On Wednesday, September 30, Vogue magazine contributor, fashion consultant and author, Amanda Brooks, was in Chicago for a book-signing party, hosted by Chanel at its Michigan Avenue boutique.
Luxe File sat down with the fashion femme to discuss an assortment of subjects ranging from her new book and next steps to stalking Patrick Demarchelier and her obsession with American Apparel unitards.
LF: What inspired you to write this book?
AB: I wanted to encourage women to find their own sense of personal style. While we are all inspired by magazines, designers, celebrities and stylists, it’s important to have the tools you need to become the person you want to show to the world each day.
LF: A woman can be the epitome of style but how does she stay inwardly inspired?
AB: I think it’s trial and error. Just have the willingness to try something new, even if you regret it. I once wore a dress that I felt, from the moment I left the house, was a huge mistake. But then I had people commenting on it all night and I was like, “Are you insane? You really like this dress?” So it’s just a willingness to try different styles, to dress out of your comfort zone and not worry so much about what other people think.
LF: When it comes to style, do you agree with a "less is more" approach?
AB: I think you just have to feel like yourself in your clothes in order to carry things off. There are people who are suited for much simpler looks while others are suited for more ornate ones. Diana Vreeland was an amazing style icon and she was highly ornate. So I think it depends more on the individual and what suits them the best.
LF: Our fashion “foundation” begins early in life and can be affected by those close to us. Who influenced your style?AB: My mother. The dedication page of my book is all pictures of her. Different parts of my mother’s life inspire me at different times. For instance, when I want to dress casually, I’m always thinking about my mom in the 1970's. She lived in Palm Beach and would always wear little striped t-shirts with worn-in, bell-bottom jeans, a little Gucci ostrich purse and huge oversized sunglasses. It was an amazing combination of Palm Beach classic sportswear and a groovy 1970's feel. I very much relate to that in myself.
Then in the 1980's, my mom moved to New York and she really got into experimenting. She wore a lot of Azzedine Alaia and I definitely channel that look when I go out at night and want to be dressed up.
LF: Who are some of your style icons?
AB: (Flipping through her book) Jane Berkin is a huge style icon for me. And Bridget Bardot. There are so many photos of Bridget Bardot that you see and you think you’ve seen every photo of Bardot but I hope, as you go through the book, you will see photos you’ve never seen before that are amazing. Kate Moss, obviously. The thing I love most about Kate Moss is she looks different every single day. She doesn’t really stick to one style but she always looks like herself.
LF: Women today are bombarded with images of what society deems attractive. How can we overcome superficial beauty metaphors so that we may find our own personal style?
AB: Diane von Furstenberg always says, “Personal style is accepting who you are.” For her, it was about embracing her curly hair. She grew up in Belgium where her hair was brown and curly and everyone else’s was blonde and straight. She really struggled with it her whole life. Even as recently as the 1990's, she was still straightening her hair. Now, her hair is wild and curly. She says it took all these years to accept her hair and she dresses much more authentically to herself now and is much more comfortable in her own body. She looks the best she’s ever looked and it’s because she just embraces what she was born with and who she is. I think every woman can relate to that.LF: Who are you wearing right now?
AB: I’m wearing Chanel. The dress is from the Resort Collection a couple seasons ago and the necklace is from the current Cruise Collection. I’m also wearing Chanel shoes.
LF: In Chicago, where is your favorite place to shop?
AB: (Laughing) Well, yesterday was my first day in Chicago! I was here for one day when I was 18 years old for a party. So, what did I do yesterday? I arrived to Chicago, went to the Museum of Contemporary Art and had a salad in the café there. Then I walked up North Rush Street and I went to Ikram, Barneys, and American Apparel. I LOVE American Apparel! I exercise in their unitards and sleep in their Henley shirts.
LF: Who are some of your favorite designers today?
AB: Consistently, one of my favorite designers is Chanel. It has that great mix of very classic clothes, for all ages and sizes. There’s also a use of materials that are not precious like when they put plastic on their suits. That makes things more interesting. For me, my look is often very “classic”. I don’t want to look like a cliché so I like to add a little bit of irony. I feel Chanel does that so well.
LF: You have built a very close relationship with one of fashion’s most intriguing designers, Diane von Furstenberg. How long have you been friends?
AB: I met Diane when I was 18. I was dating her son, Alex. I’m 35 now. I also work for her as a consultant. She really is a remarkable woman. She designed her life with no blueprint. She took all of her conditioning and what the world deemed "appropriate” and just got rid of all that. She lives her life in a way that works for her.
LF: Is there anything a woman must have in her closet?
AB: I think every woman's closet should contain a “10 Greatest Hits”. Those are the pieces that you’ve had over the years that just work for you - a blouse, a jacket, a pair of jeans, a cardigan. Whatever items they are, you should know and be able to identify them because they are the foundation of your wardrobe.
LF: Is there anything a woman should ban from her closet?
AB: The only fashion “don’t” I can offer is you should never wear anything you do not feel like yourself in or be proud of when you walk out the door.
LF: Favorite words of wisdom?
AB: “Insist on yourself, never imitate” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. It's in my book. It means knowing who you are and always being yourself.
LF: You have had an illustrious career in fashion – a coveted internship with photographer Patrick Demarchelier, creative director for Tuleh, contributing writer for Vogue magazine, author, muse and style icon. What advice would you give to a young person who would like to follow in your footsteps?
AB: I would say, “Follow your bliss”. Go where the path takes you but take responsibility for your life, too. I think the worst thing you can do is to not try things because you don’t know what you want to do. I got the internship with Patrick Demarchelier because I saw him in a restaurant. I went up and introduced myself to him and he invited me to come to his studio the next day to watch a shoot. There was a blizzard and the shoot was cancelled. His manager later offered me an internship. I wouldn’t say it was because of luck because I took the initiative. Before I worked with Patrick, I was planning to be a waitress in Burlington, VT for the summer. If I hadn’t gone up to him that night and introduced myself, who knows where I’d be right now!
LF: What is next on your agenda? Are you going to relax a little bit or write another book?
AB: (Laughing) No, I’m definitely not going to relax! I run a company and I’m really busy with that. I’ll start to think about another book after this one winds down. “I ♥ Your Style” definitely lends itself to other subjects – Beauty, Wedding, Home – so we’ll see.
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