How to Dress Like a Fashion Insider – Wall Street Journal

Charvet Poplin Shirt with Buttoned Cuffs, $515, Saks Fifth Avenue, 877-551-7257

NUREYEV AND Baryshnikov were among the dance-themed references for

Tomas Maier

’s spring 2015 menswear collection for Bottega Veneta. The designer’s vision of those balletic gentlemen took form in slouchy baby-blue knit tights and shell-pink shorts suits. In other words, the kind of pieces that make magazine editors furiously take notes—dance would emerge as one of the season’s trends—but might be a tough sell to your average guy.

When Mr. Maier made his bow, however, it was a different story. The man with the razor-sharp design mind wore a perfectly rumpled, olive-drab Relwen cargo shirt, medium-fade Levi’s and simple black Nike running shoes.

Fashion insiders who push colorful, out-there trends but wear sober basics themselves? The idea isn’t new. But the clothes worn backstage or behind the camera seem more relevant than ever, given the phenomenon of Normcore and a general appreciation of less of-the-moment pieces. Especially when those discreet shirts and trousers are being chosen by people with an encyclopedic knowledge of clothing and an eye for perfection. Plenty of folks looking for style tips would be eager to note that Vogue Paris Editor in Chief

Emmanuelle Alt

wears Topshop’s skinny Baxter jeans or that Proenza Schouler’s

Jack McCollough

is partial to a certain denim shirt from Swedish label Acne Studios.


Caroline de Maigret

—who often plays muse to Karl Lagerfeld—could probably wear head-to-toe Chanel every day of the week if she liked. Instead she adheres to a strict diet of vintage Levi’s, white Acne T-shirts, Blazé blazers and a black leather motorcycle jacket from BLK DNM or Schott NYC. “It’s not about trends,” said Ms. de Maigret, who recently co-wrote the book “How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits” (Doubleday). “It’s more about finding the right pieces that you can carry with you through the years.” In fact, Ms. de Maigret makes an effort to avoid the popular look of the season. “If there’s a military trend, I’ll put all my military-feeling clothes in the cupboard and then let them out two years later,” she said.

Browse the gallery to see what style insiders buy

<strong>Tonne Goodman </strong> <em>Vogue fashion director</em> | Charvet Silk Printed Scarf, <em>$293, +33-1-4260-3070;</em> Timex Intelligent Quartz Fly-Back Chronograph Watch, <em>$210, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a> </em>

<strong>Tomas Maier </strong> <em> Creative director of Bottega Veneta and his own label</em> | Relwen’s CPO Deck Jacket, <em>$248, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a>;</em> Levi’s Vintage Clothing 1955 501 Jeans in Astoria,<em> $290, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a>;</em> Nike Free 4.0 Sneaker, <em>$90, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a> </em>

<strong>Caroline de Maigret </strong> <em> Model and co-author of ‘How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are’</em> | Blazé Milano Made-to-Order Lady Anne Everyday Blazer, <em>from $1,209, Artisanal Su Misura, +39-02-3675-2541</em>

<strong>Emmanuelle Alt </strong> <em> Editor in Chief, Vogue Paris </em> | Topshop’s Baxter Jeans, <em>$70, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a>,</em> and Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane Kitten Heels, <em>$595, Saint Laurent, 212-980-2970 </em>

<strong>Elin Kling </strong> <em> Fashion Blogger and Co-designer of Totême</em> | Chelsea Coat, <em>$760, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a> </em>

<strong>Jack McCollough </strong> (left) <em> Co-designer of Proenza Schouler</em> | Isherwood Den Bleached Denim Shirt, <em>$220, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a>;</em> Samba Shoes, <em>$65, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a> </em> <br/> <strong>Lazaro Hernandez </strong> (right) <em> Co-designer of Proenza Schouler</em> | 1300 Sneakers, <em>$150, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a> </em>

<strong>Kate Young </strong> (right) <em> Stylist</em> | The Row, Carlton Blouse, <em>$790, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a>;</em> Manolo Blahnik Chaos Shoe, <em>$725, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a> </em>

<strong>Peter Dundas </strong> <em> Creative Director</em> | 514 Straight Fit Jeans, <em>$58, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a> </em>

<strong>Max Osterweis </strong> <em> Co-designer of Suno</em> | 501 Original Fit Jeans, <em>$68, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a>;</em> Chuck Taylor All Star Shoes, <em>$50, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a> </em>

