NEW YORK — Stylishness is eternally subjective, but even more so when measured by different generations.
Despite that divide, WWD asked 12 fashion-minded women to pick their favorite harbinger of style. In the name of diplomacy, each person was asked to single out someone from another generation.
Beyoncé Knowles chose Tina Turner and Diana Ross, who never shy away from the shock factor.
She said, “I really loved Tina Turner growing up and Diana Ross and people that weren’t afraid to take chances because it’s so easy to be safe.”
The pop star is a budding designer herself. She and her mother, Tina Knowles, will launch “a hip haute” line this fall called The House of Deréon. The Tommy Hilfiger fragrance model has said that Roberto Cavalli, Marc Jacobs and Badgley Mischka are among her favorite designer labels to wear.
Known for her signature gap-toothed smile and adventurous travels, Lauren Hutton fittingly chose someone who likes to stir things up fashion-wise. Hutton, who was discovered by the late Diana Vreeland, said Francesco Clemente’s twentysomething daughter Nina is tops. When friends gathered to watch the first presidential debate, the artist’s daughter turned up wearing a rhinestone belt that spelled “Corrupt.”
“I love how she puts everything together. She wears little skirts — a little bit of everything,” Hutton said. “She doesn’t spend a lot of money. She makes things, too — she does everything.”
In 1988, Keith Haring helped cultivate Clemente’s individualistic spirit by encouraging her to express herself in the D.I.Y. book he gave her on her seventh birthday. It was later published as “Nina’s Book of Little Things.”
Carolina Herrera selected a more classic favorite in Jennifer Creel, a regular in the front row at her show as well as Oscar de la Renta’s. “She has something very stylish,” Herrera said.
Creel, who is also big on Valentino, Michael Kors and Proenza Schouler, gave Catherine Deneuve the OK.
“She just has amazing style. She’s always impeccably dressed and pulled together,” Creel said of the French actress, a lifelong fan of Yves Saint Laurent.
Elsa Klensch, another arbiter of fashion, gave Aerin Lauder the thumbs-up “because she wears clothes that are functional as well as fashionable.”
Having viewed the Paris and Milan collections from afar, Pat Buckley, who has been laid up in traction, said she favors anyone who dresses American; in other words, someone who mixes The Gap and Banana Republic “but puts it together properly,” she said. Buckley was reluctant to limit her choice to one, but said Lauder qualifies.
For her part, Lauder, senior vice president of global creative directions for Estée Lauder, said she wears Michael Kors, Tuleh, Ralph Lauren and Gucci. Personally, she likes the style of Amanda Burden, chair of the New York City Planning Commission.
“I love how she looked when she was my age, and she still has amazing style, grace and elegance,” Lauder said.
Burden, in turn, said she favors Diana Taylor’s fashion sense. Taylor is State Banking Superintendent, but is more widely known as Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s girlfriend.
As vice president of licensing for her stepfather Oscar de la Renta’s company, Eliza Reed Bolen sees her share of sharp dressers. But when picking a favorite, she kept it in the family, choosing her mother, Annette de la Renta.
“She just has a fabulous, elegant way of putting herself together. From when I see her lying around in her bathrobe at home until she goes out,” Reed said. “She is unique and elegant and always looks done.”
Aside from de la Renta’s designs, his wife wears a lot of Chanel, said Reed, whose own taste leans towards Chloé, Etro and adam + eve, as well as her stepfather’s creations.
Vanity Fair’s special correspondent Amy Fine Collins, a Lanvin and Geoffrey Beene devotee, also showed some nepotism, singling out her 11-year-old daughter, Flora. The shrewd youngster picks up tips from Collins and her friends, but usually turns that information “inside out and improves upon it,” Collins said.
“She takes every reference that’s out there in children’s, grown-ups’ and teenagers’ clothing and processes it through a singular imagination. She doesn’t look like her peers,” Collins said.
A typical look for her daughter might include a bandanna worn as a headband, Gap boots, an oversized or undersized expensive dress from Paris and a lot of jewelry — real stuff mixed with Rite Aid things. “It’s just about the look, not the status or brand,” Collins said.
The elder Collins has a fan in Tiffany Dubin. Dubin said the Vanity Fair writer ranked for her individualism.
“She is true to herself. She has found a style that is truly her own and makes her mark,” Dubin said. “She is creative, disciplined and knows herself while still having fun with her love of fashion.”
Cece Cord had a split decision. She cited Carol Petrie, who has been known to wear Arnold Scaasi and de la Renta, “for always being so elegant in that Old World way of putting in a little extra effort to pull yourself together.” Cord’s daughter Elisabeth Anne is another contender, “even though she does make me roll my eyes every once in a while.”
Her daughter likes to mix thrift-store and Target finds with pieces from Angel Sanchez, Michael Kors and J. Mendel. She even wears her old school uniform as a skirt from time to time.
“She isn’t afraid to try anything. She can go either way,” Cord said. “She can dress up or she can do the underground thing where she has a little bit of everything.”
— Rosemary Feitelberg with contributions from Evan Clark and Eric Wilson