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Thursday, April 11, 2013

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Michael Rabinowitz, CEO of Gaby Dann, USA agents of Maison Lejaby, and Founder of Le Mystere Our Coverage Sponsored by Paul Mayer Attitudes

Michael Rabinowitz

Paul Mayer's luxuriously, comfortable designs keep women coming back for multiple -- even dozens -- of pairs. Classic, yet contemporary and always comfortable, his shoes are an addiction that we highly recommend. A staple of the Paul Mayer collection is the simple ballet-flat, with true ballerina construction for a perfect fit that comes in a variety of colors and materials. A cult favorite is the cozy, a flat with lavender-scent infused soles adding style and fragrance to collector's closets as Paul's designs emerge in sophisticated design incarnations season after season in the most incredible hues, textures and modern innovations in luxury footwear because we know firsthand how incredibly brilliant he is. Mayer founded the brand in 2004 with partner, Jeff Levy. All shoes in the line are manufactured in Spain’s Valencia region, along the Mediterranean coast by a skilled staff of 12 artisans. They craft each pair of shoes with an old-world attention to detail that includes in-house embroidery, quilting and stitching as well as custom tanned leather. This allows the brand to cater to each retailer’s specific demands in with timely and consistent alacrity, with orders completed in an unheard-of 3 to 5 weeks. In 2011, Paul Mayer stepped out into Manhattan's Upper East Side with a new attitude, opening his flagship store at 1388 Third Avenue. The store which cleverly resembles a pink and black shoebox offers up to 150 shoe styles, including his popular ballerinas, exclusive designs and more. As an added bonus, shoppers have the chance of running into the designer, himself. Paul's sage shopping advice and style eye has made him the New York shoe lover's best kept secret. When not in New York, Paul can be found traveling to his myriad of stores across the country meeting his loyal clientele or vacationing in his favorite spot, the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki Beach. 

Originally from Cape Town, Michael Rabinowitz is today CEO of Gaby Dann, USA agents of Maison Lejaby, and he is also the founder of Le Mystere, though he has sold that brand. Michael stumbled upon the Lejaby brand by accident when he was in his twenties, and he then built it up into a famous name in South Africa in a matter of 9 years to the extent that Maurice Bugnon, the CEO of Lejaby from 1967 to 1976 asked him whether he would do the same for Lejaby in the USA. Well, Michael responded that he had never been to North America and knew no one there. Mr. Bugnon told him that it was his fantasy to see Lejaby introduced and built up in the USA and that Michael could do it.

Michael within a few days was on a flight to the land of opportunity where he marketed and built up the Lejaby name and introduced it successfully to the best stores such as Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Nordstroms as well as the finest boutiques throughout the country. It became one of the two most venerable and important French lingerie brands in the country. Through his passion and experience the word was out about this fabulous visual and incredible fitting and most comfortable bra made with French savoir-faire and soon the celebrities too discovered Lejaby which set the highest standards in the industry.

Mr Bugnon passed away about 17 years ago and the family decided to sell the company to an American bra group headed by Linda Wachner who promptly fired Michael as she wanted to do things in her own way. Unfortunately, she did not understand the soul and mindset of Lejaby nor the French and the brand lost its luster.

Michael after 30 years (9 years in South Africa and 21 years in the USA) was now without a job. He rose to the occasion and decided to use his many years of experience to start up his own brand and named it Le Mystere and was its CEO for 21 years. With his passion and realizing the synergy that there actually was between the French styling and the American consumer, he was highly successful yet again to the point where Oprah who had tried on and worn Le Mystere decided that it was the best fitting and most comfortable bra for her. She endorsed and spoke highly of Le Mystere every month on her TV show for one year and then every year for a total of 4 years and the sales exploded. Michael sold the brand to the highly reputable firm Komar in 2012 and during that same year learned from Christian Bugnon (one of the sons of Maurice Bugnon) and acting as a facilitator that a consortium headed by Mr Alain Prost was now buying Lejaby and reintroducing it under the elegant name of MAISON LEJABY. 

Within a very short time, the new Maison Lejaby which traces its roots to 1884 was back in the saddle at some of the finest stores in the world such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps in Paris and Harrods in London. In the USA, the top two websites namely Bra Smyth and Bare Necessities have already purchased the new Maison Lejaby for a relaunch of the brand new 2013 Spring/Summer and 2013 Fall/Winter collections. Other fine boutiques have already placed orders and are currently being shipped.

The reaction to two out of the four main collections being introduced so far namely ELIXIR a high end, chic and creative collection for the woman in full bloom and LINGERIE a stunning and refreshing with audacious contrasts of beautiful materials and as always, an unequaled fit has been excellent and this augurs well for the rebirth of Maison Lejaby. Maison Lejaby has earned Whom You Know's Highest Recommendation:
We are so pleased to present this Mover and Shaker Interview with Michael Rabinowitz. Peachy Deegan interviewed Michael Rabinowitz for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: 
What is your first fashion memory? 
Michael Rabinowitz: 
My mother who dressed very elegantly from her shoes to her gloves.

