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Donna Karan top right in the 1980s with models sporting her line.

Donna Karan top right in the 1980s with models sporting her line.

Donna Karan is a part of me — past, present and future. It has been an honor to speak woman to woman about ‘Seven Easy Pieces’ that forever changed the way women dress.

– Fashion designer Donna Karan.

Ms. Karan announced last week that she is stepping down as chief designer from her namesake brand, which she founded with her husband in 1984. Later in 1996 the company went public and then in 2001 LVMH Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton bought all outstanding shares.

The Donna Karan brand was a favorite of women in the 1980s when she designed the basic jersey bodysuit and other pieces to coordinate – called Seven Easy Pieces. She was thought of at the time as a lifestyle designer, not just a designer of clothes. Frankly, I don’t see how the brand can continue without her.

Ms. Karan says she now wants to devote more time to her other line, Urban Zen.

It’s the end of a fashionable era.

Laurel May Bond revisiting the 80s in vintage mesh Jean Paul Gaultier.

Laurel May Bond looking good revisiting the 80s in vintage mesh Jean Paul Gaultier.

Laurel May Bond and I met in 2008 when she was Laurel May (sans Bond) and I was covering the launch party of a new magazine, 944 San Francisco. As the editor of the celebrated publication, Laurel was in demand at the event and I was having a heck of a time getting to her through the crowds of people in a very noisy Bently Reserve. I happened to meet a couple of women who said – Hey, Laurel is our pal … we’ll introduce you. They did and what a humorous delight was Laurel, making my job of getting good quotes a breeze. After that she hired me to write a couple of articles, one of which was my all time favorite journalism adventure – an interview with a high-end closet. Those were the days!

Currently Laurel is a freelance writer, recently married and living in Paradise Valley, Arizona.  She agreed to chat with OverDressed for Life about her fashionable teenage years.

What was the fashion style like in your hometown?
1980’s Scottsdale, Arizona had a very prescribed dress code. It was, and still is, a very uniform/better to fit in than stand out kind of place. Today you’ll see carbon copies of the Real Housewives look, but when I was growing up and defining my style it was Preppy Handbook meets wannabe Malibu casual. Bass penny loafers (with dimes, not pennies), or blue Sperry topsiders, madras Ralph Lauren walking shorts, spiral perms, twin sets, pearls and the like. Lots of Lily Pulitzer. ugh.
How did your style differ?
Somehow I ended up with a subscription to Interview Magazine which completely took over my life. I imagined myself some sort of dark beatnik trapped in a suburban hell. I was always attempting to recreate the fashions I saw in the New York party pics. I wore 5 crinolines at a time and stacked Bakelite jewelry, vintage furs, rhinestones, asymmetrical everything. I stole my dad’s Izod golf sweaters and wore them backwards with no bra and I took all my mom’s old crocodile pumps and glued brooches to them.

Who and what influenced you?

Early So-Cal punk rock, Vivienne Westwood, Malcom McClaren, Debbie Harry, anyone who could get into Limelight.

How did you go about creating your look?
Downtown Phoenix thrift stores were untouched treasure troves. Nobody shopped at second-hand stores except people who actually needed to, so they were buying up chinos and work dresses and very normal stuff. Vintage as a style hadn’t really “hit” yet (I think Pretty in Pink sort of set it off) so there were just oodles of funky weird old stuff hanging from the rafters for pennies on the dollar. I used to buy these great teeny tiny Edie Sedgewick-worthy psychedelic day dresses by the arm load. There was also a glut of frothy vintage prom dresses from the 1960’s that were great for modifying by shredding or ripping out under layers to make them more provocative. There was also quite a bit of super prime dead stock that would come floating around every once in a while. I scored the most amazing vinyl white lace up go-go boots, early model Ray Bans – stuff like that, all brand new out of the box. To supplement, once a quarter or so, I’d steal my mom’s credit card and go buy a feather boa or a hat or something crazy from a high-end department store – for juxtaposition.
How did your parents react to your style?
My parents were über conservative. They were mostly just mortified when I started wearing vintage clothes. They couldn’t fathom why I would want to wear “used” clothes. I used to swing by my dad’s office (he was in the semiconductor business) to have lunch or say hi every week or two, and one day he asked me not to come over anymore if I was going to be dressed like a clown. It made me really sad! Kids are so lucky today to have the freedom to express themselves in so many ways.

Did you find other girls/guys who followed your lead?

The Phoenix punk scene was tiny, but all the various broken toys found their way there. It was a mish-mash of scooter culture mods, some freaky early goth types and just your run of the mill non-conformists. As far as fashion went, though it was pretty interesting. People were definitely testing some “looks.” There was also an amazing gay bar (Hotbods) which was just about the closest thing to fashion heaven you could get in Phoenix at that time, although there was a lot of Generra pants happening in there – the hairstyles were on point though.
How did you feel standing out?
Today it’s like the weirder you are, the more you’re saluted. People are like, “YAY look how weird I am! I’m so quirky! Go me!” but when I was a teenager it was the opposite. People would throw trash out their car windows at me as I walked down the street, I was bullied a bit at school by the mean girl clique, pointed and laughed at. I just remember thinking, “Ya’ll are so stupid, you don’t know anything about fashion. You’d never get into a New York club.” I was 15. Hah.

What was the takeaway for you having experienced being different?

