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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stylist Haidee Findlay-Levin, in her element...

Tonight at Splashlight Studios, the spotlight fell on a behind-the-scenes and often underrated part of fashion: stylists. Sarah Mower is the super smart and talented author of STYLIST: The Interpreters of Fashion. In the book, she sheds light on these unsung heroes, examining their roles and contributions to the industry. It is still only in fashion circles or in the fashion press that certain stylists, like their model counterparts, have reached first name status—Polly! Grace! Lori! Brana!

Images from the book—collaborations between stylists and photographers—were displayed on what looked like oversized iPhones. Each stylist had a display unit on which guests had to make sweeping hand gestures to advance the images or sound-bites, not dissimilar to that new hand vocabulary Apple has imposed on us. As someone still trying to navigate my way with my Blackberry (do I dare admit this?), I had to enlist the help of Marianne, wife of famed hair stylist Christian and agent of photographer Arthur Elgort. As she waved her hands over the sensory panel like a concert conductor, she finally managed to reveal each stylist's portfolio of work. I could only imagine the painful editing process behind this.

Then I had a lovely chat with one of my favorite people (ever since I began styling in London) and one of fashion's few authentics: Melanie Ward. She took great delight in showing me the childhood photo of herself and her brother Tony (aka photographer Anthony Ward). No more than 4 or 5, he good-heartedly winced as he wore pink Byronic ruffles—apparently he was one of Melanie's first dress-up dolls. Adorable, but bore no resemblance to the amazing and directional ideas she brought to her 15-year collaboration with designer Helmut Lang.

Later I spoke with publisher Anthony Petrilose, who collaborated on this book for Rizzoli, and has numerous others under his belt and up his sleeve. He said he loved spending time with fashion's most enthusiastic and first real stylist, Polly Mellon. He admitted that after hearing her stories and seeing pictures from decades of collaborating with Richard Avedon, he was convinced that there was an entire book right there. You heard it here first!

- Haidee Findlay-Levin