Tag Archives: Valerie Steele

AUTHOR FRAN LEBOWITZ DISSES HALSTON, STRAIGHT PEOPLE, AND MEN IN SHORTS

The author, satirist, and professional talker Fran Lebowitz visited FIT last Friday. She submitted, if that’s the right word, to an on-stage interview with Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT, as part of a symposium, “A Queer History of Fashion,” which complemented the museum’s show of the same name.

An early moment in the exchange was fraught. Steele asked why Lebowitz refused to lend one of her suits for the show. Everyone leaned forward. Was some personal revelation forthcoming?

Nope. “I didn’t lend you one because I couldn’t live for six months without one of my suits,” Lebowitz said, referring to the length of the exhibition. “I don’t have enough [of them].”

Her career began in the early ’70s at Interview magazine, with Andy Warhol. As a denizen of his demimonde, she met many fashion designers, including Halston. “Halston was not someone I was very interested in,” Lebowitz said. “He was kind of a hick, actually. But he had huge parties, which are always good. His clothes were plastic. They were Ultrasuede, which is polyester, which is plastic.”

Steele asked how Lebowitz ended up on the Best-Dressed list. “People vote for you,” she said. “I’d rather be the mayor.”

Lebowitz has a famously bad case of writer’s block, though she’s quite relaxed—and quotable—in conversation. Steele said one question that kept coming up while preparing the show was why there are so many gay designers.

“Is that even a question?” Lebowitz said. “A better question is, ‘Why are there straight designers?’ Why are there straight men at fashion shows? Can’t something be done about that?”

Later she said that perhaps the correlation had to do with the fact that straight men “could have other jobs. There were few jobs where you could be gay.”

Steele asked if Lebowitz had a fashion bête noire. “To me, shorts,” she said. “I really do not want to see adult men wearing shorts. Ever. They’re suburban. When I see a grown man wearing shorts, I think, ‘You’re going to a cookout.” Baseball caps also draw her ire.

Asked to explain the appeal of leather, Lebowitz replied, “Sex. That’s the appeal. It’s durable. It lasts longer than sex. Which is why, at a certain age, you should give it up. It’s actually sad, at a certain age. It makes me sad. For them, not me.”

For the record, Savile Row tailors Anderson and Sheppard make her suits, but she doesn’t go to London to be fitted. “I’m an Anglophobe,” she admitted. “They have a dress form of me, for sizing. It lives in London, so I don’t have to.” She has very particular tastes. Fabric, for example: “I could spend my entire life choosing fabrics.”  And, “I always ask for light-colored buttons,” a style somewhat against the grain. She’s also demanding about fit. She said, “At the point that a suit no longer fits, you should not go out.”

WHICH DESIGNER LOVES HARRY POTTER?

This weekend, October 26 to 28, the Designers and Books Fair is taking place on FIT’s campus. You can watch Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at FIT, interview Donna Karan, or New York magazine’s Wendy Goodman speak with Todd Oldham.

Or you can just visit the Designers and Books website, and read about what books celebrities from all over the design spectrum most cherish.

Some designers confirmed what we’ve already guessed. Hue is not surprised, for example, that Ralph Rucci ’80 listed three Shakespeare plays in his list of faves. Or that illustrator Maira Kalman loves Winnie the Pooh and Remembrance of Things Past.

Some were willing to admit that they occasionally enjoy lighter fare. Stephen Burrows ’66 reads Harry Potter and Agatha Christie mysteries. Todd Oldham mixes his Diane Arbus monograph with his Amy Sedaris cookbook. (Admittedly, it’s not too hard to see the connection between the two.)

Other designers chose the highbrow route, mystifying us with their intellectual capacity. Graphic-design legend Milton Glaser chose three books by John Berger, whose idea-rich prose cannot be absorbed while listening to your iPod. (Hue has tried.)

So what does Isaac Mizrahi read? Or Cynthia Rowley? Or Karim Rashid? Head on over and find out.

FASCINATING HUE VIDEO FEATURES FIT ALUMNI AND STUDENTS WHO WEAR HIJAB. PLUS VALERIE STEELE

Hue is always noticing things, and wondering.  Here’s something we pondered:  what’s it like to wear hijab at a place like FIT?  Do you wear the same type of head covering to the mosque as you do for your workout?  Do you dress the look up for weddings or other formal rituals? 

In the current issue of Hue, one alumna and one student answer the question in their own ways, but Hue got even nosier.  So we made a little video on the subject, featuring FIT students, alumni, a noted Muslim scholar, and Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at FIT.  Watch it here.

Lensed by the always-wonderful Larin Sullivan, filmmaker extraordinaire.