One cannot evoke the word Manhattan without bring to mind the pantheon of stylish women that have been the source of its international reputation for irreverent yet graceful and eclectic New Yorker style. From audacious fashion designers to the clan of Oscar de la Renta Swans of reserved upper east style, the authoritative bob and sunnies of international fashionistas to the sometimes comical yet ever so chic style of fashion nonagenarian doyens, these women embody pure New York spirit. A tour de force of unbridled restraint, personal conviction, and just enough audacity to slip in to more than one of David Patrick Columbia’s famous society page photo exposés. For this month’s edition, we have selected 6 women who have been the flag bears of iconic New Yorker self-branding spanning over 7 decades.
Anna Wintour, OBE
British born Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Magazine Anna Wintour has not only the personal style that sets a standard, but also the literary skill and legacy ( her father is is the former editor of the Evening Standard) that sets her apart from others of her ilk. Her conservative, but trendy couture wardrobe, complimented by consistent grooming and ocular standards (which many try to copy, yet never pull off with a true sense of authority) have earned her place as a living legend. The question remains would she have had the impact on the fashion world sitting at the helm of British Vogue, Marie-Claire or Elle. Or is it the geographic nuance of being queen bee in the world capital of women’s ready-to-wear that enabled Anna Wintour to dominate the hive?
Ever since she graced the offices of Bergdorf Goodman in 2006 as Senior Vice President of the fashion office and the Director of Women's Fashion and Store Presentation, Milwaukee-raised Linda Fargo has been seducing the fashion world with her now famous smile; a smile that inspires as much as it inflicts fear. As Bergdorf’s most senior buyer, Ms. Fargo has the Olympian god-like power of wielding her fashion sceptre to determine whose collection will be eventually showcased each season on Manhattan’s most prestigious shop floor. Her style is elegant yet with the right amount of edge; from her bright red Dior stained lips to her Edward Tricomi silver elongated bob, bohemian velvet jeans to her penchant for one-shouldered evening pieces.
Having left her role as co-designer of the Anne Klein collection in 1985, Donna Karan went on to create her eponymous collection which set the stage for a mini-revolution in women’s apparel. Her soft black jersey dresses, skirts, and streamline bodysuits offered a welcomed change from the shoulder pad dominated 80’s. Her vision was feminine, sleek, and minimalist, with a massive accent on the transformative power of accessories. It is this easy style that has been her trademark that has attracted her clientele for over 30 years. Recently, Donna Karan stepped down from her design role to concentrate on her charitable foundation, Urban Zen, which promotes a culturally inspired luxury clothing and home furnishings collection, sourced equitably from regions like Haiti.
Initially we set out to highlight today’s style mavens, however there is one blast from the past that cannot be over looked. Barbara “Babe” Cushing Mortimer Paley was in essence the ultimate style maven. In fact, before their famous falling out, long time friend Truman Capote once quoted, “Babe Paley had only one fault. She was perfect. Otherwise, she was perfect.” Her graceful and elegant style was an inspiration to many young women which continues, even today, to influence both interior and fashion designers with a sort of style vernacular which evokes her restrained, cultivated, and feminine charm. In 1938 Babe Paley began working as a fashion editor for Vogue and by 1941 has been named the second best dressed woman in the world.
What can we say? She is undeniably adorable. A dolled up Bubbe with more couture costume jewellery, fashion sense, and style than an entire generation’s worth of supposed style icons. At 93, Iris Apfel has become a living breathing patron saint of fashion free will. She has been described as cranky, pushy, and often times acerbic with a clear message to her fans and followers, “You have to look in the mirror and see yourself. If it feels good, then I know it's for me. I don't dress to be stared at, I dress for myself…” Mrs. Apfel is also the subject of a recently released docu-film directed by Albert Maysles entitled, Iris. The film follows a three year period of her life in New York, Palm Beach, and at her numerous Fashion Week appearances across the globe. IRIS THE FILM
Yes, we know that Carrie Bradshaw is a fictional character, but the role as incarnated by Sarah Jessica Parker has left such an indelible mark on the world’s perception of New York’s 90’s style, that ultimately Candice Bushnell’s slightly eccentric heroine can be considered one of the key iconic women of Manhattan’s style brigade. Her obsession with not only Manolo Blahniks, but also Christian Louboutins and Jimmy Choos, wacky, frees spirited fashion sense, and clever words of wisdom left an entire generation of the fashion faithful inspired by her rebellious if not curiously eclectic persona. It was that Betsey Johnson-like mix of funky vintage and bevy of luxury ready-to-wear designers that created Carrie’s iconic on screen image.