<strong>Vanessa Traina Snow </strong> <em> Stylist</em> | Gianvito Rossi for Altuzarra D’orsay Heel in grey wool, <em>$755, <a href="" target="_new" class="icon none" ></a> </em>

That’s a sentiment echoed among the fashion elite. With runway-fresh collections publicized online at lighting speed and almost instantly adapted by fast-fashion brands, the silhouettes of the season are overexposed before they even arrive in premium stores. “I tend not to buy looks from the runway, although I love them,” said Vanity Fair’s fashion and style director,

Jessica Diehl,

who sticks to a navy, black and ivory uniform that typically consists of tuxedo trousers and skirts from Céline—commercial pieces not shown on the catwalk. “Having seen [the runway pieces] several months before being able to buy them,” she said, “many times I’ve moved on by the time they hit the stores.”

Still, the components of these insiders’ uniforms aren’t culled only from high-end brands. They’re usually a strategic mix of well-priced basics punctuated by a smart investment item or two. For instance, Emilio Pucci creative director

Peter Dundas

balances his pricey Hermès Chelsea boots and Saint Laurent leather motorcycle jacket with relatively inexpensive black T-shirts by James Perse and white Levi’s 514s that he has tailored for a slimmer leg. “My uniform is quite simple but essential to me,” said Mr. Dundas. “It takes me less than 15 minutes to get dressed.” Similarly Suno co-designer Max Osterweis sticks to white organic cotton V-neck T-shirts, black Levi’s 501 jeans and Converse Chuck Taylors most days, but for a night out, he’ll add a cashmere sweater or tailored jacket.

It takes effort to figure out the 10 items you want in your [closet].

These fashion professionals share a craving for timeless, palate-cleansing designs. Stylist

Vanessa Traina Snow

followed that instinct with the Line, the e-commerce website she founded last year with stylist Morgan Wendelborn. “We tend to look at things with an editor’s eye,” said Ms. Traina Snow. That means they’ve agonized over finding one or two great white T-shirts or pairs of black cigarette trousers instead of carrying 20 different kinds. “People need very few things in their closet, so we wanted to find the best version of every one thing,” said Ms. Wendelborn. “That’s how people who work in the industry really dress.” On the site, you’ll find elements of the two women’s own carefully curated uniforms: Schott NYC’s Perfecto biker jacket, cashmere sweaters from Christophe Lemaire and Protagonist, Altuzarra heels and jeans from 6397.

Likewise, fashion blogger

Elin Kling

and her husband, Karl Lindman, the art director at Interview Magazine, earlier this year launched Totême, a line of staples including simple knits and slim trousers, much of it in navy, black and beige. In keeping with insider shopping style, Ms. Kling and Mr. Lindman perennially offer many of the brand’s styles, such as its belted wrap “Chelsea” coat.

Labels that follow the same practice are a boon to the uniformly chic. “I like brands you can go back to every season and get a similar thing,” said stylist

Kate Young

, whose day job consists of finding red-carpet-worthy gowns for clients like Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams. Among her go-to resources are the Row, Stella McCartney and Saint Laurent. Ms. Young also buys multiples of her favorite J Brand jeans and silk Equipment blouses, and keeps her closet stocked with the same simple, single-strap Manolo Blahnik sandals in silver and gold leather and black suede.

According to Ms. Young, however, the key to making a signature look work year after year is to be consistent but not fall entirely into a rut. “It’s funny, but you have to keep updating your uniform,” she said. “The pant leg gets a little wider, the jacket gets a little longer.” It can mean buying one new piece each season so that everything else doesn’t look dated. Vogue Paris Editor in Chief Ms. Alt seems to have mastered this art. She sticks to her skinny Topshop jeans and half-tucked button-down shirts but refreshes them with, say, a sharp new Balmain blazer or new Saint Laurent shoes.

If you’re considering developing your own uniform, the first—and likely hardest—step is figuring out what you like. Ms. de Maigret recommends taking the time to evaluate your physical assets and weaknesses. “There is this cliché about Parisians that they have this effortless look,” she said. “But it takes a lot of effort to figure out who you are and the 10 items you want in your cupboard. But once you have it, you have it.” She added, “Now I really can’t be bothered changing my clothes. A good recipe is hard to change, you know?”


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