Sunday, April 28, 2013

Style Maven: Lee Bouvier Radziwill

Lee Bouvier Radziwill
I find that one can learn the most interesting things about how to live life from our elders. These days the young put little faith in the wisdom of the old, but in my fashion, while older people may not have the most fascinating of stories to the naked eye, it’s the little things from those stories which teach us the most. When I watch a documentary or read a biography, I may be bored through certain lengthy banal parts, but it is such a glory when you stay tuned in, pay attention, and hear that bit of life advice that really hits home for you. When you hear that piece of wisdom, it’s like it was the one thing the universe wanted you to realize for you to get that epiphany that opens your eyes to so much more. Whether you needed a reassuring phrase to help you combat your fears, or a sound bit of advice that is tailor-made to the personal issues in your life, or maybe you learn something about yourself that helps you put your life in better context with the world around you. In my fashion some great shows for this type of inspiration are Oprah’s Master Class, Iconoclasts on the Sundance channel, and pretty much any other nostalgic type of interview I can find where I can voyeuristically feel through someone else recount of what life was like during a particular time (especially if it has to do with fashion). Below you can view a video of this month’s Style Maven, Lee Bouvier Radziwill. Watch Sophia Coppola interview this enchanting woman and feel the aura of her style. See what wisdom you can take away from what she has to offer about life.

After watching the above video and reading her interview by Nicky Haslam in The New York Times Style Magazine, T, I ended up learning a lot about the 60s and 70s and the certain social groups of fashionable society during that time. The younger sister of style icon, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Lee Radziwill was a style icon in her own right having made Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed list in 1996. During her lifetime she was Vanity Fair contributing editor, ex-wife of Prince Stanislaus Radziwill and of film director Herbert Ross. She was mostly associated with and encountered many legends in the world of the arts, her closest roles pertaining to her friendships to Bernard Berenson, Rudolf Nureyev, Peter Beard, and Andy Warhol. Peter Beard said of her, ”Lee was always the one with high taste, humor, and brains. We went on the Stones’ “Exile on Main St.” tour with our friend Truman Capote—and on some super side trips afterward. Back at Lee’s Fifth Avenue pied-à-terre, we had visits from Andy Warhol, Richard Lindner, Larry Rivers and Rudolf Nureyev. There were so many life-enchanting and extraordinary individuals. Lee was the key element.” A dear friend to Radziwill now is fashion designer, Giambattista Valli. He says, “It is a sense of synthesis in every aspect of her life that struck me when I met her at my very first fashion show eight years ago, and is still what I love most about her today: in the ways she presents herself to people, in her style, in her silhouette. There is a streamlined essence to her point of view. “Editing” could be the equivalent word in the world of fashion, my word. She is capable of capturing an art masterpiece or a person with a single adjective. Sharp to the point…She had a fortunate upbringing and has led an even more privileged adult life. And while she has lived luxury at its bygone best, her life has not been without great sadness and tragedy. With her sense of synthesis, she has streamlined those relationships to their essence: that of human being to human being. It is probably that idea of going straight to the point of something and having a profound sense of herself and of loneliness that has allowed Lee to survive tremendous sorrows.” Her video interviewer, Sophia Coppola, said, “Lee keeps everyone on their toes—you feel like you have to be your best with her. I remember having dinner with her. I remember having dinner with her, and she ordered a delicate plate of asparagus. I got a big bowl of spaghetti Bolognese, and looked horrified. I have a great memory of being on a boat in Corsica with Lee, and after the picnic of Corsican cheese and rosé and she dove into the turquoise water and swan to a little island. She always looks chic, whether just out of the ocean, hair back in a sleek one-piece or at dinner on vacation in white trousers.”

Page one photo spread of "The Real Lee Radziwill" in T Magazine

Listening to these types of documentaries and interviews, I go into them with the intention of listening for what the subject is feeling when they describe their encounters. In my fashion, the best part about watching a documentary is watching for body language, and when one develops a good sense of nonverbal communication one can tell a lot more about a person than simply based off what they are telling you. I love to recognize certain patterns in facial expressions and body gestures that code behavior for a particular individual (aside: Read the book “Blink.” to understand the science of coding behavior more in depth). Think about my Serious Style post, The Confidence Game, and think about the way Radziwill carries herself in the video. While she is so small and thin, her confidence is so obviously radiant that she seems greater than life, and so glamorous, while, in my fashion, she maintains a down-to-Earth vibe.  That’s why I stopped to pick up the magazine with her on the cover wearing a simple LBD by Giambattista Valli that wrapped around her small frame in a delicate manner. In my fashion, the photo was quite telling and seductive. During her T Magazine interview with Sophia Coppola, I was very impressed by her zeal for the life she has lived. In my fashion, her cover of the magazine really exuded that energy.

