In this 1989 interview Estelle Ellis interviews Paul Leblang about his time as a Senior Vice-President and Marketing Executive at Saks Fifth Avenue. They discuss the evolution of Saks' folio (or catalogue) business; the creation and implementation of the Fifth Avenue Club; the need for Saks to expand beyond the purview of evening wear; and how a store must expand while still maintaining consistent quality control. They touch upon the changing roles of women in society and how stores must adapt to this generational shift and how the oversaturation of retail stores in American society led to the closure of many of the retail greats, including Bonwit Teller.
This conversation has three main components: first, Tomchin discusses his work in the home furnishings department, consolidating the department into one cohesive collection under the guidance of a fashion director, similar to the structure of the clothing departments. This allowed the department to present more fully developed design ideas to the customer, encouraging the customer to work as her own decorator, just as the fashion departments allowed her to be her own stylist. Next, Tomchin speaks at length about Bloomingdale's emphasis on exclusivity of product, whether through the development of Bloomingdale's own signature products, through the introduction of new international products through the country promotions, or through the collaborative efforts between Bloomingdale's and manufacturers to create products that would be of special interest to the Bloomingdale's customer. This convseration focuses heavily on the importance of the educated buyer in understanding other cultures and being able to translate the excitement of products to the customer. Finally, Tomchin speaks to the major contributions and milestones of Bloomingdale's CEO Marvin S. Traub, who opened 5 new Bloomingdale's stores during the first 8 years of Tomchin's tenure with the department store. Traub is described as having a parental sense of care and interest in the store and as having a level of respect for the customer that translated into thoughtful selection and exhibition of products.
In this interview, Alan Reyburn talks about restuaranteuring in the context of the retail world. Reyburn ran all food operations at Bloomingdale's during the 1980s, including staff restuarants. After briefly describing his past hospitality job working for a cruise line, Reyburn explains that New York City is a restaurant city and the Bloomingdale's client is someone who considers food and dining to be part of the fashionable lifestyle. Reyburn attributes Bloomingdale's Marvin S. Traub for having the total vision that included food operations as part of the Department Store's success. Most notable among Reyburn's projects while at Bloomingdale's was Le Train Bleu, a rooftop restuarant designed to look like the luxury train used by travelers going between Paris and the Mediterranean. Reyburn shares a number of anecdotes about the inception, operation, and overall concept of Le Train Bleu. As Bloomingdale's was one of the few department stores to have its own restuarant at the time, Reyburn explains the challenges specific to running a restaurant within a retail environment. In regards to service, Reyburn believed that good service in the restaurant was even more important to the Bloomingdale's client than good service on the sales floor. Having traveled with Traub for business, Reyburn describes the Bloomingdale's CEO as being indefatigable, an adventurous eater, and keenly aware of his surroundings. He also describes Traub as having more vision than most retailers, seeing a broader picture and having a shorter temper.
Carl Levine describes his early years in the home furnishings business working for his small family business before talking about his start at Bloomingdale's. The Sr. VP of Home Furnishings at the time of this interview, Levine traces the major developments of the Home Furnishings department at Bloomingdale's throughout his 30 years at the department store. Describing the department as "having trouble" when he arrived in 1955, Levine speaks at length about Bloomingdale's decision to manufacture exclusive product overseas with a special attention towards accurate period reproductions. He then talks about working with Barbara D'arcy, the creator of Bloomingdale's innovative model rooms in the 1960s. Levine, who studied furniture and crafts and design at Syracuse University as well as the NY School of Interior Design, addresses the role of education in grooming a successful executive, especially in regards to understanding the history of fashion and design. In talking about Bloomingdale's CEO Marvin S. Traub, Levine describes his strong family life, his essential role as a diplomat in the creation of the country promotions, and his tireless determination and sense of humor. Finally, Levine addresses the concept of the "Bloomingdale's customer", taking into account the increasing number of Bloomingdale's stores across various regions.
In this interview Liz Claiborne sat down with Estelle Ellis to discuss all aspects of Liz Claiborne Inc. Aware that her label represents a promise between her brand and the customer, Claiborne insists on being a part of every aspect of the design process for each label, from the initial color choices (which Claiborne stresses as being of paramount importance) to the final sample edits. Claiborne reveals the difficulties she faces when working with the menswear and childrenswear departments. In explaining why the Liz Claiborne company hires so many interns, Claiborne makes a point to explain the importance of learning on the job.
