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Vintage CHANEL: My Own Joan Rivers, Annette Strauss

Vintage CHANEL: My Own Joan Rivers, Annette Strauss

September 7, 2014

Vintage Chanel: Fashion Week Special

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While attending Arizona State University full time studying at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication I also worked at least 32 hours a week as the Chanel RTW Specialist at Saks Fifth Avenue; and, somehow found the time to write papers for people (that’s a story for another post) in college and have a boyfriend.  Listed in order of importance: education, work, work, relationship.

Cover Chanel Collection Printemps-Ete 1996

Chanel Collection Printemps Ete 1996 Lookbook*

It was a good thing I had a strong work ethic and liked to be challenged by working and learning new things; because, the group I worked with in Designer Sportswear (Chanel, Armani, Mugler, Prada, etc.) were an exacting group, much older and more experienced than myself and not afraid to make me jump through hoops and earn my spot on their team.

Models Chanel Collection Printemps-Ete 1996

Chanel Collection Printemps Ete 1996 Lookbook*

For the first few months an elegantly dressed, perfectly coiffed, false eyelash, Mugler wearing woman all of 5’3″ at best, terrorized and terrified me.  She didn’t speak to me or make eye contact with me the entire first month I was there.  People from other departments would often come by and I could hear them whispering comments on how long it would be before Annette “ran the new one,” out of the department.   Apparently the buffed marble halls of the once I. Magnin turned Saks Fifth Avenue were bloodied with the memories of ghosts of Designer Sportswear Specialists past run off by Annette.

Models Chanel Collection Printemps-Ete 1996 2

Chanel Collection Printemps Ete 1996 Lookbook*

Annette, was Annette Morrison Strauss, a spitfire of a Jewish woman married to Milton Strauss for almost 62 years and from 1963-1983 they owned Cooper’s Children’s Shoes. Annette was probably in her 70’s at the time we worked together (she would never tell anyone her age); and, she would eventually go on to become my  fashion equivalent to Joan Rivers.  Annette and Joan had more in common than just their Jewish background or the inability of their true age to ever show, or their impecable taste and understanding of clothing and jewelry, or their unparalleled work ethics (Annette never missed a day of work in the four plus years we worked together and ran circles around everyone-myself included) and neither woman had to work but needed to work.

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Annette eventually saw that while I had to work (no trust fund here) I also needed to work and took me under her Thierry Mugler clad wing (Lady Gaga had nothing on Annette Strauss).  One of the funniest things Annette taught me was how to open a bottle of Perrier (non-twist off) or beer without a bottle opener.  In high end stores it’s not uncommon to serve guests drinks.  The bottle opener was always missing when you needed it; and, she taught this (at the time) college girl an invaluabe trick, which in turn made me very popular when I taught it to others.

All you need to open a bottle is a door jam:

Annette

You’re Welcome!

Cover Chanel Collection Automne-Hiver 1996-1997

Chanel Collection Automne Hiver 1996 1997 Lookbook*

Annette was buying this amazing lapis lazuli necklace from the fine jewelry department (I had no idea at the time what the stone was).  It was one of the big employee discount days Saks did so we all saved up for those events.  Well, all but Annette.  She brought the necklace upstairs so she could show me privately.  She never wanted people to know what she paid for things, which I always respected.  She told me to go ahead and try it on.  It was such an honor, that she was including and sharing this moment with me.  While she fastened the clasp, of what was and still is, one of the most amazing necklaces, I’d ever seen, she casually shared that the necklace was, ‘$15,000, after the discount.’  It’s like that necklace all of sudden tightened up around my neck cutting off my air.  I choked out, ‘Get it off!’ She started laughing. She told me that you should always remember important times in your life with jewelry, and that I should use the discount opportunity to buy something to remember my upcoming graduation from ASU.

Model Chanel Collection Automne-Hiver 1996-1997

Chanel Collection Automne Hiver 1996 1997 Lookbook*

She took me downstairs to look at the fine jewelry, in the kiddie or starter section if you will.  I saw a beautiful diamond solitaire set in a gold bezel which made it look huge.  It was $1,100 before the discount and around $450 after the discount.  Still very out of my price range.  She told the Peggy behind the counter to hold it for me until sale day.  As Annette and I rode up the escalator back up to our Designer Sportswear department she said that she was prepared to let me ‘help’ one of her customers to pay for the necklace.  This was the same woman who scolded me years earlier for smiling at one of her clients. Annette, generous and teaching lessons inside of lessons.  She said that while clothing was great if ever there came time I needed money jewelry was a great investment.

She’ll never know how much her words helped me in at a time when in fact I did need money. I’ve sold everything over the last three years; and, that is the one piece that held significance and truth but also gave me strength and felt like a sign, that while I was seeking truth selling the necklace was a small price to pay. It was like she was giving me her blessing, or at least I’d like to think she’d approve.

Annette Strauss and Milton Strauss

Annette & Milton Strauss

Married 61 4/3 years

So today as the world lays to rest style icon Joan Rivers, I remember my style icon Annette Strauss who passed in September 2008.  Somehow I see these two amazing women carrying on Fashion Police the Heavenly Edition and sharing style tips with each other. I knew I liked Annette when she told me one of the showers in their house was filled with shoeboxes full of shoes. Milt was a saint!

*All Lookbooks shown are for sale.  Please email if interested or to request additional information. Thanks for reading Melayna

melaynalokosky@gmail.com

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