#ICanDoThat Episode 24 with Samuel Neuberg

In the 24th episode of #ICanDoThat Jonathan Joseph and Rachel Elspeth Gross, interview Samuel Neuberg. Little Red Fashion introduces Little Red Village and its first interview series #ICanDoThat on instagram. Our #ICanDoThat campaign is a one-question interview for our IGTV that asks industry professionals across disciplines to respond to the question: "What advice do you have for a kid who wants to do what you do within fashion?"

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The video of this interview can be found here!

 

Live: October 21st, 2021

 

Speakers:

Jonathan Joseph

Rachel Elspeth Gross

Samuel Neuberg

Rachel Elspeth Gross  00:00

Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us. We're here today with Samuel Newberg. Jonathan's here with me on Rachel Elspeth Gross is another episode of #ICanDoThat. Samuel is an archivist and a fashion historian. And thank you so much for making the time to talk to us today. We really appreciate it.

 

Samuel Neuberg  00:16

Thanks so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here. Yeah.

 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  00:20

Well, we know you do a whole bunch of different things. And you've worked in a bunch of different arenas, a lot of different brands on would you talk to us a little bit about your first interest in fashion, how you kind of realized this was the place you wanted to be?

 

Samuel Neuberg  00:33

Gladly. It's funny, because I don't know. Every buddy can say this. But I remember the first time I saw a costume exhibit in a museum and thought, like kind of immediately, oh, people must do this, like, so I guess I could do that. Yeah, I think it was maybe first grade.I grew up in, in West Hartford, Connecticut, near the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, and they have a very beautiful historic clothing collection. And growing up, we went on a tour of the museum. And I didn't I mean, I don't remember it from that time, I went and looked it up since but they put on an exhibition called Bustles on Bose. And it was basically a year long exhibition. But it was so smart. What they did was they used that time, that was like from early 1870, to late 1890s. So look at the changes of shape, every couple months, they would update the gallery to like move along the timeline. I just think that's it. Anyway, I remember being at that, walking through that gallery as part of this field trip going, Oh, I like this. I remember being a little kid and looking up, you know, costume and history or like, clothing and stuff in the in library search engines. I found books in my school library related subject and hide them. So I could read them and stuff. But I really just started with being fascinated in like, you know, the change in clothing over time as a kid, I could observe that through these visual aids that I found, and just, you know, why did that happen? And how and stuff like that. I also should add, my father is an architectural historian. And he works in Heritage Preservation. So I grew up with a bit of a pre exposure to the fact that there are careers in that kind of work. But even then, when I was younger, I didn't necessarily know how you like, do that, how you get into it. I think, first of all, having an interest is like, very important, legitimate and valid. But, you know, I remember being younger, and not understanding necessarily how I could be interested and passionate, but turn that into doing something based on an interest and passion, basically.

 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  02:48

Yeah. Yeah, take some direction. And I, one of the things we're trying to sort of fix with this with our company here is, you know, finding ways to get kids exactly what you're describing. There's no infrastructure, there's no coursework, there's not even books right now. There's stories, there's not how to, um, I say this a lot in this show. But since there's not even like Home Economics, can you learn to sew anymore?

 

Samuel Neuberg  03:12

No, there have been a lot of changes in in many areas of sighted life that certain areas of designer making that used to be an education, even if it was gendered or regulated in some way that we might have, you know, done a way with, it's still a way we've taken away that connection to like, that aspect. So yeah, there's more of a mystery around that stuff people don't make as part of their exposure education early on, as much

 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  03:42

People don't know how to sew on buttons and how to fix him. They don't know. Rips away.

 

Jonathan Joseph  03:47

Yeah.

 

Samuel Neuberg  03:47

Yeah. Post consumer consumption and care is one of those things people don't really think about. And it's so important to teach and so important to have kids have a consciousness about these things and make their clothes, redefine their relationship to clothes. I think fast fashion has alienated us from that in many ways, and bringing it back to another big part of our mission here a little red. I'm all for that.

 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  04:12

And that would make an excellent dissertation title. postconsumer.

