June 3, 2009
A week after the Holiday party, I was allowed to partake in my first ever client meeting off-site on Project California. With the holidays right around the corner, the deal team wanted to assemble a game plan for the start of 2008. What were market conditions like for a debt financing? Would our syndicate group be able to market the debt? The morning of the Meeting, I donned my favorite power suit (Black, Theory – Max Basic pants, Gabe fitted blazer) which screamed “don’t mess with the corporate bitch”. Adding to this persona, I slipped into patent leather black Prada pumps which vaulted my 5’9″ stature into the 6′ category. Not wanting to be too big of a ball buster, I added some pearls to soften the look. I met my team in the lobby of our building at 9am sharp, holding onto copies of a 2-page overview we had put together for the client. The Hot VP and Apathetic Associate clutched their Starbucks coffees, both rocking out silk printed Hermes ties. Our MD shuffled slowly behind as we assembled in the lobby, making sure we had all the necessary papers and notes on the deal. (I’ll note here that this is the same MD who left for his Holiday vacation and never came back to the group. Instead, he was tapped to head up the buy-side arm of now defunct Investment Bank. To add insult to injury, he never told anyone where he was going or what he was doing. There was not even so much as an e-mail to notify the group. He simply never showed up again).
The cab ride down to Tribeca was particularly uneventful as we sat in bumper to bumper traffic.
“We’re taking the fucking subway back. This is ridiculous.” The MD muttered. After checking in at the front desk, we stuffed ourselves into a small vintage elevator and rode up to the 8th floor. The senior vice president of the Private Equity Firm met us as the elevator doors opened. His hair was slightly disheveled while he wore a relaxed button down with rolled up sleeves and slacks.
“Hey guys. Glad you could make it.” Introductions were made all around before he escorted us into the actual office. Glancing to the left of reception, lush dark green carpets were laid down from wall to wall. Old school oak tables with gilded designs gave every person of the 15-person private equity shop an ample amount of space but no real privacy. The windows spanned from floor to ceiling, showing a very clear view of the bustling downtown streets. A separate space had been carved out for an in-the-office gym area which was encased in a glass rectangle. It was frankly bizarre. Sure, you could work out…but the rest of the firm would watch you do so.
“Welcome to the buy-side.” Apathetic Associate quipped as we all took in the sights.
“Hello. Vat vould you like to drinks?” The blonde receptionist strode up to the group, her English heavily accented with some sort of Eastern European affection. She wore a tight, form fitting dress (think Dolce and Gabbana) which pushed up her bosom and cut off thigh-high and teetered on 4-in stilettos, Evil Associate-style.
“Water with lemon is fine, [Anya].” (I’ll leave this up to your imagination. Just fill in with some stereotypical eastern european name). The SVP motioned for us to continue moving right as a large, black labrador bounded into the group with no signs of a stopping.
“What the..” Hot VP turned around and looked at me. “..are you touching my ass?”
“What!” I crinkled my nose at him. As if he would be so lucky. Pointing down, I exclaimed “It’s the dog!” His eyes followed the direction of my hand just in time to see the dog dart away ready to molest its next victim.
“Sorry..you were right behind me. I didn’t even see that thing.” Shaking my head, we continued walking. “Who’s dog is that anyway?” Hot VP called up to the SVP.
“Oh, it’s the partner’s dog. He lives right around the corner from here so he brings his dog in a lot.” Stopping briefly before we entered their conference room, he indicated to the right half of the office. “This is the partner’s side.” The ‘side’ was more like a kingdom. The same ugly green carpeting was used with one large wooden desk sitting in the middle of the room. A collection of paintings and photographs were hung around the space with a particularly large piece hanging in the center of the wall facing the desk. The oil painting was of a blonde lady in a relaxed pose sitting by the beach in a bikini. His wife, I assumed, which later on I verified as being the correct assumption. What a freak.
