Blessed with socialite status, a wardrobe to die for and a whippet-thin physique, Amanda Brooks is, as one W writer once put it, “a girl girls love to hate.” But in her first book, "I Love Your Style: How to Define and Refine Your Personal Style" (HarperCollins/ItBooks) out September 15, the former Tuleh creative director and muse and argues that her seemingly preternatural style is actually the result of hard work. “My greatest belief about clothes is that style does not come to you unless you pay attention to it,” she writes. The Vogue contributor also recommends studying magazine tear sheets, recording one’s “style history” and finding fashion icons (hers are Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Dietrich and Marchesa Casati). We caught up with the new author to talk—what else?—fashion.
Whose idea was it to write a book?
It was actually two people. Diane von Furstenberg [who wrote the book's Foreword] invited me over for lunch and said that she thought it was time that I did my own thing, because I’ve always worked for other people and she wanted to see what kind of creativity I had inside of me. Another friend of mine just said, “I think you should write a book.”
Did you know that you wanted it to be a how-to kind of thing?
I wanted it to be very commercial. I wanted it to be a manual. I wanted it to be soft cover at a very accessible price point. I always knew that I wanted to sell it in Urban Outfitters and Anthropology and not just Barneys or Bergdorf’s book department. I didn’t want it to be a precious book—I have so many beautiful coffee table books and I can’t say that I ever read.
You dissect six distinct styles—classic, bohemian, minimal, high fashion, street and eclectic—in the book. Are you in a particular fashion frame of mind right now?
I think I am always in combination of all of them. In my twenties I was just so turned off by classic clothes—I didn’t have a lot of respect for things that weren’t of the moment. I was always really paranoid that I grew up very preppy and that my physical features are kind of that. For instance, I would never wear pearl earrings. But after I turned 30 I became more attracted to classic clothes again. I became more confident that just because I was wearing classic clothes didn’t mean that I looked preppy.
Do you have a favorite designer right now?
I really love Thakoon, I really love Proenza, I really, really love Phillip Lim. I’ve always been interested in young designers and watching them grow.
Are they on your fashion week agenda? And which other shows are you planning on?
Definitely. I am going to my first Alexander Wang show and I am really excited about it. I love DVF. I am going to Michael Kors, and Rag & Bone.
Is there a current trend that you kind of wish would go away?
I feel like the same proportions have been around for a while—in everyday life, not in fashion life. The loose baggy blouse with skinny jeans and ballet flats, I wear that all the time but I’m kind of ready for a new proportion.
You were a muse and creative director at Tuleh. What do you think about the term and title “muse”?
People propose me to kind of work as muse for other people and it just hasn’t ever really worked since [Tuleh] and I haven’t ever really wanted to do it because it’s so much about the relationship between two people. You can’t tell someone you don’t like something unless you really love them. It is very hard to criticize someone that you don’t love. To inspire them they have to trust you, so it really is really trusting each other and loving each other as people—and you can’t force that.
What do you think about celebrity stylists today and their influence?
My gut says that you can’t have real personal style if you have a stylist because it is someone else always telling you what to wear. But I also don’t think that is true necessarily. Sofia Coppola absolutely has a fantastic sense of personal style. Same with Kirsten Dunst and Diane Kruger. I don’t know if they work with personal stylists, but I can tell by the way that they dress that they have great style.
What about someone like Nicole Richie?
I think Nicole Richie is a really good example of someone who hugely benefited from a celebrity stylist because clearly she didn’t have style before she met Rachel Zoe. Now that she doesn’t work with Rachel Zoe I don’t know if she works with any stylist at all, but I think her style is more herself.
Now that you’ve written your first book, would you write another?
I’m just seeing what happens, doing publicity and a book tour and seeing if another book comes out of it. Certainly the title lends itself to other books. It could be I Love Your Style: Men, I Love Your Style: Beauty, I Love Your Style: Home…
Amanda Brooks landed in Los Angeles Wednesday night for the West Coast leg of her "I Love Your Style" book tour, hosted by Chanel at its Rodeo Drive boutique.
