The Department of Commerce rarely has heated discussions about design and industry, but last Wednesday was one of those days. Representatives from various segments of the shoe industry - manufacturers, suppliers and retailers among them - met to consider what should be done to halt the 10 year decline of sales of American manufacturered shoes. Specifically, they considered how to attract talent to the business.Shoe designer Beth Levine put some of the problem at the door of the manufacturers "who spend more money researching and copying rather than developing a new idea." There's no shortage of design talent in America, she said. That's the talent behind the successful Italian shoe business.
George Hess of Hess Shoes added, "It's not very fashionable to be a shoemaker" and the industry should deal with its image problem, should improve marketing skills, technology and reward designers with high pay, rather than "take the safe course which pays best."
Levine and her husband, Herbert, have won top awards for shoe designs, and are credited with some of the success of the boot business with their vinyl boot, stocking shoe, backless shoe, the lucite, bamboo and half metal heel. Levine says she has a totally new shoe silhouette ("even my daughter likes it," she said) but that the industry would sooner steal it from her than buy her design.
There was a consensus that the industry needs a place or places to train shoe designers, including in their training a full understanding of the technical aspects. "We don't need someone designing pretty (shoe) pictures," said Arthur Samuels of Golo Shoes, suggesting that a better word than designer might be "shoe engineer" or "shoe architect."
Italian couturier Valentino has a new assistant - Douglas Jason Wood, a T.C. Williams graduate from Alexandria. Wood has never met Valentino and doesn't speak a word of Italian, but he left last week for his assignment in Rome, which includes coordinating and accessory designing. Wood studied at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond for a year and Parsons School of Design for three years. Parsons showed his portfolio to someone at Valentino, who passed it along to the designer. Wood's mother, playground director at Rose Park Playground, said her son had been drawing since age nine, first profiles, then shoes and feet, then model cars. For one school assignment, he drew a lady standing next to a model car and a friend said, "Hey, the lady is sharper than the car," and since that time, he has been drawing women, drawing clothes and then men, according to his mother. Jason's father, Willian Wood Jr., is a postal employe.
Pearl Bailey wants to put the record straight. She called to say that she, in fact, did not buy any clear vinyl jogging shorts at Neiman-Marcus. Who did? Apparently, it was the person next to her at the counter who did.
ON THE MOVE - coming to town: Hess Shoes to Georgetown from Baltimore by way of White Flint; Diana Parker, opening a branch of her Annapolis boutique (specializing in imports) in White Flint in the fall; heading downtown: a branch of Claire Dratch takes on a second location on Connecticut Avenue at about the same time.
Two fairly new boutiques well worth checking: Liberty in Georgetown (1513 Wisconsin Ave. NW, the old Dorcas Hardin site) where the stock is particularly well selected (and much of it made specially for them locally). Hones in on a few easy comfortable looks. There's nothing extreme, but plenty of things to wear right now like a lot of white gauzy lawn dresses and sundresses and vegetable-colored cotton string-knit vests. Also check Marie Claire (1313 Connecticut Ave. NW) where medium priced contemporary looks - lots of American and European silk dresses and things that can take you through a day in the office and then an evening out - are the specialty.
Do you already know too much about Princess Caroline's garb for her wedding? In case not, here's more. The bride will wear blue for the actual civil ceremony and the traditional white for the religious part. Mom, the former Grace Kelly, will play MOB in yellow crepe dress with full sleeves and a big brimmed hat.
For those designers who have their nose out of whack that the former Lisa Halaby, American-born wife of King Hussein, would go to Paris rather than Seventh Avenue for her wedding dress, here's no consolation at all. Her dress was designed and made at Christian Dior, London.
Mick Jagger may have discovered the most sensible way to wear a tuxedo - with a T-shirt underneath. For the concert here the jacket was canary yellow, in New York recently the jacket was white; but both times underneath was a tie-dyed T-shirt in acid green, pink and black. His pants, by the way, were a slick nylon pull-on variety shaped by drawstrings in the front which he continued to tighten as the concert continued. Another version of the pants have been around for a while in black glove leather.
Maybe you want to put wrinkles on your back this summer - but not on your face. Here are some solutions. Glaria Sutliff's children once said to her, "Mom, you look like a prune." Her sister agreed, took her to a French aunt who put fruit in a blender, "an old, French recipe" and applied it to her face. Mon Dieu, it worked. She tried it back home in her own blender. It worked again. Now she's marketing it. She suggests keeping a supply in your fridg, available at Locksmith, in McLean, and The Surrey in Potomac. It is called Glorie.
Adrien Arpel suggests heating a toy iron with hot water, and ironing over cleansed skin to which a thin layer of parafin has been applied. More details in "Adrien Arpel's 3-Week Crash Makeover/Shapeover Beauty program."
If none of that works, an excerpt from "wrinkles: How to Prevent Them, How to Erase Them" in a recent Family Circle suggests ironing your face with warm spoons after lubricating your skin with a light vegetable or seed oil or good light cream. Keep cold water handy in case the spoons get too hot, the article warns.
We haven't tried any of these formulas. The only thing we'll vouch for is that suntanning doesn't help wrinkles at all.
Boutique owner Claire Dratch has a ready assistant on her trips to Paris. Daughter Gail has been studying mime there for a year with the wife of Marcel Marceau and though it is unlikely Gail will go into the family business, she pitches in as translator and guide, making the rounds of designers and manufacturers with her mother.