HAVING A FINE TIME: Amy Fine Collins explained how her life is steeped in fashion in a Q&A with Fern Mallis Wednesday night at 92Y.
Along with a 25-year run at Vanity Fair and an editor-at-large role at Graydon Carter’s Air Mail, Collins penned “The International Best-Dressed List: The Official Story,” which was published by Rizzoli in October. After Eleanor Lambert’s death in 2003, the IBDL was bequeathed to Collins, Carter, Reinaldo Herrera and Aimee Bell. The latest installment was released a week ago with Roger Federer, Janelle Monáe, Harry Styles, Zac Posen and Zoë Kravitz being among the ones who made the final cut, as well as Hall of Famer Valentino. In a video of the talk, Collins said of the Air Mail-released list, “Everything about the list and her methods are carried on today,” referring to Lambert.
Noting how the concept stands the test of time, Collins said, “It’s true that the list always reflects what’s going on culturally sociologically at the time. That’s part of the fascination of the whole enterprise. You can look back at these lists, just read the names and reconstruct what was happening.”
Completely even-keeled when asked about Vanessa Friedman’s recent New York Times article that challenged the relevance of the list, Collins said, “That piece could have been written in 1952. There are newspaper articles in Eleanor’s archives saying the same thing. ‘How can this be relevant today?’ ‘What about the common everyday woman?’ ‘This seems to be elitist.’ All of these questions, which sometimes have answers, or are just good rhetorical questions to ask, have been raised for decades.”
Unruffled as she appeared to be, Collins said, after reading Friedman’s article, she told the writer that she would love to have a talk with her to explore the discussion further.
Collins said, “Geoffrey Beene is kind of everything in my story.” She met him after writing a piece about his 25th-anniversary exhibition titled “The Wearable Rightness of Beene.” Afterward, the designer sent her flowers and asked in a note, “How is it you know me better than I know myself when we haven’t even met?” After they met, Collins became an ally and wore his clothes exclusively for 14 years.
“I would have been drawn and quartered, if I’d worn anyone else,” she explained.
These days Collins is equally steadfast about Thom Browne, whose talent she described as “peerless.” She said, “I think Thom has a very strong idea of what he likes to see me in. But he’s not as dictatorial as Mr. Beene was. Mr. Beene was way more possessive.”
Her style advice boiled down to, “It’s not about shopping; it’s not about consumerism — it’s about being comfortable in your own skin,” Collins said. “…it’s as important what the contents of your mind are as the contents of your closet. Be adventuresome without desperation.”
Collins said she often reminds people to look in the mirror — “three ways.”