Location: Wappinger Falls, NY
Marital Status: Single
Education: University of Southern California
There is just one thing that’s decidedly down-to-earth about this sleek 62 year old: Her hands. They are the hands of a dedicated and relentless crafter, a woman who wrote the book on glue guns. Literally. (Glue Gun Decor: How to Dress up your Home from Pillows and Curtains to Sofas and Lampshades was published Stewart, Tabori & Chang in 2005). “The only thing I don’t do is manicures because I use my hands,” she says. “I’m a crafter and I’m manual. I do not worry about my hands.”
The LA native launched her career in style with the now-defunct Herald Tribune. Soon after she published an article in Mademoiselle about flea market shopping she was snapped up by Women’s Wear Daily and sent to Paris as a fashion editor. She was in her early 20s. “I was probably the youngest one on the staff and I was petrified,” she admits. “My French was awful.” Marian remained in Paris for 17 years, and in addition to WWD wrote for the International Herald Tribune, French Vogue, and the Sunday Times of London. There was a brief stint with the New York Times and in the late 80s she commandeered Elle Decor.
What was it like, being so young, working and living in Paris?
In the very beginning, it was very lonely and very hard. Later, when I got the hang of the city, it was bliss.
Where did you live?
All over Paris – I moved four times and loved every neighborhood I lived in – fancy or working class – they were all delicious and exotic. I worked on the Rue Cambon, down from Chanel, across from the Ritz.
I envy you that you speak French. But you say your French was terrible when you arrived in Paris?
I assumed that my high school French would get me through. I assumed wrong. People would call me on the phone and ask me a question and I would always go ‘Oh oui, oui, bien sur’ because I was too afraid to say that I didn’t have a clue what was going on.
How did you finally learn it?
By going shopping. I would point to something, whether it was a hat or a bag or a rutabaga or an apple, and the person would say the name and then we’d have this little conversation. I also made lots of French friends and watched French television and tried to understand.
Define your style.
I always have one element that’s tailored, whether it’s a blouse, a jacket or a skirt, and everything else not tailored.
Why one element tailored?
Because you need a base. You can’t be totally crazy.
Were you always like that?
I think I learned everything I like about fashion from Yves St. Laurent. He is my mentor. And then Kenzo taught me about style and color from other parts of the world, that there are fashionable treasures from places like Burma, India, Vietnam, China, Japan.
What was your style growing up?
I was a total clotheshorse. I just could not get enough of it.
You say you’re a good shopper. Why?
I’m quick. I never dawdle. That’s the kiss of death.
What is your favorite item or accessory or item of clothing.
My perfectly cut YSL evening tuxedo bolero, which I have worn to death, and I also have a Chanel bracelet that is a killer. It’s one of those giant gold cuffs with a nice giant chunk of cabochon coral – that gorgeous pale baby skin-colored coral. It’s big and blingy and gorgeous.
How did you dress when you were younger?
I went through a time, and a lot of us do, when I experimented with everything. I looked like a total circus act. But I was 22, I was adorable, and I could get away with it. I don’t want to experiment now. I want to look really good, as beautiful as I can. I don’t want people to point at my skirt, I want them to point at me: ‘Look at Marian,’ not ‘look at that skirt.’
Do you shop at any specific places?
I love Saks. It’s old fashioned.
Do you like Bergdorf’s?
Yes, I do. Very much. I like it because it smells good, it’s glistening, it’s clean, it’s proper. And I love all of those jewelry departments.
Tell me your signature perfume?
1,000 by Jean Patou. Ever since they started making it. I’ve never worn anything else. Oh yes, once in a while I’ll wear something else, like Cabaret by Gres, which is not a grand or classic scent, it’s a little weird, but I like it.
Do you have a specific lipstick?
Anything that’s reddish, brownish. I love reds with a dash of brown in there. I don’t like a cherry or a pink.
You don’t feel good in it?
I don’t and I’m too old for that.
And when you were in your 20s?
Red, red, red lips, as red as your nails. Oh my God, for years. I actually only stopped about five years ago. The older you get the harder it is to pull it off because you end up looking like Diane Vreeland, you know what I mean? She was fabulous but I don’t want to be a caricature of a fashion person. She was the ultimate fashion doyenne and, well, I’m not.
Who inspires you?
Various interior decorators. Jacques Grange, who is French. And Steven Sills, who is American. His work is not at all girly, and I love girly! It is also very simple and very sculptural and very art conscious. I admire him so much because it’s so pure and not silly. And then there’s Muriel Brandolini, who is wildly colorful.
What do you use for skin cleansing and moisturizing?
I use Oil of Olay and baby oil. I used to get collagen and Botox. I’ve stopped doing it just because I’m 60, who am I trying to kid?
Who are your favorite designers?
Yves St. Laurent–the real Yves St. Laurent, the dead one, is my favorite. Oscar de la Renta. Ralph Lauren for tailored stuff. Jean Paul Gaultier has beautiful jackets. Alber Elbaz at Lanvin I like too and I like vintage stuff.
What about Dries Van Noten?
Too intellectual. I like intellectual in conversations, literary fiction, music and sometimes cinema. I don’t want it in clothes.
What do you mean, too intellectual?
The clothes are complicated, arch. They come off as pretentious. We have two arms, two legs, a torso, a neck, ankles, wrists. We need clothes to be a certain way so we can move. Not that they can’t be glamorous, but there also needs to be a certain practicality to fashion. I guess that’s why I like St. Laurent. He respected the form of a woman and made it look even better. That old-fashioned flattery is important. Make me look beautiful. Don’t make me look weird.
Le Grenouille, wonderfully old fashioned with gorgeous over the top flowers, totally triumphant souffles, the freshest oysters in New York, pitch perfect foie gras and beautifully trained old waiters who’ve been there forever. And the Waverly Inn, lively, traditional clubby decor featuring mounds of calorie-laden unpretentious food and a truly stellar mix of guests.
Read any good books lately?
The Roberto Bolano novel, The Skating Rink, which I adored. I’ve also re-started War and Peace and just completed Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.
Do you have a passion project?
Extreme gardening. I like planting in groups and in multiples. I do not understand stand alone specimen flower planting – I go for a big, more architectural approach. I also had a small craft room built onto my river cottage last year. I embellish things there, drawing and guest books, pictures made of dried leaves, pillows decorated with antique Suzani embroideries cut out of old wedding cloths, embellished lampshades.