Power dressing: How to nail the New Yorker look
I always though the whole glossy New Yorker thing was just a myth - until the moment I walked into the Manhattan magazine office where I worked and clocked my boss getting her hair blow-dried and nails manicured. Behind her desk. While taking phone calls. At 8:00am. Must try harder, Emily, I told myself, and made my way to my cubicle.
New York, after all, is the birthplace of power dressing, power socialites, blow-dry bars, 24-hour nail salons and a first-name familiarity with Manolo Blahnik.
Picture your ultimate NY woman, and it's likely that the character who comes to mind has a permanent blowout and a terrifying devotion to her five-time-a-week SoulCycle habit - someone like the fictional Blair Waldorf, or the real Olivia Palermo (whose hairstylist once told me, "in New York, everybody is looking at everybody... your hair has got to be dead-on") or, in a more modern, 2017 update, Ivanka Tr...
"Let's stop right there and totally debunk that, please," says Amy Smilovic, the New York-based Tibi designer. "That stereotype might be down pat between 70th and 90th Street on the Upper East Side, but New York is like London in that you have all these different areas all with their different personalities."
Ask five New Yorkers to define the current New York ideal and you'll get at least a dozen answers. To Stella Bugbee, president and editor-in-chief of The Cut, it's "the Brooklyn look", or "cool kids who are really into androgynous clothing", or "young arty types who aren't driven by status and brands".
Smilovic can't help but invoke Donna Karan's 1992 "In Women We Trust" billboards, depicting a sharp-suited woman as president of the United States.
"That, to me, epitomised New York," she says (it's no mistake that her autumn-winter collection included a number of updates on the power blazer).
Chrissy Rutherford, senior digital fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar, says lately she's been feeling "a return to more classic style - really paring it back" and thinking about 90s swan Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy.
Leah Wyar Romito, chief beauty director at Hearst, says the look of the day is "off-duty model meets professional", name checking Emily Weiss, the founder of Glossier, and Christene Barberich, the flame-haired global editor-in-chief and co-founder of Refinery29, as its icons.
As for Barberich herself: "The spirit and energy of New York really pushes you to express your true self and there's a lot of appreciation for people who do their own thing."
That's all well and good, but if you wanted to be a New York woman in 2017, there still would be a few bedrock truths you'd need to know.
Truths that might raise eyebrows at home or seem (whisper it) high-maintenance, but which are essential to life in the busiest city on Earth. Like always getting fully dressed-up before stepping out the front door.
"I don't like walking around the city in athletic-wear unless I'm actually going to work out," Rutherford says. "I really try to look put together at all times - you never know who you're going to run into, and you always see people." Or, with her 30,000 Instagram followers, it might be more apt to say she can always count on "people" seeing her.
Awareness of everybody who might be looking can funnel into a commitment to fitness and grooming unparalleled outside, say, South Korea.
"Girls in New York are obsessed with their skin in a way I've never seen thanks to ready access to facials, acids, injectables and other 'tweakments'," says Wyar Romito. "We call it skintertainment."
On the exercise front, in a given week you might spend an hour on the boxing bags at Rumble, then take in a hip vinyasa class at Sky Ting yoga, then pedal it out with the "cycologists" at new spin-studio obsession CYC - not forgetting, of course, infrared sauna sessions at Higher Dose, meditation at Inscape and blasts of cryotherapy.
"You just pop out at lunch and go freeze your body for eight minutes," Smilovic says. "It's like the new caffeine."
If it sounds expensive, that's because it is. Luckily cheap thrills abound, too - eagle-eyed bargain-hunters keep an eye on the sample-sale schedule at 260 Sample Sales. Rent the Runway is a boon to keep newness circulating in and out of tiny wardrobes (important enough that Conde Nast subsidises employees' unlimited memberships). And you're never more than 500ft away from a cheap 15-minute massage, courtesy of a local nail spot.
Locals advise finding three trustworthy boutiques - some favourites are Rachel Comey, Bird and Barney's - and mixing your star buys with a lot of Zara and COS. The key items to splash out on are shoes and bags.
"In New York you walk everywhere and you're hauling your stuff everywhere," Bugbee says. "Your shoes and bags are like your car in any other city - you use them to get around and they do all the functional work of your life."
Those shoes will most likely be flats - Barberich's current obsession is a pair of crystal-embellished slides by Attico. "The heel is elegant but sturdy and they're just really, really comfortable. I love a fancy shoe that you can wear all day."
Rutherford says her autumn shoe wardrobe includes block-heeled YSL sandals, Stuart Weitzman Clinger booties, leopard-print Topshop slingbacks and red patent leather ankle boots.
That they're so colourful balances out another New York style truth. "I know it's a cliche," she says, "but you can never go wrong with wearing all black."
With New York Fashion Week drawing to a close, the city's most stylish have been out in force this week, should you be looking for inspiration.
Rachel Comey's show notes quoted Fran Lebowitz, writer, and cultural critic, who hit the nail on the head: "More people should be dressing like we dress in New York anyway. Not everyone in New York looks great, but you have a higher chance."
- The Telegraph, London