"I love writing books," she said. "The title could lend itself to beauty, home and so forth. So, we'll see."
Hosted by Minnie Mortimer (in absentia), Samantha Gregory and Cameron Silver, the party drew Heather Mnuchin, Jamie Tisch, Crystal Lourd, Lucy Sykes, Lori Loughlin and Kim and Alessandro Uzielli, and was followed by a small dinner at La Dolce Vita.
Ok, so while it’s true that we received a copy of "I Love Your Style" (It/HarperCollins, $20) way back in September - on Fashion’s Night Out, in fact, when author Amanda Brooks was signing copies at Barneys (hence the heart doodles on the cover, at left) – it has taken us four months to actually sit down and read the damn thing. But we are happy to report that it was well worth the wait.
Subtitled “How to Define and Refine Your Personal Style,” this photo-driven guide presents a refreshingly quirky fashionista’s-eye-view on honing (and/or developing) one’s own look, whatever that look may be.
Brooks, a fashion consultant and former Tuleh creative director, is probably best known as a writer for Men’s Vogue and Vogue, though in "I Love Your Style" she espouses a far more fearless approach to fashion than one is likely to find in the pages of America’s most famous fashion bible.
“People with personal style often make mistakes,” writes Brooks in a paean to fashion faux pas-prone style icon Chloe Sevigny. “That’s how we learn what suits us. It’s that fearlessness in trying a new style. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
The book is broken down into three main sections. In the first, Definable Style, Brooks offers her take on Classic, Bohemian and Minimal looks as filtered through her own sartorial lens and that of famous women, past and present, who embody each genre, such as Jackie O., Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, respectively.
The second section, Indefinable Style, includes musings on High Fashion, Street and Eclectic looks, as worn by such women as The Duchess of Windsor, Agyness Deyn and Liz Goldwyn. The chapters in the first two sections feature advice on everything from rocking a cowboy-influenced look (as seen on Lou Doillon) to the importance of improvisation to the classic perfection of a pair of flat red sandals, along with a roundup of Brooks’ favorite style Icons and New Originals, from C.Z. Guest (Classic), Diana Vreeland (Eclectic) and Keith Richards (Street) to Hope Atherton (Bohemian), Sofia Coppola (Minimal) and Yvonne Force (High Fashion). And each chapter ends with a list of books and films that showcase that particular genre, which is great for readers looking for additional inspiration.
The final section, Shopping, covers Basics, Cheap Chic, Designer and Vintage, and here Brooks offers tips on what to look for – and avoid – whether you’re buying an H&M t-shirt, a Chanel gown or something in between.
While some of the advice skews to the obvious/remedial side of the street (“a wide belt gives you a waist when you are wearing something loose”) most of it is thoughtful, inspiring and surprisingly egalitarian (“an unlimited budget is not necessarily a blessing when it comes to getting dressed; money can zap creativity”). And Brooks is never less than candid, whether sharing her love of pencil skirts or confiding her ambivalence toward the LBD and outright dislike of the classic sweater set (“I think it looks uptight and boring”).
Throughout, she peppers her text with tons of great photos, sidebars and bulleted tips, which gives the reader a lot of bang for their buck – and whoever’s responsible for the lively, eye-catching layout gets an A+ for art direction.
All in all, I Love This Book for its all-inclusive approach to personal style, Brooks' easy-breezy voice, and her willingness to share (in words and photos) her own fashion hits and misses, which help illustrate the advice with which she opens the book: “Make mistakes. It will be okay.”
In style as in life, truer words were never spoken.
Amanda Brooks, author of "I Love Your Style," has been appointed Barneys' VP, Women's Fashion Director. Brooks is a fashion consultant and writer. She was, most recently, the fashion director of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. Her work has appeared in the NY Times Magazine, Vogue, and Men's Vogue. She was the former creative director and muse at Tuleh—which went out of business last spring—and has made television appearances on a variety of morning talk shows in the United States.