 

Samuel Neuberg  04:15

Yeah. Well, I just think all this because we're looking right now at what's happening with shipping containers and just like importing of things, and how that will affect us. I mean, this is a historian complaining, but we don't make things even more here and what I mean by things, I'm really talking about textiles and clothing, because this country, fascinatingly enough, you have boom and bust relationship with the textile industry. We started with none we were importing as a colony. By the time we divorced ourselves from England, we had established the early infrastructure of textile industry, and at the turn of the 19th and 20th century it was a huge one but I can I say this From experience of working in archives, where I handled garments for collections that started being made in this country, and they were from the 50s, you know, to the 70s. And these labels have proudly made by American garment worker labels are pretty work. And by the mid 80s, you start seeing, it's like, not the entire piece, it was put together in New York, but the zipper is not metal anymore, it's plastic. And as a tag that parts are from India, or Taiwan, or China, and by the end of the decade into the early 90s, nothing is being fabricated in the States. And so I don't know, it's just funny, I'm not saying that it's all a problem of not having a textile, or whatever. But it just, it's an interesting dilemma to be in, because it's not just relying on stuff coming in for us, we've also lost some of our own innate ability to like fashion ourselves, so to speak. Just basically, like by producing certain goods here, and not having the knowledge to like, tailor or alter for ourselves. But I will say, as someone who was interested in all of this stuff early on, it was not an immediate jump for me to learn how to sew or make myself until later on, in, like, breaking into my into the field, I should say, or getting ready, because like, I don't know, sewing did not happen when I was younger, but

 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  06:19

A master's degree as well, um, was that part of your adult education? When do you when did you start to sew?

 

