“I just saw my first fashion show,” said Isaac Mizrahi, who arrived at a party for Polly Mellen Wednesday night directly from the Anna Sui presentation. “Shocking! It was shocking.”
Then his eyes got a faraway look, and his face began to twist into a strange expression. There was a brief silence, and all eyes followed his gaze across the room.
“Polly’s making her entrance,” he gasped.
Clad in skintight custom Gucci leather pants and an eccentrically gathered, nude-tone Gucci top, the original Spice Girl click-clicked her way across Fred’s at Barneys, to where a group of family members waited among the fashion throng. They’d all gathered to wish her a happy retirement from her post as creative director at Allure.
“Polly is my aunt,” said Andree Corroon. “At Thanksgiving dinner, the family would always wait to see what she would show up wearing.”
“She’s insane, creative, graphic, hilarious and an absolutist,” said Simon Doonan, who has dedicated several of the current Barneys windows to Mellen, with whom he has attended many, many fashion shows. “I’ve been there when the models are walking by and Polly actually reaches out and grabs the material and says, ‘Chills!’ “
“I always ask if I can do that while [the models] are walking by,” admitted Mellen. “I do it very quickly and I’ve never gotten a ‘No.’ I think it depends on how one does it. I do it politely.”
Mellen’s career has included a stint under Diana Vreeland at Harper’s Bazaar, and Vogue — where Mellen spent 28 years — and, more recently, eight years at Allure.
“What’s hard is that you must keep your eyes open, and there can be no laziness,” Mellen said. “It’s not a matter of who you are or what you are. It’s not a matter of seniority — it’s a matter of performance.”
“I came to my first sitting with Polly as her assistant in a white Yves Saint Laurent shirtwaist dress, because I thought that’s how fashion editors dressed in those days,” recalled Vera Wang, who says she was 21 when she started working for Mellen at Vogue. “And she said: ‘Where do you think you’re going dressed like that?’ I answered, ‘Well, I’m going to a Vogue fashion shoot with you.’ So she said, ‘Go home and put on your jeans, honey, because you’re going to be cleaning the floors.’ And I did clean the floors.”