This is the full release we received from Barneys HQ:
Amanda Brooks to join Barneys New York as Women's Fashion Director, Vice President
New York, NY, January 28, 2011 - Barneys New York, the luxury specialty retailer, announced today that Amanda Brooks will join the company as Fashion Director, Vice President, effective February 7, 2011. In her new role, Ms. Brooks will be responsible for the overall identification of women’s trends each season how this is communicated to all areas of Barneys New York. She will work closely with both established and emerging designers, members of the press, visual and merchandising teams. She will report directly to Daniella Vitale, Chief Merchant and Executive Vice President. “I have long admired Amanda and her effortless blend of luxury and individual style. Her unique perspective on fashion mirrors what Barneys represents and we feel very fortunate to have her join the team,” says Daniella Vitale.
Throughout her career, Ms. Brooks has been a consistent style influencer through her unique interpretation of the fashion landscape. She has made her reputation combining her trained eye, savvy marketing instincts, and a personal style that inspires.
Most recently, Ms. Brooks served as Director of Fashion at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. There she worked with clients including Chanel, Tod’s, vitaminwater, and American Express on marketing, advertising and image building in the fashion and entertainment communities. Setting up her own consulting company, she has worked in the past on design, marketing and branding with clients including Diane von Furstenberg, Tory Burch, and Roger Vivier. She was the Creative Director of the Hogan and Tuleh labels while writing about fashion for such magazines as Vogue, Men’s Vogue, and The New York Times. In 2009, Ms. Brooks published her first book, “I Love Your Style: How to Define and Refine Your Fashion Style”.
“I have been a fan of Barneys since I was 12 years old, when my mother took me to the opening of the women’s store on 17th Street in 1986,” said Ms. Brooks. “To be the Women’s Fashion Director of a store with such a unique and inspiring vision is my dream job. I am thrilled to be joining the wonderfully talented team, and I look forward to being a part of Barneys’ next chapter.”
There are no must-haves lists or dos and don’ts in this style guide/lookbook. Instead author Amanda Brooks offers practical tips to spark creativity and find your own unique sense of style. From exploring your style history and exposing yourself to all kinds of fashion, to dressing with an open mind and embracing the fact that style is not stagnant and making mistakes is okay. In six chapters full of photo inspiration she analyzes six different styles – Classic, Bohemian, Minimal, High Fashion, Street and Eclectic, explaining along the way how to make each look your own. Then, in the Shopping section, discover what to snap up and what to leave at the store no matter if you’re shopping Basics, Cheap Chic, Designer or Vintage.
It was a little more than a year ago that the New York City socialite Amanda Brooks was appointed fashion director of Barneys New York, to some cluck-clucking in the industry. After all, Ms. Brooks, 38, had little experience in retail, other than acting as a muse and later creative director to the fashion label Tuleh, and was more often photographed in preppy classics than the avant-garde brands for which Barneys had been known under the stewardship of her well-regarded predecessor, Julie Gilhart. As the blog Fashionista put it, “We’ve always thought of Brooks as more of a Bergdorf girl.”
Ms. Brooks’s duties included overseeing private labels and creating trend reports, informed in part by the street style of “it” girls, many of whom were part of her impressive network. “We didn’t need more retail help,” Mark Lee, the store’s chief executive, said of the hire at the time. Indeed, a lot of her job seemed to involve attending fashion shows, where she was a front-row regular, and going to openings and galas.
But in March, Ms. Brooks pulled off yet another surprise. She announced that she was not just quitting the Barneys position, but leaving Manhattan itself and planning a yearlong move with her family to a farm in Oxfordshire, England, that is owned by the family of her husband, the artist Christopher Brooks.
Was the Barneys brass disappointed in the high-profile hire? (Through a spokeswoman, executives there turned down requests to be interviewed on the matter.) Had Ms. Brooks — such a clotheshorse that she wrote a 2009 book on personal style — somehow soured on fashion shows? Or, as some in the news media speculated, was the move in support of her brother- and sister-in-law, Charlie and Rebekah Brooks, charged with perverting the course of justice (the term in British law) in the News of the World phone-hacking case?
