Style X: Panelists Talk Family Business And Fashion Elitism

Day two of Style X got a bit, shall we say, passionate, as StyleCaster founder Ari Goldberg, and the mother-daughter team behind StyleLikeU, Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum, shared their not-so-subtle opinions on the fashion industry during the last panel discussion of the week.

While the panelists were obviously passionate about style and the essence of fashion, bold proclamations such as “Fashion week is the ‘one percent’” and “We’re sick of Anna Wintour dictating people,” left no question as to where they stand on the current “elitist” nature of the fashion world. Goldberg even went so far as to say, “Fashion week is going to become obsolete -– mark my words.” That’s a bold claim (though we’re inclined to agree).

Not only was the discussion, which was supposed to be about family business, controversial and, at times, quite shocking, it was thought provoking and downright inspiring -– whether you agree with the panelists or not. Is it okay that fashion shows maintain their exclusive invite-only nature (recent efforts like KCD’s Digital Fashion Shows and the growing number of live designer broadcasts aside)? Does it make sense that a few select gatekeepers, so to speak, decide who makes it and who doesn’t? Is it acceptable that, in many cases, if you grew up in the “socialite” realm, you get to advance into an enviable career while others, who didn’t enjoy the same upbringing, don’t?

But the discussion wasn’t all stern opinions and provocative statements. The topic at hand was eventually revisited, with panelists sharing their experiences with starting and maintaining a family business. Questions like what lessons have been learned from family colleagues and how working with family has helped lessen the stress of economic downturns were answered, giving audience members a first-hand look into what it takes to make a family business work. On the subject of recent economic hardships, Goldberg noted that he “actually enjoy[s] recessions, because in chaos lies opportunity. [Digital media] is like the Wild West right now, and I love it.” The working-with-family topic was rounded out nicely by Goodkind noting that “the merging of generations inspires [both of us]. Everyone has a point of view, and together, they’re stronger.”

From “hillbilly” attire – as Goldberg referred to his denim cut-offs and plain t-shirt — to floor-length skirts matched with Converse sneakers, it was evident that these trendsetters march to the beat of their own drum – and not just sartorially. The companies run by the panelists are undoubtedly helping to lead not only the digital revolution gradually taking hold in the fashion industry, but the trend toward the democratization of fashion -– Stylecaster’s mantra, after all, is “Style to the People.”

It was both inspiring and refreshing to hear multi-generational entrepreneurs speak so frankly about the issues they see in fashion that so few people are bold enough to point out.

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