Tales from a Fashion Muse

I grew up in a very small town in Israel. My parents were Hungarian Jews. My father was the town tailor, and he survived the camps by sewing Nazi uniforms. My mother was a very skilled dressmaker–she could somehow do accordion pleats on wool. She was magic.

My father had wanted a boy, since they already had my sister, so he was busy sewing boys’ clothes. And my mother wanted another girl. From a young age, I was equally comfortable dressing as a little boy or a little girl. I had the best clothes that hands could make, and I delighted in it. Then, one of my father’s sisters ended up marrying the vice president of Neiman Marcus. So I also had some of the best clothes money could buy. People always thought I was a princess because I dressed like a princess.

At 9, we moved to the United States. After college, I left New York for California but came back by the time I was 29. I spent those years creating my look. When it comes to clothes, the older, the better. I spend a fortune to mend them, but it’s not about the money–it’s about the look and the fashion.

My whole relationship with Fashion Week started when I moved uptown. I’m rarely, if ever, invited to the shows. Sometimes I would make my way into the tents. Once I’m inside, I get very busy. I make myself up, and then inevitably I’d see Bill Cunningham. He would, of course, get me to the side and take pictures of me. That’s the first thing he would do. Bill adored me because I knew how to dress. Then he would say, “So, child, are you going to any shows?” And I would hang my head in shame and say, “No, Bill. I wasn’t invited.” And he’d give me whatever invites he had. He was so kind to me. One year he gave me his ticket to the Anna Sui show, and this young woman comes toward me with the clipboard and walkie-talkie, “Excuse me, excuse me. What are you doing? Excuse me, excuse me!” I had to tell her that Bill gave me his ticket. If it weren’t for Bill, I probably would have never seen any of the shows.

Even when I couldn’t get into shows, I would always get dolled up and go to Lincoln Center after work, stand by the fountain, pretend that I’m waiting for someone, and wait for people to start taking my picture. Sometimes I would go home, change outfits, and come back and give them another show. I like giving people a show. One of the things that I’m doing on this planet is raising the bar on what’s beauty. It’s needed. It’s very needed, because right now we’re in the gutter on all levels. I’m raising the bar in the beauty department.

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