Samuel Neuberg  06:25

Um, well, so I basically, I kind of had looked, by the time I was in high school, I was already aware, let's say around 16, as a pinpoint, I was already aware that there were specialized master's degrees, you could do after undergrad, specifically in costume history or textile history. And I also will say that with the interest that I had, while I was, you know, in grade school and stuff, I tried to use that any opportunity, I got to pursue that within a framework of academia. So like, I don't know, 10th Grade History class, it's your choice. But you have to pick one topic or theme to do like an American history survey report on over the course of this semester, or school year, whatever. I just I was that when I decided I want to do the American look, and how it changed. My history was like, to conceptual, how would you gauge that, and I was like, it would be easy. It's fun, I don't think I would have really necessarily had to do that. But they helped me like, narrow it into the American cosmetics industry, or like makeup and beauty industry, which was still a very interesting thing. Anyway, I try to use those opportunities as chances to like focus in fashion or dress, costume culture. So I can learn, you know, not just do something about our know, like, history of windmills or something that wouldn't really be interesting to me. But I didn't, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to an art school, or attritional academic school, because I wasn't sure at that time, in high school, if the way to break into this for me was to do more of the traditional art route, which was to learn how to be a designer or something. At that time, I didn't really want to be a designer, I still don't I do enjoy sketching clothing and playing with textiles and stuff. I think that's kind of related to the interests that I have in clothing in general. But, you know, it didn't feel like that was the way to go. But I also didn't know if by doing an academic degree, I was gonna miss out on learning certain technical things that I should have or something, but I know those weren't necessarily. So I definitely used time in high school to try and you know, in those days, it was kind of like Google searching and going into museum websites, you know, people contact information, but asking them like, Well, what did you study? You know, if you're a curator at this museum, or if you are a collections person at this institution, what did you do? It was a little interesting to get some answers at that time, because truthfully, a lot of the responses I got were from people who entered into the field wait earlier at a time where it was like almost not recognized clothing studies on academic discipline has, it's a somewhat recent, short history compared to certain other disciplines like art history, or other more traditional forms of media critique, it's even technically younger than cultural studies departments at some places are, there's more acceptance of cultural studies and just dress studies. Anyway, you know, some advice I got was, well, I don't really know because I, their programs weren't around. But if I was hiring someone, now, I'd want them to have the Masters whatever. But basically, the advice I got was to use my time in undergrad to continue doing what I was doing in high school, which was find a way to make the education that you're getting are the top you the challenges you're getting from school for assignments and stuff tailored to your interests. So when I got to undergrad, I decided to major in art history and theater, because I acted as a kid and I had a background in theater, but I also felt like by doing theater, I could take the time to focus on costuming. Again, not necessarily wanting to be a designer, but I felt like if what I wanted to do after I knew that what I wanted to do after undergrad I was going to grad school to learn how to work with historic clothing. We needed to learn how clothing was made, I felt like it was only appropriate for me. And so it was an undergrad when I was doing my theater major. And I had the chance to focus in on how clothing was made. And it was also interesting too, because I went to McGill University. And while I was in school, the costuming main course was to sum it was to like a semester semester one and semester two, most people took it as a year long course. And so usually had an interview to get in the professor's very conscientious about balancing the class and also making sure that you know, if somebody was an incoming freshmen, who would be a great person for this class, but like, wait until later, don't like don't if it's going to be a year, and you only do it once Don't, don't get it out of the way right away, so to speak, kind of thing. So in meeting with this person early on, I ended up being able to take a costume history class at McGill. And it was the first time that it was offered. It was like a guinea pig course. But it was a great opportunity to have an actual class tailor to that kind of education. That affirmed for me, oh, this is what I like doing and what I want to be doing. Because I also I bring that up to say that some of the education I got on costuming wasn't just hands on, there was also opportunity to like, put some educational context, academic context around the study of dress. And so it was a good blending for me. But it was also a great chance to get the hands on knowledge. And then I mean, I basically I didn't have my heart set on only going to FIT. It was the first program one of the first programs that I found in doing my searches in high school. But you know, there also are many programs out of the country of the United States that are well regarded that do historical clothing, the UK has a very good reputation, a couple different schools. And so given that I was already an international student, I wasn't totally married to coming back to the states, it was more what I thought would be the best place to get hands on education was while I was in at McGill, that I got to intern at the McCord Museum and undergrad where I got the advice from this curator, you know, I think that academic is great, but hands on is important too. I ultimately chose FIT because if he has it is the only program that has its own graduate studies, clothing collection. And so it's an opportunity to really get to look at not just a wide range of historic dress, but like the clothing is in all ranges of condition, which is important for education. Sometimes it's important to have beautiful bodies, falling pieces, you know, to understand something about inherit, you know, like the ability to actually have these things to work with was really beneficial. Because again, you don't know what you're going to get into when you get into the field. And so being exposed to that was really helpful. The other thing I really loved Yeah, FIT is that it was a so it's a textile. It's a historic clothing and textile conservation and curation masters. But the specialization between curation, conservation, the student kind of sides, and then in your first year, everyone's kind of exposed to the same balance of curatorial conservation work initially. Once you choose a concentration, curatorial, pursuit or conservation, you kind of changed some of your coursework. Conservation, focus, students, obviously have a much better grasp on conservation and stabilization by the time they graduate. But the nice thing is that everyone kind of learned the basics of the cellular biology of textiles, how they behave under a microscope, how to know what silk looks like. Honestly, it's because sometimes they'll get to a place where they don't have a wide staff. And, you know, you might be the person who knows, it was also very interesting too, because in my costuming, education and undergrad, we did things like burn tests, and you know, five ID, by that way, things that are really kind of tools of the trade for makers in a crafting context. And then I got into a conservation lab class and my masters and it's some of the same things. And it was a really nice bridging of like, oh, everything I've done kind of felt sequential and building up. I mean, that's another thing I'll say, when you feel like you've identified what you want to do, but it's a specialty, there are no direct steps. It feels a little vague and amorphous. What's been really validating for me are moments when it feels like I feel like my education my skill, my experience in this area is positively building upon itself. And so like, you know, going from a costuming class into a lab me like, Oh, this isn't really that different. I mean, there's a there's a step up here. There's more technical things I've learned how to do now, but it was a nice confirmation of that development. One thing also I glossed over but I shouldn't mention in my undergrad a really beautiful opportunity I had was I got to curate my own exhibition as a, like an independent semester, of course, it was great because honestly, by interviewing to get into this costume classmates, costume design class, when I first got there being told to wait, because it was a year long course, I was new, getting the chance to do the fashion history class, when it came up, the professor was the same professor, all these classes, you know, understood my passion, my interest in wanting to do this down the road, and propose to me, Well, I'll you know, supervise you for the semester, we'll figure out kind of the shape of this, but you could do a show based on the wardrobe here. So I got to do an exhibition on it, it turned out that it was a 25 year anniversary of kind of the costume department at the theater program. And so I got to do a 25 year look back on the clothing. And, you know, it was, it was, it was such an interesting learning experience for me, because it was more a validation that yes, this is like what I want to be doing. But I was curating really, without any idea what I was doing. So to me, I was doing this as like a undergrad student, teaching myself. And it's really interesting, because it had gotten, it was a chance to do a lot of different things. That confirmed Oh, I'd be happy. If I ended up just doing mounting, I would like that, they ended up just working on copy for exhibitions, that would still be cool. It was a good way kind of assemble all of those things before being in a more professional space. But it also confirmed that that's what I want to step into doing. And so when I got to FIT, you know, it wasn't like a home already curated show. So I don't need