And now, the questioner will be questioned.
Behind a calm and resolute exterior, Fern Mallis elicits surprising confessions from even the most reticent of subjects. Mallis, who probes fashion figures for the 92nd Street Y’s Fashion Icon series, on March 26 at 7 p.m. will find herself on the receiving end of the questioning when she submits to an interview by Bevy Smith, host of Sirius XM’s “Bevelations.”
“I’m a little nervous,” Mallis admitted. “This has been talked about for a couple of years. I keep putting it off and saying, ‘It’s not about me.’ When the Y told me March 26 was available, which is actually my birthday, I finally said, OK. We talked about a lot of different journalists. Years ago, when this first came up, I asked Katie Couric [who said yes]. When the reality of it happened, I thought of Bevy.”
Mallis said she’s done a few radio shows with Smith and feels comfortable with her. “Bevy has spunk and she has a good following,” Mallis said. “She’s always respected me through the years.”
Asked if she’ll do anything to prepare for her interview, Mallis said, “I may diet a little bit beforehand.”
In the eight years since she created Icons, Mallis has delved into the lives of 43 subjects, including Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Peter Marino, Bob Mackie, and Bill Cunningham. Part therapist and part cheerleader, she usually coaxes more information from subjects than they say they intended to share. As for her own transparency, “So much of my life is an open book,” she said. “I’ve never really hidden anything.”
“People enjoy hearing exactly how I got to where I am and how I reinvented myself,” said Mallis, who as executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 1991 to 2001, launched 7th on Sixth or New York Fashion Week, as it came to be known. “I’m happy to tell the audience what my mom and dad were like, all the odd jobs I had and what I learned along the way.”
Mallis’ success with interrogating designers, who aren’t known for their small egos, may be the fact that she sublimates her own, at least during Q&A’s. Evidence of her lack of vanity, she said is an incident that occurred during the recent New York Fashion Week when Mallis’ seat assignment for an unnamed show was, standing. Mallis laughed off the snub in a tweet, but not before calling it a teaching moment for public relations newbies to recognize that non-A-listers invited to a show are important, too.
“Fashion Lives: Fashion Icons With Fern Mallis,” published in 2015 by Rizzoli, featured her first 19 interviews. “I’m starting discussions with Rizzoli about the second book,” she said. “I’m as proud of the Icon series as I am of the tents at Bryant Park.”