Settling down at the long table, I handed out the reference document to everyone at the table. Another petite woman joined us and later was introduced as their lead counsel. Anya returned with a tray of glasses and a pitcher of iced water with a plate of cookies. The dog returned as well, panting and resting his head in the lap of my MD. He quickly pushed the dog’s head away but not before the dog deposited a gift of drool onto my MD’s suit pant. Grimacing slightly, he reached for a napkin and tried to wipe away the dribble. If the SVP of Private Equity Firm noticed this, he sure as hell didn’t say anything.
“No! Bad boy!” The dog galloped off again as Anya scolded him. She waddled after him, constricted by the tightness of her dress and the instability of her heels and ultimately disappeared off the view.
Welcome to the shit show was a more appropriate sentiment.
May 14, 2009
The NYTimes had an interesting article in today’s Style Section referring to the fact that “no one wants to look like a banker” anymore. The whole article echoes the same sentiment that floods the newspaper headlines these days: excess and extravagance is out, frugality and conservatism is in.
Any banker who is dressing in the ‘creative professional’ style is either unemployed or not at a real bank. Take, for example, this Euan Rellie character. He quips that, “The banker suit is definitely dead…And because there isn’t a dress code, you have to think about what you wear.” Well, Mr. Rellie, I’m not really sure what bank you work at (or don’t) but I’m pretty sure if you go to the offices of BarcLehs, Bank of Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, you will indeed see that men are still wearing conservative suits, power ties, and button down shirts from Thomas Pink. As a sidenote, NYTimes: When you decide to profile a character or get a quote, try to find someone a bit more status quo who can actually speak for the Street. A quick search of Mr. Rellie shows that he’s 1) married to Lucy Sykes (sister of “Bergdorf Blondes” writer Plum Sykes), 2) photographed for style.com, Page Six, and the like, more than he actually works, and 3) a “prominent investment banker” and co-founder at a top bank called Business Development Asia LLC (yes, i don’t know WTF that is either). I think it’s pretty easy to dictate a dress code or lack thereof when you’re the founder of your own company. You could come naked if you pleased. That being said, Mr. Rellie is pretty handsome in that confident British way.
I recall a chapter in Jonathan Knee’s book, “Accidental Investment Banker” in which he discusses the burst bubble during the tech boom in ’01-’03. He mentions that there was a period where all the bankers who had tech clients became lacksadaisical in their dress since they had the ‘coolest’ clients (young 20-somethings who showed up to meetings in cargo shorts and flip flops). People were jealous that these bankers shed their ties and blazers in favor of khakis and button downs every day of the week. But, the blissful era of casual dress came to a screeching halt when the bubble burst. Bankers from all sectors began wearing suits to work every day of the week. Now, if you were dressed down, it meant you had no clients to advise and nothing to do (and subsequently, you were probably next on the chopping block).
From personal experience, I haven’t seen any bankers begin to dress down for any of our meetings. Hermes ties are still in full force, as are Ferragamo loafers and cufflinks. As much as I love the style of Justin Timberlake and the other pretty boys, I’d be pretty remiss if our bankers showed up to a meeting wearing a V-neck sweater, slim-cut trousers and a skinny tie. Maybe it’s just that Bulge Bracket traditional ‘upbringing’ but we know that presentation is everything in investment banking and that skinny Oxford button down with checkers is just not going to do it.
If you don’t like it, go work at GQ. You’ll probably be fired from your TTT bank in the next few months anyway.
February 17, 2009
Or not so much. I began live blogging NYC Fashion Week but never had a chance to post. Here it is. For more information on NYC Fashion Week, I suggest checking out the Fug Girls’ blog at nymag.com or the written stylings of Guy Trebay or Cathy Horyn of the New York Times.
It’s the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Fall 2009 Collections. Yours truly had the privilege of catching some of the shows. Fashion Week is one of those spectacles that brings the creme de la creme of the fashion industry, gaggles of b/c-list “actresses”, snarky writers, and all the hanger on-ers, naturally. While I love indulging in the runway shows as much as the next girl, I’ve become more interested in the weirdos who show up to these events.
