In The Style Of

Jean & Valerie – Idiosyncratic Fashionistas

Meet Jean and Valerie – NYC style influencers for "women of a certain age". We were introduced at our Fall 22 Collection Launch party and knew immediately that we had to collaborate. The eternally chic and effortlessly cool duo took the time to style our new Holiday pieces and chat with us about personal style.

How did you meet?

J: We met in 2008 at a Manhattan Vintage Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion. I was wearing black vintage jodhpurs, black Doc Marten combat boots, black leather motorcycle jacket, and black leather cap.

V: I got a master's degree in Japanese textile history while living in Japan, and the Forbes Gallery offered me the opportunity to exhibit a number of 19th century and pre-war babies' kimonos I had collected.  They asked for my guest list, and I had no idea how to compose one, so I started posting and handing out little fliers around town.  When I saw Jean at the vintage show, I thought she looked like a good candidate, and gave her an invite.  I'm generally very shy, but she was wearing a terrific hat, and I find I can always talk to anyone wearing a good hat - I feel like we're on the same wavelength.  Jean and I are proof that a well designed hat is as good a conversation starter as a puppy.  It's still a bit startling to think that our blog, Instagram, TV interviews, public lectures, and modeling work all emerged organically from that first chance meeting.

What does style mean to you?

J: Style is communicating to the world, through my hairstyle, clothing, accessories, and attitude: "Don't be afraid to be different."  "Be yourself."

V: Style is presenting yourself to the world in such a way that everyone thinks your flaws are your assets.

What’s on your coffee table?

J: Mickey, one of my 3 black cats, and a semi-completed Sunday's NY Times Crossword Puzzle.

V: A toy carousel of superheroes.

What’s hanging on your wall?

A large antique stuffed marlin; a Mark Seliger black and white portrait of Keith Richards; a January 2005 Miami Art Deco Weekend poster; and a black and white 1930s photo of an airplane flying over the East River and lower Manhattan.

V: One wall has a voile curtain of 9 Andy Warhol Marilyns; one has a 19th century Japanese Boys’ Day banner; and one has someone’s wonderful impasto imitation of an Egon Schiele painting of a town.

What can’t you live without?

Family, friends, pets - oh, and chocolate.

V: Indoor plumbing; visual and mental stimulation.

What could you do without?

J: Divisiveness, discrimination, anger ... and stilettos. 

V: Apps for things that never needed apps before; passwords.

What’s the last book that you read?

J: Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon - for the zillionth time.  "The legendary underground classic of Hollywood's darkest and best kept secrets."

V: I highly recommend A PERFECT RED, by Amy Butler Greenfield.  In one sentence, it’s about the history of cochineal.  More broadly it’s about the intertwining of politics, geography, economy, social hierarchy and the human eye’s love for the color red during the age of discovery.

What’s the last song you listened to?

J: David Bowie's Cat People ("Putting out fire with gasoline").

V: I don’t know, but the last song I liked enough to use Shazam to identify was Alicia Keys’ No One.  (Yes I’m aware that Shazam is an app, but all of us would have invented Shazam 50 years ago if we could have.)

What’s the last interesting thing you saw?

J: A perfectly restored antique black fat fender, five window 1950 Chevy pickup truck, an American classic, drove right past me down 2nd Ave in the East Village. Breathtaking design.

V: I saw a faux fur coat that was dyed and shaved in such a beguiling way as to make me wonder how they’d done it.   It looked like nothing I’d ever seen before.  I actually felt gratitude to the people who conceived it, and the managers who okayed it for production.  I love it when something grabs my attention that way, and gets me not just liking but thinking.

Favorite Color?

J: Black and variations of black. It is the perfect counterpoint to everything. I do wear other colors but am most comfortable and at home in basic black. 

V: Oh, no!  Having a favorite color would be like having a favorite child!  You love them all for different reasons.

Favorite dish?

J: Dark chocolate mousse. Hands down!

V: Perfectly made Yorkshire pudding.  Rosemary naan.  And an ingenious cocktail, with an herb or spice to give it je ne sais quoi.

Favorite pastime?

J: Canoeing on the lake in Central Park, surrounded by ducks, frogs, people, trees and skyscrapers, is the most wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

V: In my day-to-day life, maybe visiting second hand shops.  For me, this is like visiting a museum, except I get to touch the things that interest me.  I get a little education every time, and I get a deep pleasure out of seeing how other people imagine textiles, and how they put them together, and how colors and patterns are combined to make something completely new.

Favorite piece in your wardrobe?

J: A vintage leopard print Norma Kamali portrait collared peplum jacket is probably my favorite individual piece of clothing, along with the white Norma Kamali greco-roman ruched gown I wore to my wedding reception in 1986.  

V: Hmmmmm….  I bet I have a hundred favorites: favorite dress to wear on a hot day; favorite coat to wear when I’m dressed in green; favorite hat to wear with a particular outfit; favorite shoes to wear with blue pants; favorite socks to wear with particular shoes; favorite bracelet to wear with a particular pair of earrings… 

What brings you joy?

J: The sun on my face; a cool breeze; the ability to stop and enjoy life, not sweat the small stuff and appreciate the precious moments of peace.

V: Travel, and the prospect of travel.  Sitting with a small group of friends where we’re all smiling and laughing.  Seeing looks of quiet contentment in people and animals.

Favorite spot in NYC?

J: Rockefeller Center is one of my year round favorite spots in NYC. From the giant bronze Atlas holding the world on his shoulders on 5th Avenue to the golden statue of Prometheus above the skating rink, the monumental proportions of the space are a constant source of amusement and entertainment.  Add in the masses of humanity and you get an iconic NYC experience.

V: Dorothy was right when she said there's no place like home, but let me tweak it a bit: on my rooftop, in the summer, at dusk, with a cocktail, and the occasional geese or hawks flying overhead.

Style is presenting yourself to the world in such a way that everyone thinks your flaws are your assets.

– Valerie
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