Hello and thank you for taking the time to read the transcript from our second episode of #ICanDoThat with guest Nena Ivon!
We are working on a number of exciting projects at Little Red Fashion and before you jump into the transcript we wanted to share a couple of updates with you.
In the next week or so we will be publishing a younger audience version of our #ICanDoThat interviews. We recognize that many of our conversations can be difficult to follow for a younger audience, so we will be releasing a summary of these interviews that will be more digestible for them.
Our summaries will contain:
Important career and life advice
Places to visit that are near our guests and are art/fashion relevant
List of books mentioned during the interview
Tech Tools for aspiring artists
Stay tuned for more education focused announcements in the coming weeks and please contact us with any feed back you may have!
Live Video Recorded: April 29, 2021
Hello, and welcome to our second installment of #ICanDoThat for our Little Red Village initiative. I'm Jonathan Joseph. And if you'll give me but a moment, I'm going to add our special guests. Give me one moment. I hope you are all having a wonderful day. They should be joining any moment. This is our first live up. There we go.
Nena Ivon 0:43
Hello, welcome. Thank you for joining us. I think Rachel should be here any second I sent out her invite. This is our first live here at Little Red Fashion. So very exciting. I'm so glad you were able to join us.
Nena Ivon 0:57
My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
Oh, absolutely. How could we not, come on? You know, you're such a great resource for the next generation. I think your insights over your illustrious career are invaluable. Really?
Nena Ivon 1:10
A long one I must say.
Let me see where Rachel is. She should have gotten the invite. But I don't see her. I wonder why.
Nena Ivon 1:25
Technology is wonderful. It's telling you it's not letting her join. I don't know why.
Huh? Yeah, technology is great. Until it's not. I wonder why.
Nena Ivon 1:36
It's like the little girl with the curl when it's good. It's really, really good. And when it's bad, it's dreadful. So (laughing).
So true, right? It's not letting her join, send invites and request. All right, let's see waiting for Rachel. We'll give it a minute.
Nena Ivon 1:53
Im going to make myself more centered here. I kind of, I guess I'll just have to sit forward and have a very large head.
You know, that's what I'm doing. Because my camera angle was not working for me before.
Nena Ivon 2:14
I was gonna do this on my computer and you can't do Instagram on your computer. I didn't know that.
Yeah, it's tricky. There's always something right. There's always like, a weird loophole or an exception to a rule.
Nena Ivon 2:26
Makes no sense to me at all makes no, that's why I'm doing it on an iPad, not a phone. But it's just what you know. It's crazy. Crazy.
Yeah. You know, that's why I call them our algorithmic overlords. Right, you know? (laughing). They get to make the rules. It says it's waiting for her because I sent her an invite. But in the interim, while we wait for Rachel, I, you know, I guess I'll get the ball rolling. While we figure out why Rachel isn't able to join us. If you could, I would love you to give our followers a brief sort of synopsis of what got you into fashion and how you started your illustrious journey through Chicago's fashion landscape?
