothing,” he says. “We are like dinosaurs in this business — we still think that a good product is all you need.” Yes, that plus some help at Paris Fashion Week in September 2012, “when Celine designer Phoebe Philo” paired “sleek clothing with bulky fur-lined sandals,” dubbed “Furkenstocks.”

Other designers followed with their own version of Birkenstocks — at prices as much as ten times that of the originals, which cost “about $100 a pair.” The Birkenstock boomlet is not expected to last past this summer, although some say they are permanently smitten by the sandal’s comforts and may never go back to “walking on a trail of cold metal.” Oliver is unconcerned: “When you have 240 years under your belt, you’ve seen many others come and go,” he says. “And when they’re all gone … Well, we’re still here.”


curvesSome shoppers have had enough of being referred to as “plus-size,” reports Ben Zimmer in The Wall Street Journal (3/28/15). The backlash is such that there’s even a hashtag — #droptheplus — to help put an end to the term, which dates back to 1922. Before then, the fashion industry referred to those whose proportions were something more than model-thin as “stout,” which clearly didn’t offer much in the way of sensitivity, much less marketing genius.

Lane Bryant, the retail chain, apparently was the first to change this when it “began advertising ‘Misses Plus Sizes’.” Other retailers soon followed their lead, usually being careful to use the term to refer “only to clothes rather than the person wearing them.” It wasn’t until the late 1970s that “plus-size” was shortened simply to “plus.” This was “popularized by Plus Models Management Ltd,” which was “the first agency dedicated to plus-size models.”

Ajay Rochester, formerly of The Biggest Loser, is currently leading the charge “with Instagram posts encouraging people to stop using plus-size.” “Seriously, this is so ridiculous and harmful!” she wrote. “This is not empowering.” Meanwhile, Robert Casey of Maggie, Inc., a modeling agency, says he’s already on board with new and improved terminology, telling Fox News recently that the new “plus size” is called … curvy.

The Leather Man

leather-manYou must be at least 21 years old to shop at The Leather Man, reports William Van Meter in The New York Times (3/19/15). Founded 50 years ago in New York’s West Village, the store “is renowned for its tailored-to-fit pants,” but its history also “traces the evolution of modern gay culture, from substrata of society to mainstream.” Its now-retired founder, Chuck Mueller, 78, says he started making leather goods because he couldn’t buy what he wanted. “I’d tear existing garments apart and make a pattern and translate it to leather,” he says.

At the time Chuck was working in market research in the steel industry, but his fashions caught attention at local bars and before long he was “fitting clients at his Upper West Side apartment.” In 1965, he moved to a store on Christopher Street, which was dark and quiet then. Chuck says “the leather scene” is different now: “People are perfectly willing to be seen wearing leather jeans and a white shirt and tie,” and leather has gained “wider acceptance … as an interesting item of clothing. You could wear leather for no reason.”

The store’s current manager, Max Gregory, attributes The Leather Man’s long run to certain timeless principles, like quality products and a high level of customer service. “During the last decade, with the rise of online stores, the market has been flooded with cheap … stuff. The quality of the leather and customer service … people come here and get exactly what they want.” AJ Afano, a designer and salesman at the shop, observes that enduring design is also key: “We have that old-school leather look,” he says.

Denim Dudes

denim-dudesA “quality-denim bandwagon” is gaining momentum in the fashion world, reports Kevin Sintumuang in The Wall Street Journal (3/14/15). “I think there’s always been a passion for denim, but now it’s become much more of a mainstream thing,” says Amy Leverton, author of Denim Dudes, which “celebrates the style of jean-world luminaries.” Given the rising interest, “a fundamental base of knowledge about jeans can enrich your wearing experience,” and Amy advises that turning the garment inside out is the key to ascertaining its quality.

