Entrepreneur and author
Born c. 1965; daughter of Alan Rosenzweig (a legal recruiter) and Joy Zuckerman (a yoga instructor); married Rick Marin (a writer), May, 2003.
Journalist, humorist, and lifestyle–brand co–founder. Author of the The I Hate Madonna Handbook, 1994; entertainment editor, Allure magazine, c. 1995–96; co–founded the Swellco brand with Cynthia Rowley, c. 2000; deputy editor of the New York Times Sunday Styles until late 2001; launched line of "Swell" products with Target stores, 2003.
Former fashion editor Ilene Rosenzweig created a retro–stylish, charmingly swish lifestyle brand called Swell with her clothing–designer friend Cynthia Rowley. Their "Swell" concept began its life as a book, but within a few years had morphed into a range of products for Target, the second–largest retailer in the United States. Rosenzweig and Rowley were exploring forays into other media for their tiara–topped logo, but Rosenzweig's big 2003 project was her May wedding to longtime boyfriend, journalist Rick Marin. The build–up to their nuptials coincided with Rosenzweig's PR blitz for the Target line and Marin's book tour for his newly published Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor. The two traveled together on their press jaunts, and were even discussing a possible television show based on marital bliss. "With giddy savoir faire and serious business savvy," wrote W's Jessica Kerwin, "Marin and Rosenzweig have turned their stylish take on modern living (indeed, their very lives) into a franchise."
Born in the mid–1960s, Rosenzweig grew up in Port Washington, New York, in a family of three children. After college, she moved to Manhattan and took a series of publishing and journalism jobs. Her first book, The I Hate Madonna Handbook, appeared in 1994. It was, as its title promised, a sly primer on the singer/actress's more sordid private life and career advancement through the years, and rife with inside tales of abuse. Entertainment Weekly writer Erica Kornberg called it a "clever, nasty, well–researched potshot" with "brilliantly vituperative chapters." By 1996, Rosenzweig was serving as Allure magazine's entertainment editor, but soon jumped ship to the New York Times to become deputy editor of its "Sunday Styles" section. She and Marin had begun dating by then, and were both at the Times for a period before leaving in late 2001 in a wave of resignations following executive editor Howell Raines's ascendancy.
Rosenzweig had teamed with her friend Rowley, a Chicago native whose design business began to pick up steam in the early 1990s, to create the first Swell guide in 1999. Rowley had been known to ride a motorcycle to work in New York City, but had also had a hit with her whimsical, feminine frocks. The pair merged their life and lifestyle philosophies into a tongue–in–cheek advice book, Swell: A Girl's Guide to the Good Life. In it, they proffered tips on entertaining, home décor, wardrobe, and a range of other topics, all with an attitude they termed "joie de vivre—only less French."
The 1999 tome sold some 120,000 copies, and launched a new phase in Rosenzweig's career. She and Rowley created the Swellco brand, and began writing an idea column for Glamour magazine. By mid–2002, they were hosting their own feature on the Showtime cable channel, "A Girl's Guide to Swell Movies." Their next project, Home Swell Home: Designing Your Dream Home, came from Rosenzweig and Rowley's "disdain for sloppy chic," noted Record contributor Jura Koncius or, more specifically, "all those oversize slipcovers and shapeless sofas in faded colors that started showing up in yuppie lofts and living rooms in the Nineties. The chic they espoused was sexy, not shabby."
Following the second book, Rosenzweig and Rowley launched a line of "Swell" products on the shelves of several hundred Target stores in early 2003. The whimsical housewares and clothing ranged from bathroom towels embroidered "Good," "Clean," and "Fun" to orange lycra yoga pants. The duo joined a cache of other high–profile designers creating lines for Target, including Philippe Starck, Todd Oldham, and Isaac Mizrahi. Their next venture would be The Swell–Dressed Party, a how–to entertaining guide. Despite what Rosenzweig and Rowley stress is their decidedly anti–Martha Stewart approach to home and hearth, Rosenzweig admits to being somewhat of a perfectionist. Hence her choice of Portofino, Italy, for her May of 2003 nuptials to Marin. "If it was in New York," Rosenzweig told People, "I would be stressing over cherry tomato canapés and tuna tartare. But over there it's so beautiful you don't have to worry about anything else!"
Marin detailed his first meeting with Rosenzweig in Cad, a brutal but comic accounting of his dating life for seven years in the 1990s. "The first time I met Ilene, she ignored me, registered such profound indifference to my presence that I backed away speechless into the party throng," Marin wrote in his book. "I'm not even sure she spoke, just threw me a nod." Rosenzweig later hired him to write a celebrity profile for Allure, and the two became platonic cohorts. As his book recounts, Rosenzweig failed to fall for any of his well–rehearsed dating come–ons, but the two eventually fell in love and, after dating for five years, Marin proposed to her on a beach at Shelter Island (a Long Island resort town) with a ring that had been worn by three generations of women in his family. "I do have commitment phobia," Rosenzweig recalled of the moment in an interview with Observer journalist Dee O'Connell, "And I was being a jerk, so I'm like, 'I'm going to wear this as a pinkie ring, this is going to be my style statement.'" After dancing on the beach and toasting their impending union with champagne, the too–big ring slipped off Rosenzweig's pinkie. They had to call in experts for help in a search that lasted 12 hours, but the ring was finally unearthed with a metal detector. "The thing that was very princely about him," she told O'Connell, "was that he didn't yell at me once."
Returning to their Flatiron district loft and summer house in Sag Harbor, Long Island, after their Italian wedding, Rosenzweig and her husband were busy at work on their next projects. Marin was working on a screenplay for Cad, and there was discussion of a "Swell" sitcom for a major network, and perhaps even a television show about newlywed bliss. Rosenzweig was eager to create a romantic–comedy premise that projected what she termed "a new attitude about marriage," she explained to Los Angeles Times writer Irene Lacher. "I think it's important to be able to show in pop culture better pictures of marriage, of commitment, that it can be fun and not dark and cynical.…"
The I Hate Madonna Handbook, St. Martin's Press (New York City), 1994.
(With Cynthia Rowley) Swell: A Girl's Guide to the Good Life, Warner Books (New York City), 1999.
(With Rowley) Home Swell Home: Designing Your Dream Home, Atria (New York City), 2002.
DSN Retailing Today, February 24, 2003, p. 16.
Entertainment Weekly, May 13, 1994, p. 54.
HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network, January 13, 2003, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1999, p. 2; March 3, 2003, p. E1.
Newsweek, December 6, 1999, p. 77.
New York Post, August 26, 2002, p. 35.
Observer (London, England), June 8, 2003, p. 4.
People, March 24, 2003, pp. 95–96.
Record (Bergen County, NJ), October 20, 2002, p. F8.
W, February 2003, p. 110.
WWD, July 10, 2002, p. 7.