Legendary fashion editor and industry cheerleader Polly Mellen is still busily supporting young designers and focusing on the future of fashion. But on Oct. 28, Mellen will look back — if only for a moment — on Yoox.com.
The Web site, known for selling discounted end-of-season designer clothing, will unveil “A Tribute to Polly Mellen,” a vintage sale featuring 150 of the items illustrative of fashion during her 50-year career. Her reasons for becoming involved in the sale primarily concern another editorial veteran, Holly Brubach, a former fashion critic turned vintage clothing curator for Yoox.
“You can meet people who are involved and immersed in fashion and they’re great,” says Mellen over lunch with Brubach at her Connecticut home. “But whenever I talked with Holly, I always gained something more; it was more than a talk about just fashion.”
For Brubach, asking Mellen to participate in the first tribute in Yoox’s Vintage Series was a no-brainer. “I didn’t want somebody who was going to dwell in the past and say, ‘This was the most important look of 1968,’” she says. “I wanted somebody who could say, ‘This was the most important look of 1968, and by the way, it looks just like what Marc Jacobs has done this season,’ which is Polly. She’s kept up.”
Mellen’s and Brubach’s compatible philosophies and encyclopedic knowledge of fashion are put to best use when played off one another. Recognizing this, the two will provide commentary — in Mellen’s case, sweeping declarations — for each of the items, from a Halston wrap dress (“How exciting! It’s a beauty. It’s divine. It’s just a perfect dress for after five.”), to a pair of Roger Vivier bronze pumps (“[His] shoes were like sculpture — the fantasy, the beauty, the workmanship.”).
Brubach gathered the collection through a network of vintage dealers, including Keni Valenti, Didier Ludot and Cameron Silver of Decades. “The minute everybody heard about the sale, they wanted to give us their best stuff,” Brubach says. “Everybody has admired Polly for such a long time.”
For Mellen, the pieces did bring back some memories. “The chartreuse Stephen Sprouse dress is very reminiscent of a shoot I did with Steven Meisel, and there are some wonderful tortoise tassel earrings that look very Saint Laurent to me,” she says.
Another dress, a Mainbocher floor-length number culled from a private collector, was a truly important find.
“For Holly to get this dress is extraordinary because you can wear his clothes today,” says Mellen. “And you’re going to find that that’s true of almost everything in the sale.” Though she continues to be a champion of the new, Mellen acknowledges, with great conviction, the significance of the old. “There is vintage and there is vintage, believe me.”