May 19, 2019 § Leave a comment
“Camp tends to come during times of cultural instability.” Andrew Bolton, curator of The Costume Exhibit
I really love this exhibit at The Met right now. It beautifully encompasses for me everything that’s wonderful about fashion. Is it perfect? Probably not, but that doesn’t make it any less special. The exhibit was inspired by Susan Sontag’s 1964 Notes On “Camp” She wrote Many things in the world have not been named; and many things, even if they have been named, have never been described. One of these is the sensibility — unmistakably modern, a variant of sophistication but hardly identical with it — that goes by the cult name of “Camp.”
August 12, 2018 § 1 Comment
My sister, former dancer turned television writer Liz Benjamin shared with me a video circulating on social media on how Freed pointe shoes are made. She reminded me that our grandfather, Ben Benjamin always wanted to inspect her point shoes, especially when she had switched from Capezio to Freed. She said he was fascinated by the workmanship. Watch the short video above and you’ll see why!
Pain, satin and paper towels: What it takes for ballerinas to dance on their toes Washington Post May 26, 2017
March 9, 2018 § Leave a comment
A couple years before I got out, before we moved into New York City. We talked it over, Ben Schwartz & I, about starting a factory out of town instead of NY. See? It was getting impossible to lead the business there because of the unions and their demands. Prices kept on going up higher, and new machinery was coming into place. So people out of town who made cheap shoes could make better shoes than what they were making with the new equipment. So we went. We went to Lynn, and Boston and St. Louis, Cincinnati. We went all around. When I came back we sat down and talked it over. I says Ben, after seeing all the towns, I think Lynn is the best place of the lot. A lot of the shoe factories have went out of business there. Not good shoemakers like we’ve got in New York, but they could be trained–taught to make better shoes. After I got out, Ben Schwartz did finally go to Lynn. – Ben Benjamin
All photos courtesy of The Library of Congress
February 1, 2018 § Leave a comment
Ben Benjamin: “Cause while he met me he didn’t know anything about me, so uh he went and spoke to his old boss about me, and a few other people. His old boss says to him, he says if you two can get along, he says you can be the biggest men in this town in the shoe business. He says you (Ben Schwartz) in the selling end of it and Ben running the factory. He’s a good factory man, designer – but you’ve got to learn to live with one another, and we got a long fine – When I first told him I wanted to get out, he says no, he wouldn’t let me. Now in all those years, we never had a fight. We never had an argument.”
December 20, 2017 § Leave a comment
For the record.
February 20, 2017 § Leave a comment
January 31, 2017 § Leave a comment
I wrote this a while back. My imaginary version of what it was like for my grandfather and grandmother when they arrived at Ellis Island. I’m horrified by the UN American cruel and inhumane actions of our President and his administration. You don’t appreciate what you have until you are faced with losing it.
The day that we arrived we were woken up by a loud commotion on the deck. I quickly dressed and climbed the stairs up to see what was going on. The passengers were facing one direction. They were crying and praying in languages I didn’t understand. We were finally here. I could see it in the near distance — The great lady of the harbor we had heard about. Rose was still sick. I hurried and went to get our things together and help her get dressed. We would be docking soon and I wanted to make sure we had all of our papers in order. When we arrived at Ellis Island we were separated. I never forgot the fear in Rose’s eyes as they took her away. She was put into quarantine and I wouldn’t see her again for 2 days. I now moved through everything quickly and was cleared to leave but had to wait for my wife. I didn’t know what I would do if they sent her back. They fed us and had beds set up in what was called the Great Hall. I became friendly with a guard who helped me get a message to her. On the second day she was released and we purchased our tickets for Pennsylvania where I had a cousin. We boarded the ferry to New Jersey and from there took the train to Harrisburg to start our new life in America.
October 13, 2016 § 1 Comment
I found this shoe box in a closet filled with family photographs this summer.
May 15, 2016 § 1 Comment
I posted this photo a while back I found of my grandfather from 1972 at the offices of Schwartz and Benjamin in New York. I wish I knew who the man in the photo was. From the expression on my grandfather’s face and his clenched fist I think it may be Sam Schwartz, Ben Schwartz his former partner’s brother.
May 12, 2016 § 4 Comments
Looking for one of my grandfather’s shoe designs I previously found in Google Patents – It seems to have vanished? During my search I clicked on another patent from the same time frame hoping to find a connection. See the shoe above. I previously mentioned in an earlier post that I thought it looked very similar to a Jimmy Choo design. This time when I clicked on the link I noticed that the patent was indeed referenced by Jimmy Choo and also Hermes. Last summer I took a picture of this Salvatore Ferragamo shoe that also references my grandfather’s original design from 1934.
So many years later and my grandfather’s designs are still living on. He was a true innovator in women’s fashion who deserves to be recognized for his creativity and ingenuity – the motivation behind starting this blog. As children he told us that when he couldn’t sleep he would lie in bed and imagine fantastic inventions he would create, an orphan that chose the shoe business out of practicality. Forced to leave school at 13 he rose to be one of the biggest shoe men in New York and even after he retired to Florida was appointed by The Secretary of Labor to represent the US in labor relations in Puerto Rico, the date still a mystery I’m trying to solve. I can only imagine what he would have done with his creativity if the playing field had been more level for him. With my own child starting middle school this fall I toured some of the top-tier NYC private schools – even though I questioned how we would ever pay the 45k yearly tuition. In the end we chose public with our eyes wide open that the playing field in education is indeed not level but there are those that like my grandfather will make it no matter what hand they are dealt. Like my voice teacher Betty Allen whose mother died when she was also 12 and who like my grandfather shared a similarly grim childhood overcoming insurmountable obstacles to live a life that most of us can only hope for.
And like my grandfather she also made her own way. Betty told me after her mother died her father drank and wasn’t taking care of her the way she was use to by her mother so she took the bus to the courthouse in Youngstown Ohio where she lived and told the judge she wanted to be adopted. Since there were no orphanages for black children she was put into foster care where she was made to work and abused and when she was 16 she moved into the YWCA cleaning houses to support herself. Eventually on scholarship she attended Wilberforce College in Wilberforce, Ohio, crediting her success to her teachers. These are the stories that inspire me. Maybe because I’ve never had to really want the way they both did. – Again my search for a shoe led me back to why I want to share my grandfather’s story and remember.