Sarah Benjamin and I have always had lot to talk about, this is the first time we have talked style, which is surprising. What I love about Sarah’s style is that it is simple and Luxe but always has a twist … like the safety pin earrings by Tom Binns, a touch that makes it hers alone.
Sarah worked in broadcasting for years, now she helps run The Kier Foundation with husband Phil Kier. They are great supporters of the Arts and Artists. Their home is like the most exquisite private gallery. She is a sensational hostess and cook an invitation to lunch should not be missed.
On the day of our shoot the kitchen was overflowing with Quince, she is a keen gardner – grown on their country property. I left with a bag full of Quince and a jar of the most delicious Quince jelly.
Who are the designers you like?
In no particular order; Dries Van Noten, Marni, Simone Rocha. Acne, Comme des Garcon, Bassike. Jack and Jack and Lee Mathews and Uniglow and I’m always keen to see what Akira Isogawa and Romance Was Born are doing.
What sort of clothes appeal to you?
I love fabric, detail and cut. I can find these in some very plain, classic clothes or in more flamboyant cloths. My office is at home so for every day work I am happy wearing a kind of uniform with minor variations; Jac and Jack pants in navy, bone or black and perhaps a Bassike top or soft jumper. If I am out and about I will add more or less depending on the event. I move back and forth along a spectrum. At one end is a super light bone coloured, anonymous raincoat from Uniglo which I can wear anywhere and at the other end is a shimmery multi coloured, beaded and tasseled jacket coat by Romance Was Born which makes me feel quite theatrical and bold.
Overall I like hard working cloths that I can add or subtract from. I prefer prices that will change looks depending on context. For summer I bought a pair of silk black cullottes from Jac and Jack that I can wear with runners or heels, with a tee shirt or silk top. I have lived in those cullottes. I’m also drawn to scarves and bags for their texture and colour and love the way they can change they way I look and feel.
Do you have any style icons?
I’m sure I do. When I was in my twenties I was pretty taken with the “Eurotrash meets Studio 54″ look and those who were part of it. At the same time I really admired Diana Vreeland. Even then she was much older but proof positive that style trumped beauty – nurture over nature. Lauren Hutton and Isabella Rossalini were and remain both beautiful and stylish in a low key way that appeals to me. I love that these women whom I was drawn to in my twenties are still seen as icons. Today if I’m thinking style icons I might say Miuccia Prada. She has a very natural and somewhat imperfect look which is beautiful. In clothes knows what suits her and she sticks to it. I still have a small fuchia coloured nylon evening bag of her hers I bought in the early 1980’s in Italy before I’d heard her of her brand. It must have either been in a sale or not so expensive because I was a student then.
How do you feel about getting older?
For one thing, I exercise more which until recently has never been a big part of my life but I have a new appreciation of the return on effort. We’ve just been on a five day trek in Japan with our teenage kids, I had to be fit, there was no choice. That’s probably a good thing about having children later, they are around to keep you on your toes. They also keep me across youth culture and question some of my long held views and assumptions. This can be challenging but it’s interesting to question truisms, even my own. I see plenty of people becoming more intellectually rigid as they get older with a rare few retaining an agile, open, questioning mind. I really admire that in others.
Do magazines or add campaigns talk to your generation?
Magazines don’t have the same allure they once did. However the best of the established mags have a retained a quality that I’m prepared to buy into from time to time. Edward Enninful’s transformation at English Vogue is interesting to watch. Everything from the way he uses instagram to the talent he has drawn to his editorial, including Grace Coddington who is always a joy to follow.
There are also some interesting newer mags like The Gentlewoman out of the UK which I really enjoy. I also like magazines on art and interiors and architecture such as Apartamento and at two issues a year it has a durability; I really like its international viewpoint.
Whilst on the subject of fashion and style, I am just as curious to see what a designer or artist is wearing in a profile piece as I am by any ad campaign or more conventional fashion mag. As for ad campaigns, I do like some. Uniglo campaigns are interesting for their simplicity. Simone Rocha does beautiful campaigns. Her models are not often my age but I still relate to the ads for their art and aesthetic. Her shops are similraly a pleasure to spend time in. I am enjoying the ad campaigns of English designer Molly Goddard too. I don’t have anything of hers because I don’t think her pieces would work for me but they are fun and beautiful and I enjoy looking at them. I came across both these designers independently only to find they are stocked by Dover Street Market and some Comme des Garcon stores. Having said all that. If there is a magazine or catalogue nearby I will always pick it up and have a look.
How do you approach fashion compared to your mothers generation?
My mother’s style has been consistent as long as I can remember. She is drawn to an idea of casual Italian as I have been over the years. When I lived in Italy as a student I well remember Italian men and women of all ages on the street going about their daily business and I just could not get enough of them. The way an Italian wears his jeans is very different to the way a Japanese man or Australian wears his; I really like that difference. I did go through a phase of wearing some Italian menswear pieces either borrowed from my father or bought on my own account – loose jackets and shirts.
If a piece of clothing works for my mother she wears it forever and I am the same. She will go further and either buy multiples of pullovers and tee shirts if she likes them or have a skirt made in other colours. I don’t do that. My mother is not really interested in fashion as such, preferring to go to a few favoured shops. What’s more, she has always relied on a dressmaker, so she loves material shops. That is something I have inherited from her. I love the care taken to buy beautiful materials, match linings and great buttons and have something really beautiful made. I rarely do it but I appreciate it. I love haberdashery as does my daughter Hannah. It’s really interesting to see her style evolve and become independent.
Where are the clothes from in the shots?
The linen flowery dress is an old Marni favourite that I bought in a sale. I love it and so do other people when I wear it. It’s a bit nostalgic and pretty. The sandals are also Marni also bought at one of Barneys’ amazing shoe sales. I wear Marni shoes a lot because I know they fit my feet which is a great plus.
The blue stripped top is one I wear a lot; Japanese cotton by Lee Mathews. The navy skirt is beautiful Japanese linen made by Sark in Surry hills. Sark has a very Japanese aesthetic so its no surprise its also stocked at Dover Street Market, Ginza Store. The red sandals are Marni which I’ve had for years. The safety pin earings are Tom Binns which I bought years ago when he was still making and selling his jewellery in NY. You can still find his stuff online in some place like Ebay
The cream coloured, glimmery shirt is by Lee Mathews and the black silk pants are Jac and Jack which I cut off with scissors because they were way too long. The sandals are Dries van Noten.
The black and white checked top is Simone Rocha as are the black earrings and hair clip. Shoes are ACNE.
What are the things that are most important in your life as you get older?
Family and friends of course. I love sharing food and conversation with people of different ages and from across different parts of my life; to mix things up a bit. I am drawn to people with energy and commitment who make interesting things happen. At my current age, I’m less concerned about doing things that are expected of me by others. There is tremendous pressure to conform throughout life but one of the pleasures of getting older is a greater freedom to resist some of that.
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