The Paris Review Daily

Fashion & Style

The Gilded Age

September 15, 2011 | by

“Yes, there’s an elevator,” a worried guest was assured on Tuesday night in the lobby of the Ace Hotel. This was no small concern. The event she was on hand to attend, cohosted by Ari Seth Cohen and Tavi Gevinson, was located in the basement. And the crowd was largely over eighty.

The evening was a celebration of Ari Seth Cohen’s street-style blog, Advanced Style. As the name suggests, the ladies of the silver-haired set are Cohen’s muses; the site contains a mix of known fashion royalty, like Iris Apfel and Beatrix Ost, and strangers whose dashing ensembles catch the photographer’s eye. It was both disconcerting and wonderful to see the parade of extravagantly dressed grandes dames enter the aggressively hip Ace, which had been rendered especially youthful by the descent of New York Fashion Week attendees.

Fashion Week parties, as anyone can tell you, are largely about exclusion: lists, velvet ropes, and stony-faced, implacable bouncers. This one was no different, but instead of models and actresses, the women being ushered to the head of the line and pursued by photographers were white-haired, turbaned, and carrying canes. Periodically, organizers scanned the crowded hotel lobby: when they spotted a hat or a caftan, the old lady in question was whisked ceremoniously downstairs to Liberty Hall.

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Tailor-Made

June 9, 2011 | by

Richard Anderson.

“Wanted,” the advertisement read, “sixteen- or seventeen-year-old apprentice cutter for Savile Row firm. Energetic … Intelligent … Smart appearance …” I was skeptical (what the hell was a cutter?) but Dad made the call and we were granted an appointment at ten the following Tuesday. I had never heard of Huntsman before. For that matter, I am not sure that I had ever heard of Savile Row.”

So began, somewhat ignominiously, Richard Anderson’s career as a bespoke tailor. Today, Anderson is “The King of Savile Row,” as The Independent called him—but in 1982 he was a teenager with failing grades who showed up for an interview in white socks, a short-sleeved shirt, and a school blazer.

Anderson’s memoir, Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed, has been called the Kitchen Confidential of the tailoring world, an insider’s look at the industry and one that exposes a certain amount of its foibles and eccentricity. But what’s even more of a revelation than the ins and outs of cutting and fitting is the sheer thoroughness of the traditional apprenticeship, which Anderson served. Even thirty years ago when Anderson got his start, the kind of ground-up dues paying he describes was on the wane; in an era of overnight success, it’s almost unimaginable.

It’s no shock that, since everything’s ripe for the TV picking, even Savile Row got its own BBC special—a reality program that made it look, says Anderson, “quite glamorous.” And as a result, he now gets some ten or fifteen letters a weeks from prospective employees. However, their notion of apprenticeship doesn’t involve sweeping or cutting, let alone the kind of respect for institutional authority that was the backbone of Anderson’s training. “They tend to think they’d quite enjoy designing,” Anderson explains dryly, adding that they also tend to be older and “there’s a big difference between a seventeen-year-old kid just out of school and a twenty-something who’s seen a bit of the world.” Especially one in today’s England, he need not add.

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Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gifts

December 23, 2010 | by

In 1939, Neiman Marcus published their first Christmas book, a catalogue of extravagant, humorous, astonishing, and often jewel-encrusted gifts. Over the Top: 50 Years of Fantasy Gifts from the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, recently published by Assouline, celebrates the Chinese junks, minisubs, urban windmills, bags of diamonds, sailplanes, animal-shaped desks, Warhol portraits, and Jack Nicklaus custom backyard golf courses that only the top 1 percent could comfortably afford.

The first cover, in 1951, featured artwork by Saul Steinberg, with subsequent covers created by a host of notables, such as Robert Indiana, Ludwig Bemelmans, Al Hirschfeld, Victor Vassarely, Chuck Jones, and Ben Shahn. His & Hers gifts became a frequent staple of outrageous indulgence beginning in 1960 with His & Hers Beechcraft Airplanes ($176,000). Ensuing examples rivaled for the title of most ostentatious: His & Hers Camels (1967; $4,125), His & Hers Hot Air Balloons (1964; $6,850 each), His & Hers Authentic Mummy Cases (1971; $16,000), His & Hers Robots (2003; $400,000), and His & Hers Name Your Own Jewels (1985; $2,000,000).

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The Windows of Bergdorf Goodman

December 23, 2010 | by

A window featuring a Roberto Cavalli dress.

On a recent winter afternoon, I sat down for tea with Linda Fargo and David Hoey of Bergdorf Goodman, on the top floor of the store, in the restaurant overlooking southern Central Park. Fargo, who has an immaculate silver bob, is clad in a black Balenciaga dress, capped with a furry Mongolian gilet by Vera Wang, her throat studded with a necklace by a designer named Grazia Bozza, whom she discovered while vacationing in Capri. Hoey is wearing a Band of Outsiders suit—“a journeyman’s vest,” he explains. “It’s a symbol of a real working man who rolls up his sleeves.”

And roll up his sleeves he must, even at Fifth Avenue’s most refined department store. Hoey and Fargo are the masterminds behind Bergdorf’s window displays, and they had invited me to come talk with them about their work and their new book, a $550 lavender-sheathed tome (“Our signature color,” explains Fargo) published by Assouline. Titled Windows of Bergdorf Goodman, the book catalogs more than ten years of their work, interspersed with remarks and witty one-liners from some of Bergdorf's closets friends (Bette Midler, Vogue editor Hamish Bowles, and street photographer Bill Cunningham, to name a few).

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