Checkin' Out the Big Apple: Part 2
Ferragamo, Converse, Ralph Lauren, a James Beard Chef, and yes, a Dairyman!
From the previous post:
Sunday: Spent the night with friends in Brooklyn
Monday: Traveled into the city to meet up with Michele & went out with my Uncle Walt
Tuesday: Meeting at Calvin Klien, IZOD, and Nicole Miller
Tuesday was our last night in the city. On Wednesday morning we packed up our things and headed for my next appointment: Salvatore Ferragamo.
Michele went to school with a fellow dairyman at Cornell who's brother, Pierre Goyenetche, is the Marketing Directer at Ferragamo.
Once more the three of us found ourselves in a neat little waiting room. The whole flat was stark. There was a sleek black couch, a little table with a look-book on it, and set into the wall was a screen with their latest fashion show looping.
Directly in front of us was a clear window displaying wooden planks protruding from the wall in the form of a futuristic-looking staircase. After a few minutes a pair of the most luxurious men's shoes I had ever seen appeared on the top plank, followed by a flawlessly tailored suit, a white, squarish, coffee cup, and finally a manicured haircut.
The man emerged from the glass wall, wearing a welcoming smile.
After meeting Pierre, he took me into the conference room. There had to be at least a hundred pairs of brightly colored, handmade Italian-leather shoes lining the walls.
Or maybe I had died and somehow made it to heaven? It was hard to tell.
I got to hear all about how Pierre got to where he is, and he gave me some great advice about getting into the industry. Because Ferragamo is an International brand, it was really interesting to compare their brand to Calvin Klein or IZOD.
It was especially cool to hear Pierre's story because he started out as a farm kid too. He grew up wearing muck boots on a dairy, and here he was wearing handmade Italian-leather. The garden of shoes around me was surreal, but even more extraordinary was the fact that I found myself once more in a high rise building talking about farming.
After that I met back up with Mom and Michele and we headed for Grand Central Station to ride the train out of the City. Grand Central Station has a magic all of its own -- people from every walk of life, and food vendors from every corner of the world. I couldn't leave without pressing my nose up against every display case. There is no better place in the world to find yourself at lunchtime.
We rode the train two hours north of the city to Ancramdale, where Michele's friend, Carey grew up. Carey's dad, Ronny picked us up at the station and took us to his family farm where he gave us a tour of their dairy plant.
Ronny has got to be the sweetest old man I have ever met. It was so fun watching him talk about his trade. The way his eyes lit up when we walked by a new flavor of yogurt they started making, or when telling us about his favorite cow, was priceless.
Ronnybrook has been selling its products in green-markets and whole food stores across the East Coast for over 70 years now. Some of their milk is still sold in glass bottles that are sent back to the farm for refills. It was incredible to see how much tradition Ronny's dairy has maintained. All their products are still made in small batches, mostly by hand, to insure the highest possible quality.
And then I got to pet some cows. I may have come to New York to check out fashion, but hey, a girl has got to have priorities right?
Then we went to the neighboring farm, which specializes in artisan cheeses. After learning all about artisan cheese-making, we said our goodbyes and geared up for the next item on the agenda.
Carey had left a car for us to use at the farm, so we headed into Massachusetts, loaded down with enough yogurt and cheese to feed an army. Another of Michele's friends, Susie Kuhn, is now the Converse Sr. Merchandising Director for North America.
Not only was Susie going to let me go to work with her the next day, but she also welcomed us into her home. An avid traveler, Susie has acquired art from all over the world. Her home was something straight out of a Magazine, with its light-filled rooms and gourmet kitchen.
Susie let me ride with her to the Converse headquarters where she passed me off to North America Merchandiser, Jocelyn Briggs.
Jocelyn gave me a tour of the gorgeous 1920's brick building they just finished renovating. Susie put a whole day together for me, setting up appointments with designers, as well as people in merchandising and textiles.
Michelle Piantedosi, a beautiful young associate for North American Merchandising, showed me their product-line room where they show new collections to buyers. It was really cool because she asked my opinion on the shoes, curious to hear feedback from the target consumer: a teenage girl!
I met the Code Design Director of Materials, Christopher Snyder, who is the first person I have ever met who has understands how I feel about fabric. It was so fun talking textiles with him and learning about his job.
I went around to several other departments, meeting such incredible, kind, people who all shared wonderful advise and insight about the industry. Jocelyn even took me out for lunch with two of her colleagues. At lunch I met Michelle Paparazzo, who is the Product Line Manager. She shares my passion for cooking! It was a gorgeous day out, so we took the long way getting back to Converse, passing by markets and candy shops across from the boat-lined bay. Michelle and I mostly talked about food, and I got to learn a little about Boston too.
Later that afternoon Mom and Michele surfaced, looking adequately rested after a wonderful day relaxing at Susie's resort-like patio, reading books and sipping tea, you know, living large. We all went back to Susie's where she fed us an incredible feast of mussels in garlic butter, beef sliders, and crab cakes.
In the morning we packed our things and headed up to Pittsfield, Mass. to have dinner with Carey at the hotel her husband, Brian cooks at. On the way up we stopped at Old Sturbridge Village, an 1830's New England Living History Museum -- the largest living history museum in the Northeast.
We didn't have much time, but we did get to see both a blacksmith and a potter in action, which was really cool.
We made it to the Hotel on North, in time for me to meet Brian's boss, Sarah Eustis, who was once a designer for Polo Ralph Lauren, Gap, and Limited Brands, and she lived in Paris for three years when she was working for Etam. She had so many great tips, and I was so honored to meet her.
Brian's daughter, who has a high-end fashion boutique, was having a pop-up fashion show that night in the hotel, so we got to attend that before dinner. While we were waiting on our first course, Brian gave me a tour of his di-level kitchen -- it was at least seven times the size of the restaurant I worked at this summer.
And then Brian started sending out food -- everything that he wanted us to try. Unbelievable combinations; deviled eggs with caviar, maple chicken and waffles, and duck with Sriracha to name a few. It was all SO good!
We spent the night at Brian and Carey's 1800s farmhouse back in upstate New York that night, and we got to meet their six-year-old, Grace.
Saturday was pretty laid back. Carey and Grace showed us around some little towns in their area, including an alpaca farm that was having a little fair. Grace and I talked fashion, becoming immediate pals.
Sunday rolled around and after a charming picnic on the Hudson, Michele took us to the air port in Albany, and that was that.
This trip was such a stretching experience. God keeps opening doors... I am just along for the ride. This entire trip was the result of a door closing that I thought I really wanted to go through, but I understood that God knows what He's doing, and I don't think anyone can disagree with me there.
I don't know what God's got in mind for my life. I could decide tomorrow that I want to up and become an astronaut or a pediatrist or something. I don't know.
What I do know is that God is in control and I just pray that He will be able to use my hands for His glory.
I want to thank everyone who has supported me along my journey! Thank you so much to Brian & Carey, Susie, and Ronny for taking us into your homes and sharing a snippet of your lives with us. Thank you Pierre, Sarah, and everyone I met at Converse for the incredible insight and knowledge that you shared with me.
I really hope to see you all again very soon.