IN HONOR OF IISE
THE FASHION INDUSTRIES GUILD’S WOMAN OF THE YEAR IS A FONT OF APPAREL KNOWLEDGE — AND A MEAN SALSA DANCER TO BOOT.
Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones
Ilse’s work is never done. It seemed perfectly fitting among the industry bigwigs, veteran and new, gathered that night that “Ilse” should replace “mother” in the familiar adage as delivered by Ron Perilman, president and ceo of misses’ brand City Girl.
To Metchek’s 500 friends and peers at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills Oct. 6, the woman the Fashion Industries Guild named the 2001 person of the year had long been a force of support, advice, insight and wisdom.
“She’s also a fantastic salsa dancer,” said Lonnie Kane, owner of misses’ contemporary line Karen Kane and a longtime friend.
Wrapped in a fire-red Kevan Hall gown, Metchek took turns with three separate partners on the floor during the kickoff dance, while a 13-piece band of salseros roared behind them. The band lured guests out of their seats between dinner courses at what many considered the best of FIG’s annual gala benefiting pediatric programs at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, this one the 45th. The event raised $350,000.
No one would accuse Metchek of being matronly, despite her three grown children and five grandchildren. From her days as a fit model in New York to her significant stints as a designing manufacturer in Los Angeles, Metchek is known as someone who speaks her mind, cuts to the chase and tirelessly participates.
In 1994, when the story broke about Thai slaves kept at an El Monte contractor, she helped rally industry leaders to create the California Fashion Association, the first industry alliance addressing the manufacturing and textile industries in Southern California. As executive director from the start, Metchek has served as spokeswoman for the group and its 250 members, fighting for and against legislation, collecting data and providing other information.
“I never liked that word challenge,” said Metchek. “I just do what needs to be done.” “Sometimes she’s under great stress with all she’s doing on the state and national levels, yet she always finds the time and energy to support others with grace and dedication,” said Toni Hohberg, president of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and a friend of Metchek’s for some 25 years. “She’s worked with most of the different colleges and has been such a part of bringing a reality into the classrooms as a lecturer and teacher.”
A walking, talking textbook on the apparel industry, Metchek’s resume spans Los Angeles’s own mass-market history. She worked for manufacturing legends Phil Rosenberg, Lou Tabak and Jack Needleman, as well as Catalina Sportswear. In 1983, after 17 years, starting as designer and ending as president, she purchased her namesake Ilse M. line from Needleman’s Anjac Corp.
By decade’s end, she started her association with Linda Wachner, when she became president of White Stag Inc., a division of Warnaco Industries. For 14 months beginning in 1993, she served as executive director of leasing and marketing at the CalMart.
Her appointments, both locally and nationally, to government, private industry, educational institutions and arts groups is equally as extensive. Besides helming CFA, Metchek’s president of Image Makers, the consulting group to apparel industry business, and recently became active on the board of the Inner City Arts.
Not surprisingly, Metchek cuts to the chase. She’s less interested in the creative nuances of a product than the business plan. “I’m here to give a reality check,” said Metchek, who lives in Marina del Rey with her second husband, Hank Pola, an independent textile rep. “At the end of the day, fashion is a business.”