The fashionable Holly Adam and I met through the men’s wear industry but cemented our fashion friendship through our travels in Europe, during the menswear Fashion Weeks held twice a year. She was the protogé of Kal Ruttenstein, the inimitable Fashion Director of Bloomingdale’s back in the day (I’ll never forget the jogging suits and silver trainers that he always wore in flight. ALWAYS.), and an icon whom I followed about blindly — when she would hold court in Rose’s down a little alleyway in Firenza, carousing us for drinks poolside at the Villa Cora or in Milan at the Duca or the Gallia lobbies. In Paris, we’d see her for dinner at Dave’s Chinese or bouncing around with our pal and colleague, John Fowler, at Le Crillon. She has this deep, infectious laugh and lovely way of carrying herself, a beautiful blended head of grey, even back then, and a style of dressing to die for. I was smitten! Holly left Bloomie’s years ago and launched into her own cashmere store in Connecticut, the perfect foil suited to her luxury fashion sensibility.
After closing the store last year, Holly has branched out, with one of her latest ventures, helping launching MakerBot, the new desktop manufacturing retail venue on Mulberry Street, below.
She’s also been a tireless advocate of our recently-formed MensWearNetwork group, which you often see me post about. Without Holly, “The Glue,” as one of our colleagues refers to her, we would be nothing!
FashionWhirled caught up with the stylish one this week for our Friday:5ive.
FashionWhirled: What role does fashion or style play in your everyday life? How is that reflected in your past as a fashion director at Bloomie’s, as a prior cashmere shop owner and where you are consulting now?
As a buyer, and especially a buyer of Scottish cashmere where every sample you look at is available in at least 80 colors, it is tempting to get TOO creative. I certainly have been guilty of that, as well as being “early” on certain color directions. However, the most important thing I asked myself, especially as it related to a complicated/funky/oversized/multicolored item, is “Who are you going to sell it to, Holly?” I would run through my brain-stored rolodex of customers, and if I couldn’t come up with a few names, I would pass. Some of my personal favorites ended up in my closet from the markdown rack. But I tried very hard to keep at least 90% of my purchases purely customer dictated. The other 10%? You have to have SOME fun, we used to call those “Holly’s Follies.”
I could never pick a favorite thing, but there are things that mean a lot to me. A sweater that my mother knit for my father (it’s scratchy as all get out but it sits on the back of a chair for when I need to feel their arms around me). A pair of Levi’s that are all ripped up but still fit some 25 years later (they must have been big when I bought them). The “good” watch I bought myself the day I resigned from my job to open CashmereinC. The shoes I bought myself on the one day I allowed myself a “divorce” shopping spree……and no, they are not stilettos in red patent, but the most beautifully made pair of loafers I have ever owned (and likely ever will). Silly jewelry purchases from Island vacations. A dress I bought in Florence about 18 years ago that I wear to this day. So like scent is a trigger for some people, I can look at a piece of clothing in my closet and remember who I was with, where I wore it last, was it a good time or a bad one?
FW: Who is your muse? Why and how do they inspire you?
HA: I would have loved to sell Katharine Hepburn the perfect black turtleneck. Ditto, Diana Vreeland. Audrey Hepburn the perfect black cashmere sheath (it’s in my closet). Joan Didion would have bought a multitude of colors in what became my “famous” cashmere cable-knit crew neck sweater. Jackie O. would have purchased a a poorboy rib crewneck. Gerald Murphy, some version of a Breton-knit, and his wife Sara would have bought the beautiful black pashmina piano stole covered in ivory hand embroidery. Michelle Obama, a cobalt blue ¾ sleeve cropped cardigan with teeny buttons. That being said, I have waited on the likes of Nicole Kidman, Dorothy Hamill, Glenn Close, Mark Messier (on Christmas eve – he was FUN!), Martha Stewart, Kathie Lee Gifford, many Kennedys, Mats Wilander. You never knew who would walk in the door.
FW: What words of wisdom or inspiration, or daily affirmation do you live by, or at least strive to live by? And what legacy, fashion or otherwise, do you hope to leave to the future and why?
HA: I try to live with style, whether it’s the red wall in my dining room surrounded by my grandfather’s black and white etchings of birds or in my daily (and highly changeable) choice of clothing. It all seems to be a mad mix that somehow works, at least for me. I don’t dress, decorate, cook, or behave for anyone besides myself – even if a certain situation has boundaries. I was extremely well parented, and educated, so I believe manners and respect go a long way. Generosity of spirit and time, listening well and hard, living with a wide-open heart (even when it hurts). I’m not sure I will leave a fashion legacy, besides my collection of books on style, my family treasures, and a couple of beautifully made, timeless things that I own. If pressed, I’d say to take a risk once in a while. Trust your mood and let it dictate your “armor.” After all, clothes are only body-coverings. Let them be fun when you feel fun, functional when that’s what you need, fabulous when fabulous is called for, and serious with a touch of “you” when that’s what the day asks of you.