What were you doing in your twenties prior to your Lejaby stumble?
I represented L'Oréal of Paris in Johannesburg.

How did you stumble upon Lejaby? 
2 consecutive Boutique customers tipped me off about Lejaby being the best brand and that I should contact them because of the need of such a great quality bra line.

What makes a lingerie brand important?
Its design and fit.

What defines France as a country in lingerie design and manufacturing? 
Its savoir-faire.

What is a typical day for you as CEO of Gaby Dann? 
Marketing the brand and motivating and chasing the reps for orders.

Fashion to many is a way of expressing themselves however few really understand the business side. What do most people not know about Fashion as a business, and what makes a brand able to achieve international success?
Some designers have talent and are great artists but do not understand the business side. One needs a different DNA for that. Perseverance, patience and the right mix of styles is needed to break into an International market. It took me 8 flights to London from New York in one year to get Harrods to buy and launch Le Mystere which eventually became one of their top three strongest selling brands.

From Bloomingdale's to Neiman Marcus and everything in between, how did you approach each retailer on an individual basis, what challenges did you face and how did you rise to the occasion in meeting them? 
If the front door was closed, I would go through the back door. A good example is when I showed Lejaby in 1977 to a very important NY major store buyer who refused to buy the line. I would return a month later and show the same styles in a different order and with a different approach. The customer placed an order there and then because the product seemed different and better than the first time.

How did you find the business climate in the US compared to South Africa and how did you make friends here, knowing no one in the first place? 
More structured in the USA. I am a friendly person and made friends by being attentive to their needs and problems.

Where specific stores can our readers practice our favorite sport of shopping at and buy Maison Lejaby in Manhattan and where in America overall? 
From Bra Smyth on Madison Ave to the Bra Smyth website and catalogue to Town Shop on Broadway, Top Drawer in Texas, Clair de Lune in Kansas, Sylene's in Chevy Chase MD, Enchante in Chicago, Les Cent Culottes in San Francisco and My Lady Boutique in Encino CA. Bare Necessities will receive the latest best sellers of Fall Winter in September. 

What can our readers get excited about in the future of Maison Lejaby?
Maison Lejaby is preparing very advanced new styles with their great fit as well as Couture (very high end luxury) and Plage (swimwear).

What should our readers know about Le Mystere? 
It is a great brand well adapted to the American market.

In the past, our dear friend Geoffrey Bradfield is the most acclaimed South African we've you know him and what should all Americans know about South Africa and why? I do not know Geoffrey Bradfield. I am now proudly a naturalized USA citizen. What I can say about South Africans is that they are very kind and generous and down to earth.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
Seeking perfection (or as close to it as possible).

What are you proudest of and why? 
Having built up the original Lejaby and then Le Mystere from being totally nothing and unknown to becoming important entities in the USA.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? 
To have the challenge of rebuilding Maison Lejaby and taking it to the next level.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession? 
CILA 2006 Best T-shirt bra (Le Mystere); CILA 2007 Best Bridal (Le Mystere); FIG LEAVES US Lingerie Awards Winner 2007 of the Sexiest Lingerie Collection Le Mystere Francesca; The UNDIE AWARD 2007 Favorite T-Shirt Bra - Full Figure Le Mystere #9955 Renaissance Tisha bra; The UNDIE AWARD 2007 Favorite Overall Bra - Full Figure Le Mystere #9955 Renaissance Tisha bra; CILA 2008 Best Fashion Couture Award (Le Mystere); GO RED for Women American Heart Association February 2008 in honor of the 5th anniversary of Go Red for Women and in appreciation for our commitment and dedication in the fight against heart disease in women presented to Le Mystere; The UNDIE AWARD 2008 Favorite T-Shirt Bra - Full Figure Le Mystere #9955 Renaissance Tisha Bra. The greatest honour was to have met OPRAH and having Le Mystere modelled on her TV shows.

What one word best describes you and why? 
Caring. Brought up that way.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? 
Anywhere in Manhattan. To feel the vibrancy of the greatest city in the world.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? 

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
 Jessica Pfister. Loyal and efficient.

What is your favorite drink? 

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Where my staff and I were all dressed up in Hawaiian gear and we just had a lot of fun.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 
Tenzan Japanese on Columbus and 73rd Street.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? 
Taschen New York.

Who would you like to be for a day and why? 
Myself because time is the most precious commodity and to be oneself is a luxury when one is a workaholic.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 
A park because I love nature.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Admiring the unique skyline and discovering new buildings popping up anywhere and everywhere.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 
Alan Dershowitz because he is interesting as well as brilliant.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
Seeing Vladimir Horowitz perform at the Met.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
Given to charity be it an organization or the beggar on the street.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here? 
New Yorkers' attitudes.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 
Definitely "Fashion Alert" because 
I find this to be very useful and informative. 

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not?
No. Was not aware of it. Is it an alcoholic drink?

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you? 
Love the arts and music (all kinds and in particular Opera). Introduced to the opera by my late father Harry Rabinowitz who was a famous operatic singer in South Africa.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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