America’s Oldest Furrier
Est. 1889

The Secret: Inside the World of Luxury Goods

When you enter a realm of pure imagination, it must be real…and extraordinary. It must be as whimsical and authentic as the dreams of a luxury brand’s namesake or protector.

It must be, for each first-time visitor, breathtaking in such a way that its realness—from the scents and sounds to the feelings of touch and taste—transfixes us in a moment of sensory overload.

Such is the world of a fictional confectioner, and such is the world of actual men like Walt Disney and Ralph Lauren.

The confectioner revives our innocence with the commodity every child covets. Even if rolls of licorice, rivers of chocolate, gardens of gumdrops, or pockets of whipped cream fill a massive room in a gigantic factory, boys and girls can never get enough of this thing: candy!

There is candy of every color and stripe, of every size and shape, so delicious and plentiful that it is, in that place (and only that place), nutritious. Everything is edible, and nothing is impossible because, in a world of pure imagination, there are no laws but one: happiness.

So there is a glass elevator that can move in every direction—just press a button, and go (up, up, and away)—and that can accelerate through a panel of skylights. Segueing from smashing through the roof’s exterior to singing a soothing melody, the man-child—that genius—with the purple top hat and velvet frock, the satin bow tie and the violet lamé vest, embraces you while you fly heavenward.

Such is the world of pure imagination.

Such is the world of a great story, and such is the world (of a different but no less creative tale) of the two men referenced above, Walt Disney and Ralph Lauren.

The store

So, too, is our showroom: a collection of offices, fitting rooms, and photographic displays of styles past and present, where we work as a family, united in spirit and joined together in words and deeds, to achieve excellence.

This is our home, and here the “Mano Swartz Experience” thrives amid splendor and solidarity. Our staff, present and past, have executed this mission—and it’s a critical mission. Without them, the Mano Experience would never have been a reality that touched so many.

Not for nothing does the fashion industry speak of houses of style, such as the House of Chanel, the House of Armani, and the House of Dior. Each namesake is a house (or a granite townhouse) in a literal sense, with walkways, stone balusters and sweeping staircases, marble fireplaces, and leaded lights in sitting rooms and dining rooms. These houses also have converted service kitchens where models and designers come and go, clients schedule fittings, and tailors cut and sew.

If you want to ensure a luxury brand is worthy of your investment, use this chapter as your guide.

Remind yourself that a luxury brand has an office (or offices)—not cheap furniture, cubicles, and a time clock. Put another way, if a brand aspires to greatness, it does not reduce itself to shame and embarrassment.

There cannot be any separation between perception and reality.

Take, for instance, Walt Disney’s private apartment (above the Main Street Firehouse) at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

The apartment, preserved to maintain its original appearance, is a five-hundred-square-foot manifestation of Disney’s personality; it’s a Middle American time capsule, with an Edison phonograph, a Regina music box, a Victorian-style telephone, and a covered (with vines) patio, replete with white wicker furniture and an interior decorated with rose-patterned carpeting, cranberry-colored drapes, and various ceramics.

This hideaway, decorated by a set designer for many Disney films, has all the qualities of verisimilitude—it seems real—without the messiness of everyday life.

The apartment recalls the nearby sights and sounds of a small-town railroad station, its plumes of smoke and the pitch of a train whistle marking the course of a mighty engine of industry and adventure making its way across Missouri and Colorado, Utah and Nevada, to the fragrant air of California and the Pacific Ocean.

The apartment is both a point of passing and an end point because, all appearances to the contrary, the air of former citrus fields—the orange groves of Orange County, California—perfumes the atmosphere of this self-enclosed frontier and its Mark Twain Riverboat attraction; there is a succulent scent to the Rivers of America and New Orleans Square that takes visitors from a century of locomotives and steamboats to the rocketry of the Space Age and a Mission to Mars.

From the entrance of the Sleeping Beauty Castle to the electric hum of the Disneyland Monorail System, the place and the product are the same for workers and customers alike.

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