The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Gwen Mazer

Fashion and image consultant Gwen Mazer was born in New York City. She was one of two children born to Theodore Goodman, a postal worker; and Edythe Goodman, an educator. Mazer received her education in New York City at the Fashion Institute of Technology and New York University.

Mazer began her career in 1955 as a retail intern at Lord and Taylor’s department store becoming one of the first African Americans to hold a junior executive position at the store. She was a fashion director at Alexander’s Department Store and the stylist for Advertising Images, one of the foremost advertising photography studios in New York City.

In 1968 Mazer became the first African American fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar creating Bazaar’s Bazaar and Lifestyle for the magazine. In 1970, during her tenure at the magazine, she was the co-founder of Narcissa a New York boutique. In1976 Mazer became the marketing director for Nazareno Gabrielli, an Italian fashion company. She was responsible for opening New York offices and assisting with opening a retail store in Beverly Hills, California.

Mazer then moved to San Francisco, California to join Esprit as creative director. She was responsible for corporate branding, advertising, marketing, and catalogues to create the company’s public image. In 1982, Mazer founded Total Image Management, a consulting firm that has provided personal style and corporate image management services for clients such as, Wells Fargo Bank, Campton Place Hotel, and Oprah Winfrey. During this time she also founded the Gwen Mazer Collection, a San Francisco, Union Square boutique offering fine fashion accessories and fashion consulting.

Mazer was an adjunct professor at the Academy of Art University.
She has also lectured at the University of California at Berkeley and the City College of San Francisco; led seminars at the Central California Women’s Conference, the Professional Business Women’s Conference; and served as a guest speaker at the World Affairs Council, the Commonwealth Club, the Jewish Community Center, and the Francisca Club.

Mazer is a charter member of the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) and served as president of the San Francisco Chapter from 1995 to 1997. Mazer is a former member of the Women’s Professional Network, the New York and San Francisco chapters of the Fashion Group, and the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). She has served as a board director for the Fort Mason Foundation, the San Francisco Convention Bureau, the Magic Theatre, and currently serves on the board of the International Women’s Forum of Northern California.

Mazer was awarded the highest honor in the image industry when she received the IMMIE award for outstanding professionalism and dedication and has received various honors from the city of San Francisco. Mazer is the author of the award winning book Wise Talk Wild Women and created the Wise Talk Lecture Series. The Friends and Foundation of the San Francisco Library honored Mazer as a Literary Laureate for her book Wise Talk, Wild Women.

Gwen Mazer was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 8, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.256

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/8/2013

Last Name

Mazer

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Schools

Fashion Institute of Technology

New York University

Public School 103- Hector Fontanez School

Evander Childs High School

Hunter College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Gwen

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

MAZ01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Italy

Favorite Quote

Let Go And Let God.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

5/23/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Francisco

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Caviar

Short Description

Personal style and image consultant and author Gwen Mazer (1950 - ) was the first African American to serve a junior executive at Lord & Taylor department store and as Fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar magazine. She also founded Total Image Management and the Gwen Mazer Collection.

