NEW YORK — Designer Bryan Bradley’s longtime muse and creative director Amanda Brooks is leaving Tuleh.
Brooks, who had been consulting for Tuleh informally for years, took on the official role in 2002, working on fabrics, developing inspirations and offering her visions of how a young woman-about-town should dress. The duo’s relationship extended far beyond the company’s headquarters, though: Bradley and Brooks are extremely close friends and next-door neighbors on Chrystie Street here. They dine together three times a week, and the designer is the godfather to Brooks’ son, Zachary. Bradley has no plans to hire a new creative director.
“Her position will go more toward what it was before, and sans paycheck,” Bradley said. “We started as friends and that has been the nature the entire time, and I have no thoughts that that would change. I am glad to have the benefit of her as a friend and an opinion.”
Since Bradley split with his former personal and professional partner, Josh Patner, more than two years ago, he has worked closely with Brooks and Lillian von Stauffenberg, the label’s sales manager who left in December to move to London. It has been rumored the designer grew restless with the collaboration with Brooks.
“I am always disillusioned and frustrated,” Bradley said laughingly, addressing the rumors. “That’s just how I am.”
Brooks, seated with her painter husband, Christopher, and two children, was cheering Bradley from her front-row seat at Tuleh’s show last week. Over the weekend, she sent out an e-mail explaining her decision to leave: “My five years at Tuleh, both official and unofficial, have been the happiest work experience I have had. Josh and Bryan took me on when I had almost no experience in design or creating women’s clothing, and taught me everything there is to be learned from two people about fashion. It’s hard to believe that what I did at Tuleh could even be classified as a ‘job’ because I enjoyed doing it so much.
“At the same time, I feel like it’s the right time for me to throw my cards up in the air and see where they land,” she continued. “I have been researching an independent project over the last few months and plan to pursue that, as well as spending more time with my husband and kids.”
Brooks wouldn’t elaborate on the project other than to say it involves fashion but is not a design job, and that she has no plans to start her own company. A Palm Beach, Fla., native and Brown University graduate, Brooks worked for Patrick Demarchelier, the Gagosian Gallery and as creative director of the accessories firm Hogan before joining Tuleh.
Brooks’ departure could be interpreted as another signal of Tuleh’s change in direction. Whereas once the label’s reputation was centered around an in-your-face prettiness with vintage and lace looks that wooed the Park Avenue set — one that Brooks is well-versed in — Bradley in the last two seasons has started exploring a darker and moodier side. Tuleh’s fall collection showcased low-slung, shiny cargo shorts, girly pink mink shrugs and camouflage fox.
“I think that, as I gain more experience as a designer, my feelings about fashion grow and change, and when people come together in some sort of an aesthetic collaboration, you come together because you are similar,” Bradley said. “As you go on, I would hope both people would change and there would be sort of a chasm of difference.”
Brooks added in her e-mail, “Tuleh is, and always has been, a family, and I have every intention to remain a part of that family….Of course, I will continue to wear Tuleh abundantly and with pride — I can’t imagine my closet without it.”