Like Father, Like Daughter?

Today FAULT meets College professor, author and cultural historian Amanda Hallay alongside illustrator, Creative Director at Doneger Group and fashion historian David Wolfe – described asthe world’s leading fashion authority” by The New York Times.

We did not meet in person for this interview (I wish we did, but that’s what happens when you deal with two busy creative minds). David will be travelling non-stop until September 16th (the end of fashion week) while Amanda is busy teaching and elaborating her new course Who Wears What for the coming semester.

I can’t tell you how much I love Amanda’s way of teaching: ALIVE and INSPIRING. I had the pleasure to attend her course Cultural Connections to Fashion at LIM College last semester (‘Feelings is Fashion and Fashion is Feelings’) and I have learned so much in such an incredibly short period of time (THANK YOU).

As for David, I met him twice – very composed, modest and as inspiring as his daughter. He gave Amanda’s CC class two presentations on Fashion History. In three hours I knew EVERYTHING  – from the creation of the Gibson Girl to the meaning of Bikini and the emergence of a new kind of beauty (‘Heroin Chic’). And of course, everything livened up with crispy anecdotes…

They are similar in the way of conveying ideas and making connections but they sometimes (not to say all the time?) disagree with each other’s views on fashion (fluty 30s or dirty 30s?) or on life in general. I LOVE THAT.  Since they both have their unique personality, it’s funny to notice how two great minds don’t necessarily think alike. Delightful and profound.

FAULT: Where does your passion for fashion come from?

AH: From the world that creates it; from technology, from people, from history, from architecture, from music….Fashion itself is not very interesting; it’s when you figure out WHY someone is wearing something that it suddenly becomes FASCINATING!

DW: A hunger for beauty and culture fuelled by a burning curiosity to understand the human urge to self-presentation in an ever-changing society.


I know both of you had the chance to live in Europe for a while (Paris, London, Milan). Now you are based in NYC. How would you compare European and American fashion of today (if relevant)?

AH: European fashion (be it in chic Paris, stylish Milan, trendy Berlin or fashion-forward London) is ALWAYS several steps ahead of American fashion. I think this is because Americans are very modest and generally prefer not to stand out in a crowd. Also, I think that the obsession with designer labels in the States has confused people; if something has a label on it, they think it must be ‘fashionable’, and – ergo – if they buy it, it makes THEM ‘fashionable’. I think Americans need more fashion confidence; they LOVE to look good, but are a little afraid of taking a fashion risk.

DW: Today there is very little difference.  Fashion has homogenized into a global expression (with a pace and taste level driven by American Pop culture). As recently as the ‘90s, there was still a different, nationalistic taste expression that made fashion different not just between America and Europe, but between European fashion capitols.


Do you ever go back to Europe? What do you miss most from there?

AH: I miss the intellectual curiosity of Paris and its understanding that youth is for the young and is great (but that adults are FAR more interesting!).  I miss London for its hipness and humor.

DW: Yes, I go to Europe a couple times a year and would very much miss the opportunity to people watch and see what “real” fashion is about, rather than fashion as presented by magazines and websites.


Today communication is faster and we can all attend any kinds of fashion events live on screens – TV, laptops, smart phones – and get inspired by people from different origins and cultures. Do you think it is still relevant to analyze fashion in terms of geographical zones?

AH: What a great, great question, Alexandra!  Yes, I personally do think it’s relevant to analyze fashion geographically, because the fashion psychology of each nation (its very approach to garments) differs, and what is exciting to a Londoner might be horrifying to a Parisian, and what everyone is loving in the States might be met with disdain in Milan. I think the new technology is highlighting our national differences more than it illustrates our universal commonalities.

DW: No, it is no longer relevant although interesting to chart the timetable of fashion acceptance in various locales and cultures.


Are you satisfied with fashion today? What do you expect to happen? What do you wish to see in the next years?

AH: I am not at all satisfied with fashion today! I am so tired of recycling old ideas. The problem with fashion today is that technology, science, architecture, etc, have moved too fast for fashion to keep up with, and we are so baffled by what we’re actually supposed to WEAR in this Brave New World that we’re consistently retreating to past ideas.  But I do think that change is in the air; the return to Minimalism is at least an attempt to break away from the ‘more-is-more’ opulence and excess of the past twenty years, and whilst most of the Minimalism on offer today is based on a ‘50s model, it still looks fresh compared to the same old crap (Rock Chic, Punk Chic, ‘80s Rebel, etc) that we’ve been looking at for decades.

DW: I am ALWAYS “satisfied” with fashion because it is fascinating to see how it changes. Personally, I like the late 1930s style myself, but that is gone.  At the moment I am obsessed with textile technology and functional design as I think the 20th Century fashion system is no longer functioning (although magazines and stores keep beating this dead horse.)


David, I know you personally knew Vidal Sassoon, the creator of the Bauhaus-inspired hairstyle and unfortunately for us – creative minds – he passed away a few weeks ago. Any personal anecdotes about him you would like to share with us?

DW: I did not know him well, not socially.  Interviewed him and found him to be articulate and fairly oozing with personal charm.  In that capacity (TV and print journalist), I got to meet many fashion stars.  Here are some instant reactions I had…Calvin Klein, street-smart…Donna Karan, crafty and aggressive…Gianni Versace, a creative force…Giorgio Armani, cool and collected…Oscar de la Renta,

Charm personified…Ralph Lauren, all business…Tommy Hilfiger, down-to-earth…Mary Quant, clever and quirky.