This interview discusses Barbara D'Arcy's experiences working at Bloomingdale's as the designer of the model rooms from 1958 to 1973. A large part of the conversation focuses on D'Arcy's professional relationship with Marvin Traub, Chief Excecutive of Bloomingdale's and his role in the development of the aesthetic identity of Bloomingdale's. D'Arcy also discusses her transition from model room designer to her role as head of store design.
This interview covers broad subjects including women in the retail industry, family work balance, and the evolving role of the department store. The majority of the conversation concerns Bloomingdale's CEO at the time, Marvin S. Traub, with whom Barbara Bass worked closely. Bass talk about Traub's strong relationship with his wife, his high energy, his excellent listening skills, and his long-range style of thinking. Bass describes Traub as being pragmatic, and credits this as the reason why women and men are given equal opportunities in Bloomingdale's. Bass doesn't provide much information about her own job, only to describe her role as that of a "liason between the store line and the merchandising organizations." Though this was a time when there was speculation about the future downfall of department stores, Bass is positive in her statement that department stores will remain relavant as long as they continue to evolve with the customer. While Bass observes trends at this time to be less fast and severe than in the past, she does talk about Bloomingdale's as the birth place and death place of new trends. She then describes Bloomingdale's customer to be upscale, educated, "young-thinking", and traditionally dressed.
In this conversation, Marvin S. Traub talks about his start at Bloomingdale's, and details his first seven positions at the company. He describes the Bloomingdale's customer as being someone who is interested in change and forward fashion, someone who "likes different things at different times" and who expects Bloomingdale's to alert them to the newest trends. Traub expresses his pride at helping to develop the careers of some of the industry's influential designers and executives and credits Bloomingdale's success to its team of talented and respectful employees. Traub talks about the role his wife has played in his life and he discusses his three children and their endeavors. In discussing some of the major changes at Bloomingdale's during Traub's tenure, there is mention of the Country Promotions, the branded shopping bags, the in-house boutiques, and Bloomingdale's role as a cultural center within a community. Traub referes to several different people as role models and peers, including Jed Davidson, Martha Graham, Bill Blass, and his wife, Lee.
This interview takes place at a time when Bloomingdale's President Marvin S. Traub was being awarded the "Person Who Makes the Difference" award from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Gordon Cooke discusses the various ways in which Traub's style of leadership and business has made a difference in Bloomingdale's success not just as a department store but as an innovator in the world of promotions and business relations. Cooke uses Bloomingdale's country promotions as examples of Traub's creativity and insight regarding promotions. Cooke discusses the team-syle development of ideas, describing the equal value placed on promotions, design, sales, etc. as being instrumental in the creative development of Bloomingdale's. Cooke credits Bloomingale's with opening up trade with various countries before even the U.S. government had fully developed trade with these countries. Finally, Cooke talks about Traub's collaboration with both established and cutting-edge artists in advertisements and promotions.
In this interview, Stravitz focuses mostly on the challenges and successes he has faced in trying to expand the Bloomingdale's model into other markets. In doing this, he covers the importance of paying attention to each market's regional needs as well as ways in which marketing can be tailored to suit a particular market, culturally. At the same time, Stravitz explores what the New York store represents and how that can be carried through in other markets. A larger discussion of the crossover between department stores and specialty stores looks at what makes Bloomingdale's especially strong in both categories. As an example, Stravitz talks about the two "Bloomie's Express" specialty shops which Bloomingdale's had launched at JFK airport a few months before this interview. Stravitz describes the Bloomingdale's customer, across all markets, to be sophisticated, well-traveled, fashionable, and possibly affluent. In discussing his direct boss, Bloomingdale's CEO Marvin S. Traub, Stravitz describes him as deeply caring about the people he works with. He argues that Traub's personal concern for the business as well as the people connected to it result in high expectations as well as a supportive work environment. Traub's encouragement to try new things and his willingness to take the risk and support these ventures, Stravitz suggests, are what make Bloomingdale's an especially creative and entrepreneurial place.