Then there’s the age-old question of how best to break in a new pair of jeans. Brian Kim of denim-designer THVM says one of the best break-ins he’s seen was by a construction-worker friend, who wore a simple pair of dark jeans every day for three months. “Those jeans were incredible, with dabs of caulking and the unique abrasion.” If that’s too rough and tumble, Donwan Harrell of PRPS recommends using your jeans to dry your hands. “This creates a strong 3-D effect along your jeans’ natural horizontal creases,” he says.

As to the issue of whether to wash your jeans, Bart Sights of Levi’s says that purists never do so: “Frequent wear actually brushes away the pickup dirt and begins to create a calendared layer on the surface that acts as resistance.” If you must wash, so do inside-out, cold water, and hang dry. Finally, Donwan Harrell says that “no jeans are beyond repair,” and recommends services such as Denim Therapy. “Men should embrace the patch-and-repair look,” says Amy Leverton, noting that every stitch “has a story.”

Kit and Ace

kit-aceLululemon founder Chip Wilson’s new venture will likely compete with his old one, reports Amy Wallace in The New York Times (2/2/15). Called Kit and Ace, Chip’s latest retail concept centers on "$80 T-shirts and other apparel" cut from a "technical cashmere" fabric developed by his wife, Shannon, "who was a founding designer at Lululemon." The idea is "casual wear with a luxurious feel." Chip had tried to win Lululemon’s interest in the concept but its board declined and so now Chip is himself bankrolling more than 100 stores by 2019.

As with Lululemon, Kit and Ace is designed with very specific consumer profiles in mind. Kit is "a 29-year-old single woman," who, as Shannon explains "is looking to buy her first apartment, but is still renting. She works in the creative area, like in graphic design or fashion, and loves to bike on weekends." Ace is "a 31-year-old similarly groovy guy, who drinks strong coffee," and, says Shannon, "likes to go to breweries and hangs out with his friends. He does CrossFit once a week and spins three times a week, loves brunch on the weekends."

Kit and Ace will be sold only at its own stores, and Chip, who has now resigned from the Lululemon board, says it "is the next Lululemon, so to speak." He says the two companies will compete as "all clothing is moving into technical athleta-leisure or business athleticism." Chip ascribes the Lululemon success to one insight: that its black stretch-pants made a woman’s "backside look good." Needless to say, he embraces controversy. "If you are doing a brand well, you need to offend somebody," he says, "or you’re not standing for anything."

Navigate Jacket

navigate-jacketAn Australian designer has created a jacket that helps people navigate, reports Jim Dwyer in The New York Times (2/4/15). The Navigate Jacket, as Billie Whitehouse calls it, "provides haptic feedback — basically, an electronic device in the garment that gives a light tap on one shoulder or the other to steer a person, not unlike a phone vibrating to announce a call." Billie got the idea after watching New Yorkers "step blindly off sidewalks" with their eyes glued to the navigation apps on their cellphones.

The Navigate Jacket was featured in a show called Cloud Couture at Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator. Some of the apparel says more about form than function, such as "dresses with cascades of petals … made possible by laser-cutting machines." "It’s very couture, but very easy to manufacture," says Debera Johnson, the Accelerator’s executive director. "You get a tremendous amount of style for a much lower price." The real play, however, seems to be the "new layer of monitoring and tracking" technology enables.

For example, a "Hexoskin smart shirt … monitors breathing, heart rate and other vital signs … Every article of clothing has the potential to be a membrane that harvests data signals from our bodies — pulse, breathing, temperature, blood pressure, pheromones — and send them to … the cloud." Debera thinks "big brands" would "love to" use such technology "to track where you are in time and space, and understand who you’re talking with and what they’re wearing." She suggests that in exchange for such "intrusion … the customer might get a $10 discount."

Minnesota Ice

north-capMinnesota cold just might be the new cool, reports Christina Binkley in The Wall Street Journal (1/23/15). "Innovation comes of adversity," says Tom Fisher of the University of Minnesota, noting Minnesotan products born of the state’s "harsh climate and hard-core work ethic." "Winter and cold climate is actually a huge economic advantage," he adds, suggesting that this is because hard winters force people to stay indoors and think. The sentiment is fueling a drive to reposition Minnesota, and parts of other states, as the American North.