to learn anything. It was more like, Oh, I'm excited to hear from people who have more experience doing this. Kind of what should I do, so to speak, also Preface. I don't believe there's anything as a perfect grad school program. I think all programs do the best they can to educate students. But you can also do a lot while you're in school to supplement for yourself. Another thing I really liked about FIT was they required us to get internships outside of school. And there were, you know, there were malleable parameters around what that could look like and where you could wind up. But it was an opportunity again, to like, go and gain exposure based experience that not just gave you training. It also like helped, legitimize validate, like propel you. And I'm really grateful that I did that. Because while I was there, I got to, you know, The Met seemed to me on the outset of breaking into this world, like the final destination, like because that was in my mind, the pinnacle of clothing collection, and the with the budget they have, it's the most you know, they can just do the most clever. And I had the opportunity to be in there as an intern and work with them. And then it's so funny when the internship ended, I remember like, sounds cinematic and cheesy, but leaving, you know, the museum going through the front doors going down the steps or whatever, and kinda like crying to myself, like what am I doing local officers do not like in my mind, prior to that getting to that point was like the apogee of what I wanted to do. And so I was like, well, oh, shoot, it's downhill from here, because I did it already. But actually, pretty quickly. I mean, I had that thought, right? And then pretty quickly after I was able to turn around Oh, no, I mean, your conviction, your interest, and you're like, I don't know, determination, resolve to put my foot in the water, so to speak. Got you to getting to do this. And now that you did it, you'll continue like everything. Everything takes you to the next thing has been a mock by to adapt, adopt. Yeah. Oh, yeah. No, no, no, no, that's not what he what I mean is, you know, in reverse engineering to your passion for our younger listeners, you know, you spoke of the Wadsworth Athenaeum and so on someone who's from Fairfield County, Connecticut I do love the Wadsworth. But what would you have liked as that as young you to propel that interest forward? What do you wish that you had more access to? Or had been able to more openly explore as a kid? And if you have any particular kids books or things that you know, related to fashion that touch you? We're always asking our guests for any recommendations on the book front for sure to add to our running book list? Yeah, I have an amazing book. I wish I thought of it because I would have it on hand to show you it's, it's somewhere. I just moved. So it's definitely somewhere here. But no, it's actually a book that I had not. I thought that I had in my armchair historian period of trying to just find all the books out there and see what's available. I thought I covered a lot of ground. But it wasn't until I got to my current collection that I saw in the library of our stuff. It's a book Oh God. It has to maybe not It stopped probably being printed after the 80s. But essentially, it's a it's like a look through fashion. Not quite a pop up book. It's a flap book, where essentially, it's like your standard history survey of like, each decade. It's a mother, a father, a son and a daughter. But all of the layers of their clothing flip up with identification looks like yeah, like, you know, so it goes back to Roman times, and they're in togas and stola and chalonnaise and you can flip them up and all of them are properly identified. What's a Hamilton versus Khaitan? It tells you, you know, but it's taught from like the 60s. And it's definitely a British perspective. But I was like, I thought I've seen everything, this would have been an amazing thing to drop in my hands as a child, because I would have I mean, I would have been more pretentious, younger, no, I would have just learned things and stuff like that. Yeah terminology is big I think for kids, we're always trying to build vocabulary, with our augmented reality, a little red dress, that's definitely a big part in providing through technology, that sort of engaging contextual modality that I think is really important, and you just gave me an idea for something we should try our hand at.  Some of the differences, I've managed to find on my own, a lot of like the big hitter, survey anthology books of costume history, but those are not really geared towards children, most of the time, geared towards specialist academics. They're like, there are a couple of really good general survey, but like, there's the general, I believe it's deep decay. It's like the Smithsonian backed giants wrote a book. That's very good. And I know that Nancy deal. And, and her co author who I'm blanking on right now, they just recently came out with a very good updated, like survey textbook, but really, there aren't a lot of great, I mean, a survey of historic costume, like that's very dense. Even James Laver's books, which I first read when I was younger, because there were some of the first things that came up. You know, I think James labor is a very important person, but he's antiquated, and I don't think children should get they're not shouldn't get their education from that. But like there are, there were, there could be other things. I guess, when I was a kid, what I would have appreciated. It's funny, I watched a lot of this happen as I grew up there, not only was there not so much internet when I was younger, but also, you know, there's been an explosion of interest in period TV and period clothing, I think it's kind of back and forth. And that with more internet exposure, and with the digitization of collections online, people both feel like they know more what the past was like, and then also want to see it reflected. And so that relationship really, over the last 15 years has produced so much more visual culture around just clothing. I think as a kid, I just would have been happy that there were like more period pieces to watch. You know, I also think that things like me something you were just discussing, like a book or a learning aid that actually allowed me to interact with it in ways that helped me understand more, or, like, learn better about these concepts, you know, in a way that's workable to a child, but still is is educational would be super cool. I didn't have to necessarily learn, wait to learn in grad school what weave structure is, but I also don't think it was until that point that I was ready, like, understand it, because it was explained to me in ways that made sense and stuff, but I didn't find anything earlier on. You know, it wasn't reading like fiber structure books. As a child, I think there are ways to take some of that information and make it more accessible. Yeah, that's our entire you just summed up our entire mission and Little Red Fashion is to create books and tools that do just that, that make these complex, dense adult ostensibly academic things, much more relatable, tangible and digestible for kids that love it. But then also make it a vehicle for kids who maybe they're not into fashion, but they like any dress, they're into hype culture, maybe they you know, flip sneakers or sneaker head, and use that to teach them business math, or steam and literacy and all these other things. I think it's a two way street, or even connection that the passion they have for doing that thing is actually like a relevant avenue within a whole world of commerce within like clothing. Or something they see from the outset. I think the potential now with more exposure is to like disseminate this information in ways that helps people clue in better, I guess, you know, it was a revelation to me when I first started thinking about using the term costume. That's a separate concept from like, getting ready for Halloween in a couple of weeks. But that changed my conception of studying dress and clothing. Um, you know, it's something that happened for me prior to my master's, but we had a, you know, a pro seminar orientation before starting school and like, I'm not even joking. The first question they asked was, What is a textile from like a theory perspective? Right, right. Well, one of my biggest agonizing moments starting this company was do I call it little red dress because of the art of dress, or call it Little Red Fashion, art, fashion, fashion dress costume adorn? Yeah. we wrote all those words on the board, we pick them up. Oh, yeah. But the truth is, even though the entomology can be tricky, sometimes the universal passions, interests, concepts, they're tied to all of that are so relevant, important. I think. Unfortunately, since we've seen the mainstream capital F, fashion industry becomes such a self powerful, visually dominant industry, it's really obscured our concept of that word, to the point where some people don't want to be associated with fashion, but in reality, they participate with it. So things like kind of, that's not even about like demystifying, it's more about just expanding the cultural concept around it, so that there isn't as much. You know, even I can remember being a kid and being interested in this and drawing clothing and being, I guess, made fun of by other kids, like girls draw dresses and I'm like well thats your opinion, I really care. But um, you know, that's, I guess the same thing. Like I wasn't in fashion, I don't wanna be a designer, because people think that that's the only thing you can do. But there's so much more around that. I also think that again, if people can learn that there's a multitude of opportunities, prior to going out for having experiences, not only will they have opportunities to like, take on internships, or, you know, apprenticeships for exposure, things that are more suited to what they're actually interested in. But like, they'll know that that's a chance for them to have, you know, earlier on, I think that's great. I would actually, what I would have wanted to know, when I was younger, was that those are things that you can do that there are people who would be happy to whether you're in a position to be paid or not. Those are different things. But you know, all you want is to go learn hands on how a show is mounted people might, you know, there, there are ways to get experience and exposure. But this is about connecting people. So that's fabulous.