None of the above, Ms. Brooks said recently, dining on a sunny Friday at Freemans, downstairs from the apartment she’ll soon be renting out. (A North Fork residence will also be leased, to the artist Rachel Feinstein, a friend.)
“It was because of Ree Drummond’s blog, The Pioneer Woman,” said Ms. Brooks, who has recently returned to a blog, ILoveYourStyle.com, that she started after publishing the 2009 book, which had the same name. Reading a New Yorker profile last year of Ms. Drummond, a mother of four who lives on a cattle ranch outside Pawhuska, Okla., and posts prolifically on subjects like how to make cornmeal pancakes (using catchphrases like “yahoo, yippety”) “got me really fired up,” Ms. Brooks went on. “It’s the idea of having a career on your own terms, anywhere.”
At first glance, Ms. Brooks, a consummate urbanite with coolly styled looks, could not be more diametrically opposed to Ms. Drummond. At lunch, several days after the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute benefit (to which she wore a minimalist graphite Calvin Klein ensemble), Ms. Brooks was dressed casually in an open-knit beige sweater, black trousers and black flat sandals. Her blondish brown hair fell in an enviable natural wave, and her figure was willowy.
“I lost a lot of weight working at Barneys,” said Ms. Brooks, nibbling delicately at the turkey sandwich with bacon she’d ordered along with an iced tea, then hastening to add, “It was the 14-hour days and then all the traveling.”
Since she married Mr. Brooks in 2001, in a wedding attended by such diverse personalities as Christian Louboutin and Tama Janowitz, the couple have tried to maintain the integrity of their family life, she said, agreeing to limit work events to two nights per week, a difficult feat in the hyperactive art and fashion scenes. They have two children, Coco (not after Chanel, but an abbreviation of Carmen), 10, who has yet to take any discernible interest in fashion, Ms. Brooks said, and Zach, 8.
She said she was reveling in her days off, scrapping her daily Women’s Wear Daily reading habit — “It’s refreshing to clear your mind,” she said. After lunch, she planned to take Zach to a birthday party.
In Ms. Brooks’s view, domestic harmony and success at work are inextricably intertwined. “That fearlessness, to be able to jump around in my career, came from a certain amount of stability and foundation I’ve always had at home,” she said. “I’m defined by my history, my family. I was never looking for my career to define me.”
Ms. Brooks grew up in Bronxville, N.Y., and Palm Beach, Fla., the younger of two daughters of Stephen Cutter, a real estate broker, and Elizabeth Stewart, an interior designer whom Ms. Brooks remembers wearing Alaïa to teach Sunday school. (Amanda’s older sister, Kimberly Cutter, is a novelist.) She attended public elementary school, then Horace Mann and Deerfield Academy, where she was a New England diving champion. While majoring in photography at Brown, she roomed with Patricia Lansing, a daughter of Carolina Herrera, for two years. She also briefly dated Alexander von Furstenberg, the son of Diane, who soon became what Ms. Brooks called “my fashion fairy godmother.” “It had nothing to do with Alexander,” Ms. von Furstenberg said of the bond between the two women. “But I have always had that special complicity with Amanda because of how we started.”
She added: “When I met her, she was very kind of WASPy and I didn’t even think she was that pretty. But I loved watching her grow. She learns, she absorbs, she’s very entrepreneurial and she’s very nice.”
The two women had lunch a few years ago, and Ms. von Furstenberg agreed to write a foreword to Ms. Brooks’s book. “She told me, ‘It’s time for you to figure out who is Amanda Brooks,’ ” Ms. Brooks said. “ ‘Not Amanda Brooks who works for so-and-so. It’s time to define yourself as a woman.’ ”
Ms. Brooks has never been shy about attracting powerful mentors. Her career started with an internship with Patrick Demarchelier, the fashion photographer, after she approached him at a French restaurant on the Upper East Side. Then there was a stint at the Gagosian Gallery, secured after chatting up Larry Gagosian, its founder, at a shoe store in the same neighborhood.