Employment

Total Image Management

Academy of Art University

Gwen Mazer Collection

ESPRIT Fashion Company

Nazareno Gabrielli, Italian International Fashion Company

Harper's Bazaar Fashion Magazine

Narcissa Boutique

Advertising Images

Alexander's Department Stores

Lord & Taylor Department Store

Favorite Color

Turquoise

Timing Pairs
0,0:2387,27:3003,39:3311,44:6898,59:8434,120:8818,125:11506,158:11890,163:17160,189:17480,194:19400,226:19880,234:20280,240:20760,248:21320,256:21960,267:22360,274:27146,298:31000,351:34034,403:35100,424:46536,564:51590,613:53264,626:55028,652:55616,665:56960,693:65006,768:65594,777:66938,794:69962,854:70550,863:73840,903:74084,908:74511,917:74755,922:74999,927:81673,1015:82597,1032:88830,1074:89910,1086:92253,1098:93600,1108:94815,1129:99879,1172:101725,1192:102065,1197:102660,1206:107519,1246:109508,1267:111497,1288:112199,1295:117000,1317:118168,1336:124566,1385:127635,1441:130239,1485:130704,1491:131169,1498:131820,1507:132471,1515:134331,1542:137958,1551:144860,1580:145120,1585:145510,1592:145770,1597:146355,1609:148760,1658:149215,1666:149605,1674:156854,1789:161304,1862:161838,1870:162461,1878:168869,1960:176476,2016:177292,2026:178006,2041:178822,2056:179740,2063:181066,2080:190647,2207:192473,2240:192805,2245:193137,2250:194050,2268:198756,2302:200604,2329:205896,2386:206988,2401:207492,2408:209760,2443:215596,2467:215924,2472:217072,2494:226004,2643:227180,2660:227516,2665:228104,2673:235072,2744:235487,2750:236234,2760:238807,2797:242930,2809:244775,2820:255772,2954:256360,2962:256780,2968:257536,2979:263904,3029:266676,3080:267936,3102:269868,3134:272892,3194:273396,3201:275412,3229:275916,3237:285493,3270:287126,3298:287410,3303:287694,3308:291790,3329:296070,3367:296436,3374:298158,3387:298542,3394:299438,3410:299694,3415:300630,3424$0,0:279,4:744,10:1209,16:2046,60:2697,71:3441,88:6780,105:11087,157:11525,164:11963,172:12255,177:13496,196:13788,201:14591,217:14883,225:20715,264:21840,274:23830,282:24340,289:24952,297:25462,303:26584,315:36580,503:41390,549:42090,558:42990,568:45692,586:45988,591:46432,599:47246,624:48282,648:48652,654:55858,757:56202,762:56632,768:57148,778:58438,797:59814,835:61362,869:62222,882:72077,971:76360,993:92131,1229:97058,1333:97786,1343:98150,1348:107996,1426:108542,1435:109712,1457:110570,1470:111272,1482:113612,1565:114002,1572:114314,1584:117434,1637:117824,1643:126140,1723:129040,1808:129600,1817:129920,1822:131760,1876:136800,1971:137120,1976:138000,1988:138720,1998:145810,2059:146610,2069:148010,2088:149410,2114:153805,2141:154655,2152:155505,2165:157120,2189:160010,2232:160435,2238:161030,2247:161370,2252:164770,2303:166045,2323:166640,2332:170830,2345:171160,2351:171424,2356:172018,2366:172348,2372:173206,2389:173602,2396:173866,2401:174658,2420:175120,2429:175450,2435:179990,2460:182617,2501:182972,2507:183682,2521:183966,2526:188310,2560:189476,2573:190218,2585:198760,2649:203480,2665:204330,2676:205265,2691:205945,2701:206625,2711:207390,2723:209090,2749:209770,2759:210110,2764:210960,2776:213085,2806:221618,2867:227360,2929:228788,2952:229376,2961:229712,2966:230132,2973:231476,2996:232148,3005:236868,3030:237813,3036:241165,3076:242749,3096:243838,3112:249283,3175:254156,3200:254561,3207:255128,3216:257720,3264:265738,3335:266078,3341:266920,3349
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gwen Mazer's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer talks about her family's farm in the Williamsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gwene Mazer recalls her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gwene Mazer remembers her mother's educational background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer talks about her father's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer recalls her father's career as a postal worker

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Gwen Mazer describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Gwen Mazer talks about her brother and his family

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about her early neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer describes her experiences at P.S. 103 in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer recalls her childhood social activities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer remembers her early exposure to the arts

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer describes her mother's educational philosophy

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer talks about her early childhood influences

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer recalls her experiences at Evander Childs High School in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer talks about her personality as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Gwen Mazer describes her mentors at Evander Childs High School in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Gwen Mazer talks about her early religious experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer recalls preparing for church with her maternal grandfather

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about the music of her youth

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer recalls her early interest in foreign films

