Photo by Davis Shults.
Editors note - I decided that it would be fun to interview all the various people that write here on Shrimpton Couture's Curate and also work behind the scenes to bring you all the amazing content and Vintage Couture that you see posted daily on our sites. I asked Maria to set up interviews with everyone (and then I will turn the tables on her at some point). We decided to break each interview into two sets of questions - the first set is a more focused and in-depth look at each member of our team and then the second set quick round that will be asked of everyone. Today we meet Jeffrey ....
If we read to feel we are not alone, then Jeffrey Felner’s world is one of unmatched sartorial splendor. Felner has penned hundreds of book reviews spanning every topic of personal adornment, and along the way, has acquired an invaluable wealth of fashion knowledge. And while his career was focused on production and sales, Felner has the soul of a critic. His voice is as discerning as it is bright, and one would be smart to follow his guidance up and down the world’s glossiest runways, not to mention along the ever-growing bookshelves of fashion tomes. Be sure to catch his wonderful series “Impossible Conversations” on CURATE, and if you are feeling frisky, head over to his blog for the latest review of the Fall 2014 Haute Couture presentations.
I’d like to start with your Impossible Conversation features, which are a real gas. Have you always been imaginative and clever?
I am pretty savvy when it comes to life so I hope I am very clever even though I can honestly say it is a skill that gets honed over the course of one’s life. The “ghost” interviews or the truly “impossible conversations” are fabulous for me as I get to play a character after having read and studied about the person. I try to be faithful to the subject and I try very hard to be a bit bitchy but honest as that surely adds to the fun of it.
One of the points I take away from the series is that fashion is an industry full of strong voices – in your opinion, what individuals have the strongest voices in fashion?
I have little to no use for those who regurgitate press releases and discuss front rows and venue when reviewing a collection. Today we have fawners and panderers for the most part who are afraid of insulting a potential or existing advertiser. I don’t buy into the Tavi’s and Bryan Boys as I believe that in order to truly open a discourse on fashion, one needs to be educated by what they read, by literally working in the trenches of fashion, whether it is retail or wholesale, and being able to apply experience to knowledge and then translate that to what is presented to you. There are very few reviewers that I truly respect but I do like Robin Givhan as she is bright, articulate and knowledgeable.
I really enjoyed your book reviews, which are concise and instructive. Can you tell us your favorite fashion book?
I have come to enjoy so many of my books … my favorite subjects rather than specific books are Mrs. Vreeland who I find endlessly astounding and inspiring; Dior, both brand and designer as they are an endless source of history and education; and Karl who is a walking book in himself exclusive of his creative output but there are so many fabulous one off books that I have loved. Books need to be impulsive, covetable and visceral for the reader.
What is your least favorite?
Without naming names let’s say that there was a book on Minimalism in fashion that was written in the most arcane and esoteric language and manner that I found it almost laughable. It might be trite to say it but it is clothes not rocket science and while I take fashion very seriously, I understand that it is not a cure for cancer or a solution to world peace. What also causes me to be offended is when I believe that the author has no clue about the subject or that some information within a book is incorrect and has not been thoroughly fact checked.
You have worked in many facets of the fashion industry, as a textile designer, buyer, critic. I was wondering how you felt about the current pace of fashion, and the hoopla that surrounds the shows? What improvements would you make and do you think change is possible?
I think designers talk too much for starters. They design clothes and while it may be perfectly fine to discuss one’s inspiration for a collection there is no reason for a treatise on the subject... What is often ignored and rarely spoken of when a collection is reviewed is whether or not a collection is salable, merchandised well or who the target audience might be. Another factor that seems to be excluded is the price of some of these wonders which does play a part in the business of fashion. Lastly it would be nice for the reviewer to be smart enough to make a reference if a theme has been done before or a style or technique etc.
What is your favorite thing about New York?
New York City is a living breathing runway show every single day no matter where you go and no matter what you do. For me, it is just a visual feast that allows me to see a variety of subjects whether it is people in the street, store windows, buildings, and subway riders or dogs being walked. I am educated and enlightened every day even if I have only been to the supermarket and the dry cleaner that day.
Nan Kempner and Yves Saint Laurent - two of Jeffrey's strongest inspirations. Why Nan? Jeffrey says "Nan was a true style icon in every sense of the word .. she was a good time girl who was out all the time smoking and drinking and dancing.. she devoured life"
Where are you from?
Born NYC... grew up long Beach, NY... live in NYC for decades
What is the first thing you notice about people?
I take in an overall picture first… head to toe
Best day of your life?
At this age the best day is getting up every day!
What is your favorite color?
It is either black, red, grey or white
Much to the chagrin of the terminally hip I still wear Aramis among several signature scents of mine… on women I still love Shalimar or Caleche
My Mario Valentino fisherman sandals from the 1970s ... I still own 6 pairs and a pair of spectators from Mario Valentino, which are long gone
Who/what is your greatest love?
I have only had 2 great loves, one deceased, one still around... Complicated but to the moon and back…. A great love is steak tartare in Paris with champagne and pommes frites!
What is your favorite thing in your house?
All my leopard! I am not a minimalist!
What would you wear to your last meal?
A caftan so I could just eat all my favorite things endlessly and not feel constricted
Fashion is a medium that relies quite heavily on inspiration, collaboration and an open exchange of ideas. Who would be your dream collaboration – living or dead? What inspires you about their work?
Mrs. Vreeland, Yves St Laurent, Nan Kempner and so many others who understood the power of clothes and the difference between fashion and style and who had the taste and smarts to differentiate them
What appeals to you about vintage?
Vintage reminds us of what was and if one delves beneath the literal surface one can discover why something is such a treasure to capture... clothes that may be 30 years old or more are only vintage by age and not necessarily style
What’s your favorite era of dress?
The 1960s-70’s-80-s were fashion at its zenith with rare exception in the decades after them
Who is your favorite fashion photographer?
Two of my favorites are undoubtedly Avedon and Skrebneski as they are artists and masters of their craft... valid and timeless
If you could be on the cover of any fashion magazine, past or present, what would it be?
In the seventies, it would have been Uomo Vogue or GQ... I was never much for that kind of recognition... just being “in” them was enough
Best trick taught to you by the person who made you love fashion?
Try not to let on how smart you really are until you have to and trust your instincts
What trick do you use to dress best for yourself?
Distraction... bring the eye where you want it to go... try not to overdo it
What is your best method of research?
Internet without question unless I can ask someone whose knowledge is greater than mine or whose opinions I trust then there is always the good old fashioned meet and greet.
If you could attend one event of the past, what would it be?
Maybe just the Proust Bal given by the Rothschilds in Paris or the Bal Orientale given by Baron Alexis de Rede... An era that doesn’t exist any longer.
And finally... Karl or Yves?
I can’t say either as Karl doesn’t need another fan and Yves will somehow always be a part of me for some inexplicable reason... I have a few treasured designers whom I adore for so many reasons