A certain self-confidence. I look at photos from the 1980’s and my cool “popular” friends all look like idiots with puffy sleeves and sweaters tied around their necks like young republicans. I had blue hair and I was wearing ripped stockings and pointy witch boots imported from London. I would totally wear any of my outfits from back then today and go for a stroll down Mission and blend in. One thing I’m able to do now thanks to the internet is to go online and actually purchase some of the looks I coveted but couldn’t afford or even find when I was in high school. I have some treasured vintage Kamali, Betsey Johnson, and Vivienne Westwood pieces. I have a totally ridiculous 80’s-era mesh paisley Jean Paul Gaultier pantsuit, which I wore to the opening of the Alexander McQueen Store in Vegas and got loads of compliments on.
What advice would you give your daughter or anyone who chooses to lead their own style parade?
Wear what you feel. Be as “you” as you can possibly be. Clothing is just another language of the soul. It feels so good to express it. Everyone wants to . . . some folks are just chicken. Plus, no one’s paying as much attention to you as you might think.
I couldn’t agree with you more, Laurel. Thanks for being your own stylin’ self.
Queen Elizabeth ll in the 1960s with her fashion designer,  Sir Norman Hartnell.

Queen Elizabeth II in the 1960s with her fashion designer, Sir Norman Hartnell.

Royal dress must never be pedestrian. It requires a style outside the prevailing conventions of modishness. It must, in fact, reflect as little as possible if it is to retain its dignity.

Sir Norman Hartnell, (1901-1979) British designer and one time Royal Designer for Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mum, and Princess Margaret.

Mr. Hartnell is also known for redesigning the uniforms for British nurses in the late 1950s, as seen on the popular BBC television series Call the Midwife.

1434581022429Trends basically are notions thrown out there to keep us going, to keep us interested, to keep us intrigued, to keep us trying and buying other things and that’s brilliant and exciting but it’s not the law. 

Polly Vernon, British style writer.

Trends are fun and help update a wardrobe but it’s easy to get carried away and sometimes waste money. I like to add trends in accessories and save my money for classic pieces of clothing that will last. However, having said that, I must confess I’m really excited about the upcoming trend for Fall 2015 – cropped pants. The funny thing is that I happen to have the perfect pair left over from the last time they were in vogue, which I swear was less than ten years ago.

papa bearI often write about my mother and her fashionable influence over me but it’s time I tip my hat to Dad. After my parents’ divorce when I was six, he was the one who took me clothes shopping.

We lived in the Marina neighborhood of San Francisco and a few times a year my dad and I would walk over to Chestnut Street heading straight for the local kids boutique called The Little Shop. He’d hand me over to the young saleslady and together we’d choose outfits. I tried them on and enjoyed giving a mini fashion show for Dad. I recall a tweed skirt in lemon yellow with a matching turtleneck and always a new velvet dress for the winter holidays. One time we were shopping for a road trip to Carmel and he asked the saleslady, who might have been in her 30s, if she’d like to come along. And she did, sharing a room with me of course, not my father.

My dad also enjoyed his own fashion, choosing a preppy casual look and always a classic suit when appropriate. I think of him in khakis with a white Oxford shirt, a navy blue cashmere sweater, and desert boots. He liked tradition and was a stickler for good manners, particularly table manners. For family dinners he would put on what he called his “dinner jacket”, which was a simple corduroy sport coat and my brothers and I were taught to place the napkin on our laps as soon as we were seated.

When I was old enough, eight maybe, Dad began taking me with him to fine restaurants, the theater, and traveling. In those days one dressed up to go out so I had to have nice clothes. On our big European trip when I was 12, we shopped at Harrods in London for a dress and coat. I chose a very 40s looking navy blue dress with short, slightly puffy sleeves, full skirt and a white patent leather belt. The coat was a beautiful navy blue wool, trim fit with white piping. (Seems my dad and I had a thing for navy blue.)

By the time I got to high school I shopped for myself but Dad was still interested and I showed him all my purchases. Thinking back, I bet he probably wasn’t so fond of my New Wave look with pink baggy pants and 60s snake-skin shoes but as long as I didn’t don such an outfit for a family dinner, he never said a word. I think he simply enjoyed the show.

I continue to enjoy it, now for both of us. Thanks Dad, for furthering my fashionable ways.

Happy Father’s Day!

untitledAs a designer, you have to be absolutely pure and never distracted by your own appearance. Black neutralizes.

– Former fashion designer and current fashion blogger, Diane Pernet. Ms. Pernet is known for her signature style of black layers, black shades (always), and a macabre black headdress often embellished with spider brooches. (I call it Goth.) She also started the fashion film festival, A Shaded View on Fashion Film.

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I always admired Loulou. She could put herself into clothes like magic.

– Elsa Peretti, Italian jewelry designer speaking of Loulou De La Falaise (1948-2011) British jewelry designer, model and muse to Yves Saint Laurent.

I just finished reading Loulou De La Falaise (Rizzoli, 2014) a biography of the celebrated fashion icon. I recommend this book for all its fabulous photos, which can provide endless fashion inspiration.

On another note, turns out Elsa Peretti is the woman behind Tiffany’s open heart. Remember that? (Actually, I think it was called a floating heart.) Ms. Peretti’s sleek take on the heart came into being after her buddy, fashion designer Halston introduced her to the executives at Tiffany’s in 1974. Her heart is now a classic and still a big seller for Tiffany’s, who continues to work with Ms. Peretti.

In 1975, Halston hired Ms. Peretti himself to design his new cosmetic containers and I have one! It dates back to my high school days when I spent my hard-earned babysitting money on makeup, clothes, and records. Yes, I’ve kept my Halston #3 Redwood lipstick all these years, just because.

Halston lipstick circa 1979.

Halston lipstick c. 1979.

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