Traditionally, Minnesota is thought of as part of the Midwest, but that’s unsatisfactory to Eric Dayton and his brother Andrew. "The Midwest tends to be what’s left over after all the other regions are identified," says Eric, whose father happens to be the state’s governor, and whose ancestors include George Draper Dayton, founder of Dayton Dry Goods Co., which eventually morphed into discount giant Target Corp." Eric and Andrew are following in those footsteps with a store of their own, Askov Finlayson, which sells a variety of "utility-chic" goods.

Not all items are local, but those that are include Red Wing boots, originally made for hunters and factory workers, and Duluth Packs, a line of rugged backpacks. Also selling well are Domer Bags, made from the ruins of the collapsed Minneapolis Metrodome. Some of these items are turning up in stores outside Minnesota. Telegraphing the message are wool caps "boldly knitted with the word North," which the brothers Dayton cannot keep in stock. Beyond that, there is no organized marketing campaign. Says Eric: "It’s important that it bubble up."

Penney Catalogs

jcpenney-catalogRon Johnson wasn’t the only JCPenney CEO who lost customers by misunderstanding them, reports Suzanne Kapner in The Wall Street Journal (1/20/15). Former and current JCPenney CEO Mike Ullman admits he made a mistake by pulling the retailer’s print catalog. That was in 2010, and at the time Mike thought "catalog shoppers would migrate online." He was wrong. "We lost a lot of customers," says Mike. It turned out that shoppers "still like browsing through the decidedly low-tech artifacts of page and ink."

This despite research via retail consultancy Kurt Salmon that says about "44 percent of consumers" would like to be mailed fewer catalogs. However, Salmon’s research also finds that "31 percent of shoppers have a catalog with them when they make a purchase." So, Penney will mail a "120-page book" featuring items from its "home department … to select customers in March." Home goods "have historically been among the top-selling items in Penney’s catalogs." "We are trying to get back those lapsed customers," says Mike.

Restoration Hardware is also embracing catalogs — mailing 13 of them, a total of 3,330 pages — to customers, which created some backlash. Bonobos, founded as an online menswear retailer, sees beauty in pages as well. "We found that the catalog allowed us to tell a fuller narrative about the brand and our products in a way that we were struggling to online," says Bonobos marketing chief Craig Elbert. He also says "catalog customers tend to spend more" and that catalog customers who shop in their bricks stores are their "best customers overall."

MiniLuxe Salon

miniluxeA group of investors hopes to do for nail salons what Starbucks did for coffee shops, reports Sarah Max in The New York Times (1/15/15). John Hamel and his partners at Cue Ball were seeking "a highly fragmented industry" where there was an opportunity to "use a combination of smart design, systems and company culture to create a following." John had to look no further than "the strip malls near his home north of Boston" where he found oodles of nail salons. The supply suggested demand, and a closer look revealed a big opening.

At most nail salons, it’s all "fluorescent lighting, smelly acrylics and questionable hygiene." Scheduling appointments is another weak spot. "Borrowing practices from the medical and dental industries, MiniLuxe uses single-use tools … ultrasonic debris removers and hospital-grade autoclave sterilizers." It also introduced "its own line of toxin-free polish." To reduce wait-times, it hired "a data scientist to predict which factors drove demand" and "24/7 online booking." A soon-to-be introduced app will "buzz users’ phones" when "it’s their turn. "

Most important, MiniLuxe provides employees with "health insurance, paid time off, profit sharing and a company 401K." "You can’t create affinity for consumers if you do not create affinity for employees," says Mats Lederhausen, another Cue Ball partner. To pick locations, John looked for clusters of nail salons near Starbucks shops. Like Starbucks, MiniLuxe also devised "its own language, their own product lines," says Joseph Michelli, a customer experience consultant. Now with eight Boston locations, MiniLuxe plans to expand nationally.

