I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and chat with Arlene Goldstein, Vice President of Trend Merchandising and Fashion Direction for Belk, Inc. For those of you unfamiliar with Belk, they are an iconic department store located primarily in the southern part of the country. Upon first meeting Arlene, I could immediately tell she was warm and gracious. I knew then, the interview would be a success! Read the interview below! I promise you will enjoy!
Me: When I was reading your background, I know you have worked for Saks and Parisians. So, what brought you to Belk?
Arlene: When I was working as fashion director for Parisians, the Belk brothers brought Parisians. So, for the first time in my professional life, I was looking for a job. I was at a point in my life where I could be mobile. My children were grown, my husband had a career where he could work from anywhere. I applied to work for Belk and they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. So I packed up and moved to Charlotte seven years ago. It’s just been wonderful. It was a great move geographically. Charlotte is an amazing city that very progressive and very diverse. With the company, I have had the opportunity to shape the fashion office and now the events report to me. Our events go from the sublime to the ridiculous; We plan Oscar de la Renta’s visit and we do Santa Clause visit!
Me: Good! In following you on Twitter, I see that you take in so much fashion all the time from the shows and different visits. So, how do you decipher trends? Do you have a process or do trends just jump out at you?
Arlene: I do have a process, but I think you are the composite of everything you see, touch, and listen to. So, I am always on the search. Sometimes what is hinted at one season may be become full blown the next. It’s a combination of the beat on the street when I am in London or when I am in New York having dinner down in Soho I just watch what the gals on the street are wearing. It’s a combination of the marriage of music and fashion or the marriage of theater and fashion. The designer runways are the most influential. I am looking for repetition. If I see it once, like skinny jeans in Paris five years ago, I might say “Wow! That looks cool,” but I am not going to say lets go out and identify that as a trend. I am looking for duplication and the changing of the silhouettes and the colors. I remember being in Paris five years ago and sitting watching people parade by. As we were sitting, four guys walked by wearing a different shade of gray head to toe. We all have a gray sweater or t-shirt, but to see gray treated as a fashion color, really caught my attention. That was just an example of seeing something and saying. “Wow, that looks different”
Me: And especially seeing all four made an bigger impact! Is it ever hard to interject your own personal opinion into the trends. For example, if there is something that you see as a trend and you personally don’t like it.
Arlene: I don’t want to be limited by my own personal point of view. That would be like having friends that are all just like you. How boring would that be?
Me: I know right! Has there ever been a trend you weren’t fond of for your personal self?
Arlene: There have been so many trends in the last ten years, but I don’t remember one that I thought was disgusting. I have a fondness for newness!
Me: I like that!
Arlene: You want things to have commercial value, but the longer you wait to show it to the customer, the longer it will take for the customer to adopt.
Me: From the fashion shows that you have seen or been to is that one that sticks out as memorable to you?
Arlene: I think what Karl Lagerfeld does at Chanel every year is so amazing. To think that Coco Chanel has been gone for so long and that her inspiration as an icon lives on, but it’s as modern today in the way that he’s interpreted it. You would think that their would be nothing new under the sun, but every season he manages to do amazing things that make the brand so of the moment.
Me: Yes! I always like what he does! I like the presentation.
Arlene: It’s very theatrical!
Me: Similar to Marc Jacobs, the show itself is always about something. Just recently, Tommy Hilfiger with the beach scene, the fashion show comes across as a message.
Arlene: Fashion and Theater!
Me: What are your travel essentials? What can you not leave home without?
Arlene: When I travel, I create a uniform so I won’t be flustered about what I am going to wear. On my last trip I did leggings, or a slim pant, a tunic or over-sized sweater. I made sure I had completer pieces like a jacket in case it gets cool. I always make sure I a couple of scarves and a couple of statement necklaces, because, you know, you want a little fashion along with the basics. That makes it really easy to pull yourself together, to look nice. And don’t forget a couple pairs of boots. My husband always says, “Where is your suitcase? Is that it? I wish I could pack like you!”
Me: I wish I could pack like you too!
Arlene: I pick a color palette and sort of go with it. On my last trip I had black and gray bottoms, six or sever tops, two scarves, and I always end up picking up something along the way.
Me: Of course! How could you not!
Arlene: That’s it! When I first started my career, I would always talk about the building blocks of basic wardrobe. Once you have those, you build on and add pieces that are the razzle dazzle. Like this season, I would definitely add a motocross jacket. I just love the idea of that over a sheath or a pair of jeans or a skirt. It works. If you’ve got the core and you have made sure you have things that fit you, then you are good to go!
Me: Such great advice. I love the uniform idea! Next time I travel, I am going to use the Arlene Goldstein method of packing! When packing, I want to change a couple of times each day but when you are traveling for a couple of days, you don’t want to check a bag. I have to be a bit smarter!
Arlene: I have two silver bracelets that I have had for 100 years that I always throw in my bag. I try to resist the urge to over pack. For evening, if you want to get a little more dressed up, throw in that little black sheath and you know you can do something with it.
Me: Exactly! Moving on to special events, are there a couple of favorites that are dear to your heart?
Arlene: We love Girls Night Out! If you have never been, you need to put it on your agenda. We do it a couple times a year. It’s a big cocktail party. It’s girls shopping and there is a great discount we don’t usually offer. We have a DJ and it’s just BFF’s having fun! It’s gals of all ages, but the bulk of them are in their 20’s and 30’s. It’s great fun!
Me: I am definitely going to have to attend the next one!
Arlene: Right now we are also working on opening our store at the Dallas Galleria. We open the Dallas store the 9th of April, so our special events people are knee deep in planning that while at the same time maintaining our ongoing events.
Me: That’s going to be a huge opening for you guys.
Arlene: We do have 8 or so stores in the Dallas area, but this new store will be a flagship for us. This store is a real opportunity for us to share the flagship message.
Me: I am excited! I can’t wait to see pictures of it! I want to talk a little bit about Project Runway. I am a huge fan of the show and when I watched the first episode and they said, “The accessory wall from Belk” I was overjoyed! I don’t know if you were a part of that choice or decision process. If you do know anything about it, how did that partnership come about?
Arlene: John Thomas who was on the Belk segment, he is the executive VP of Product Development, he put the deal together. We are going to do it next year too!
Me: That was my next question! I wondered if you guys are going to do it again. I was very excited that Dom was one of the winners of the Belk challenge. I can’t wait to buy that dress. It has so much style to it.
Arlene: It’s a lot of national exposure and you know we are only in the bottom half of the United States and a lot of people don’t know who Belk is. It’s been a great opportunity for us!
Me: I live tweet the show, and people were tweeting “Belk? Where is Belk?” and I would reply back with “It’s such a great department store. Here are a couple of stories I have done on what they have. It’s perfect because now you have online shopping and that has certainly helped. Alright, for my last question, what are some trends that you think women can incorporate into their holiday looks?
Arlene: don’t think we are going to have an abrupt change in silhouettes, but it’s all about luxurious fabrics. There is going to be a lot of sheen and shine, built in jewelry on sweaters and dresses, and the continuation of lace and lace in colors. The single sole pump will be important for holiday, but taking that ankle boot and dressing it up wearing it with a dress or skirt. The ankle boot is the number one boot of the season. The statement necklace will continue to be important.
Me: Thank you beyond words for this interview! Its been an honor!
Arlene: You are so welcome!
Be sure to follow Arlene on Twitter
Photo via belkblog.com