Nolan Bryant, sketch.
In today’s litigious world of instant gratification, it can feel defeatist to yearn for the refinement of a quieter age. And yet there are certain individuals whose innate refinement and decorum surpass the digital confines of the day. Case in point, Nolan Bryant, our resident aesthete. He moves with a virtual presence befitting a man graced with old world charm and thoughtfulness. Read on to hear of his favorite muses and the start of his own vintage collection.
You recently shared a fashion sketch, which you drew at age six, so clearly fashion has been a mainstay of your life from a young age. Can you tell us a bit about where you grew up and how your childhood informed your love of fashion?
I had an “Auntie Mame” who introduced me to many things that shaped me aesthetically- art galleries, museums, the opera and flea markets, most importantly my interest in style and beauty was always encouraged; I was fortunate to grow up in a home that allowed me to let my freak flag fly.
One of the themes I take away from your online presence is an appreciation for beautiful living. There is a wonderful quote by Nancy Mitford about Madame de Pompadour that I would love to hear your thoughts on, “Madame de Pompadour excelled at an art which the majority of human beings thoroughly despise because it is unprofitable and ephemeral: the art of living.”
I think it’s important to care about the things that others discard or despise. I like things that require discipline and effort: cotton napkins, clothing that needs special care. I like a well kept home that’s inviting (but not too inviting, nothing worse then a guest that lingers). I like silverware and impractical suitcases that look great. It’s the wonderfully impractical things that give me great pleasure.
You have a very distinct style – refined and polished, with a hint of androgyny. How would you describe your aesthetic? Who and what have shaped it?
I like my costume to be an expression of high impact understatement. I wear the things I like; the gender the piece was intended for is of no significance to me. I use my costumes as protection, an armor of sorts, for distance.
If you could switch closets with any person, who would it be?
For real-life, Tonne Goodman, I admire her no-fuss approach to dressing. I long to be happy with a more minimal personal look and keep the quirk for my couture collection and curatorial work. If we’re talking fantasy-closet-switching, then I would pick Nan Kempner, she had great clothes and she mixed things much the way I like to, a good jacket with some less-good slim pants- you have to mix things up, the less-good stuff takes the edge off the really special things. Nan also wasn’t afraid to wear something twice or even ten times; I think that’s a concern for people, especially those of means, this fear of social opinion, being arbitrated for wearing something twice. I think one of the secrets to great style is the art of the repeat; the most stylish people in history were repeaters. Nan said that you should wear a dress at least twice, so people knew you hadn’t borrowed it!
Where would your ideal vacation home be?
Somewhere quiet where I can raise chickens, cook in a big kitchen and learn to garden. I adore horticulture. To be one with plants is a wonderful thing.
I picked a few of your recurring muses and would love if you could give us one favorite anecdote or style moment from each.
Babe Paley: Babe was perfectionist, a consummate host and the quintessential society woman who always dressed for the part. I like women who aren’t too jovial; you have to leave a little to the imagination.
Ann Bonfoey Taylor: What I love most about Ann is her winter style, especially the spectacular costumes she put together for her time on the slopes. Living in Toronto, I spend what feels like half the year in a fur coat and boots. She reminds me to have fun with clothes even when its 30 below and miserable.
Gloria Vanderbilt: Gloria is charming, curious, imaginative and wildly creative. She inspires me to constantly challenge what others expect from you and what you expect of yourself. I love her rebelliousness and the way she laughs. She also loves vintage, and I have a tendency to get along with people who appreciate vintage!
Bouvier Sisters: I think Lee is terrific. She marches to the beat of her own drum and isn’t afraid to make a career change.
(L-R) Tonne Goodman, Nan Kempner, Babe Paley.
(L-R) Ann Bonfoey Taylor, Lee Radziwill, Gloria Vanderbilt.
Where are you from?
A small town outside Toronto.
What’s the story of your name?
I was named after a baseball player. Look how that turned out!
Best day of your life?
The best is yet to come.
What is your favorite color?
What is your favorite flower?
Peel and Co. black velvet slippers from Brooks Brothers.
Favorite artist or art style?
That’s a tough one; I’m drawn predominantly to abstract expressionism. I adore Frankenthaler, Kline, de Kooning, Rothko, Motherwell- the list could go on.
Who/what is your greatest love?
Chanel jackets; I have a fondness for ones from the late 80’s and early 90’s.
What is your favorite thing in your house?
My books, inherited furniture, and the apartment itself, it’s a converted knitting mill with high ceilings and lots of light.
What do you pack for a weekend getaway?
Everything but the kitchen sink.
What would you wear to your last meal?
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?
Hubert de Givenchy created clothes in the grand traditions of haute couture and is the last living designer from a time in fashion that was about elegance and beauty. I treasure the pieces in my collection that bare his name; they are the exemplification of refinement and restraint, qualities that inspires me greatly. I don’t think he gets the recognition he deserves; I would like to develop a retrospective in collaboration with M. Givenchy that pays tribute to his craft and contributions to style.
What appeals to you about vintage?
Superior quality and the narrative associated with each piece. When considering a new addition to my collection I am mindful of its link to the things I already own, I’m constantly developing a story in my mind.
What’s your favorite era of dress?
The mid 1950’s through the early 1960’s.
If you could be on the cover of any fashion magazine, past or present, what would it be?
I would rather contribute something to the inside of one- having my picture taken makes me very uncomfortable.
If you could attend one event of the past, what would it be?
Marie-Hélène de Rothschild’s 1972 surrealist ball.
Please pick three items from Shrimpton that you love and tell us why.
1. 1980s Pearl Button Chanel Larger Boucle Suit – I love this suit, especially the boxy collarless jacket. The boucle and pearl mix is great, I like that it has a Creeds label, a nice reminder of the beloved Toronto department store. This would make a great addition to my throng of jackets.
2. 1962 Hubert de Givenchy Haute Couture Dress – This is a quintessential Givenchy piece, sophisticated with just the right amount of embellishment. You could wear this tomorrow night and it would look just as wonderful as it did when it was made.
3. 1969 Christian Dior Haute Couture Ensemble – This is a fantastic outfit, so great to have all three pieces together to mix with other things. It reminds me of a favorite photo of Lee Radziwill taken by Ron Galella in May of 1970, the night Company opened on Broadway.
And finally … Karl or Yves?