Zana Bayne

zana-bayneBlack-leather harnesses and collars are making their way into fashion’s mainstream, reports William Van Meter in The New York Times (12/12/14). Leading the trend is Zana Bayne, a 26-year-old former art student who also worked in "high-fashion retail and became a night-life fixture," where she "discovered her passion for leather." "There is something about the material that says something about the wearer," says Zana, adding that, like abstract artwork, it’s all about perception. Some simply see a nice belt while others see something else again.

"It brings something out not just in the wearer but in those around her," says Zana. Either way, Zana’s black-leather goods have made their way into "the holiday Pop-in@Nordstrom shop," along with the "snowflake sweaters and penguin beanies." Nordstrom creative director Olivia Kim seems to see mostly normality in the concept. "I wear mine with a boring white oxford shirt, but they also look great over dresses," says Olivia. "It’s the perfect example of what an accessory does: accentuates clothing."

Zana agrees that her belts and harnesses are essentially "layering pieces." She says that "the physical aspect of having something cinch you in makes you hold yourself higher, and adds: "Wearing a collar can make you feel like the most powerful warrior in the world … I’ve never aimed to shock," she says. "My design comes from a naive place, and I think, ‘Of course someone will wear this,’ and then it comes out … I don’t want to say harder, but maybe not as innocent."

Ugly Duck Boots

duck-bootsLL Bean’s homely duck boots have become "a totem of agrarian-chic trendiness" reports Claire Suddath in Bloomberg Businessweek (12/10/14). The style is 102 years old, and Bean traditionally has sold about 100,000 pair a year, primarily to "loggers and farmers," according to LL Bean spokesman Mac McKeever. However, sales of the "leather and rubber" boots "have quadrupled over the past three years and are on track to hit more than 450,000 in 2014." They are currently "on backorder until at least February."

It’s a trend Bean has seen building for the past two years, "specifically in urban areas filled with college students, who were embracing understated, even bland styles that highlighted their authentic ordinariness," sometimes known as Normcore. "I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they’re still handmade. People really value that stuff right now," says Mac. This homespun appeal is exactly what makes it so hard for Bean to keep pace with demand, as duck books are made on "old fashioned stitching machines … still run by hand."

The duck-boot boom recalls the Hush Puppies phenomenon of the 1990s, as documented by Malcolm Gladwell in a New Yorker article called The Coolhunt. At the time, those buying the shoes associated them with their grandparents and the buying spree began in SoHo thrift shops. Birkenstocks, the hippie sandals, made a comeback this year, as well. How long the duck boots bender will last is anybody’s guess, but Mac McKeever says Bean is already noticing the next big thing — "a spike in sales of wool coats."

Bricks & Trucks

trunk-nashvilleThe next omnichannel experience is that between bricks and trucks, suggests a New York Times article by Tamara Best ( 11/27/14). While some bricks retailers are unhappy with the rise of retailers selling goods from trucks, Mike Gatt of the National Retail Federation says such concerns may be misplaced. "For example, a customer might buy something in a truck and then walk into a brick-and-mortar location and find something that complements the purchase. I wouldn’t be surprised if the big brands start doing it themselves," he says.

Mike adds that "it’s a great way to bring what you’ve got in your store to a new neighborhood to test it in a new market." Abby Franklin, owner of the Trunk boutique, a Nashville-based mobile boutique says that there is tension not only with bricks retailers, but also sometimes even with shoppers. "The hardest part was educating the community that it was a local small business, not someone from out of town." Abby also has a brick store, but in a twist she considers it to be her secondary location.

She says that her mobile store required higher start-up costs, but the monthly overhead of the bricks store was more expensive. Together, she says having the two stores "is like the best of both worlds. When the truck can’t go out, we still have a way to sell stuff." Sarah Ellison of Bootleg Airstream is meanwhile bridging the gap during the holiday season with a pop-up shop near where she usually parks her Austin-based mobile shoe store. "The future of mobile retail is going to be very diverse," she says.

