Want to find a new way to dress? Five fashion insiders provide the clues....
*Photo: Thomas Lohr.Maryan Chun-Matsubara wearing her Blue Goldstone Harness.
Some women find dressing for work to be the highlight of their day. They believe fashion is art, personal style is a window into the soul, and Alber Elbaz is a god. Others wish it were socially acceptable to wear a tent. Either way, the rules that applied to the office (power suits, twinsets) have become as outdated as the typewriter. It’s a new decade, ladies. Break free! Here, five professional sartorialists underscore why everyone from Wall Streeters to the runway’s front row—yes, even we fashion editors rely a little too heavily on an unspoken uniform: Isabel Marant tops, Acne jeans, Hermès cuffs, and Yves Saint Laurent boots—could use a little inspiration.
As the owner of her hip, eponymous boutique on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (Bern-hard Willhelm, Charles Anastase, Electric Feathers), Maryam Nassir Zadeh knows something about fashion. When it comes to her personal style, the 31-year-old goes the way of the quirky prep and sticks to what works: classic silhouettes in offbeat colors, long dresses, relaxed blazers, and sculptural jewelry. “I love to follow what’s in the air but wear what fits my body,” says Zadeh, who believes trends are for zombies. The designers who complete her? Rachel Comey, Vena Cava, and her latest find, French jeweler Marion Vidal. “I gravitate toward things that are noncommercial, things that have a spirit because they’re handmade,” she says. “In New York, it’s about dressing with ease.Actually, that sounds pretty European.”
Abakus’ Marsha Chun-Matsubara constructs exuberant, oversize costume jewelry with names like Zipper Sushi Brain and Rice Blast. She’s not exactly the kind of woman who goes quietly into the day. “I’ll put on an Alaïa corset skirt with red, old-school Adidas sneakers, a white V-neck, and one of my crazy necklaces,” says the 31-year-old New York designer. “Why do I have to save a $5,000 skirt that I got for 90 percent off at the Barneys sale for a special occasion? If you’ve got it, wear it!” A self-taught newcomer whose surreal Mad Max pieces are already prized by stylists, Chun-Matsubara believes there are two types of people: peacocks and pigeons. “Sure, people sometimes give me the once-over,” she says of her predilection for Comme des Garçons and Junya Watanabe. “But your physical disposition is your canvas—paint on it.”
When Nadine Ferber Abramcyk recently designed her closet for her new TriBeCa apartment, the Manhattanite intentionally built it small to keep it as edited as her West Village boutique, Mick Margo. “I don’t believe in having different clothes for day and night; everything has to meld together,” says the 31-year-old, who buys about 10 important, menswear-inspired pieces a season and keeps them in heavy rotation. (When the season ends, she gives almost everything away to friends and thrift shops.) Today, that means brogues with high-waisted pants and blazers by designers such as Isabel Marant and Apiece Apart (featured in our New Designers update this month), both of whom she sells at her store. “Prints and bright shades make me self-conscious, so I stick to grays, black, white,” says Abramcyk, which suits her natural, no-makeup style. “Navy’s color to me!”
“I’m my own worst client,” says Maria Cornejo, whose fluid, conceptual dresses have made the New York designer a fashion favorite for 12 years running. “I don’t want to feel restricted, like I’m having a fat day or I’m not tall enough. I like clothes that are a bit more forgiving.” For the 47-year-old’s Zero + Maria Cornejo line, the best silhouettes, which she often drapes from a seamless, circular-shaped fabric, double as “urban camouflage,” unstructured enough to mold to the wearer’s natural shoulders and hips. As for her own Brooklyn closet, it’s filled with runway castoffs from years past. “I very much like dresses and pants. Skirts just seem so confusing—you have to think about tights, shoes, what you’re going to wear on top. I don’t want to have to think that much.”
Designer Lily Atherton Hanbury, who, along with friend Matthew Earnest, owns Sartel in Dallas’ Highland Park and creates the label of the same name, used to wear fragile vintage pieces. Now the mother of three-and-a-half-year-old Hanmer opts for “durable yet luxurious” practicality: washed-silk blouses with velvet leggings, riding britches, and her husband’s dress shirts. “My style is one part Edwardian androgyny and the other ’80s sex appeal,” says Hanbury, who splits her time between homes in London (where her husband, Thomas, owns Dicksmith Gallery), New York (her sister is the artist Hope Atherton), and a Virginia family farm. “The idea for Sartel was to create a collection that would carry a woman like myself from the playground to a meeting, an art opening, and then dinner,” Hanbury says. Effortlessly stylish.