A run down of how Fashion Week is structured. The space at Bryant Park is magically transformed into a world of runways, sponsorship booths, and hospitality suites. The sponsorship of the event has definitely dwindled this past year. I suspect it has to do with the fact that Fashion Week has lost its shiny luster. Between having some of the top designers pull out from showing at the Tents and competing with rising costs of putting on an event, the whole event itself has become disappointing (as have the gift/sponsor bags).
There are three tents in which designers show. The Salon is the smallest of the three, seating 100-150 people at the most. Financially speaking, this is also the cheapest venue. The majority of designers who book this space are usually up and coming or have more cult-ish followings. That being said, there are certainly anomalies. Nicole Miller, for one, shows in the Salon as does Tracey Reese and Rebecca Taylor. The Promenade is the medium sized venue and can seat up to 300-400 people. This space is often used by pretty established designers (Max Azria, Nanette Lepore, Tibi). Finally, the largest venue is the Tent (literally “the Tent”) and it seats up to about 800. This space is used mostly for shows with real productions. While NYC Fashion Week does not even come close to the avant-garde or artsy nature of the Paris collections, the Tent does provide a template for designers to show their collections with some flair. All the major designers tend to show here including Lacoste, Diane von Furstenburg, Phillip Lim, Narcisco Rodriguez, etc.
As you move deeper into the Bryant Park tents as a whole, you end up passing the American Express SkyBox where lucky platinum card holders can purchase tickets to some of the shows. Mind you, American Express is a proud sponsor of fashion week and it is the only vendor you can actually buy tickets from. Through the doors to the backstage, you end up at the area where models float, hair and makeup beautify, and celebrities hang out. The hospitality suites are usually set up by the W hotel and Mercedes Benz. These set ups often include a full bar, good music, lots of security, and a general lounge-y vibe.
This season’s fashion week was kicked off by the Heart Truth’s Red Collection. It’s a charity runway show that is produced by the American Heart Association in collaboration with many of the fashion week designers. Various celebrities and other people considered interesting by the American public usually model the looks. As with most of Fashion Week this year, the dresses were modeled by the B-team (the likes of Amanda Bynes, Tori Spelling, Jenni Garth, and some old people before my time). Amanda Bynes walked out to “Single Ladies” by Beyonce and could not even to strut her stuff to that beat. The point of this show is for people to have a great time. It’s a bit awkward when they get nervous and sheepish especially when their profession depends solely on their ability to make the audience believe a persona.
The Charlotte Ronson show had the usual drama of Lindsay Lohan, the fake lesbian, showing up with Samantha Ronson. The whole Ronson clan was there to support Charlotte. As for the looks, I’ve come to expect some very cool things out of this line. It’s very London chic meets L.A mixed with some feminine overtones.
The last interesting show of day one was the Thisday/Arise: African Fashion Collective, mainly because super models Alek Wek and Grace Jones walked. It’s been awhile since they’ve done anything on the runways so it was definitely a treat to see them gracing the catwalk. Tyson Beckford also made an appearance. And yes, he still looks delicious.
Day 1 Celebrity Sightings: Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Snow, Amanda Bynes, and then many many b-list reality tv stars and television stars. My personal sighting of the day was the ever dashing and rugged Gerard Butler. He is the true definition of a man and surprisingly charming and sexy. Yummy.
The highlight of the day was definitely the Barbie show by far. Barbie, for those of you who don’t know, is celebrating her 50th anniversary. Yay for an icon which gives an unrealistic view to young females of what they should aspire to be! Mattel enlisted 50 designers to create 50 different looks in order to capture the essence of Barbie. It is natural that many of these male designers played with Barbie when they were little which is a little disturbing yet fitting at the same time. The Barbie show had some great music and was overall a great production with a lot of hot pink. Unfortunately, the show also lasted close to 40 minutes and I became quite antsy.
