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2012 April 12

La Vie en Ruffian: Lunch With Kate Lanphear

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The Ruffian designers interview Kate Lanphear The Ruffian designers interview Kate Lanphear
Margaret Zakarian
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(NEW YORK) They're back! Ruffian designers Brian Wolk and Claude Morais have donned their interview caps for an intriguing lunchtime discussion with Elle's Kate Lanphear.

"Kate Lanphear is a rare bird of fashion. If forced to choose a particular variety of bird, we would say a raven: sleek, black, and, as the Celts believed, a messenger. In this case, she’s a messenger of fashion. And don’t be fooled by her devil-may-care, laissez-faire demeanor. Her keen instincts and hawkish awareness have propelled her to the top of her field—to her prized post as style director at Elle. Her story spans three continents, and her style is obsessively followed by fashion blogs, but her modesty is that of a saint. We like to think of her as Saint Kate. We invited Mademoiselle Lanphear to join us for lunch at The Lambs Club, the new home of our La Vie en Ruffian Lunchtime Interview Hour. Without further ado!"—Brian & Claude

What's up with current street style obsession?
It's a by-product of social media. There is a true wealth of information online now, but the coverage first began in Japanese street style magazines. At the time, the economy was more robust—people were buying goods from luxury brands, but they didn’t necessarily know how to wear them. People were hungry for ideas, but magazines were just shooting full looks, so if it didn’t resonate with you on the runway, these street style mags were a great source of inspiration.

Have these street style blogs affected designers—and how they show their collections? 
We are evolving, and designers are experimenting with different ways to show collections. When you’re at some shows, you know that a particular collection is never intended to be worn on the street, but it can change the entire direction of the season. There are also designers who are genuinely interested in actually dressing women; the whole idea of over-the-top shows seems a bit antiquated to those types of designers. Instead, they experiment with presenting a collection in a way that stays true to that brand's DNA.

Why is there such a great disconnect between editors and retailers?
Editors will fight for the same looks, and those are usually the opposite of what a retailer will select. Retailers are there to protect their customers, and to respond to what those customers want. Editors are reporters. I know when a look is important, whether or not it reflects my personal style. My job is to make people dream, and to get them excited about dressing in a new way.

You grew up in Virginia. Does your Southern upbringing affect your work?
That’s where my fascination for reality comes in! I love the culture of the South, and the people there, but living in New York is a dream. There was a time when everyone around me said this dream would never come true. I still pinch myself every day. When I work, I always think about that girl in Virginia—what I'd want to wear, what I dreamed about then, and what I would have wanted to see in a magazine. For that girl, fantasy and fashion collide in simple images with a real spirit, like a gorgeous woman getting a coffee or hailing a yellow cab. 

Did you adopt your conservative dress code in the south?
I never show my legs! I’ve never had anyone call me conservative, but you’re right—I am!

In our minds, Karl Lagerfeld is a priest, and you’re Sister Kate.
Yes! Tailored and covered and lots of black.

Did you know Kate was the saint of independent-minded women, and she would only marry someone who surpassed her in beauty, wealth, intelligence and dignity?

Can you please tell my father that?

OK, switching gears. What is your beauty regimen?
I just use water on my face. That's basically my beauty regime. Tommy Buckett at Marie Robinson cuts my hair, and I’ll never disclose the secret of my hair colorist! Let's just say she's on the Lower East Side…

What do you wear when you go to the country?

I’m from the country, so the same thing I wear in the city, of course!

What are your favorite high and low restaurants in NYC?
You mean my favorite ho and my favorite lie? My favorite ho is Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour, but really it's Divine Brown. My favorite lie? "Your ass looks small in that!"

Our favorite lie is to say we’re two blocks away when we’re actually just leaving the house. Now, back to restaurants!
It’s neither high nor low, but I love Diner in Williamsburg.

Favorite Southern meal?
Jambalaya.

What do you wear when you need to be a lady, like at funerals and weddings?
Lanvin always makes me feel so beautiful, and it’s always appropriate.

What’s your most out-of-character item of clothing?
Well, I have a ladylike, fire-engine-red chiffon dress that I can’t seem to let go of. It’s by Scanlan and Theodore. I wore it to my first interview in New York, and I got the job. They had no idea what was coming!

And! Don't forget to follow the Ruffian boys on Facebook and Twitter! 




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