Nena Ivon 3:05
Well, first of all, it was always in my mind, I mean, I didn't have some kind of epiphany at age 10, saying, I want to do this. I always knew my father was an artist, my mother was very much a creator. And it was just always part of my DNA. And I never really thought okay, that's what I want to do. Now, how I got into it is a different story. For some unknown reason, I didn't know what phase of fashion I wanted to go into. I didn't know if I wanted to be a designer. I didn't know if I wanted to model. I couldn in those days, I was tiny. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. But in my mind, everything culminated in retail and selling it. And I thought that would be where I needed to start. So and by the way, the book will be called a hell of a long summer job. I put my hat and gloves on. Yes, I put my hat and gloves on, got on the bus and was going to go to the two stores that we basically shopped at. One was Marshall Field's. The other was Saks Fifth Avenue on my bus route. Saks Fifth Avenue was the first. So I got off, went into the store, never had worked a day in my life and went into personnel, aka human resources in this day and age. And I went and I interviewed had no clue as to what I was doing. And personnel director said, Can you start tomorrow? And I said, start What? They said work. Well, I said, No, I'm in school. I'm in high school. No, I can't start tomorrow. So how about next week, I said, Okay. That would be fine. And that was the end of the story. So I realized, and I knew and I should have stayed in sales, quite frankly Jonathan, I would have made a lot more money. But it was good. But it was It was just the right direction. I had a wonderful career, it was, it was a very good run a very good ride. It really was. So there wasn't any grounding point here, then I can tell anyone what they did. Now. What did I do to get there, I had to know everything. In fashion, you have to, to me in education, you have to have basically a liberal arts course. You can do everything else as an elective. Or you can get it on your own. But you need to know everything that is going on, and particularly weighted into the arts, and certainly what's going on around you. So what's happening on the street, what's happening in theater, what's happening in movies, what's happening in music, and keeping up with that. constantly. So that's, that's kind of who I am and how I got there.
Wonderful. I think that's so true. I think of all the, you know, all my colleagues in fashion, everyone I talked to, through this little red journey that we are on, that seems to be a common denominator. You know, fashion is such a unique lens through which we can view so many things through which society articulates so many things and it touches every aspect of our lives. Even if you don't think it does, trust me, it does. And I think it's so important to me, for what we're doing in terms of inspiring the next generation of fashion leaders and creatives and kids who have that early sort of bug where they feel an affinity for the art of fashion, and dress and adornment and all of these things, whether it be through design, or sales or manufacture, whatever, I think reconnecting kids to that moment and reconnecting professionals like yourselves with that, like, I would love to ask you like, what's your earliest fashion memory? that sticks with you? That's like, What gave you that sort of like bug?
Nena Ivon 6:48
I don't know. I mean, it's just always around me. Mom and I made all my clothes and my dolls clothes from the time, I could hold a thimble which, by the way, never used because I hated the sound of metal hitting metal, never could use a thimble, much to my mother's chagrin. Horrible, but I was just always part of me. I mean, it wasn't something that all of a sudden it was there. I came from very free thinking parents who allowed me to be and allowed me to develop from birthth there was never any you canr do that and very supportive for whatever I wanted to do. And I think the thing that that is, in most people's mind when they hear the word, fashion, air quotes, that it's frivolous, that it is not important. Well, here's the answer. It pumps billions of dollars into the economy. And it employs millions of people. So it's not frivolous by a longshot, but it isn't just being a designer or a model or a photographer. It can be finance, it can be sewing, it can be, quite frankly, the pattern makers in most businesses make more than the designers because they're the ones that are going to make the garment happen. So it's there's so many levels to this, but everyone sees the glamour of a fashion show. They have no idea what went on before and they don't need to because it's fantasy, it's fantasy, when you're seeing the actual show, if we ever see them again, is is you know, and what I did, so that was the part and that's what I really enjoyed most that was what I thought was my forte was doing fashion shows.
And what was the biggest, biggest challenge for you in doing fashion shows in terms of things you wish you had known going into it or things on the other side of this career, you know, the thing you would like to pass along?
Nena Ivon 8:49
Well, I started so young, and I knew nothing about the industry at all. When I started I sold for a year first of all in excuse me, the department was called debutantes sportswear if you love that, debutante sportswear. Oh, yeah. Which would be contemporary sportswear today. I did that for a year. And then I went into the fashion office as the assistant and from the day I walked in the office until the day I left the office, I did it all my boss just said, you know, basically, goodbye.
Wear all the hats you can. I think that's a common denominator for a lot of successful fashion professionals is the ability to adapt and the ability to on the fly.