Some very interesting people showed up including Simon Doonan (creative director of Barneys), Annie Leibovitz (famed photographer), Kimora Lee Simmons (her adorable daughters were in the show and she’s such a bitchy diva, I can’t complain), and of course, Jill Zarin and Bethenny Frankel from the Real Housewives of New York City. Jill showed up with her daughter who is back from being shipped off to fat detox camp. She’s still fat. Bethenny waltzed into the venue thinking she was Audrey Hepburn circa “Breakfast at Tiffanys” with long black gloves and sunglasses. Jill and Bethenny, however, are the only redeeming aspects of Real Housewives so I will leave them be.
Day 2 celebrity sightings: Kellie Pickler was everywhere during my time at Fashion Week. She just kept popping up like one of those creepy moles. She also needs a new makeup artist as homegirl was channeling a serious tranny look at certain points throughout the day. Ms. Pickler, however, is very sweet. Jennifer Love Hewitt (“JLH”) also kept showing up. She looks absolutely fantastic and I had a serious urge to give her a hug and tell her that I know what she did last summer.
By far the best (and my last).
Herve Leger by Max Azria was bright spot number one of the week. I absolutely love these dresses as it makes most women look pretty hot. The material of his dresses tend to be Spanx-like so it sucks you in at all the right places. In fact, it’s designed for women who have some curves so the material will stretch around to show off the right places. Max Azria has quite the following amongst the celebrity set and had almost a whole front row section designated to these stars/faux-stars. On top of the flattering bandage dresses, two models pretty much ate it on the runway. As NYMag has commented, “Your one job is to walk, and you can’t even do that.” Luckily, no breasts popped out this year. And, the gifts at the show came in the form of pretty awesome umbrellas festooned with the HL on them.
Celebrity sightings at Herve Leger: THE celebrity sighting of the whole week was definitely Lucy Liu. She wore a flattering black get-up and didn’t stay to hobnob with all the fashion types and b-listers. She made sure that her ride came right after the show was over and didn’t stay to pose or do interviews with anyone but Max Azria himself. Michelle Trachtenberg showed up as well, looking rail thin and somehow managed to break a heel backstage. There were more tv stars but I can’t recall their names. One, however, did wear a neon colored dress which practically showed her Britney. I think she’s on the new 90210 show, so I’m not too surprised.
Final show of the day was Diane von Furstenburg where you had those two brain dead girls from “The City” pretend to do their job as PR girls for DVF. Whitney Port is taller than I imagined but still pretty unattractive. Even after finagling her way to getting her own show, she still manages to have that ridiculously bored look on her face, devoid of any real emotion or personality. Her trusty sidekick, Olivia Palermo, looked pretty and bubbly as she frolicked up and down the back entrance of the tents to escort in celebrity guests. DVF has gotten to the point where she has a thriving fashion empire, she’s married to a media mogul, Barry Diller, and she has a huge celebrity following. Yet, she has also maintained the elegance and classiness of her line. She just doesn’t care anymore and this attitude is reflected in her latest show. The production lasted all of 9 minutes. While some of her looks were very cute, the only thing people really care about these days are her signature wrap dresses.
As DVF is personally friends with many celebrities, some real A-list types showed up including Heidi Klum (who looks absolutely gorgeous), Diana Ross (who still looks crazy), Julia Stiles (very random..what the hell is she doing these days?), and Molly Sims (who is getting old). I think Barry Diller was the most interesting and relate-able person there.
And that’s that. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch the William Rast show tonight. It is the first time he is showing in the tents and with Justin Timberlake as a financial backer, this show is bound to have some real star power show up. Word on the street was Jay-Z and Beyonce along with Jessica Biel were going to make an appearance. Only the fashion blogs will tell.
Oh, and as mentioned before, the gift bags sucked this year. The actual bags were hot pink Barbie bags which Bloomingdales retails for $48. The best things inside included a Fashion Emergency kit, some MAC makeup, a book entitled “Star Chefs on the Road”, vitamin water, a weird zipper key chain, a DHL luggage tag, and some other strange knick knacks. The days of Strivectin lotion, Amatokin face emulsion and cute Full Frontal Fashion t-shirts are long gone. Hello, Recession!
Your regularly scheduled programming will commence after this week. Thanks for tuning in.