There’s a cluster of Polaroids in our production office that never fail to captivate our visitors, and even though they’ve been there for the better part of a decade we still find ourselves staring. They’re so beautiful. It’s hard to look away.
Those Polaroids are from our first fashion show— 8 years ago—a cast of women assembled by the amazing Jennifer Venditti of JV8, Inc. Jennifer, a director and pioneer of selecting models whose beauty is far from typical, introduced us to a group of ladies whose poise, confidence, and style were unmistakable.
Mimi Weddell was among this incredible ensemble, a vibrant actress and New York fashion icon. She was most known for her lifetime obsession with hats. We love that her words are the introduction to Ari Seth Cohen’s book, a celebration of personal style at any age, Advanced Style:
“I can’t imagine going without a hat. The only romantic thing left in life is a hat.”
The words of our friend captured our attention and Cohen held it tightly with each mesmerizing image. Advanced Style began as a blog and is now a beautifully printed photo essay. It is soon to be made into a documentary as a celebration of older, even centenarian, women. In a culture so obsessed with youth, it is wildly refreshing to be reminded that glamor and elegance must not vanish with our twenties.
I am often asked about our collection, “Who is your client?” And it has always been important to me that our pieces speak to a wide range of women and ages. I have told this story many a time:
A few years ago, I was hosting one of our trunk shows at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. As I sat there working with clients, I noticed a chic older woman, I would guess to be in her 80’s (and who would have certainly have been photographed for Advanced Style that day) walking past the little booth where the collection was being displayed. At second glance, I realized that she was dressed in a matching orange, hand-stitched outfit that had been sewn by one of our Alabama artisans. The matching coat and dress were perfectly matched in hue to her beautiful Birkin Bag and a pair of low slung kitten heels. This might have been one of my happiest moments as a designer.
Often times as a designer, we have a particular idea in mind of how a piece might be worn. That day, I learned a bit more about our clientele and how, I as a woman might grow into the Alabama Chanin collection. Since that time, our collection has also grown and changed. This is in part due to my own advancing age, changing body, and yes, my developing style.
As the first paragraph of the introduction to Alabama Studio Style reads:
Style. Some are born with it; others cultivate it; and for many of us, it is a slow process of simply growing into who we are. This growth can take a day, a year, a lifetime, or generations.
Ari Seth Cohen has proven that style never stops developing and changing as we age and grow into ourselves. We’ve circulated Advanced Style around our office, turned each page from cover to cover and then started again. The women (and man) of Advanced Style motivate me to dress more creatively, to wear an extra strand of pearls, and to put a bit more effort into my daily ensemble—every day. But, more importantly they remind me that, while getting older is inevitable, we are just getting better.