It’s Gotta Be Escada
Twelve years ago this past spring, my nephew Tommy and his fiancée, Bonita, were preparing for their upcoming fall wedding. On one point they were politely adamant: a DJ would provide the music for their wedding reception.
Both sets of parents heartily agreed, thought the idea brilliant! Whether or not another family member—my mother—would find the idea brilliant was debatable. She is a strong disciple of the Lester Lanin/Meyer Davis school of what is acceptable as proper wedding reception music.
A DJ? Quelle horreur!
I telephoned my sister and offered to accompany her the day she broke the news.
A cold, driving rain was buffeting her navy blue Ford Country Squire station wagon as we pulled up to our childhood home. Huddled beneath an enormous red and white candy-cane-striped umbrella, we walked solemnly up to the newly painted dark green front door.
We came upon my mother in her comfortable, antique-filled living room. She was sitting in a favorite chair, slip-covered in Rose Cummings Kensington Yellow glazed floral chintz, reading The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. There was a fire in the fireplace and the scent from a favorite Rigaud candle, Reine de la Nuit, filled the room. She looked up from her book and smiled. Standing beside my sister, I saw that she held her head high, her shoulders noticeably squared. She took a deep breath and calmly said, “Mom, Tommy and Bonita have decided to have a DJ provide the music at their wedding reception. Joe and I, and Bonita’s mother and father have agreed. So…I guess…that’s that.”
My mother’s face became a mask of disappointment. She raised her hands, as if beseeching the spirits of Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt, and said, “What is this world coming to? A DJ at a wedding reception!”
Seven months later, amid the lovely tulip-filled ambiance of the Michigan League ballroom, my mother was in raptures. She never left the dance floor. She loved the DJ! At one point, I looked up from the heavenly, icing-filled piece of wedding cake that had been placed before me, and she was doing the Twist with the wedding photographer.
She had turned 80 the month before.
The spin-mistress that Ann Wallace, general manager of Escada, recruited to put the platter-patter in a late summer, in-store cocktail party, had the look of an ingénue who had modeled the fall couture collections in Paris a week before this store gig. A statuesque, handsome gal, she resembled a young Pat Kennedy Lawford. Her freckled face was framed with red hair the color of just turned, crisp autumn leaves. Slender and erect, with hazel eyes, she wore a midnight blue Escada linen shift belted à la Audrey Hepburn in Charade. To the cognoscenti, she is known as DJ Megan Taylor.
Remember that name. You’ll want to engage her for your partner’s cosmetology school graduation party or daughter’s debut at Indian Hill. She’s hot.
A gang of dyed-in-the-wool socialites, Wicker Park hipsters, store clients, businesswomen and internetorexias gathered in the spacious second floor salon of the massive Escada complex, whose great windows and long view of Michigan Avenue northward to the lake would soon be replaced by the wind-swept, leaf strewn sidewalk of Oak Street. Pointedly, the sleek, chrome and marble Yves Saint Laurent space at No. 51, that will become Escada’s new home. Ann Wallace will be there, too. One could say she is getting back together with a high school boyfriend she just couldn’t stop thinking of.
Ann Wallace has the single-mindedness of an ambitious buck private hoping to make first lieutenant in her competency to accomplish what could be termed in Women’s Wear Daily or The Wall Street Journal world as the “Retail Switcharoo.”
This isn’t the first time Ann has performed this tactical maneuver, moving an entire store’s inventory, mannequins, display fixtures, vitrines, T-stands, bust forms, cash register and coffeemaker to a new location with greater visibility. She is a capable manager, brimming with energy and organizational talents. She is also generous, good-natured, lighthearted and sweet. We love Ann.
The 411 on her retail history to date:
a. In 1997, Ann opened the St. John boutique at 51 East Oak St.
b. In 2002, opened YSL at same location, after St. John relocated to 911 North Michigan Ave.
c. March 2005, it’s au revoir to YSL to open the newly built Plaza Escada at Michigan and Chestnut.
d. In February 2012, it will be back home to 51 East Oak to open the newly christened Escada boutique.
And who will replace Escada? Another German/English conglomerate like her neighbors Top Shop, H&M, Zara and All Saints?
Am I the only one whose mind’s eye remembers when I. Magnin, a California-based grande dame of luxury retail, and FAO Schwarz, a child/adult whimsy of toy delight, inhabited that exclusive block between Chestnut and Pearson? And what of Stan Ginsburg’s Shaxted, a linen and negligee emporium of exquisite luxury, Stuart Brent Books, Blum’s Vogue, Rosenthal Furs, Stanley Korshak and Martha Weathered? One by one, the retail landmarks that made Michigan Avenue magnificent have disappeared.
“It’s not the ‘Mag Mile’ anymore. There’s nothing magnificent about it,” sighs Susan Regenstein, a prominent philanthropist, as she sips iced tea and nibbles a piece of flat bread. We were enjoying an early lunch at RL, and the subject of shopping Michigan Avenue is serious to this born and bred Chicagoan. “There is no place to stroll and shop unless you go to Oak Street.”
And, so, it will be adieu to the Escada presence on Michigan Avenue, housed in a weathered, limestone edifice whose facade would easily remind one of the northeast entrance court of the Château de Chambord in the Loire.
Back at their in-store fête, co-hosted with Vosges Haut-Chocolat and VeeV, DJ Megan Taylor was filling the space with hip club music while slender, fit, black-clad servers, culled from the ranks of Ford Models and Chosen Management, flexed their deltoid muscles offering up delicacies from silver platters. Yes, girls, they resembled young gods transported from Olympus.
As I was leaving, DJ Megan was spinning on the ones and twos with Dev’s popular new single, “Dancing In The Dark.” The lyrics seemed to follow me as I stepped into the elevator and out onto Michigan Ave:
When you work on me
Open my body up and do some surgery
Now that you got me up
I wanna taste it
And see those pocket aces
I wanna see who you are.
As I was hailing a cab, a senior moment came to me and I thought, “What is this world coming to?”
Those words were said to me once before and I laughed them off.
Not this time.
All photos by Teresa Potasiak
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