Amanda, would you like to add something about VS?

AH: Well, as a woman who has a precision-cut geometric bob, all I have to add is; ‘Thanks, Vidal!’



Some people make decisions on the basis of things happening or not happening – e.g. If the guy sitting at the bar with the green jacket leaves in about 10 minutes, I quit my job tomorrow. Have you ever tried that sort of thing before?

AH: No, because I truly try to live ‘organically’ and be governed by my own instincts. I honestly think the instinct is somehow scientific; we do not QUESTION an animal’s instinct, yet with humans, it’s sort of seen a bit like the ‘soul’, with some people believing it exists, and others not. Yet we have proven time and time again that animals have instincts, and – as we are animals ourselves – of course we do….and should always follow them.

DW: Constantly, but usually about my personal life/relationships and not professional decision.


Any passion from childhood that you keep on having now? E.g. building LEGO forts.

AH: MOST of the passions I have now originated in childhood, from my love of history to writing books (I believe my first oeuvre was a slim volume, penned at age six, called ‘The Flying Princess’).

I am willing to bet that my dad answers ‘Paper Dolls’ in his response to this question!

DW: Paper Dolls!  See my website,


If you had the possibility to travel back in time, where and when would you like to make a stop for a day?

AH: Alexandra, this is CRUEL of you to make me choose just one! Actually, you didn’t make us choose just one, so I’ll give you five…

1)    I would like to travel back to the Cretaceous era (in some kind of Tyrannosaurus-proof vehicle, a flying one, preferably) to look at dinosaurs. It still blows my mind that they were here for sooooo much longer than we have, and – in reality – Earth is ‘The Dinosaur Planet’ (not ours), and I’d love to pay a visit to their world.

2)    The Middle Ages! I have always been fascinated by the Medieval World, and I think a day spent in Chartres in the 12th century would be great (especially if I got to hang out with the Feudal Lords; I’m not sure I’d like to spend a day with a pig farming serf).

3)    Jamaica in the 17th century, so I could hang out in taverns with pirates and drink rum! (And invent the Pina Colada centuries sooner!)

4)    America at the time of the Revolution. I LOVE the simple and elegant style of Colonial America, and I think that bustling Boston – with all of its political gossip and general trouble-making – would have been an exciting place to be in the 1770s.

5)    ‘Small Town America’ in World War II.  As you know, Alexandra, I get very emotional when I teach WWII, and I would love to spend a day experiencing what life really felt like for the average American as the world went to war.

DW: In all history…the wedding of Marie Antoinette.  In my own life…the day Amanda was born.


Amanda, I know you are a cocktail-aholic and I have something special for you.

Do you know

AH: I don’t know! Merci mille fois, Alexandra!


Okay. Tell me what kind of music you are listening to at the moment and you will find out what you should drink when reading your interview on FAMWire.

AH: I am listening to Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 (In the summer, I always go a bit Sixties International, and favor bossa nova or Tropicalia-ish grooves).

Drinkify suggests 1 Corona (Serve cold) or 2oz Horilka (Serve neat).

DW: Iris Chacon (‘70s Latina pop star).

Drinkify suggests 4 oz Metaxa + 4 oz Tonic Water (Combine in shaker and strain into cocktail glass. Serve).


Put Jack Kerouac X-ray sunglasses and scan our world. What do you see?

AH: I see that he got it right; it DOES have us beat. L

DW: Boring oatmeal brain-numb druggies.


Now do the same with Justin Bieber X-ray sunglasses.

AH: Nothing important….because I don’t think the young of today really feel that there IS anything truly ‘important’ for them to concern themselves with, which is a shame, because there is a LOT of important stuff out there….they just don’t seem to see it.

DW: I would NEVER put on those sunglasses!


A free forecast for FAULT (please!)? Let’s get wild – what would fashion, art and music be like in 2050 according to you?

AH: I think by 2050, we honestly won’t be looking to garments anymore to make any sort of ‘statement’. Already, attire seems less important than technology, and I think that fashion in clothing might be replaced by ‘brain fashion’, with a technology that allows others to see how smart you are (and the smarter you are, the more ‘fashionable’ you are!)  I think everything is destined to become more ‘virtual’, and ‘virtual’ will basically replace ‘real’ – but that might not be a bad thing! We might be able to change our homes, or our hair, or our location with just a click on our (virtual!) computer! I also think that having penetrated ‘micro’ technology so much, we will – by 2050 – be reaching outward again, the Space Program reinvigorated and that ‘50s idea of colonies on the Moon might actually become a reality. Art will be created with thought alone, and the viewer can change it if they want to by ‘thinking something else’.  Absurd as all this might sound, much of this technology is actually already in existence – and if we look back on even the last 20 years and see how much the world has changed, it is practically unimaginable to concept what it will be like in forty years time.

DW: Spray-on and holographic fashions with techno-accessories worn by a population of genetically-engineered and surgically-reconfigured fashionistas of an elite class while the worker/drone/peasants wear levis/Jimmy Choo shoes/Vuitton Bags/Ed Hardy t-shirts.  (Am I kidding?  You guess.)


Interview by Alexandra S. Jupillat