Mom & Pop Dot Com

storenvyA new "generation of web services" is bringing e-commerce finesse to mom-and-pop stores, reports Jenna Wortham in The New York Times (11/16/14). These services, with names like Shopify, Storenvy and Big Cartel are capitalizing on the "small, do-it-yourself businesses that have flourished online as social media platforms have exploded in popularity. While web shoppers may rely on behemoths like Amazon or FreshDirect for household staples and groceries," they might also prefer to buy specialty items from "someone who made it."

While "online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy have helped entrepreneurial, work-from-home types sell their goods online for years," these new services help "create the appearance of independent, professional, polished retail establishments, even if they are sometimes just a single person operating a web shop out of a bedroom." Services typically start at "around $10 a month," and sometimes also collect a percentage of sales. The retailers simply pick a name and design, upload images of their wares and are ready for business.

Jordan Roschwalb uses Shopify to launch his online store, Pintrill. "I wanted to be taken seriously as a brand from the beginning," he says. "And if we want to be in Barneys one day, it’s not going to happen because we’re on Instagram or Etsy." Others have found that while these ready-made storefronts can provide a great launching pad, they have limits as the business grows, and can’t necessarily handle relatively large sales volumes. That’s okay with Dan Christofferson of Big Cartel, who sees losing such customers as "a bittersweet day, like when the kids go off to college." Except in this case, it’s mom and pop leaving the nest.

Complicated Ladies

moonface-watchWhen it comes to watches, some women like them with complications, reports Kathleen Beckett in The New York Times (11/5/14). Complications, in this context, means "mechanisms that increase a watch’s accuracy or capabilities.” For Andrea Seifert, that means a "flip-over watch with back-to-back dials that can show the time in two zones." It’s not just about the functionality, as Andrea is also impressed with the technology. "What’s unusual is that the two dials are controlled by the same movement," she says.

Women seem to gravitate toward moon-phase watches, in particular. "I love the look of it, and the movement of the moon," says Eva Malmstrom Shivdasani, a creative director. "It’s a stunning watch, so beautiful. I don’t use it for function, I just like the beauty of it. " Marina Lunkina, a publicist, meanwhile appreciates the functionality. She uses her moon-phase watch to time her salon appointments. "Hair will grow faster if you cut it on a growing moon," she says." A waning moon is preferable "if you would like to keep the hairstyle unchanged."

What women look for in a watch, says Beatrice Rouhier of Chaumet, is poetry. "For women, the point is, yes, it is a technical watch — but it is a watch that tells a story. Van Cleef & Arpels is on the same track, having "trademarked ‘Poetry of Time’ and ‘Poetic Complications’ to describe a collection of jeweled watches with complications." Karen Giberson of the Accessories Council, thinks the trend is linked to increasing female comfort with technology. "Things that used to seem geeky or intimidating are now common," she says.

Taxidermy Women

alligator-purseTaxidermy holds perhaps surprising appeal among women, reports Kate Murphy in The New York Times (10/30/14). Some taxidermy classes are said to attract "women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Men take the classes as well … but usually with a girlfriend or spouse." Lessons include "skinning, disemboweling, wiring the animal and making a mold … followed by lots of grooming and preening using tweezers and blow dryers, to get the animal looking as fresh and lifelike as possible."

"It’s kind of like sculpture, kind of like painting, almost like hairdressing, almost like sewing," says Nina Masuda, a graphic designer who has "stuffed a starling, a quail and a squirrel." "I thought it would be all scienc-y, and I’m, like, fluffing up this bird’s hair, trying to give it volume." Adding to the intrigue, some classes are held in tattoo parlors and restaurants, and include "how to prepare the meat for eating," although some students reportedly are vegans.

Art supplies sometimes are sourced from services that raise and euthanize animals "as food for reptiles and large cats." Taxidermist Allis Markham objects to using animals raised "in an industrial way" and sources from "pest control operators" or game breeders after the animals have died naturally. Female interest in taxidermy actually dates back to Victorian times, and taxidermist Margot Magpie thinks the appeal may be "the illusion of cheating death." "Making something that’s dead look alive again helps some people come to terms with death," she says.