Arlene Goldstein is one of the most vibrant and fearless women you’ll ever meet. As a trend forecaster in the fashion world, it’s her job to be curious and stay open to new ideas, and that joie de vivre and appetite for adventure not only keeps her on the cutting edge of fashion trends, but also colors her character in a way that is undeniably charming, even inspirational. She is passionate about people and ideas and celebrating yourself through the art of fashion, all while keeping a sense of humor. We are delighted to welcome today’s FACE of Birmingham, Arlene Goldstein!
How did you get into the fashion industry?
I went to the University of Florida, starting out as a Spanish major, and then I ended up majoring in elementary education. I taught school a few years and then was a stay-at-home mom for a while. When I was ready to rejoin the workforce, I was so attracted and drawn to the marketing and events end of retailing. I was hired as Parisian’s special events coordinator, and I worked at the downtown store. I was just so happy and so excited to be in that environment and bringing consumers in. I’ve always considered myself to be an ideas person, and, for me, it wasn’t so much about fashion at the time. It was just exciting to see how far I could go and what I could do. And so I did things like live mannequins in the store windows and got the press to come. Then I thought, “It’s the ’80s, and women are rejoining the workforce, and people are always asking me what to wear.” So we put on a monthly seminar to help women dressing for work and called it “Fashion Break,” and soon I had 150 women coming to fashion break. The second time we had some execs and CEOs show up, and I guess they were impressed, because soon enough I had a budget for everything. So we did all kinds of events in the store.
How did you cross over from events to fashion?
All of our events were based on what was trending fashion-wise. So, when we opened the Atlanta stores, all of a sudden the press was calling and the store would send them my way. They would ask things like what’s trending this season and what colors were big, and I’m thinking, I know what I think, but at some point I need to change my title because people want to talk to the fashion director not the events director. So my boss changed my title, and I became the fashion director and started going to New York and Europe.
What was that like?
There’s nothing like going to the actual European stores, because they are willing to take chances. But we are not in Europe to validate or just to say, “Oh, we knew about that,” but to be open to new ideas and to look at our surroundings and see how fashion is evolving. It used to be seasonal, but now fashion is changing every day.
How do you keep up?
I keep up with a lot of reading. I’m an avid magazine devotee. I think the internet is the most important resource for trends. I like Who What Wear and Pinterest. And then you follow people you trust, bloggers whose tastes you like. It’s about making judgments of what will translate from runway to realway. We love the runway, but there’s this whole beat on the street with bloggers and everything.
What is most challenging about your job?
I just want to be thorough. As a forecaster, someone is going to take my information and act on it.
It’s just all about the people. It’s multigenerational and so diverse. I’m inspired by people everywhere who are curious and looking for information. I recently got a Facebook message from a girl I hired in the late ’80s or early ’90s, and she remembered something I used to say all the time — and told me that she now says it to her kids. What I said was, “We know we are going to bring in the Easter Bunny for the holiday, but have you considered the dancing carrots?” That means go beyond the obvious. Everyone’s going to expect Santa, but are you going to bring in the dancing snowflakes? Exceed peoples’ expectations. I want to be surrounded by the best and the brightest. I’m never intimidated by anybody. I want to be surrounded by superstars, and I don’t apologize for having high standards.
What is the one piece of fashion advice you would give any woman?
Take risks and be adventurous. I find so many women that think they can’t wear this or can’t wear that. Everyone has figure challenges, but look at the things to celebrate. Do you love your long neck or small waist? Just find things and celebrate them.
If you could go back to the beginning of your career, what advice would you give yourself?
I don’t look back. I’m just about keeping my eye on the prize.
You were a dedicated working woman who also raised three children. What advice would you give working moms struggling to balance it all?
You can’t do everything. Prioritize and be organized, and use your time wisely. On early Saturday mornings, I would try to challenge myself to have three or four meals cooking in the oven while the kids were waking up and turning on cartoons or whatever. But you don’t have to be perfect. Perfection shouldn’t be the goal.
Any fashion icons or role models?
I’m very into Iris Apfel. She’s getting all this attention in the art and fashion world, and she calls herself a “geriatric starlet.” She’s a woman after my own heart. She’ll wear 19 necklaces. She’s just priceless, to be articulate to have that joie de vivre. Don’t you want to be around people that love life and celebrate it, people who aren’t afraid to be themselves? Fashion is just all about looking like yourself but better. You want to look like yourself, just polish it up a little bit.
What are your three must-have style staples?
For this season, a wide-leg pant, a black t-shirt and a completer piece like some amazing oversized sweater. Fashion is getting more voluminous, like a big sweater or a duster-length sleeveless jacket.
What trends are coming that we can look forward to?
If I could only buy three pieces this season: velvet, cheetah prints and the dramatic blouse.
What are you most proud of?
My kids, my grandkids and being married almost 50 years in May. We are just so lucky to still be able to enjoy being together and to have so much to celebrate with the kids and grandkids.
What is your favorite thing about Birmingham?
The people. The people are just so nice. I think Birmingham is so much more open to change than ever, and it’s home, so that helps.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I read, and I just watch way too much television, HGTV mostly. I love to bake. My kids love my chocolate chip banana bread. And we have a place in Destin, and we try to get there as much as we can, and that’s wonderful.
What the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
So easy. My wonderful parents always said to treat people as you want to be treated. It was wonderful to work at Parisian where customer service was such a priority and not done as a strategy, but because it’s just the right thing to do.
Aside from faith, family and friends, name three things you can’t live without.
Mascara, bold lip color and my phone.
Thank you, Arlene! You’re an inspiration!
Thank you to Eric and Jamie Gay of Eric & Jamie Photography for the fabulous photos of Arlene in her home.