Sunday, April 27, 2008

Indulging My Clothing Fetish

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This Weekend Has Been a Clothing Fest

"I grew up with service like that [in Rochester, New York]," my mom said, as we took the elevator to the first floor of Richards. "'Edie Rose, I have just the thing for you,' they'd tell me."

Aesthetically, besides visual art, my mother and I always enjoyed clothing. My mother relished shopping, which I didn't, but we both appreciated the end-result: gorgeous clothing to wear. I liked imagining my mother, having the 1940s version of the experience I was having.

Beverley, who was bringing me to Dave to see if they could copy a blouse I loved, but had worn out, interrupted our mission to ask, "Would you like to meet Jack Mitchell?"

The author of Hug Your Customers and Hug Your People serendipitously was standing in our path, wearing a suit and tape-measure, his signature.

Yes, I would love to meet Jack Mitchell. I adored the Customers book, and the People version came out while we were in India, and I hadn't yet had time to read it, with all of the school-books that I was reading since my return.

We shook hands and I said to him, "My dad used to shop at Mitchells in Westport, the other store." Jack Mitchell was the son of the founders, and the business was 50 years old. "My father always looked good," I bragged. Recalling yesterday's conversation, I'm thinking of a tan, camel's-hair jacket that my dad often wore with gray slacks and a paisley tie. And he had a great, charcoal-gray, herringbone overcoat from Mitchells, too.

My father knew how to dress elegantly, and my mother, also. I was extra-proud of my mother whenever she picked me up from elementary school in her woolen, Scottish, blue and gray plaid kilt and shawl.

I told him that I loved the first book, but hadn't yet had a chance to read the next. I was particularly interested in the next one, since I worked in HR at IBM, helping our managers at all levels to be better leaders.

He picked up a copy and signed it for me, and handed it to me as a gift. While Pat and my mom waited for me (for 2.5 hours(!), including the fittings), Pat read 80 pages of the Customers one. I introduced Jack Mitchell to Pat, saying, "This is my partner Pat," and then excused myself to complete my blouse mission. (My mother was sitting in another part of the store then.)

Who Would Have Guessed?

In the car later, Pat told my mom and me of her exchange with Jack Mitchell:

"Sarah said you're her partner?"

"Yes, of nearly 16 years."

"I have a son, who's gay, and his partner is Iranian and Jewish. His father is Orthodox and lives in Israel and doesn't acknowledge his son's orientation."

"Sarah has a friend, who used to identify as lesbian, whose mother is happy that she had a sex-change to become a man because the mother is deeply Catholic and is glad that her son is no longer a sinner, since as a man, he is not a lesbian."

"My son Andrew said that I could be as open as I wanted to be and I work with a lot of fathers to try to help them."

It touched me how, circa 2008, a Greenwich Avenue clothing store exemplified inclusion from my Jewish-American lesbian's perspective. There was a box of matzah on the cappuccino counter, sitting next to the bagels, and then Jack Mitchell came out to Pat about his son and his son's Jewish partner.

Thirty years ago, when I first became acquainted with Mitchells, and then Richards, following my father around while he shopped for clothing for work, I could never have imagined the matzah or the conversation that Pat had with one of the founders' sons...or that I'd be buying suits at Richards for my own career. The future is wondrous and appropriately mysterious.

Out with the Old...

This morning, I woke up, excited to prune and re-organize my closets, to prepare them for the new arrivals of the two suits, two blouses and jacket I bought yesterday. I wanted to see what I had that might go under the new suits, and so I ended up moving all of the winter items into one closet and all of the spring ones into the other, and organizing them by color and type, i.e., blouses; suits; jackets; pants; shirts. I was never before so thorough. Perhaps, that sort of organization was routine for most people, but it never was before for me, and it was gratifying....

Please don't feel sorry for me that that's all it took to please me. I said above how much I loved clothes. Now, I knew where all of mine were.

1 comment:

Inc. said...

Jack Mitchell is speaking at Inc.'s GROWCO, Grow Your Company Conference next month.

Jack Mitchell’s family clothing retail company recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of practicing the philosophy of “hugging” customers by hiring the right people, growing with them, and building trust and pride in their actions. In this session, he will share how he maintains the company’s special culture as his business expands and what he does to personalize the relationships developed with his company’s customers. Find out why Warren Buffett said, “I wish everyone at Berkshire would follow his advice ... we would own the world.”