When Garance met Alessandra five years ago, she was a columnist at WWD whose essentials included vintage furs, body-suits and flattering Alaia dresses. To be fair, not much has changed in the name of her previously mentioned penchant for the beautiful classics she keeps in her wardrobe. But it’s 2017, and her velvety voice now finds itself writing at Vogue.com as the Culture Editor – giving her sharp-witted words to everything from James Corden to heated political discussions.
At home in TriBeCa, alongside her playful golden retriever Hugo, it was a constant battle of tug of war, not just with Hugo, but also over Alessandra’s sweater sleeves, in which an oversized option was best suited for the day! What I’ve always admired about Alessandra is her ability to be both a lady in her style of dress and a wordsmith ready to fashion any subject that comes her way…
Where do you like to shop in New York? And in Paris?
In New York: Amarcord Vintage, Marlene Wetherell, Ritual Vintage, Bond07 by Selima, CAP beauty. In Paris: Marche Noir, Nice Piece on rue Charlot, Pretty Box, and Ragtime. In Milan: Cavalli e Nastri for fabulous clothes and Marchesi for chocolates to bring home. Online: I cruise 1stdibs like other people cruise Tinder.
When it comes to style, what’s most important: comfort, beauty, or innovation?
I tend to think that people look their best when they’re comfortable, by which I mean they are carrying off their clothes with confidence, not necessarily that they’re in sweatpants. I think, to paraphrase Gore Vidal, style means knowing who you are and what you want to say and not giving a damn. (The fact that I’m using a quote from Gore Vidal might imply how I feel about innovation—at least when it’s just for the sake of innovation.)
Do you have a go-to look or something equivalent to a personal uniform?
I wear jeans more than I probably should. I love a good blue jean (ReDone, for me, are the best) and a nice knit. My day-to-day “look” has been described, and not altogether incorrectly, as “1970s babysitter.”
Do you have a favorite accessory right now?
I am always here for a big earring and a little bag. Alessandra Rich and Mercedes Salazaar both make great ones. I love my friend Jane Lerman’s bag line, Black Sea, too, for their clutches.
As a fashion writer and reviewer, you’ve seen just about everything and had to have an opinion on it. How has it influenced your personal style?
I think personal style is all about having an opinion. When you are reviewing other people’s work—in any field—you have to be up to the task, whether that means studying, or exposing yourself to different ideologies, expanding your sense of context. For me, it’s that, and it’s also trusting my own taste. But if I’m honest, it’s working at vogue.com that’s really expanded my sense of style. When you’re working side by side with people with really tremendous taste (and, in the case of coworkers of mine like Chioma Nnadi, a sort of genius for dressing) it’s hard to not pick up a few ideas.
When you travel for work, what do you always pack in your suitcase?
A party dress! You never know.
How has your style evolved over the years?
I used to wear a lot more short shorts.
Your outfits are a perfect marriage of vintage pieces mixed with current wears. What’s your trick to marrying the two so seamlessly?
I think it all comes down to buying what you love. If there’s one thing we’ve tried to instill into our fashion features at Vogue.com, it’s that fashion is powerful. It’s expression. It’s art. And clothes should be embraced as a tool to help you feel your best. If you wear what makes you feel good, you’ll never go wrong.
What is it like to be a culture journalist in 2017? Do you feel more optimistic having a platform for your voice?
Well, for one thing, there are no slow news days anymore. It’s certainly an exciting time to be talking about culture, because for Vogue.com, “culture” is such a nebulous idea: it means art (by which I mean the widest sense of the term—literature and film and everything else), it means people, it means politics… all of which have always held a really important place in my life. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to write and commission or even just to play hype man to the pieces that we’ve been putting out, whether that’s being among the first to talk about what’s happening on the ground at Standing Rock, or following around some Professional Bull Riders in New York City, taking a deep-dive into the cinematography of Moonlight, interviewing the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, taking a deep dive into luxury car culture, mourning some of the harder parts of 2016, or celebrating some of the better ones. We have a series coming out the first day of February, Love Stories, in which for two weeks we run one personal essay a day about love, in all its forms. It’s one of my favorite things that we do.
I do think that within the larger context of everything that’s going on in the world, culture is a part of the conversation in a way that it hasn’t been in a really long time: what do we want to preserve about our culture, what are we perhaps less proud of. A real optimist would tell you that creativity is born out of chaos; I hope that they’re right. I think that when you’re talking about the world that we live in, it comes down to now not being a time to sit back and be quiet and let history sort of march on by. It’s a time to step up and plug in and to roll up your sleeves and to pay very close attention. We can’t go back, we have to go forward. But I am optimistic, not least because I think that people aren’t able to disengage from what’s going on in the world around them in the way that they used to be—and that I don’t think they want to, either. I think that’s something to be very optimistic about.
Ok, rapid fire!
Heels or flats? I’ve been converted from a life long love of flats to the block heel. I have it on good authority that a little bit of a heel is better for your alignment, also.
Lake or ocean? Cenote!
Blow dry or air dry? Air dry. Always.
Minimalist or maximalist? In my dreams I’m a minimalist, but I love having options way too much.
Skinny-dip or skinny jeans? Neither.
Costume or fine jewelry? Both!
High waist or at the hip? High waist.