- Edited by Vivian Kelly
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Sunday, December 5, 2010
The International Best Dressed List - Hall of Fame’s Paul Wilmot: How to be a “Best-Dressed”
TEXT, VIVIAN KELLY
I was interviewing Paul Wilmot in his Calvin Klein-esque chic all white office to get some insight into how he’s come to be known as “Fashion Pr’s spin master” when I remembered that he was on the International Best Dressed List. As he spoke, steepling his well-manicured hands, I admired his pristine cuffs and heavy gold statement watch. This very well dressed Fashion PR guru looked bandbox perfect, despite the fact that he had been at work for 10 hours before we started chatting. That Monday, he’d kicked off yet another power day with a GMA [Good Morning America] interview around 7a.m., and here we were, around 5:00p.m., with the sun starting to set. Paul didn’t look at all tired and he sat with not a blonde hair out of place or a single wrinkle in his white cotton shirt. He made the International Best Dressed List in 1993, and figuratively sits alongside other fashion greats such as the Countess Mona Von Bismark, Eliza Bolen, Cece Cord, Cosmina Von Bulow Pavoncelli, Tom Wolfe, and Michael York.
True, it’s easy to dress in expensive clothes if you have the access and the budget, but that in itself is akin to baking bread and forgetting to put the yeast in. Like the doomed bread, your look will fall flat because it’s missing a key ingredient – STYLE.
So, just what does that mean? Fashion Designer, Yigal Azrouel, referred to it backstage during NYFW when he spoke of the element of self-confidence and how essential that was when you are wearing whatever it is you put on, even if it was just a humble “I Love NY” tee.
Maybe the old-fashioned word for this concept is “carriage” and Paul has that in spades. Before I read that he was a “Best-Dressed”, I remember all the times I’d seen him at Fashion events and noticed him first, and then the clothes as opposed to some of the colorful combinations the Japanese editors put together and display like peacocks, while at NYFW. That, to me, is costume, whereas Paul’s look is about easy yet traditional elegance.
There hasn’t been a single occasion in which Paul didn’t look “right”, whether it was in a beautiful suit [I’m guessing, Prada}, at client Prabal Gurung’s presentation, or a black ski jacket, as pre-show at Christian Siriano, also a client. The old saw, “birds of a feather flock together” applies here. Paul was a close personal friend
to some of the most stylish women on the planet – Nan Kempner, and C.Z. Guest. While in their company, he says he “observed” and over the years learned a thing or two from these impeccable ladies.
Being impeccable does not mean looking over-coiffed or lacquered into place, or old fashioned, for that matter. Traditional elegance is something that is always stylish, and each generation of “best-dressers” just add their unique take on it, which modernizes the look. Not to digress too much, I must mention the wonderful space I visited last Monday at 524 Broadway. We’d driven in from the country to attend a roundtable discussion there. I attended because my friend, John Tiffany had invited me and I’d have the opportunity to maybe meet two other “Best Dresseds” Iris Apfel and Carolyn Roehm. The New tradionalists space, I randomly thought to myself, “is so Paul”. The definition in the elegant take-home catalogue said it best. Their design firm is “influenced by classic silhouettes, objects, history, and you. We design for today’s eclectic personality. We think traditional can be cool.”
Paul thinks so too, as he reminisced fondly about Nan
and her over-the-top travel luggage, and super outsize personality. While he was speaking, I felt a little tug at my heart, wishing I’d had the fortune to have also have spent some time with this living life to the fullest woman.
As Paul spoke of Nan, he cited consistent details as a key part of the style equation. In Nan’s case, one of these consistent details was the large diamond ring she always wore on her pinkie ring.
A NAN ANECDOTE
“We were sharing a suite at the Crillon in Paris and this thing arrives. You would’ve thought it was a refrigerator, but it was a blouse and a skirt. It took up a whole closet in the Crillon.”
To read the rest of the article, ‘From the Well-Stuffed Closets of Mrs. Thomas L. Kempner", visit www.nymag.com
Below, some of the tips he’s gleaned over the years that helped put him make The List.
Some of these may sound rather obvious, but admit it, when you see a beautiful woman dressed to the nines and spot cracking toe nail polish, I have the same reaction Eddie Murphy did in the 1988 flick, ‘Coming To America’. His love interest, the perfect woman, had feet that hadn’t seen a pedicure in months, complete with dark chipping polish EEEK!!! Run!
PAUL’S TIPS ON HOW TO BE ON YOUR OWN BEST DRESSED LIST
*Invest in a great watch. He’s had his gold Rolex since the eighties.
*Maintain Your Investments: get those shoes shined; buy wooden forms for your shoes and boots. Ladies, the same goes for your handbags. No scuffs allowed!
* Make a statement with a consistent item [Like Nan did with her diamond pinkie ring]: Paul collects gold cufflinks that pop on his
heavily black and white color palette.
* Don’t Ever Forget Grooming – it all counts. Being well maintained includes: regular haircuts, mani and pedi, proper skincare.
In case you’re reading over this list and start thinking, ‘I don’t have time to do all this, and why got through all of this trouble?’ think about what Cybill Sheppard so famously stated for L’Oreal – “Because I’m Worth It”.
To read more about the International Best Dressed List and its creator, Eleanor Lambert, visit www.empressoffashion.blogspot.com