Nena Ivon 9:32
If you can't do that. You've got to get out of the business immediately. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to do it. I never asked anyone working with me to do anything I wouldn't do ever. And if that meant doing model boards at two in the morning, I was down the floor doing model boards at two in the morning with them. I was unpacking the collections. You know, it was whatever needed to be done, and I never, I never thought it was beneath me to do that it was getting the job from A to Z. And, you know, from concept to completion of each and every day, and each and every event, and it was, it wasn't a chore at all it but it's a learning experience. And if you can't learn daily, and you can't progress, here's the most important advice I could give to a young person. Number one, you have to know the rules to break them. That's number one. Number two, you have to be willing to evolve. Now what I like everything to be what it was when I started. Well, not really. But yeah. That's then this is now we are right. Here no more than a half a century after nothing is the same. And we certainly know that do we not after this last year, nothing is the same, nor will it be a great opportunity to make a whole new world.
Absolutely. That's why I'm so excited about what we're doing with red fashion. Because we have a completely wide open space. I mean, children's fashion education is something nobody really thought of as important. But five seconds on TikTok or any of these apps, and you see kids that are younger and younger, wanting to start a business wanting to start creating merchandise, wanting to start selling. And even if you don't go into selling clothing, selling is selling is selling, merchandising is merchandising, and understanding customers,is understanding customers. And part of my mission here is really to just a break open. You know, the thought knowledge, thought leadership bank, so to speak for kids and their families so that they can see, there's so much more to fashion than as you kind of alluded to earlier, this sort of celebrity chef-occation of the industry where people just see the glitz and the glamour. And you know, they really pigeonhole the industry in so many ways.
Nena Ivon 11:49
I mean thats exciting, why don't we want to look at the glitz and glamour?
Of course, everybody loves the glitz and glamour.
Nena Ivon 11:54
You know I would rather live in a Fred and Ginger movie rather than reality. You know, I don't want to look at No Man's Land. It's a wonderful film, but not now. I want to have something that is fantasy. I want to go into another world now.
Yeah, I think that's the magic of where we are now to with technology in terms of being able to augment no pun intended with augmented reality, but really enhance the educational experience for kids that are interested in fashion and use technology to immerse them in ways that meet them where they're at. So instead of you know, like incorporating adult media or like things that were made for grown up consumption, and meet kids, where they're at in ways that are more engaging, I think that's why that's why we chose fashion illustration, we could have done a fashion book that was all about photographs and spent, you know, eons getting image rights and this that and the third but let's go back. Let's go back to the era of fashion illustration for a bit that classic, a little bit of 50s, a little bit of 70s. You know, it's bring that fantasy, as you said.
Nena Ivon 12:54
And thats where Andy Warhol started, Andy Warhol started with fashion illustration. And oh, yeah,
I remember being in high school. My one of my first fashion books was his. His illustrations for Tiffany. It was like this little book of his fashion illustrations for Tiffany. And I was obsessed with Andy Warhol in high school as a painter myself. So you know, that's part of what was my early fashion bug, for sure. And this red pair of Farah bell bottoms that I had gotten at a vintage store.
Nena Ivon 13:25
Well you're dating yourself, Jonathan, you're dating yourself now with our bell bottoms.
No, well, no. I picked them up at this vintage store. And it was like my first vintage store excursion with my mom when I was a kid. And I was obsessed with them. And we went on a trip to Paris and I was like, you couldn't get them off me. I was trying to wear them with any outfit. I could. It was really fun.
Nena Ivon 13:46
Thats a whole other issue that you're bringing up with vintage, everyone is talking about sustainability. Well, the best sustainability is vintage, recycling and redoing and reimagining. But I think the thing I'm most excited about today's generation is the opportunities they have with technology. The opportunities that they have, you know, you don't just sit with your your don't do this all day (referring to look at your phone), you know, or looking at it and texting no, the person sitting next to you, which drives me nuts. You know, there's so much out there. We're in one of the most urban cities in the world. Does anyone get out there? And look at it? You know, we have there we started skyscrapers. We started architecture. Chicago is is a unique, wonderful city. And it is something all cities are having issues at the moment but it's it has such wonderful things to involve yourself. And that is what fashion is all of it. All of it. Not just what you put on your bodies.