This interview first discusses Dennis Garro's work experience leading up to his move from Macy's to Bloomingdale's in 1986. Garro briefly presents some of the main cultural differences between Macy's and Bloomingdale's as being inherenet within the California culture of Macy's and the New York City culture of Bloomingdale's. Garro shies from comparing Phil Schann (head of Macy's at the time) and Marvin S. Traub (head of Bloomingdale's at the time) other than to say that they were similar leaders. Garro describes Traub and Schann as being the type of leaders who challenge subordinates to continually look for new ways to make a better store. Traub is presented as having a drive to succeed at all things and he says that this is the same way he approaches his work. Garro discusses the Bloomingdale's business style as being merchandise driven as compared to consumer driven, though he does not consider the two as being so different. A discussion of fashion as being about different lifestyles leads to a discussion on Ralph Lauren's designs being fashionable yet traditional. As this was a period when the baby boomer generation was coming into its professional peak, Garro addresses the laid-back business approach of others in his generation, explaining that he as well as his peers are perhaps exceptions. As Senior VP and General Manager of the Men's, Boy's, and Children's divisions at Bloomingdale's, Garro offers insight into the challenges each department faces. He also predicts huge growth in the infant/ toddler division. Finally, Garro addresses the importance of assigning the right person to the right job and this leads to an exploration on the recruiting and staffing at Bloomingdale's. He describes the ideal recruit as someone who is driven, independent, and quick to respond. Garro states that a "thirst for a cultural background is more important than the actual cultural background."
This conversation is with Lee Traub, wife of influential Bloomingdale's executive Marvin S. Traub. In this interview, Lee Traub talks about Marvin Traub as a father, a husband, a business man, and a diplomat. She briefly talks about their meeting in 1947 and marriage in 1948 and praises Marvin for being tremendously calm both at home and in work. Lee credits Marvin for possesing a natural confidence that affected the way he was able to work with people and try new things. As the wife of a top executive, Lee provides some personal insight into the Bloomingdale's work environment of the 1960s and early 1970s, recalling a time when the department store was closed on Saturdays. Lee describes Marvin as a gentleman who has made friends with important people all over the world and who operates with a large sense of morality. Lee and Marvin were known as a strong pair and Lee went along with Marvin on several of his international trips. Lee describes her experiences with Marvin in India and France, again pointing to her husband's diplomacy. Finally, Lee attests to Marvin's renowned energy, both physical and mental. In regards to his determination, Lee recounts the story of Marvin being wounded in WWII and how he overcame his debilitating injury.
This conversation covers very little of Lester Gribetz' life and career at Bloomingdale's. There is a brief intro in which Gribetz lays out his professional trajectory from trainee under Martin S. Traub to his role in merchandising. Like most of Traub's employees at Bloomingdale's, Gribetz praises Traub as a boss and as a person. He describes him as exciting, challenging, enlightened, and demanding. Gribetz attributes Traub's high standards to keeping workers excited and motivated. Traub is described as charitable in a number of the Bloomingdale's interviews but Gribetz shares a specific story of Traub organizing a massive fundraising effort for AIDS research after one of his buyers passed away from the disease. In describing the retail environment, Gribetz explains that a retail career is demanding and varied, and the hard work has discouraged many where others have thrived. Prompted several times to define Bloomingdale's milestones, Gribetz first discusses the team before Martin S. Traub's era and then the transitions and departmental changes that marked a real turning point with Traub. Bloomingdale's food business is discussed as a distinction among other retailers as well as the elaborate country promotions which were at their peak success at the time of this interview. The Bloomingdale's customer is described as being educated, affluent, adventuresome, and inventive. While Gribetz describes these qualities as being somewhat inherent in New Yorkers, he goes on to say that these ideas are present in customers in all regions and that Bloomingdale's still appeals to the mass market because it grants these qualities upon the customer.
This conversation takes place only a few weeks after Schaefer had joined Bloomingdale's as the Vice President of Marketing. Schaefer gives a quick recap of the previous 13 years of his career before talking about his thoughts on his new boss, Marvin S. Traub, as well as his new position at Bloomingdale's. Coming from first a marketing background and then, briefly, a retail background, Schaefer discusses the importance of retailers being fully aware of what people are reading, wearing, listening to, and even eating. This awareness is a qaulity of Traub's that Schaefer praises and which he attributes, in part, to making Bloomingdale's stand out in the retail industry. Schaefer also talks about Bloomingdale's distinguising itself by being a place of diversion, entertainment, and fun as opposed to being simply a mode of distribution. When discussing his job interview for Bloomingdale's, Schaefer recalls being impressed by the amount of thought and planning that evidently went into the future of the store and uses the country promotions as an example.
Interview of Jeanette Wagner, President of Estée Lauder. This interview discusses her career, Estée Lauder's fragrances, Americanization of Europe in regards of fragrance, and the use of fragrance in Japan.
Interview of James Preston, Chairman Avon Products about Annette Green and the Fragrance Foundation, 1993 August 26. This interview discusses Preston's opinions and admiration for Green and the work she did for the Fragrance Foundation.