After working for Tuleh and Hogan, the leather-goods company, she consulted and then became director of fashion for the agency William Morris Endeavor, working with more mainstream brands, like Revlon and American Express. “Amanda is a complete person,” said her boss there, Mark Dowley, former chief executive of the agency’s marketing division. “Because she’s so pulled together, she’s incredibly disarming, but that can also be very intimidating.”
Ms. Brooks’s friends, though, described her as down to earth. “She’s a jock,” said Amy Astley, the editor of Teen Vogue, who is also married to an artist, the sculptor Christopher Astley, and got to know Ms. Brooks in the North Fork, where she also has a home. “She’s the girl who is swimming in the sound in April. She’s not a prissy fashion girl at all.”
Ms. Feinstein agreed. “Amanda is fearless,” she said. “If she decides to do something, she isn’t worried about what people might think.” She added: “She’s incredibly genuine. It’s hard for people to realize that someone like her is actually how she is. People want to dislike her because they can’t believe she’s had all this.”
At Barneys, though, Ms. Brooks faced challenges for which her charmed life might not have prepared her. She was part of a new management team, led by Mr. Lee and including Daniella Vitale, a veteran of Gucci, and Dennis Freedman, formerly of W magazine, that has tried to carry out a mandate to reinvent the store — an uphill battle.
“These last few years have been the golden age of luxury,” said Howard Davidowitz, a retail consultant. “During this golden age, Barneys has been a train wreck. It’s sort of undeniable. It’s almost in bankruptcy. Why is that?”
His theory: “From a merchandising point of view, they focused themselves out of business. If you have a big store, you have to have a wide range of customers. Otherwise, you won’t do enough business. They were way further out on the fashion curve, and that means much more risk.”
On May 7, after Ms. Brooks’s departure, Barneys announced that Perry Capital had become the new majority owner after a debt-for-equity deal.
Not that this is Ms. Brooks’s concern any longer. Instead, she is facing the challenge of branding herself just as the extended Brooks clan seeks greater privacy. (Through her, Christopher Brooks declined to be interviewed.) Ms. Brooks acknowledged that she was self-conscious posting on Twitter about herself, rather than a brand or a company, and that one of the qualities she most admired about Ms. Drummond’s work was that “she doesn’t exploit her children and husband.” But, “I love Instagram,” she said. “I love just posting a photograph and not saying anything.”
What kind of dispatches will be coming from Oxfordshire, where Ms. Brooks said she had spent most of her time on visits wearing jodhpurs? “It’s about a different perspective of living on a farm,” she said. “I’ll be looking for style, of course, as I do now. It might be the way I arrange a cheese plate, or how I arrange the flowers in a guest room.”
While Ms. Brooks refused to discuss the investigation rocking her extended family, she underscored her own toughness, telling of how four years ago, between fashion stints, she trained five months to push a dog sled 250 miles in Arctic Norway to raise money for charity.
“I’m adventurous,” she said. “I’ve always done well in situations that were unfamiliar to me. I’ve thrived on them.” A little bit of a chameleon? She lit up. “I’m not a little chameleon,” she said, “I’m totally a chameleon.”
Though it’s not yet clear that she can blend in entirely with the common folk. “If Amanda has one Achilles’ heel, it’s maybe not knowing how to play every situation,” Mr. Dowley said. “Not everybody knows what’s the latest thing in Vogue.”
But Ms. Brooks said she’s determined not to disappear. “I’ve just been programmed,” she said. “I’m success-oriented.” Mentioning plans for a second book, which will focus on stories of inspiration and influence over her 20-plus years in the fashion business, she mentioned the science lectures she loves at Rockefeller University, her collection of vintage books and being inspired by the work of the Pulitzer Prize winner Siddhartha Mukherjee.
“I’ve spent my entire career devoted to the vision of others,” she said. “This year away is for introspection. For myself.”