No, absolutely not. It's so funny, you say that. One of our followers who just joined us is Indira Gumarova of Diplomacy and Fashion and She focuses a lot on the interplay of the fashion world and the world of diplomacy and politics and the statements we make through those clothing. And, you know, fashion is comprehensive. And I think that is one of the core elements of our mission, at Little Red Fashion, and making that education accessible, while also making it representative of everyone. Because I think that's one thing, again, we have that wide open opportunity now, especially in this almost post COVID, hopefully, soon to be post COVID world.
Nena Ivon 15:28
Fingers and toes crossed fingers and toes crossed.
Exactly. To, to refashion fashion in a way that is truly, you know, inclusive, and representational. And I think that's where also technology comes in. I think some of the emerging fit technology is so amazing in terms of again, sustainability, where you don't have to do sampling, in physical garments a million times, you can do it digitally with Clo 3d, or Browzwear, using Alvanon forms on all of these things, I think we're really at a precipice where the sea change that we're gonna see in the industry over the next two to four years, especially, is going to be hyper accelerated because of this past year that we've all had to sort of shake off conventions, and I'm, you know, I'm excited. For one I'm really thrilled with where we can go from here.
Nena Ivon 16:15
As am I , when I quit when I retired, I could have just stopped. I have a strange habit, I like to eat and pay a mortgage and things like that, you know, odd necessities, glass of wine once in a while, or maybe two. You have. But I'm curious. I'm a very curious person. So I want to see what the next thing is, what are the, where are we going to go next? Where is the next, Alexander McQueen? Where is the next John Galliano? I'm not seeing them. I'm not seeing them. And I'm hoping with this time that and I think people are afraid to be creative anymore, Jonathan, I think that that is another issue. They think it's going to be handed to them and they can do it via technology. Sure you do. But you still need to know how garments put together and until that is done virtually. We're still gonna have to have a hands on situation of putting clothes together. I want a touch and feel I want to hold a book in my hand and not do everything on an on an E-reader. I don't. I want to turn pages.
I'm a phygital person. I'm a hybrid, right? And that's what we're doing with our print titles. For example, where its a premium sustainably printed print title, yes, but then there's the augmented reality you hold the phone over the things some of the pages come to life.
Wonderful, and I love it, too. I love it too. The option of going into a store and shopping and not know today I was looking for what I was looking for. Hello. I known for wearing a turtleneck all the time, but I thought I need a sleeveless turtleneck. It's getting warm. And I don't have to have a sleeveless turtleneck. So I went online to see black cotton sleeveless turtleneck and there were like 10 and a half million of them popping up at me some of which were like $5 literally and others were $500. And it was fascinating and I thought haha well here I am. I don't need to go into a store to get a black sleeveless cotton turtleneck. I can do that online. I'm not buying a Christian Siriano. I am buying a black cotton Gap turtleneck.
An Essential basic. Yeah.
Nena Ivon 18:34
Exactly, exactly. So it was, again, a little learning experience. But I use technology, I couldn't survive without technology. If I if I had not had zoom. For this past year, I probably would have curled up in a ball and died.
I am an extrovert and I empathize with that entirely.
Nena Ivon 18:55
I don't have contact with anyone. So you know, it's it's this personal contact everyone is you know, berating it. And I say well, what we're gonna see more of it. But the youngsters have the opportunity with their wonderful, great brains to say, Hey, you know what, yeah, how can we do this differently, make it successful? Make it a business, be entrepreneurial. And your it's going to be absolutely fabulous. Now, here's a chum of mine that just came on. Hi, Nicole. It's It's fun. It's fun. It's a fun industry to be in. Is it hard? If you make it so, if you make it so, like, what do you do if you don't like it? Don't do it. Get up, go do something else.