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer remembers publishing articles on Katherine Dunham

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer describes her early interest in travel

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer talks about her undergraduate experiences while studying fashion in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer recalls her first position at Lord and Taylor in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer remembers joining Alexander's Department Store in New York City as a fashion director

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer recalls starting Advertising Images in New York City with her husband

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer describes the work of Hugh Bell

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about her conversion to Judaism

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer recalls the support of her father and maternal grandfather

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer remembers interviewing with Diana Vreeland at Vogue

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer recalls joining Harper's Bazaar and opening Narcissa Boutique in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer talks about the clothing sold at Narcissa Boutique in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer recalls the clientele at Narcissa Boutique in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer remembers transitioning to Harper's Bazaar's 'Lifestyle' column

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer recalls interviewing Nikki Giovanni

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Gwen Mazer talks about meeting Barbara Chase-Riboud

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Gwen Mazer describes the artistic work of Nikki Giovanni and Barbara Chase-Riboud

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer describes her decision to leave Harper's Bazaar

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about her first interview with Katherine Dunham

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer recalls traveling to Haiti with Katherine Dunham

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer talks about Katherine Dunham's associates

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer describes the political climate in Haiti under President Jean-Claude Duvalier

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer talks about the black elitism in Haiti

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer recalls the Vodun rituals held on Katherine Dunham's Haitian estate

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer remembers the final years of Katherine Dunham's life

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer recalls working for Nazareno Gabrielli

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Gwen Mazer talks about her experience as creative director of Esprit Holdings Limited

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer describes her responsibilities at Esprit Holdings Limited

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about founding Total Image Management in San Francisco, California

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer recalls the changes in business attire

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer remembers her clients at Total Image Management, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer remembers her clients at Total Image Management, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer describes her work with Oprah Winfrey

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer talks about designing the Gwen Mazer Collection in San Francisco, California

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer recalls her organizational memberships

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer remembers her board memberships

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer recalls publishing 'Wide Talk: Wild Women' with Christine Alicino

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about the interview process for 'Wise Talk: Wild Women'

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer recalls the reception of 'Wise Talk: Wild Women'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer describes her website and blog

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer talks about black fashion as a cultural expression

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer describes her fashion philosophy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer talks about the incorporation of psychology into image consulting

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer describes her future writing projects

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Gwen Mazer describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about her family

