Behind The Scenes Of The Neiman Marcus Fashion Event
Fashion For All is Nov. 16
by Melissa Jacobs
Diane Joyce is doing two things she actively avoids: sitting still and talking about herself. The vice president and general manager of Neiman Marcus King of Prussia is known for simultaneously being calm and in constant motion, moving about the store wearing practical yet stylish clothes (usually black – and with pockets) and functional shoes with a firmly embedded earpiece feeding her information at a pace that would exhaust an air traffic controller.
But she agreed to sit for an interview because, on Nov. 16, Neiman Marcus King of Prussia hosts Fashion For All, one of its biggest events of the year. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, Fashion For All is a fundraiser for Our Closet In Your Neighborhood, an initiative of Jewish Children and Family Services of Greater Philadelphia.
Created by Jill Aschkenasy in 2011, Our Closet is a free program that provides food and clothing to men, women and children in need throughout the Greater Philadelphia area. Events are held at churches, community centers, synagogues and other hosts in under-resourced neighborhoods. Every event has food, clothing and a social worker, Jill explained. Often, the social worker is connecting people to resources. “They need SNAP benefits, help with a resume, or the social worker is sitting down and talking to people about what they are going through,” she said. “The question is always, ‘How can I help?’”
Diane firmly believes in Our Closet’s mission. “Much of the heritage of Neiman Marcus is built on giving back,” she said. “We are proud to participate with nonprofits that support the arts, children and that make a true difference in our community. That’s exactly what Our Closet does.”
Diane and members of her staff have visited Our Closet’s sorting facility in Delaware County and had hands-on experience with the nonprofit’s work. “What drives me to keep this connection alive is the respect with which the Our Closet events are conducted,” she said. “It’s almost the same level of service that we offer at Neiman Marcus but in a different environment. It’s human beings helping human beings.”
Treating men, women and children with dignity is the hallmark of Our Closet’s service – and that stems from “tikkun olam,” the Hebrew phrase that translates to “healing the world.” Tikkun olam is one of Judaism’s core values, as it is of other religions. In the case of Our Closet, the healing is geographically specific. “We have people with needs and problems in the Philadelphia area,” Jill said. “Our Closet’s tikkun olam means helping our part of the world in real, tangible ways. We see and hear the needs directly and address them creatively and impactfully.”
Those needs have escalated in recent years. Speaking about that makes Diane’s eyes tear, as they do when something touches her heart. Where this comes from is unknown, and it’d be rude to ask. But Diane Joyce will go very far out of her way to create opportunities for people who are bootstrapping their way to a better place in life. And she’ll do it ways that may seem surprising for the general manager of one of the world’s most high-end stores. “I consider myself and my team very blessed to work in the luxury sector,” Diane said. “I consider us equally blessed to work with Our Closet, which provides so many things to people who need desperately need them.”
That is why Diane and her team pull out all of the stops for Fashion For All. With 24 looks on eight models, the runway show is a full scale production similar to those produced by major fashion houses, said Brianna Regan, brand experience manager for Neiman Marcus King of Prussia.
Regan oversees the team that creates Fashion For All. “We show fashions from a variety of designers,” Regan explained. “It’s seasonal trends and versatility in how to wear the pieces. I try to hit different price points and use pieces that are very wearable and very versatile, because I think it’s important for customers to think about how they will wear it and style it.”
Pulling the clothes is one thing; editing is another. “I go into a room and create 24 different looks,” Regan explained. “Then I figure out which model wears what, based on sizing, hair color and other factors. Once that is determined, I add shoes, handbags, jewelry to each look.”
Model fittings take two days, during which Polaroids are taken for the backstage line sheets that detail each look for each model. The clothes are steamed and double-sided tape is put on the bottoms of shoes so they don’t get worn. On the day of the show, the models arrive at 8:30 am. They have their own prep area and each is assigned a Neiman Marcus dresser so that the show moves quickly, Regan said.
Guests begin to arrive at 10:30 am and the fashion show begins at 12 pm. It’s an all-hands on deck event for the Neiman Marcus team, Diane said. But it’s worth it. Fashion For All has raised more than $200,000 every year for Our Closet.
The flawless, fabulous event is a physical manifestation of the Neiman Marcus experience, Diane said. “It’s about the magic you create for customers,” she explained. “That’s what we’re here for. Making things more fun, more fashionable is our job.”
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