If you had to recommend, I'll land the plane on this one because I don't want to take too too much of your time. But I'm so appreciative of all of your insights and I was wondering if you had one fashion book that you could recommend for your kids or parents to help guide them or light that fire? What would it be?
Nena Ivon 20:00
One fashion book. Oh, dear, I wish you'd asked me this before I got here. Um Well, I think any any history of fashion book is is going to do it. I mean, I think that I think you need to have a general anthology of the industry. I am we're just I have a book club of fashion book club. I've seen a couple of people, Bob on here that are in it. And one of the things because I drive some of nuts go, some of them are very long, but the one we just finished was The new biography of Richard Avedon. It has to be 600 pages long. And when I think I think they're all going to kill me, it is so well done, and so good. But there's so many out there. I guess that something that is is broader than that, that's going to have multi designers. You know, there's a zillion out. There's a zillion and there's texts. Fairchild does wonderful texts. I've used many of them when I teach who's who's in fashion. They're not inexpensive, by a longshot. But I think if you're investing in someone's life, where do we cut off expensive? You know?
Absolutely. I mean, one of my dreams down the line for Little Red Fashion.
Nena Ivon 21:19
You can pull one from behind me, Jonathan, if you'd like because I'm, you know, I'm sitting in my book nook, so you know if one of them asks you.
I'm prepping to move offices. So usually I have a bunch of my fashion books behind me, but they're all in various states of boxes.
Nena Ivon 21:35
What would you recommend from your stash?
Well, one of my favorites. And perhaps this speaks to what we're doing with kids, given his own narrative is Mary Blumes biography of Balenciaga because it really speaks to the what can happen when you give a curious child that unfettered access directly to the stuff the magic to close the handfield that touch, inspecting what a French scene is looking at how things are constructed? Yes, diving in. Yeah. So that's one of my that's one of my favorites. I just received a copy of Colors in Fashion, which is an anthology. Wonderful essays. So I'm very much looking forward to that.
Nena Ivon 22:21
The whole group of kyoto. Any museum publication. You know, the Met does some wonderful things. Certainly. Certainly. Chiodo. There, there are things like that. But also Assouline does a whole array of books on designers that are not expensive. And to collect those is not a bad idea, either. But I think something that's going to cover more than one area is is the best thing to do. And that actually I just got the new i don't know why i just got it because it's not new. The Halston and Warhol book.
Oh, that is in my queue. It was gifted it to me, and I haven't had a chance to read it yet.
Nena Ivon 23:05
Fabulous. So I would highly recommend that because it's talk, but that's talking about a certain period in time. Definitely certain period of time.
Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, like Robin Givhan's book on the Battle of Versailles again, a classic.
Nena Ivon 23:20
Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. But my very first one. I can't see it right behind me. Now, my very first one. I will I will send you my, here maybe this is What People Wore. Am I upside down when you're looking?
Oh, yes What People Wore.
Nena Ivon 23:41
I think this was one of the very first ones I got when I was in high school. But if it is not, I will send you a note. And you can pass it on to your group.
Yes, we are in the process of building our text list.
Nena Ivon 23:57
First one but one of them is right behind me here but I don't know that it's within arm's wait. This is another Gordon fashion. This is a good one. They're all good.
They're all good. I know. I'm the same way. They're all good to me. I mean, I tend to sometimes veer heavy into fashion theory, which is a bit more on the fashion body which is a little heavier. Anything Roland Barthes obviously his classics, The Fashion System, of course. Slaves to fashion was a fantastic book that spoke to the history of the black dandy that I really enjoy.
Nena Ivon 24:30
And that whole I'm glad you brought that up because there are so many black designers that no one has ever heard of. You know, like for an example, cackler doing Mary Todd Lincoln's clothes, Elizabeth Keckley.
