“Whenever Martha calls, I listen,” J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler said at the inaugural American Made fair celebrating local food, fashion, and design at Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall yesterday morning. Drexler, along with Calvin Klein, Tory Burch, and Ralph Rucci, joined Martha Stewart (pictured) on a “Makers of American Fashion” panel discussion that kicked off the two-day affair, where they tackled topics like inspiration, business, and tricks of the trade. “Today is about recognizing the innovative spirit that’s happening across the United States,” Stewart told the audience, which included countless Martha fans.
Despite the rush-hour crowd, Stewart transformed the midtown landmark into a multimedia expo featuring dozens of American artisans from Manhattan childrenswear designer Makié to Connecticut-based accessories company Mystic Knotwork, allowing shoppers—and some confused commuters—to sample the goods and even craft their own gifts. Tips bestowed from the panel? “The most important thing is to know what you’re good at,” Klein advised. “From the very beginning, I had a vision of minimalism and purity.” (Not quite the case with his first fragrance, Obsession, which he launched with a scintillating ad in 1985. “It looked like an orgy in print,” Klein mused.) Burch, meanwhile, credited her years in fashion PR and “learning on the job” as essential stepping stones. Ever the queen of crafts, Stewart peppered the discussion with instructional demos such as tie-dyeing using Sharpie pens (just add rubbing alcohol) and teaching Drexler how to properly fold a T-shirt. “I learned it on Japanese TV,” beamed the DIY maven.
Around 11 a.m., the crowd dispersed to sample Fair Trade coffee and Petrossian caviar (leave it to Martha to serve Beluga before noon). Longtime friend Klein raved about the host after the panel. “Martha is the quintessential American woman,” he told Style.com. “From gardening to tie-dye, that’s who she is and she does it in a way that’s so endearing.” As for her off-duty persona? “She’s exactly the same person on camera and off camera,” he insisted. “To be successful in this business, you have to be who you are. Otherwise it’s not going to go well.”