Image courtesy Marylou Luther
Interview

Marylou Luther

11.10.14

Arriving in the fashion capitol of New York from her hometown of Nebraska, Marylou Luther is an industry icon. She knew nothing about fashion when she started her career at The Des Moines Register. Fast forward forty years and she is Creative Director of Fashion Group International, Editor of the International Fashion Syndicate, CFDA Award winner, syndicated Clotheslines columnist and more. Marylou’s bi-annual, ready-to-wear trend report for FGI — narrated in her signature authoritative, sophisticated voice, sets the seasonal tone with her much anticipated summaries. It’s no wonder her trend reports are followed by industry professionals in 28+ regions all over the world.

Interview

How did you initially get into the fashion and media worlds?

On my first day of work at the Des Moines Register, then the Des Moines Register and Tribune, my boss, managing editor Frank Eyerly, told me I would be the paper’s new Fashion Editor. When I pointed out that I knew nothing about fashion and was totally unsuited for the position, he said, “You’ll learn.”

The fashion editor who was leaving, Peggy Hippe, was indeed fashion-informed. Her aunt was Carmel Snow, then editor of Harper’s Bazaar. The two weeks preceding her departure was the time of the Paris haute couture shows. As she showed me photos from the collections, she would say, “This is Jacques Fath’s tulip silhouette” and I would nod — never for a minute seeing a tulip from the designer I thought was Jac-kwes Fath, not Zhock Fought.

Mr. Eyerly was right: I did learn about fashion, not from books (there were very few at the time) but in the beginning, from attending Eleanor Lambert’s New York fashion press weeks twice a year and sitting in the ballroom of the Hotel Pierre, watching all her clients show their clothes. And later, learning much, much more from my brilliant Chicago Tribune editor, Eleanor Nangle, while attending the shows along with buyers.

How do you stay on top of the trends?

Staying on top of the trends comes from going to the seasonal runway shows in New York and Europe, talking to designers, fellow journalists and retailers, watching what “real people” wear on the streets and to charity galas, keeping abreast of global news and reading industry reports from journalists I admire.

How much research and time goes into preparing the trend report?

Information for the trend reports begins with listening to the views of the men and women I ask to serve as committee members/panelists for FGI’s seasonal audio/visual presentations. Committee members are always a combination of retailers and press who attend the shows both here and abroad.

I’ve never counted the days going into the trend report, but if you count only the days of the shows, and days preparing the script, the total would be 56. This does not count the time pre-runway to organize the committee and special guest moderator.

How often do you meet with the committee members?

We meet twice—once at the end of New York Fashion Week and once at the end of the Paris shows. With their input and the help of my director, Anthea Liontos, and producer, Mike de Avila, we edit show images from all fashion capitals, sort them by trend and then write the script and do the voice over. Based on all that information, I write the Trend Overview, which is distributed at the event and mailed to 5,000 industry professionals who belong to FGI’s 28 regions both here and abroad.

Who is on the panel this coming November 12th?

Nicole Fischelis, Macy’s; Brooke Jaffe, Bloomingdale’s; Jennifer Mankins, Bird; and Eric Wilson, InStyle. The Special Guest Moderator will be Ken Downing, Neiman Marcus.

What are some of the top trends we can expect for Spring 2015?

Topping the charts for spring: Flora and Fauna, The ‘70s, the ‘50s, Arts and Crafts, Sport, Sci-Fi, Utility-cum-Military, sunrise to sunset colors and fabrics from denim to tulle, lace and brocade.

Your voice is inspiring and authoritative. Plus, it keeps the listeners attention – no easy task! Are you a natural or did you take voice lessons?

Yes, I took a voice lesson because I believed that I sounded like a home economics teacher from Nebraska. I’m proud to be from Nebraska, but I wanted to sound like an authority figure from New York.

How long have you had the Clotheslines column? How many letters do you receive a week?

I started writing my syndicated Clotheslines column in 1968. Now I receive more emails than letters. I’ve never counted them.

What was one of the craziest questions you’ve been asked?

A reader once asked me why Marilyn Monroe never showed her cleavage. I called William Travilla, the Academy-awarded Hollywood costume designer (and my friend) who created most of her clothes. He told me that Marilyn’s breasts were so far apart that she had no natural cleavage and that this was a great help in designing sexy clothes for her to wear because they easily passed the Hays Office’s strict moral codes for films—as in no cleavage.

What are some highlights of your career as a fashion journalist?

Winning the Fashion Group’s Night of Stars award in 1985, the CFDA’s award in 1991, the Accessories Council’s Marylou Luther award for Fashion Journalism in 2004—an award given every year in my name—and the French Ministry of Culture’s Chevalier award in 2008.

Who do you go to for fashion advice?

There really isn’t anyone I go to for fashion “advice”, but I do go to many people for fashion information. And fashion reminiscing.