 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  27:28

All right, about half an hour. So I think it's about time for us to say goodbye. And thank you so much for taking this Yes. Such a good interview. Useful help. And I know it's gonna mean a lot to our audience.

 

Samuel Neuberg  27:39

Thank you both. This was really fun for me. I'm so happy that I had a chance to use my experience to get back a little bit. So I hope this was helpful. I mean, it serves its home. Oh, definitely. Definitely. Thank you so much. Thank you. Okay, everyone. Yes, I will take us away. Thank you, everyone for joining us for our latest installment of I can do that part of Little Red Village here at Little Red Fashion because it does take a village to build the next generation of fashion lovers, leaders, and creatives, make sure that you've pre ordered your copy of little red dress on our website, Little Red fashion.com and that you check us out next week, same time for another installment of Little Red Village. I can do that. I'm Jonathan Joseph with Rachel Elspeth and our guest today, Sam, thank you so, so much again.  Thanks.

 

Jonathan Joseph  28:22

Bye, everyone.

 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  28:23

Bye.

Jonathan Joseph

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Little Red Fashion Creator and CEO Jonathan Joseph is a fashion loving visionary & consultant who's loved fashion since childhood. After consulting in the luxury space for a bit, he was inspired to write The Little Red Dress. From there he realized kids who love fashion lack the same level of targeted resources from books to tech that their peers who love music or sports have had for ages. Our entire vision is dedicated to his mom, Margaret, who started his love of fashion as a kid looking for unique socks to cover his leg braces!

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