Wednesday, April 9, 2014
A Visit with Barney's Fashion Director
Last Friday night, we attended the New York Arts Club's FashionSpeak Friday presentation on "The Direction of Fashion" featuring Tomoko Ogura, Senior Fashion Director of Barney's New York. Here we are with artist Timur York, another guest at the event.
We shouldn't say this, because we know all too well that people blow the age thing all out of proportion (right, readers?), but we are all agog that Tomoko is young enough to be our daughter. Tomoko joined Barney's right out of college, in 2005. Moderator David Zyla asked her to recount the story of her meteoric rise, and - just like in the movies - she met the right person at the right time, and that person knew that Barney's Fashion Director needed an assistant. Tomoko interviewed, was hired as Fashion Merchandising Assistant, and the rest is history.
Through a slide show and her own observations, Tomoko (who majored in finance, not fashion) gave the audience a glimpse of her day-to-day activities, from scouting new collections here and abroad to developing special projects to working on the Barney's website. In one slide, she showed pieces from a designer's original collection on the left, and on the right a similar design by the same designer but tweaked to sell exclusively at Barney's.
In light of the fact that Tomoko's job is (directly or indirectly) to shape the wardrobes of thousands of women, David Zyla asked Tomoko to talk about her own wardrobe. Tomoko said modestly that she almost always wears what she wore that evening - a motorcycle jacket, jeans and sneakers. When she said she had quite a few motorcycle jackets, we were a little perplexed. How different can motorcyle jackets be, we foolishly thought. But in this photo of Tomoko from Elle.com, we see how limited our visions of motorcycle jackets were, and why one might want to have quite a few.
And - well, we can't help ourselves. We KNOW it's shallow to focus on a woman's looks or clothes, particularly when she clearly has so much more to offer than what we see on the surface, but we have to show you this picture we found of Tomoko by wonderfully imaginative photographer Ruven Afanador for style.time.com. It's a stunning photograph, made all the more interesting by Tomoko's modest self-description.
After the talk, David (below) invited questions from the audience. We believe in audience participation! Valerie asked whether Tomoko's responsibilities extended to Barney's Japan (they don't, but the two offices trade ideas), and whether there was anything coming out of Berlin (yes, but not for Barney's yet). Jean asked whether Barney's targeted - ahem - women of a certain age, since many stores appear not to (we do, said Tomoko, who pointed out that Barney's focuses on its loyal customers from their mid-thirties to seventies). In an online interview, we're happy to report that Tomoko, who spends many hours on her feet, says "Comfortable shoes are key!" For Elle.com's interview with Tomoko on Fashion Week, click here; for style.time.com's interview with Tomoko on her promotion to fashion director, click here.
Both before and after the program, we spoke with fellow guests, artists Scott and Elizabeth Christopher, and were surprised to hear that Scott recognized us from the Manhattan Vintage Show the previous week. In a city of eight million people, what are the odds?! Elizabeth was wearing vintage Oscar de la Renta. To check out Elizabeth's art, click here. To view Christopher's, click here.
The program drew all sorts of fashion enthusiasts, who crowded around Tomoko afterward to ask myriad questions. We were bedazzled by this perfectly turned out young woman who is launching her own blog, and who asked us for a few pointers. Among the chestnuts we offered: big pictures, little text (sigh…); be sure you have an income to support your blog. ALWAYS have your business card on you, especially when you meet older people like us. (She didn't have hers on her, and in between our meeting and our posting we mislaid our memory of her name. Gorgeous, if you see this post, write to us, so we can credit you properly!) And the last piece of advice we should have given her, and which we should learn to follow ourselves: never ever forget to take a picture of yourself to head your blog with. Geez. How many times do we have to tell ourselves?! (Oh, and what we learned from her was: post more videos!)