Byline: Jessica Kerwin
New York — Ever wondered what Elizabeth Saltzman looked like as a baby? Barneys’ Simon Doonan at Halloween? Tom Ford or Isaac Mizrahi at their most stylish? “Height of Fashion,” a book by Lisa Eisner and Roman Alonso — most recently known for “Rodeo Girl” — offers those snapshots as well as a host of others collected from lesser-knowns everywhere.
“We had this theory that everyone in the world has had at least one fashion moment, if not many,” explains Eisner, “a time when you felt good about yourself and you had enough sleep and you looked great and somebody just said ‘Oh, my God, give me a camera.’ “
“So,” Alonso adds, “we set out to prove it.”
Over a period of eight months, the two were bombarded with almost 600 such photos from friends and friends of friends. They edited the lot down to 220 shots that document fashionable moments spanning 1944 to 1999 and from Caracas, Venezuela, to Flint, Mich., including Eisner’s favorite of school teacher Bill Dubois sitting in his Easy-boy recliner in Cheyenne, Wyo.
Eisner, who was an editor for Vogue in Paris and in Los Angeles and served on Ralph Lauren’s design team in New York, met Alonso while working on Isaac Mizrahi’s ad campaign. He was the designer’s image director, and she served as a style consultant to the house. Now, both living in Los Angeles, they set up Greybull Press to put out the kinds of books they once scoured the market for.
“I went from collecting fashion and collecting vintage to collecting out-of-print books,” says Eisner. “The thing that I love about magazines is that they’re a vortex. You have all these people around you with all these great ideas. This is a little tighter. Our books are about photography and pop culture. They’re all sort of ‘isn’t-life-weird-and-wonderful.’ “
In spite of their backgrounds — and of the fact that come mid-June, “Height of Fashion” will be featured in the windows of every Barneys New York store — the duo insists that the book isn’t really about fashion. “It’s a celebration of individualism,” says Eisner. “There are very few people wearing designer clothes in the book, and we love that.” “Style has nothing to do with fashion,” Alonso notes. “In most of these photos, people are really inspired by trying to look like something that’s in their mind. That’s how I always put myself together — my David Bowie period, my Guns N’ Roses period, my Cure period. Music had a lot to do with it.” And there, 18 pages in, is Alonso himself as a little boy, shaking a pair of maracas and wearing full rumbero regalia to prove the point.
He’s not the only brave one. There are plenty of goofy Seventies get-ups, punk hair experiments and embarrassing prom shots in the mix, and although none was retouched, a few age-revealing dates may have been altered along the way. “We didn’t hassle people. We said, ‘Okay, honey, if you want to say that you’re 12 years old in that picture, fine, we’ll print it,’ ” says Eisner, laughing.
October will bring the release of “Kustom,” a book of Dewey Nicks’s high-testosterone photographs, and in November a documentary film directed by Douglas Keeve and based on Eisner’s star-spangled book of portraits, “Rodeo Girl,” will hit screens, courtesy of Ralph Lauren Media.
“We’re doing only three books this year, but there are only two of us, so that’s a lot,” says Alonso.
Greybull has its next three projects lined up, although those aren’t up for discussion, and there’s no end in sight. Where will it all lead? “My dream is one day 10 years from now to find one of our out-of-print books at an auction or garage sale,” says Eisner. “Coming across a Greybull book in a vintage book store at a hundred times the original amount.”