From left to right, Radziwill with Michael Kors, André Leon Talley, Mario Testino, Giambattista Valli

In my fashion, Sophia Coppola’s first question to Radziwill in the video was quite revealing of her attitude towards life: “What’s worst at a dinner party—a snob or a bore?” Radziwiill’s unapologetic and matter of fact answer—“Ohh, a snob; because at least you get a laugh.” I found this amusing, and I feel her answer is a sentiment of people who seek adventure and excitement, and have a firm grip of who they are. Reading Radziwill’s interview one gets a sense of her fabulous roller coaster of a life. In my fashion, we all live a roller coaster life to an extent: You can choose to be safe and not get on, watching everyone else have fun on the roller coaster from the ground; You can choose to get on the moderately thrilling rides and experience a relatively exciting ride; or you can get on the biggest ride where one endures loops and thrills. To me, creating an awesome memory for the day means to set your intentions for riding that mammoth coaster.  Think of when you are old and all the things you would like to be able to talk about to your grandchildren about—hopefully you won’t be a bore. What wisdom will you be able pass along from the experiences you had? This is a driving question in my everyday life because if you can create memories worth sharing with others that will excite and thrill people, others may be motivated to make the most of their own life experiences to bring value to their own life. With that in mind, to begin ones day, one should set the intention for a great day by dressing accordingly. That memory for the day will start out what you put on. In my fashion, the way one dresses for the day sets the tone for how the day will turn out. We are in control of where we go in our lives, and while each day might not turn out exactly how we want it to, using your clothes to set that intention for positivity will set you on a better course towards a great day of memories than allowing negativity to cramp our style.

Page two photo spread of "The Real Lee Radziwill" in T Magazine

Radziwill’s fortunate upbringing does not cloud the fact that she, like all of us, has had moments of heartache and struggle, but I think her present day aura suggests a women who has prevailed through life’s complexities. Navigating through life can tough for all of us, but the objective is to find out how we can lift ourselves back up each day to be able to create another day of memories—memories that are more grand and more vivid than the day before. I think the look we should strive to achieve in our old age is not one that says, “I can still hang with the young folk,” but one that says, “Through it all, I am a survivor, and I can show you some things.” In my fashion, there is a certain look and aura that one possesses when they have done what they wanted to do with their life and learned from their experiences. You don’t want to look back on your life and feel that you could have done so much more to create the type of memories you would want to experience in life.

Taken by Andy Warhol in 1972
According to Peter Beard, a piece of advice from Radziwill’s mentor, Bernard Berenson, that she lived with was to go for “whatever is life enchanting.” In my fashion, life doesn’t just happen; you have to look for it. One of the best quotes I took away from her interview is this: “Regrets? I think everyone has regrets, and people who say they haven’t are either liars…or narcissists. There have been many things in my life to have regrets about, in the sense I wish I could have changed them, or somehow made them not happen. What I don’t have is envy. I’m perfectly content at this time of my life. I’ve done so many fascinating things and the greatest and the greatest joy is that I continue to do interesting things and meet fascinating people.” Shouldn’t we all want to be able to say something to this extent when we are in our old future?

Radziwill, today, in an Alaïa jacket

In her T Magazine interview, she says, “When I was young, I used to think that everyone should die at 70…but my closest friends like Rudolf and Andy [Warhol] and to an extent Capote, let alone most of my close family…didn’t even reach that age. There is something to be said for being older and memories.” She also believes that, “without memories there’s no life.” Haslam tells us about Radziwill’s lonely childhood memories, her bouts of depression and alcoholism which stemmed from her sister’s escalating ill health, their difficult relationship, and a certain amount of friction with her children. On top of dealing with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, as well as the death of her nephew John F. Kennedy Jr. in 1999, to whom she was extremely close, she had to deal with the death of her son, Anthony, who passed from a rare form of cancer. If there is one thing I learned from Radziwill about life and memories is that in life we can create great memories, but whether we like it or not, bad memories manifest as well. It’s all a part of life; one must take the bad with the good. While every day one is confronted by words and visions of human misery, we must find a way to make life enchanting.  

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