Surprise and Delight: Interview with Harper’s Bazaar’s Mary Alice Stephenson

October 5, 2008 • Magazine

Surprise and Delight: Interview with Harper's Bazaar's Mary Alice Stephenson

Surprise and Delight: Interview with Harper's Bazaar's Mary Alice Stephenson

Sun, 2008-10-05 13:00

Natayle Henry

Imagine being in your favorite department store at the cash register about to pay for your items when a beautifully chic woman offers to pay. Your first thought is probably that you’re going crazy or she is crazy. What what person in their right mind would offer to do that? Customers at select Saks stores nationwide were able to experience that moment of disbelief and later euphoria when Saks Fifth Avenue and MasterCard joined together to bring the “Want It” event hosted by renowned celebrity stylist, TV personality and Contributing Fashion Editor for Harper’s Bazaar, Mary Alice Stephenson. Shoppers left with fantastic finds and amazing gifts with purchases, not to mention the opportunity to meet Mary Alice.

I had a chance to sit down with Mary Alice.

SCS: Tell us about the event.

MAS: Tonight is a fun cocktail party MasterCard and Saks are having for their “Wanted List.” Every Fall MasterCard and Saks work with [Fashion Director] Michael Fink, to bring a fashion hit list (key trends) of what you need to have to make your Fall wardrobe more fashionable. This event is a really great way for real women to say “so what is it that I really need to have and know about?” There are eight fashion musts women and six for men.

We’re also going to be doing something really fun that MasterCard loves to do called ‘surprise and delight.’ So I get to have my Oprah moment and actually go up to some customers at the register and say “I’m going to buy this for you.” Which is so fun! It’s so rare that you get something free anymore, there are usually strings attached. People have been in all out tears to complete shock or denial. It’s Saks and MasterCard’s way of thanking their customers.

SCS: What are some of the must-have trends for Fall?

MAS: One of the trends for the season is the romantic blouse, which you are wearing so good job. A lot of the trends for the Fall are about embracing your curves and femininity. The tailored dress is another fall must-have. There will be more tailoring for Fall. Size doesn’t matter.

A top handle bag is another Fall trend. All you need is one bag for the day. This season, designers have created bags special enough to wear to work and out at night. Practical yet special. Another trend this year are boots, boots, boots. Boots have a lot more personality and diversity this season than any other I’ve seen in a long time. Designers have put as much emphasis on boots as they do on handbags. Boots have become the real focus for Fall.

Marc Jacobs created this amazing “polished face” which is a beauty trend for Fall [consisting of natural skin, soft, rosy cheeks, glossy lip, neutral eyes and a few luminous touches].

Another trend would be big and bold necklaces like the piece Saks and MasterCard are giving to customers who spend $300 or more and pay with their MasterCard.

Another big trend is sweater dressing which is basically sweater coats. It’s a primary focus for Fall which are nice and easy and available at every price point. For example, if you can’t afford Vera Wang you’ve got her Lavender line or if you can’t afford a Valentino sweater coat you can get one in Valentino Red. There are so many great secondary lines to make you appear like you’re wearing something luxurious but at a lower price point.

SCS: Well tell me a little bit about you. What would it be like walking a day in your shoes?

MAS: I am very lucky to be doing what I absolutely adore. I think that my life is great because I’m living my dreams. And yes, I’m just like anyone else. I grew up in Michigan. I’m a single mom who worked my butt off—I have a three year-old. I have tough times like everybody else, but fashion through it all in my life is a powerful way to alter moods and make you feel good.

SCS: What’s you favorite fashion piece?

MAS: There are many. For every season it changes and there are certain things that I’m obsessed with and I think for this season it’s the YSL Muse bag. For me it’s like the new Birken bag. It fits everything but it’s not $8,000!

I really also love costume jewelry [like] Tom Binns and Subversive are two of my favorites. Kenneth Jay Lane is also really great. The wonderful thing about costume jewelry trend (liked he bold statement necklaces right now which is one of the must-haves on the wanted list) is that it’s just an instant way to make something you have fantastic and the easiest way to spend the least amount of money. I’m also obsessed with Christian Loubiton shoes.

SCS: What are your can’t live without beauty products?

MAS: Oh my God! There are so many! I love this perfume called Love Don’t Be Shy by Kilian Henessey. He’s a young perfumer that is really talented and really special. It’s cool and brand new. Every time I wear it people are always like ‘Mmmm. You smell delicious!’

In everything I do, beauty is a complete look so when dressing someone I think every single part of their outfit has to go with their beauty too. People forget that. You have to be complete. What works with that outfit? Is it a lip or bold eye, glowing skin.

Pantene is also a favorite of mine — I love it! I’m addicted!

There’s a great product line called Clark’s Botanicals that I love. There was a young man that I worked with at Harper’s Bazaar that had a swimming accident and became a paraplegic and began severely breaking out. So he and his dad who was a homeopath came together to create this skincare line that helped clear and rejuvenate. It’s all natural and organic and really makes your skin glow. The Ultra Rich lip balm is amazing!

Being that I’m on the go so much I’ve had to learn how to look high-maintenance while being low maintenance.

SCS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

MAS: There’s an old Irish proverb that I love – Your feet will take you to where your heart is. And I think it’s basically knowing your gut and knowing what makes you happy and allowing yourself to follow your dreams and not be self-sabotaging. “Your feet will take you to where your heart is.” You know in life what delights you and life’s too short not to delight yourself and follow your heart.

At a very young age, I didn’t have connections in fashion. My parents were like “if you want to be in fashion, go for it.” So for me, seeing it was imperative. At 15 years old I told my mom I was going to be the fashion director at Harper’s Bazaar and I was by 35. Anything you see and want to happen in your life and you visualize and work extremely hard you will get it. I truly believe that. It might not come in the exact package that you wanted it to come in, but if you dedicate yourself to making your dreams come true, they will.

1. Mary Alice Stephenson with a model wearing some of the season’s must-have trends. Second City Style Photo
2. Big and bold necklace prize to customers who spend $300 or more and use their Mastercard
3. Surprised and Delighted winner Christine Philip with her Saks Purchase – she didn’t have to pay! Second City Style Photo
4. La Prairie Cellular Cream Platinum Rare
5. Love Don’t Be Shy by Kilian Henessey
6. Clark’s Botanicals Ultra Rich Lip Balm
7. Saks Fifth Avenue Polished Face Kit

Image Layout: Jessica Piraro

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