Elie Tahari seems to have a sixth sense for what women want to wear. After four decades of dressing women, the designer continues to delight with sartorial creations that flatter the feminine figure and celebrate her natural beauty. For this he has earned a legion of loyal customers, making the designer’s clothes one of the most successful fashion brands in the world.
Recently, the fashion mogul took time away from his busy schedule to answer my questions:
This year marks your 40th anniversary in fashion. In a notoriously fickle business, how do you explain your longevity?
“I credit my longevity to adapting with the changes and trends but still staying true to my classic designs and heritage. I want all women to feel beautiful in Elie Tahari. I truly love what I do, designing is my passion and I think that shows in my collections.”
Is it true you launched your career by selling tube tops to women in the ’70s?
“That is very true. A fashion manufacturing error occurred and resulted in a pile of fabric tubes. Some of these mistakes ended up in a New York boutique. I knew right away they were going to be a hit. I brought a pile of them for $2 apiece and resold them for $4. I snuck into a trade show with my bags of tubes and no credentials and pictures showing how to wear them. By the end of the day I had thousands of orders. That was the beginning of my wholesale career.”
Tell me about the inspirations for your spring collection?
“The spring 2013 collection was inspired by the architecture of Richard Neutra homes in Palm Springs he designed during the ’50s and ’60s. I also referenced those amazing Slim Aarons photographs and was inspired by the beautiful people. I could see the woman wearing Elie Tahari in the modern-day version of those photos.”
How would you describe the collection?
“The collection is a mix of modern sophistication injected with vibrant, lively colors such as tangy melon, lime, coral, sea palm, and flamingo pink. At the center of the collection is an assortment of luxurious materials, including chiffon, organza, cashmere and suede.”
What do you think attracts people to the brand?
“I design classic silhouettes but still with a modern edge. I pride myself in using the finest fabrics. All of our leather is handmade Italian. When a woman purchases an Elie Tahari dress, she knows it will become a staple in her closet and that she can wear it for years to come.”
Style is obviously important, but how critical is fit to your line?
“Fit is crucial. The designs can be amazing, but if the fit is off, so is your
entire collection. I actually fit my collection on members of my staff.
I design clothes for real women with real figures, not just the size 0
Do you have any style icons?
“I love the ’80s and disco era. I think Bianca Jagger, Elle MacPherson, and Brooke Shields are classic beauties and style icons. Today, I love the way Angelina Jolie looks and dresses.”
You recently served as a guest judge on “Project Runway All Stars.” What was that experience like?
“It was a wonderful experience. I always love working with emerging talent. I had the opportunity to host a challenge at my design studio. It was great to mentor the young talent on the show and interact with my fellow judges – Isaac Mizrahi, Joanna Coles, and Carolyn Murphy.”
January WAG is all about books, so tell us what types of books do you like to read.
“Slim Aarons is one of my favorite photographers. I have all of his books; ‘Once Upon a Time,’ ‘A Place in the Sun’ and ‘Poolside with Slim Aarons.’ I also love the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) books; ‘American Fashion Designers at Home,’ ‘American Fashion Cookbook’ and ‘IMPACT: 50 Years of Fashion.’