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
Gwen Mazer recalls joining Harper's Bazaar and opening Narcissa Boutique in New York City
Gwen Mazer recalls traveling to Haiti with Katherine Dunham
Transcript
So it was years later that after I had been working at our studio [Advertising Images, New York, New York] that I got a call from Harper's Bazaar; and at the same time I had, we had two--a very close friend who had said to me that he would love to partner with me to open a store. And so I, when I went to Harper's Bazaar to be interviewed, I said to Nancy White who was the editor-in-chief, "Well, I'm about to, in a, in a year's time I'm going to open a retail store either in Boston [Massachusetts] or in New York [New York]." And she said, "Well, that's fine because you don't have to be here on a full time schedule. I have a couple of ideas of what I would like to have you do. We're interested in boutiques now because that's a, you know, a big phase in the world of fashion and we'd like you to be the boutique editor and to cover them in New York and London [England] and Paris [France] and that will fit with your schedule." And, so I obviously said, "Yes," and became the editor for a section that I created for them called the 'Bazaar's Bazaar.'$$Okay.$$And that was an amazing and wonderful experience. I had a little office with no windows and attended meetings and at the same time was free to also develop the store. And my partner, and you can read that in The New Yorker magazine, was a woman from an old Boston family and it was quite heady I have to say. At first the store was going to open in Boston because the family owned a lot of real estate in Boston along with a fleet of antique cars. And Paul Rudolf was hired to design the building. And it just didn't make sense to be opening this kind of store in Boston. And so we decided that it should be in New York and that's how Narcissa [Narcissa Boutique, New York, New York] was born.$$Okay. So this is also in 1968?$$Yes.$$Okay.$$Sixty-nine [1969]. It was '69 [1969] by the time we started with the, with the store. And my pages for Bazaar didn't start to come out until sixty- the beginning of '69 [1969]. So in my manner of doing two things at once that were both really wonderful, I was writing and doing all the ad- you know, all the photography. I wasn't doing the photography but hiring photographers to do my pages with, in Bazaar and at the same time preparing for the store. And it worked wonderfully because suddenly I had the world of Paris open to me through the magazine and I was able to buy in Europe things that I would have never had access to no matter how much money there was to be spent. But the editor-in-chief of the Paris Harper's Bazaar and I became good friends. That's why I had that little letter there for you. And she introduced me to just amazing things in Paris and I met Yves Saint Laurent and she took me to all of these wonderful places to purchase things. So I was able to buy early 19th century umbrellas and (unclear) of all kinds and obviously opened my eyes to parts of Paris that I didn't know. I had been to Europe several times before but this was extraordinary. And the store was really heralded as one of the most fabulous stores in New York. We had our own designer, Eric Lund who has now passed but had been a designer at Henri Bendel and he was a really close and dear friend so he came to work for us. And my partner was traveling to India so she'd come back with bucket loads of interesting things; and the store was pretty interesting, pretty interesting and very exciting.$And about three days in she [HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham] said, "You know, you're the person I want to have do my autobiography--my biography. And if you really want to know what I'm up to for this story, then you have to come to Haiti." And Haiti was the one Caribbean country that I swore I would never go to because of Duvalier [Francois Duvalier]. And of course Duvalier was dead, but the Baby Doc [Jean-Claude Duvalier] and Madame Duvalier [Simone Duvalier], who was the Simone les griots and really the impetus behind a lot of the horror that was happening there. And, so I went back to Chicago [Illinois] and I said, "Well, Ms. Dunham would like me to go to Haiti." And they said, "Well, go to Haiti," and they paid for me to go to Haiti. And I'll never forget it because of all the countries that I have been in, in the Caribbean and I've been to almost every one of them, I'd never been so struck by both the energy, the beauty and the devastation at the same time. Haiti was like a, like a love affair. You never knew whether you were going to have a case of the blues or you were going to be ecstatic. And through Katherine I saw parts of Haiti that I--were amazing. I ended up going to Cap-Haitien [Haiti] with a UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] person and Katherine's place was like paradise in the middle of, in the middle--I mean you'd come into Haiti and it would be unbelievable and then suddenly you were in the area where Habitation [Habitation Leclerc, Port-au-Prince, Haiti] was and that had been a gift to her from one of the presidents [sic.]. I can't remember which president at this moment. And--$$Well, she lived--tell us something about that place. It has a historical--$$Well, it was the place of Pauline [Pauline Bonaparte] when she came from France.$$This is Napoleon's [Napoleon Bonaparte] sister?$$Napoleon's sister.$$Yeah.$$And Habitacion Leclerc was in a forest. It was one of the most exquisitely beautiful places. And of course Katherine had superb taste and so the place was simple, but it was magnificent. I mean it's just beautifully built and everything about it was serene and lovely. But when she received it, initially it was the place that she came with the dancers to renew after their times on the road and so on. So over the years it was built into something quite magnificent. It didn't look like that I'm sure when she first started. But she had an exquisite eye and, so there was a joy in being there. And I have memories of sitting out at sunset watching the sunset over these absolutely gigantic--excuse me--gigantic palm, royal palm trees and these incredible flocks of bats which one would not think of as beautiful, but these bats flying up into this almost darkened sky and swooping all over. Bats when they fly are quite lovely to see. It was a place of respite for her and a place of renewal. And for me, because she charmed me into the idea that I should do this book, I probably went to Haiti close to a dozen times. And she was there with Jeanelle Stovall who ran the business end of things and Rosie Rubenstein who was her right hand. Rosie was Israeli and occasionally when I would go down there would be other members of the Dunham Company [Katherine Dunham Company] there to visit. And it was, it was quite amazing.