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Oral History Project of the Fashion Industries

The Oral History Project of the Fashion Industries began informally in the late 1970s, and was officially funded by a grant from the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries beginning in 1981. The project was guided by an industry advisory committee chaired by Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Jr., and was largely guided by then director of the Gladys Marcus Library at FIT, John Touhey.

Julian Tomchin interview, 1986 November

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.

Tomchin, Julian

Alan Reyburn interview, 1987 November 16

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.

Reyburn, Alan

Carl Levine interview, 1986 December 16

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.

Levine, Carl

Ralph Lauren interview, 1990 September 5

This interview with Ralph Lauren explores his life growing up in the Bronx and how he started his career in the fashion industry. He provides insight to his design process and the company products, which vary from clothing to furnishings and linens.

Lauren, Ralph

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