NEW YORK — Just in time for Mother’s Day, the ladies at Lafayette 148 — and a few men, too — met to honor some unordinary women.
Thursday night’s celebration at Lafayette 148 — which is both a 23-year-old women’s apparel brand and the address of the brand’s first store in New York City’s SoHo — honored remarkable women with a panel discussion, Champagne, hors d’oeuvres, tunes by DJ Nicole Rosé and a look at the retailer’s spring 2019 collection.
Set against all-white walls, the mostly black-and-white collection, with some pastels and rust-colored pieces thrown in, stood out. So did the guest list. The names included prima ballerina Stella Abrera, fashion photographer Sophie Elgort, chef and restaurateur Marie-Aude Rose and model Veronica Webb.
“Almost every woman is an unordinary woman,” Fern Mallis, founder of New York Fashion Week and moderator of the evening’s panel, “Unordinary Women, Extraordinary Conversations,” told WWD. “I don’t think any of us want to be around ordinary women. There’s no point. That’s a waste of time.”
The Unordinary Women campaign, which began March 8 in recognition of International Women’s Day and runs through May 31, is raising money for She’s the First, a New York-based nonprofit that helps girls around the world become the first in their family to graduate high school.
As part of the campaign, Lafayette has agreed to donate $10 to She’s the First every time someone posts on Instagram using the hashtag #UnordinaryWomen. The retailer also agreed to donate 10 percent of sales during Thursday night’s event to the charity.
“I won’t be offended, neither will anyone else here, if you take out your phone right now and take a picture of this panel,” Mallis told the audience of about 200 people, many of whom were in the fashion and media industries. “Take a picture of something and say you’re at [the] Unordinary Women panel. If you feel compelled, do it again in the night. Do it 10 times.”
Thursday morning Lafayette 148 had raised about $10,000. By Friday that number had doubled.
Mallis herself was dressed in Lafayette 148’s spring collection. “Head to toe,” she said, referring to her flower-printed white tunic, paired khaki pant ensemble. So were all the ladies on the 14-person panel, which included other notable women, such as attorney Anjali Kumar, the Whitney Museum’s Lauri Freedman, writers Rachel Cargle and Cyndie Spiegel, White House correspondent April Ryan and entrepreneur Nike Russ. The occasion served as a way to inspire other women on their own paths to success, while acknowledging some of the unique roadblocks women face.
Mallis said finding supportive women who acted as advisers throughout her career helped her prosper.
“When I was at IMG in fashion week, doing that, it was a boy’s club,” she said. “You have to find the mentors and the people who have similar minds and can help you. When you find a woman who is in your court, there is nothing better.”
Also important is learning to accept rejection.
“When you get into business, everyone is going to say no to you,” said Veronica Webb, the first African-American woman to score a contract with Revlon and one of the original Victoria’s Secret Angels.
“The biggest thing is, one, get out of your own way,” Webb said. “Because if you’re really hard on yourself and you don’t take care of yourself, you’re going to believe all the other b.s. that people put on top of you. Because you’re already brain-washing yourself with your own b.s.”
Catherine Levene, president of digital and chief digital officer at media company Meredith Corp. and panelist at the event, said that as a female entrepreneur it was often difficult for her to raise money for new projects.
“Most of the venture capitalists are men,” Levene said. “You may be presenting a product that they don’t know a lot about firsthand. Or, they ask you very inappropriate questions. Like, ‘Do you want to have kids? How are you going to manage running a company if you have kids?’ It’s much more difficult to be a woman in that kind of world.”
Even so, she said hard work and self-confidence do pay off if employed over time.
“When there’s opportunity or you see holes in an organization where nobody’s doing something, do it. Take it on,” Levene said. “Jump into a role or raise your hand for a role that you might fear you’re not quite ready for. Go in and do your best to learn on the job. Because, [as women] we’re smart, we believe in ourselves and we have to know we can do it.”