By Anne-Marie Guarnieri | October 26, 2009 | Style & Beauty
FROM LEFT: Dress by Thakoon, shoes by Manolo Blahnik for Thakoon; dress by Thakoon, shoes by Roger Vivier
With a jacket blurb from Anna Wintour and foreword by Diane von Furstenburg, it’s clear that Amanda Brooks’ I ♥ Your Style: How to Define and Refine Your Personal Style (It Books/ HarperCollins), a sort of high/low-fashion how-to manual, comes with a serious pedigree.
Brooks, a fashion consultant and writer, was the muse of beloved vintage-inspired label Tuleh, eventually becoming its creative director. After three years in that post, she struck out on her own, indulging her love of clothing and learning a lot about herself in the process. The book, broken down into three sections, is devoted to Brooks’ personal anecdotes and snapshots of her own sartorial evolution, along with images of fashionable individuals of the stage, screen and street, including Bianca Jagger, Chloë Sevigny and Sofia Coppola.
“When people ask about my personal style, I say it’s a ‘greatest hits’ of all the styles I’ve tried over the years,” she told Gotham from inside the brightly painted Lower East Side apartment she shares with husband Christopher, an artist, and their two children. “You know, I’ve been classic, I’ve been high fashion, I’ve been bohemian, I’ve tried minimal—I take a little bit from each of those.”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The art-filled main hallway. “Christopher is obviously the trained artist; I’m a totally amateur artist.” says Brooks. “I love a crafts project. A lot of that stuff in the hallways is stuff I made when I was younger, or stuff that people have given us, or memorabilia. It’s just our life;" Brooks' book cover; Rug from Moss. “It was a Christmas present I bought for my husband and I just thought it was hysterical;” painting by Brooklyn art collective Faile
GOTHAM: What was the genesis of the book?
AMANDA BROOKS: The book was kind of an exercise. After I left Tuleh, I just wasn’t exactly clear about what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something with my own creativity instead of always working for other people’s creative visions. A friend of mine had suggested doing a book, and it left me so stumped for about six months—I just had no idea what I would do a book about, but it was sort of germinating in the back of my head. And then I had this book called Cheap Chic from the ’70s that I’ve always loved; I found it in a vintage store years ago. And I thought, “God, someone should really redo this book.” I loved the format of the book and the diversity of imagery and how the book really exuded personal style to me. Whereas, a lot of times I see books about style and it’s just a bunch of style about celebrities and it’s not really personal style. So I was inspired by the book and just kind of made up my own version of it.
G: What’s your earliest fashion- or stylerelated memory?
AB: My earliest fashion memories are not really related to me but [to] my mom, and being kind of outraged at times at what she was wearing but loving it, and being excited by it.
G: One of the things you say in the book is that “money can zap creativity.” Can you expand on that a little?
AB: I think that people think that if they buy a designer handbag they’re going to look chic, automatically, and I just absolutely don’t believe in that. You can look chic with a designer handbag, and I certainly have lots of them and I love them, but just because you have a personal shopper or a stylist and buy expensive clothes, that doesn’t mean you have personal style. In fact, listening to what other people tell you to wear encumbers personal style. Personal style is much more about doing your own thing, listening to your own instincts, trial and error, making mistakes and learning from it, and just figuring out what suits you as an individual.
G: I know it’s a hard thing to narrow down, but do you have a defining item that is the “Amanda Brooks” signature?
AB: You know, there are things that I wear a ton, and then there are things that I love the most. Like, I have a ’70s YSL bolero jacket that is probably my favorite thing in my wardrobe. That and an Oscar de la Renta evening jacket that was my mom’s—it’s black velvet and has gold embroidery all over it. Those two things are my favorite things and I probably wear them once a year. But for me, they say everything I want to say about myself.
G: You obviously have a long history of championing young and up-and-coming designers, as evidenced by the years you spent with Tuleh, but who do you really love right now?
AB: Thakoon, Phillip Lim, Proenza Schouler. I wear a lot of DVF in the summer. Chanel always. Chanel is like the constant in my life, forever. But the sheer, greatest number of clothes I buy now are Thakoon, Phillip Lim and Proenza. It’s always right for me. I don’t fi nd that I have good or bad seasons with them; there’s always stuff that I want there.
G: One of the things I’ve noticed that popped up a few times was the idea of “real jewelry.” In your estimation, does real trump costume every time?
AB: No, no, defi nitely not. I talk about costume jewelry a lot in the Cheap Chic chapter. I mean, I myself don’t have a lot of real jewelry. I have some things I inherited from my mom, and I have some things my husband has given to me, but I love costume jewelry. I love Chanel costume jewelry; I have a ton of it. I love Philip Crangi, who makes both costume and real. No, I love costume jewelry. Some other people in my book have very strong opinions. My friend Leah says she would never wear real jewelry that’s supposed to look fake or fake jewelry that’s supposed to look real.
G: And also, from the book, it would seem that you’re pretty firmly on the pro-fur side of the debate?
AB: I mean, I don’t have a hundred furs, but when I wear my fur coat in the winter I’m warmer than if I’m wearing anything else. I try and be conscious of not having extraneous amounts of fur…. I enjoy the look of fur as much as I enjoy the warmth of fur.
G: I appreciated that you put some of your “don’t” moments in the book as well….
AB: Well, I use myself as an example a lot in the book, mostly because the whole book is about teaching by example. And I don’t believe that all rules apply to one person or, vice versa, that one person’s rules can apply to everybody…. No one’s life is full of style, and if they present that to you, it isn’t true.
G: Right. Having a sense of humor is a huge part of style, not taking it too seriously.
AB: And also encouraging people that it’s absolutely OK to make mistakes. I still make mistakes all the time.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN LEI