At 86, the Amazing Randi is retiring, as he explains here. And as recently pictured here. For those who don’t know, he’s an American hero: immensely talented, with a lifelong mission not just to entertain (I mean: he’s amazing! he was once encased in a block of ice for 55 minutes!) but also, and more importantly, to expose those who would deceive (like the equally amazing spoon-bending Uri Geller, who, as I’m sure I’ve told you in years past, once drove me through Manhattan’s 79th Street transverse blindfolded — he was blindfolded, not me — to prove he had supernatural powers; which, as I ultimately concluded, with Randi’s help, and to my editor’s great relief, he did not). Hats off to Randi.
No one has ever called him Andy, of course — he is an Andrew through and through — but Andrew Sullivan is hanging up his . . . what? Keys strokes? Pixels? As explained so nicely here. (“I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again.”)
Want a signed limited edition reproduction of the original 1970s “Neatness Isn’t Everything” poster that helped launch Barney Frank’s career? Want some other crowdfunding perk? Click here to help launch the documentary “Compared To What: The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank.” (“Catnip to political junkies . . . endlessly refreshing.” — Hollywood Reporter.)
Lisa: “I still have the lovely program from the Fall ’06 Bryant Park fashion show that was printed on a diaphanous type of paper. A charming and witty salute to Charles and his creativity. Mr. Nolan and I grew up at the same time, in the same state, on the same island in the Atlantic. The 4:30 pm movie station he refers to was The Million Dollar Movie and I hurried home from school everyday to watch its films that would inspire my mind, my language, my aspirations. (Right after watching the soap opera series ‘Dark Shadows,’ of course.) As — on this fourth anniversary of his passing — I re-read the Q&A that was included, exchanged with warmth, familiarity and a wink, I still laugh out loud. The cherry on top is that I learned some things about the mind of a fashion architect that I carry to this day.”
CHARLES NOLAN: The Interview
By Andrew Tobias
Andrew Tobias’s first New York Times best-seller was FIRE AND ICE, the biography of Revlon founder Charles Revson. Other than that, Charles Nolan is his only connection to the world of fashion.
Q: You want me to interview you?
A: You’re the writer. You’ve interviewed lots of people. Why not.
Q: I don’t know anything about women’s clothes.
A: That doesn’t matter. It will save us money to have you do it.
Q: Ah. [The interviewer, an investor in CHARLES NOLAN, LLC, brightens.]
A: The idea is you doing what you do, helping me explain and brand what I do.
Q: You make people cry.
A: I do not make people cry!
A: Okay, I can get very frustrated when things aren’t done right, but it passes quickly and we all love each other at the end of the day and get a better result for the customer. In eleven years, have I ever made you cry?
Q: No. But I have cowered.
A: All right. Start asking me questions.
Q: Why are you a fashion designer?
A: I don’t really know. I have always loved to make clothes. I love the whole process of choosing the cloth and then letting it tell you what it wants to be. I’ve always wanted to do this but I’m not sure I’ll ever quite know why.
Q: The cloth tells you what it wants to be?
A: You know what I mean.
Q: Do you have a philosophy when it comes to your work? Do you come out of a particular “school”? Other than F.I.T.
A: I love making clothes that work for the wearer. I’m a very practical guy, though I know you don’t think so. The basic idea is to make something as simple as possible while making the cut and construction as interesting as possible.
A: I like simple, clean lines. The period that really impacted me was 1960 to 1965. It was such a time of change. All the fins came off the car. The simpler dress was always on the leading lady. It was all about neat and pretty and sleek. It was still fun and young in a very sophisticated way. You had this reaction to Fifties groupthink that led to the idea of self-exploration . . . and by the end of the Sixties it’s all about “do your own thing.”
Q: You were three in 1960. How could this period have impacted you?
A: [Interviewee rolls eyes, ignores question, continues.] “Darling,” the 1965 movie with Julie Christie, completely captures that moment. All the characters make completely selfish choices. The aesthetic is great. It is so fresh. Still romantic, but it’s easy.
Q: Did the cloth tell you to say this?
A: You really have no feel for this, do you?
A: It’s all about the fabric. And the fit. And finding that element of serendipity that adds a spark. I drive people crazy over the fit because that’s the absolutely most important thing. I want women to tell me they love wearing my clothes; that they feel comfortable. But I also want them to get compliments. So, for example, I’ve always enjoyed playing with volume and using it in ways that flatter most figures.
Q: What about the serendipity? Is this why you were baking a dress in our oven?
A: That was a pleated skirt from last Fall’s collection. It’s an old, old way of creating a pleat – you wet it, twist it really tight into a ball and knot it, and then slowly bake it just enough to set the pleat.
But the serendipity, or the spark, or whatever you want to call it, can come from anywhere. It’s what draws the customer’s eye to buy the garment – I hope – and then gets her the compliments when she wears it. Lately, we’ve been having fun with glazing all kinds of constructions and crumpling and pleating and overdying.
Q: What’s overdying?
A: Taking an already finished fabric, like a classic plaid, and then dying it again – purple, say – which gives it a little bit of an old, distressed look and creates interesting surface textures.
Q: What about big feathers? I’ve never seen you use big feathers. Wouldn’t that be great?
A: I used feathers last Fall and you don’t even remember? I made a turkey feather skirt last Fall. You’re really just trying to annoy me, aren’t you?
Q: [Cowers, slightly.]
A: I’ve always shied away from pieces with too much fuss and excess decoration. I like to keep decoration very simple – but if you’re going to do it, it should be strong. And all this while never losing sight of the fit, which is what I did at Ellen Tracy and Anne Klein, too. No matter what the fashion or the season or who I’m designing for, one thing never changes: the clothes have to be comfortable.
Q: Is being a designer a choice, or were you born this way?
A: [Interviewee rolls eyes.]
Have a great weekend. If you can, chip in for Barney’s film.
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History is a vast early warning system.~Norman Cousins
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