Nena Ivon 24:46
exactly. And there's wonderful books on her own, which she wrote herself. But that's going back almost 200 years. And then of course, the designer who did Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding dress. So I mean, and then we get into modern times. And there's a huge and it's so under discussed that that's one of the things I'm doing in my masterclass is a whole section on black designers because they've been so meaningful. And if you're going to go to Versailles, then of course you have Stephen Burrows and the black models that were that were in the, in the parade that blew all the parisians away.
and it carried the American collections to success. I mean, it would not have worked at all.
Nena Ivon 25:37
No, I'm certainly suggest Robin Givhan's book also on the The Battle of Versailles.
Absolutely, I recommend that one all the time, all the time. That's definitely one of my favorites.
Nena Ivon 25:47
I'm seeing some of my models join, Hi Ellanor. It's kind of I don't know how they found this, but it's kind of fun. It's, it's really fun to see people that that are coming into this. But you know what, I? It's hard. I you know, I have so many fashion books that to pick one. It's hard.
I know, it is. I knew when I asked.
Nena Ivon 26:12
Don't ask me who my favorite designer was either, because I'm not gonna go there.
Oh that one I was like, Oh, that's gonna be impossible. I don't even (laughing).
Nena Ivon 26:19
No. It's like who your favorite child was, you know?
Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Nena Ivon 26:25
But I don't want to discuss them. And I and I see Cals on the call, too. And he always wants me to talk about the ones that I didn't like. And I said, Well, I'll tell you who they are. But I'm not going to tell you they have very few very few that we have problems with very few.
Oh, well thank you so much for joining us here on Little Red Fashion. Do you have any parting words of wisdom for our youngest followers? Before we wrap up I Can Do That.
Nena Ivon 26:52
Go with with your gut. Go with your desire. If fashion is your passion, stupid expression, go with it. And but be willing to do whatever it takes to do it. But that should be true in any job you do. You have to like what you do now? Did I? Did I do a job I hated for all those years? I don't think so I don't think I would have been there that long. But get with a company you enjoy or start your own. And do what you want to do and be passionate about it. Do the best you can do.
Amen. Amen to that. I mean, I think passion is everything, especially in this industry. If you're not passionate, it will be an uphill battle for you. At least when you do struggle. I think everyone I know in fashion that loves what they do. It's that passion that carries them through the uniquely tough parts that are part and parcel.
Nena Ivon 27:40
Like no other industry.
Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Nena Ivon 27:44
So like a painter or an author. There's nothing else you can do. It is who you are.
Yes, it's a calling. It's a calling. You often hear people say I was in the industry. And then I left and I came back or it'll it'll get you. It'll get you in the end. But thank you so much, Nena.
Nena Ivon 28:02
Thank you for what you're doing with the young people. That's wonderful. Kudos to you.
Oh, no, you know, for me, I am, as I say very often, to folks that are asking why I'm doing this, you know, it's because I'm just creating the things that I wish had existed when I was a 10 year old, fashion loving kid whose parents like didn't necessarily get it. You know, my mom gave me my first foray into fashion because of my leg braces for my cerebral palsy and finding matching socks to cover my leg. And then I got very into color matching and, and all of that. And that's what started it. And then it's running around the garment district and finding the places that have the best socks with the outfit that goes with the socks that I had to have or that and it's the tools that I wish that I'd had. That is really what it is.
Nena Ivon 28:45
You shouldnt have any problem now finding wonderful socks.
None whatsoever. But thankfully, I no longer have leg braces. So I still have great socks though. (laughing)
Nena Ivon 28:53
I hope so say that started the passion for something right?
Exactly. You never know what will ignite the fire. And thank you so much, Nena, thank you to our lovely viewers, and make sure you guys tune in for our next I Can Do That Interview. Where we are bringing the next generation of fashion leaders and creatives insights from professionals, experts and those who have their boots on the ground. I'm am Jonathan Joseph and this is Little Red Fashion. Thank you so much.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai