I recently had the pleasure of meeting two individuals who, while not youngsters, exemplify the meaning of style at any age. They are both from the ‘hood, ie. my ‘hood — the UES of Manhattan. They each pack quite a visual punch as they make their way around the city. If you see either of them after reading this article make sure you say “hello” because, in addition to looking so damn good, they are two of the nicest people that you’re likely to encounter.
The daffodil yellow hair has given Carole Garber her trademark although she has, on occasion, been mistaken for Lady Gaga; as well as her Twitter handle and moniker of YellowGarb. Like the trendsetter that she is, her hair has been this color for almost seven years and so precedes the current fashion of unnatural tress hues. Originally from London, she still retains her English accent, her slightly loopy but engaging persona (her background in theater is evident) and most importantly what she calls her “instinct.” She began her career at the tender age of 15 when she was scouted at school for an internship at the venerable British haute couture institution known as “The House of Worth.”
“I WAS Eliza Doolittle but I spoke nicely. Didn’t have the Cockney accent.” she recounts. There she met her fashion inspiration in the form of Madame Barry, a holocaust survivor who always dressed impeccably and carried a small Hermes bag of baby crocodile (the smallest part of the crocodile apparently, not a baby reptile) and matching shoes. She would add a dash of color in the form of an accessory which made an impression on the young Miss Garber. At Worth, Carole met many of the royal family, learned to curtsey and to help select gifts for them to give to family members from the luxury boutique Asprey. “Everyone’s family had a royal crest or family coat of arms and I would help them with their purchase. I was the only girl not from royalty. Once I was asked ‘What kind of Rolls does your daddy have?'” (Her father was a taxi driver). “‘He has a Rolls Cannardly'” she quipped. When they asked what that was she answered that it “cannardly get up the hill” which works quite well with her accent but perhaps not as well in print. For Carole the fashion seeds were “sewn” as she learned pattern making on muslin, was sent on button buying expeditions, as well as how to style for fashion shows. She was a real life Cinderella invited to the Hunt Ball; instead of a pumpkin coach she had her dad’s black taxi.
At 19, Carole moved to Montreal, Canada far away from her loved ones which was difficult. She started a clothing business and then became more interested in accessories especially fur for her mainly French clientele. She would buy items that struck her as interesting in a flea market, vintage store or art show and change them around or embellish them to make it her own handmade one-of-a kind piece. She had a line of handbags known as Carole bags and came to NYC on an open call for Henri Bendel however she had missed it by one day. After handling the situation the only way she saw fit at the time (she burst out crying in the middle of Bendel’s) when a miracle happened. “At the worst times, the best things happen to me.” she now says. The person comforting her was none other than the accessories buyer and they signed her up on the spot. She later included hats, some jewelry and scarves in the line.
Since then she has settled here, married the ” man of her dreams” 18 years ago (husband is Stanley Jay Friedman, a world renowned furniture designer who, she proudly tells me, just won a Pinnacle award for his modern designs. Now (in her 60’s) she sells unique accessory designs that are handpicked and curated from mostly European sources including knit necklaces made of crushed glass (they sparkle) from Lara Knutson, industrial Neoprene jewelry and Neoprene bag, woven and braided rubber necklaces and bags, clutches made of shell, skins or woven straw (Marjorie Renner from Paris), wood scarves by Jianhui London (so cool), scarves, hats, cufflinks etc. at trade shows, through corporate vendor programs (Pepsico and Pfizer are two) as well as being a stylist. She enjoys contributing in a philanthropic manner and cites a children’s charity that she has been involved with as well as being involved in the mentoring of young girls. She says she finds it thrilling to help a woman by buoying her spirits up with a new and rare accessory.
“I just love anyone of any age who loves to dress up.” Carole had told me over the phone before we met. Her outfits are always well thought out and always changing. She showed me how she can go from day to night with just a change of accessories that she carries with her. Her style icons/inspirations are Victoria Beckham, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, the Duchess of Cambridge although she’s not a designer, and the recently deceased Oscar de la Renta as the only American of the bunch. Who would she love to style? Pharrell Williams. She has saved all of her Azzedine Alaia knitwear from back in the ’70s (“I was Carnaby Street…”) which she still wears but will shop at Zara, H&M, as well as Karen Millen and Ted Baker…hmm can’t help noticing that her last two are Brits. Other influences: old movies from the ’20s, ’30s or ’40s, Instagram which she recently joined and now “loves” and follows Vogue editor Suzy Menkes, the Apple store (where they taught her everything about computers that her family members wouldn’t). What doesn’t influence her: although she spends time in a lake house in Connecticut “I don’t love wearing jeans.” she admits. She also doesn’t do the new activewear category, or online shopping. “I’m trying to get women to go back to the stores.” she explains. Favorite items to wear are dresses which she thinks of as a blank canvas ready to be loaded with accessories. She encourages women to know what shapes look best on them but to still experiment and to wear white! Above all she doesn’t follow trends and will wear what she likes!
“Most people are comfortable looking like each other” she remarks. “But I like to stand out.”
Mission accomplished, Carole!
|Photos Laurel Marcus|
Since we don’t do much with men’s fashion, it seemed like a good time to change it up a little and feature a gentleman who has a very dapper, yet creative sensibility. Gerald Glaser, a remarkably spry 88-year-old who could easily pass for 20 years younger, turns himself out everyday complete with jacket, dress shirt, pocket square, and except on his most casual days, a tie. He will vary between a dress shoe and a colorful Converse sneaker (he has eight pairs in different colors) which he discovered for comfort when he had a toe injury, but stuck with for style.
After serving in the Air Force during WWII he graduated from NYU with a Journalism degree. He got married, moved to Stamford, Connecticut and formed Grafiko, an advertising agency whose clients included, Electrolux, Parade Magazine and various perfumes and raised a family. He moved back to the city 17 years ago and for the past eight years has been employed at his stepson’s software development firm as operations manager. He is in great physical and mental condition and runs early every morning as well as regularly goes to the gym. Although his style was always more formal than others; he was the only one in a jacket and tie in his NY School of Printing vocational high school photo; he admits that he was not always in such top physical shape. The Brooklyn native remembers the turning point. “It was 48 years ago, I was 40 years old,” he begins. “I had to write copy for an exercise machine that did this.” he moves his arms in and out like an accordion.”I got the idea to hire Mohammed Ali who was out of work at the time since it was during his period as a conscientious objector. It was in the early ’70s and he lived in Cherry Hill (N.J.) at the time. He also promoted his own line of shoe polish so I thought he might do it.” For a $1,000 fee, Gerry had the privilege of standing next to Ali while he demonstrated the product. “I felt like a pipsqueak. I was dressed like a schlemiel and was heavier then with no mustache. The next day I joined the Y.” he recalled.
Gerry’s current and second wife Mary, was a model whom he met when she came to his ad agency seeking a modeling job. They recently celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary. This article is not Gerry’s only modeling stint however. When he was 23, he met a guy on the subway who was studying him and his every move. Feeling uncomfortable and finally reaching his stop, Gerry got off the train only to be followed by the man. It turns out that he was an artist working for Sports Illustrated and was observing Gerry as a potential artist’s model for a bullfighting feature. He hired Gerry to pose in full bullfighting regalia for the sketches (he had to make do with a pretend cape) because he thought he had the right look and proportions for a matador.
As far as his style inspirations, Gerry claims to really like the windows in the Men’s Store at Bergdorf Goodman. The eclectic display is how he aims to dress, he added. He claims to have been a big Daffy’s shopper who rarely wears a matched suit, preferring to pair stripes with plaid in similar colors so that only the very mindful realize that he is suit-less. One day he did accompany his stepson to Bergdorf’s for a wedding suit. They were in one of the designer’s enclave and his stepson was being fitted while Gerry appraised a bow tie for himself. He asked how much it was and upon hearing that it cost $135, put it back. Upon returning home, he noticed that the bowtie was wrapped up with his stepson’s purchases as a gift from the store.
Like Carole, Gerry also doesn’t wear jeans or activewear. “Casual to me means I take my tie off.” he said. He buys his ties from a pushcart on 23rd Street near his office for $5. He wears only solid color ties and estimates he has around 200 of them. He always has a vibrant pocket square, cufflinks and colorful, sometimes patterned socks. The day I interviewed him, his eggplant colored socks perfectly matched his Converse footwear and I guessed it; purple is his favorite color. He is a doting grandpa who, when she was younger, used to walk his granddaughter to school. In order to liven up their perambulating conversations he had her discuss all the things that she was interested in. By the end of the semester, he had a book bound and published based on these subjects including tigers, Christmas trees, Tai Kwon Do and entitled it “Mikayla and Her Purple Grandpa.”
Whether you call it “Advanced Style” as Ari Seth Cohen does in his blog and recent documentary film or just local folks looking good in the ‘hood, both Carole and Gerry fill the bill. Just don’t ask them to do grunge.