Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Elizabeth Harrison and Lara Shriftman

The public relations team of Harrison and Shriftman went into business together a little more than eight years ago with an intended focus on the fashion world, and the help of an assistant and a telephone. Today they’ve got offices here in New York, as well as Miami and Los Angeles (which Shriftman runs), several dozen in staff and a roster of international clients. Earlier this year they were acquired by Omnicom Group, a strategic holding company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, that manages a portfolio of global market leaders in advertising, marketing services, specialty communications, interactive/digital media and media buying services.

Elizabeth Harrison is New York born and bred except for her early school years when her parents divided their time between the city and Wilton, Connecticut. Here in New York, she attended Calhoun School and then went on to Sarah Lawrence. After college she spent a year traveling around the world on her own. A little bit of a thing – not much more than five feet tall, she’s bright-eyed and friendly. I’ve known her all her life (her parents are longtime close friends of mine). Growing up, she was one of those kids who was such an insatiable reader that she would often read herself to sleep under the covers with a flashlight after she was told to put her lights out. When she’s not in her serious mode, she’s one of those people who can (at least with this writer) get into bouts of uncontrollable laughter, very vulnerable to matters of irony and the absurd.

Both her parents were deeply involved in the fashion business while she was growing up. Her father, Steve Harrison, was for a number of years a major executive at Leslie Fay and later at Anne Klein (when Donna Karan first became the leading designer in the house). Her mother, Marianne Harrison, is the daughter of the late Sandy Smith who with his partner the late Gunther Oppenheim was a major financial force in the business – an original partner/backer in Anne Klein, John Anthony, Pierre Cardin US, Don Simonelli, Modelia, etc. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Marianne Harrison and a boarding school chum Jill Kollmar (daughter of the late Dorothy Kilgallen) had a very successful sweater business on Seventh Avenue, Smith-Kollmar. Since the mid-1980s, the Harrisons have been operating a high-end bed and breakfast, The Rhett House Inn, in Beaufort, South Carolina.

When Elizabeth finished college and traveling, she went to work in the magazine business for the now defunct Fame magazine, and eventually got into public relations, working for Catherine Saxton and then Peggy Siegal. It was during that time that she met Lara Shriftman who was also breaking into the pr business here in New York. Lara who grew up in Florida was quickly making a name for herself as a PR/party promoter here in Manhattan.

Both outgoing, the two women have very different personalities. Elizabeth, the organizer, is bright and sunny, appearing somewhat (although not really) reserved, and Lara is the Out There member of the team, like a blast of a boisterous breeze. They are both very can-do women, unlikely to shirk any business or social challenge. They also both share in common being graced with loving, even adoring parents, most definitely an asset in any life.

Elizabeth is New York-based, has been married for several years to businessman Keith Schweibel and has two small daughters. Lara, who is single, is the peripatetic member of the team, and known by one and all from Tribeca to South Beach to Malibu. In her New York days she was a fixture on the nighttime downtown club scene, on first name basis with, and with a rolodex of, every mover and shakers in town. Several years ago, because of their clientele, Lara began spending more and more time at their office in Los Angeles where her party-giving talents opened up a whole new world for the team. This past year she bought a house in the Hollywood Hills, making LA her main address.

A couple of years ago, the team held a party for several hundred in the 54th floor penthouse of David Copperfield (pictured above with Elizabeth and Lara) as a launch for the book they’ve co-authored, published by Clarkson Potter, Fait Accompli on the art of party-giving.