Editor’s note: after the show I typically do a wrap up post on FB, but since this was Richard Press, I thought it would make sense to publish it here as well. If you have not heard my first interview with Richard, you can listen to it here. Again, and please read this line before you write that you wanted more clothes stuff, this was not the Ivy-Style podcast, which will premier with Richard, and will be ALL CLOTHES. Promise.
Mr. Bruce Boyer, on this site yesterday:
Richard Press is a national treasure and this interview is priceless because he gives us wonderful stories, but more importantly because he reflects on life with courageous honesty. Honesty, for those of you who are young and naive, is a very expensive gift, and you don’t get it from cheap people.
I wish I had video of this moment on the show: Richard Press telling me about the tailer at the original J. Press store who was a Nazi prison camp survivor who “survived because he never made a mistake sewing an SS uniform.” It was a lot at once. Of course there was the grotesque pain of the subject in the first place, one cannot even broach the subject without leading with that. But then there was also a pride, a pride in a survivor but a pride in an artisan too, and there was the storyteller, always present with Richard, and then there was the pause at the end, because in each one of Richard’s stories, there needs to be a beat or two afterwards so you can get to either the laugh or the bigger meaning.
I have a teenage daughter, going to turn 15 this month, and her mom is undergoing cancer treatment to her face, and watching her watch this raises the biggest of life’s questions. We are in a time of redefinition and reinvention, and life’s biggest questions seem graffitied all over everything. I asked Richard if he shared my sense that we Americans are finally understanding the value of experience, if he feels like people lean on him a little more because he has seen many things, and if he got the sense that people were looking to him at times just to ask, “Are we gonna be alright?” He took a rare pause himself, then said, “yes.”
It is a critical flaw, this thought process that if something fundamentally changes, that it completely changes. We hold these phones in our hand and wonder at how things are never going to be the same again. And they won’t. But that does not mean everything changes. And the constants, the universal commonalities, they are the buoys. We need those with experience to point out the constants.
It gets more complicated though, because if you only live in the constants you become petrified. Nothing petrified is alive. That’s another thing I took from the interview with Richard, as he explained to me his passions for song and theater, his tenure as President and CEO of the northern star of traditional men’s fashion, and then his “family secret” – that he took time off to get a Masters in Cognitive Therapy. I asked him his favorite movie, he said it was always “Gone With The Wind” but that he is ashamed of that now, and wishes someone would remake it. Then he told me his next birthday would be his 86th, and I realized that it is that nimbleness, the pervasive willingness to think things through again and again in lockstep with an adherence to his traditions that got him here. All of life is balance, and there is a fulcrum between the traditional and the present moment as well.
Richard Press reads ALL THE TIME. ALL THE TIME. When I proclaimed that the greatest book ever written, period, was The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille, my producer rolled his eyes, my other producer rolled her eyes, and Richard said, “In that case I should probably read it.”
Richard has met my daughter, who LOVES him. I asked him why he thought was. Richard is remarkably modest for a showman, and demurred, pointing out that he has dear teens in his own family that he is close to so maybe he speaks the language. But it isn’t that. If anything, Richard speaks the opposite of volatile, unstable hormonal teen. But the real answer is probably the biggest lesson I got from this.
The reason my daughter loves Richard is because he is who he is. Authenticity is attractive. Richard did not model himself after anyone, he did not try to impress anyone. He just genuinely went after all of the loves of his life without worrying if the lead in a musical can also be a CEO. After the interview, he left the studio with my producers, who were both so taken with him that they sat with him outside (there’s a small patio with remarkably low chairs) and he had a glass of wine. I stayed for a few minutes to clean up, then walked out to the sight of Richard holding court, red party cup in his hand, seated facing the sun, untied bow tie, and the value of experience and authenticity were visible.