Designers and fashion executives celebrate Ruth Finley’s new documentary

Fittingly enough, more than 100 people — many of whom hadn’t seen each other in two years — showed up Friday night at Scandinavia House in Manhattan to celebrate the premiere of a documentary about Ruth Finley, a leader in the industry, which had scheduled New York fashion shows and events for almost 70 years.

“Calendar Girl” shows how she created the fashion calendar in 1945 and kept it published bi-weekly for decades. A one-person operation Throughout this period, Finley was not only a planner, but also a connector, advising designers – especially young ones – on how they could gain more exposure. His advice helped guide generations of designers, including those not only running their own businesses, but living in New York for the first time. Finley sold the fashion calendar to the Council of Fashion Designers of America a few years before his death in 2018 at the age of 98.

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The film will be available from Tuesday, International Women’s Day, on VOD. It was produced by Natalie Nudell, Tracy Jenkins Yoshimura and Kate DelPizzo.

Ngozi Okaro, Kikka Hanazawa and Geraldine Martin-Coppola.  - <a class=Credit: Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/.lphLd4f0s64sfhWmErnOQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTEzNDU-/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/hrH_VAx7c4Jokg9P55RDUQ–~B/aD0yMDQ4O3c9MTQ2MjthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/wwd_409/fac4857b4fe1477f6bd26bfa64994c2e”/>

Ngozi Okaro, Kikka Hanazawa and Geraldine Martin-Coppola. – Credit: Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Friday’s premiere, Q&A and cocktail party drew director Christian Bruin, CFDA’s Steven Kolb, Linda Fargo, Jeffrey Banks, Nancy Chilton, Joanna Mastroianni, Gideon Lewin, FIT’s Valerie Steele, Fern Mallis, Maryanne Grisz from Fashion Group International and others from the fashion crowd.

While some reflected on how Finley loved traveling by subway, others wondered how she kept her Boston accent after living in New York for so long. Mary Myers Hackley, who worked for Finley for 13 years at the end of her long career, said: “She was nice, always nice.”

Jeffrey Banks and Fern Mallis - Credit: Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Jeffrey Banks and Fern Mallis – Credit: Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

The fact that Myers Hackley’s apartment was a few blocks from Finley’s home office appealed to Finley who was still working. “We never had snow days,” she said.

Recalling planning her first show in the early 1980s, Yeohlee Teng said at the time that she had no idea what fashion week was. Finley has taken the new designer in town under his wing. Finley found the right time slot, was “a godsend, and she was always there,” Teng said. “She had a heart and a sense of humor but was always approachable. She was a real person. There was nothing wrong with her. She did what she did, down to earth , and did.

Mastroianni pointed out how Finley “was very passionate about creating creatures. She loved us all. It didn’t depend on how young we were, whether we were successful, whether we had a brand or not. It made no difference to her. It was really about giving you the opportunity to introduce yourself.

Joanna Mastroianni, Christian D. Bruun and Natalie Nudell.  - Credit: Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Joanna Mastroianni, Christian D. Bruun and Natalie Nudell. – Credit: Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Advice was a given, with Finley recommending which time slot would be best for each individual designer. Finley also made the effort to go see the collection, Mastroianni said. Ubiquitous during New York Fashion Week, Finley was known for showing up to shows on the evening of the last day (when many other attendees had found reason to skip the last ones).

Patrick Murphy, the former fashion industry liaison for the New York Economic Development Corporation for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said, “I loved Ruth.”

Now at JP Morgan, Murphy said: “Obviously she was a very determined woman. She had to be to be such a young, early career woman. But we didn’t see the side of her. steel of her [in the film]. She must have said ‘No’ and pissed people off sometimes when she was doing the calendar.

Yeohlee Teng and Natalie Nudell - Credit: Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Yeohlee Teng and Natalie Nudell – Credit: Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Never one to “criticize the work,” Finley “understood the importance of spotlighting the American designer, especially if you weren’t a big brand and didn’t have a parent company,” Mastroianni said. At frequent brunches, Finley wanted to know what was going on, what you were thinking, and your current and future plans, the designer said. “How many people do we have like that in our industry? It was not typical. It came from the heart,” Mastroianni said. “She really wanted to see the progress of American designers. She wanted you to grow up. She wanted the world to know you existed in any way she could help make it happen.

Mallis described the film as “a really beautiful love story from someone we all really looked up to in the industry. I don’t think anyone ever had a bad word to say about Ruth.

The documentary made Mallis want to go back and look at so many old-fashioned calendars that were full of designer names and the different places they showed. “It really is an archive that is so precious. We’ve all lived and breathed the fashion calendar for many years,” Mallis said.

If Finley had lived to see the premiere, she would have been thrilled with all the recognition and accolades, Mallis said. “This industry is very hard on everyone. People don’t really recognize people, who do great work over time. She deserved to be recognized. »

Steven Kolb and Christian D. Bruun - Credit: Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Steven Kolb and Christian D. Bruun – Credit: Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Hannah Turner Harts/Courtesy of BFA.com

Unsure how many people outside the industry will be interested in the film, Mallis admitted that “there’s a lot of fashion history in there.”

Having helped finance the film, Kikka Hanazawa said she was very intrigued by Finley’s entrepreneurial story as a working-from-home mother. The pandemic has made it even more relevant today, she added. Hanazawa, who is CEO of VPL, said she had discussed with one of Finley’s sons how the business side of the fashion calendar deserves further exploration.

“For her, it was quite enterprising to raise three children on her own. It was a very viable business. And for 60 years, having that kind of monopoly is just amazing. Yes, nowadays anyone can copy it. There were people trying to do it, but they couldn’t quite make it because they weren’t the first to get this information. She was. She had access that no one else had. Everyone had to copy their information,” Hanazawa said.

Noting how interesting it was to understand the competitive edge she had, Hanazawa said, “They really should make this a business school case study. If a woman can work 60 years and earn a million dollars a year, that might be a better deal [model] than quickly selling a business in a few years.

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