The Ageless Style of Ladies of Madison Avenue – All photos Joshua Kamei
Joshua Kamei launched his popular Instagram account, @LadiesofMadisonAve in 2020. In February 2022, TikTok acccount followed. Together they have a combined following of more than 123,700. I was unaware of the platform until a few months ago. I attended the Museum of Arts & Design’s MAD About Jewelry Opening Night Reception decked out in colorful Pucci and an oversized necklace.
As soon as I walked in, a young man excitedly ran over to me with a microphone in hand and asked if he could interview me about what I was wearing. He identified himself as Joshua Kamei and told me what the video was for.
Marilyn Kirschner with young Canadian Tourists
Kamei’s exuberance and his obvious glee at finding an interesting “subject’ reminded me of the late Bill Cunningham. Joshua subsequently videotaped me walking into the Plaza Hotel on my way to the Viennese Opera Ball a few weeks ago. I was admittedly in “costume,” and my look even attracted young visitors from Canada.
“Annette de la Renta was the initial inspiration for The Ladies of Madison Avenue. I am fascinated with a self-assured, polished look reminiscent of the 1950s favored by icons like de la Renta, Babe Paley, Nan Kempner, Mercedes Bass, and Nancy Kissinger.”– Joshua Kamei, Creator of Ladies of Madison Avenue
Photographers, whether on the streets of NY or at events, are most likely seeking out boldface names and famous faces. That wasn’t Bill’s MO, and it’s not Joshua’s.
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There will never be another Bill Cunningham, but the two photographers have a few similarities. Like the late BC, Joshua prefers to keep the spotlight on his subjects, not on himself. Like Bill, Joshua is well-mannered, courteous, and attuned to those who might not want their picture taken or a video of them.
Bill’s signature spot was in front of Bergdorf Goodman. Joshua will walk from Bergdorf Goodman to 72nd and Madison Avenue. Bill started out as a milliner, and Joshua initially wanted to pursue a career in fashion design. The Mississippi born 38-year-old moved to New York in 2008 to intern at Oscar de la Renta (this is where he met Mrs. de la Renta). He subsequently interned at Lanvin (when Alber was there) and Michael Kors Collection.
In fact, Joshua admitted that he is still interested in pursuing fashion design, focusing on classic items that work for women of all ages, like the perfect white shirt. “I would love to build enough following where I create clothes inspired by these women,” says Kamei. The generational aspect is essential to Joshua, who loves photographing mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and granddaughters. He also loves photographing friends together.
Liz, wearing Zara’s leopard coat, was Joshua’s first video subject
About 7 years ago, Joshua began taking photos of patrician women whose attire he found striking or noteworthy in some way. The first time he dared to stop a stranger on the street while carrying a microphone was with Liz. The octogenarian wore a leopard jacket with a belt, gloves, and “interesting jewelry.” Josh asked about her outfit and posted the video on TikTok and Instagram. Liz gleefully tells Joshua in her video that Bill Cunningham photographed her quite often. Several other women have told Joshua the same thing.
It doesn’t get chicer than Lily, whose Hermes scarf and bag accessorize her jeans and t shirt
“Seeing these older women on a young platform like Tik Tok is unexpected, if not shocking. I guess that’s what makes it modern and draws people in,” offers Joshua. Seeing the unsuspecting women’s reactions when Josh approaches them is refreshing. Most look surprised, if not astonished, that they are being videotaped because of their fashion sense, and Joshua does a great job of putting them at ease. Some have thanked him for making them “New York celebrities.” Reading comments from Joshua’s followers can be as entertaining as watching the videos.
One significant difference between Ari Seth Cohen’s well-established Advanced Style blog and The Ladies of Madison Avenue is that Cohen’s beautiful characters are even larger than life. They tend to be a bit more theatrical than Joshua’s.
Ethel admits she is preoccupied with how she puts herself together
Most, but not all of Kamei’s subjects are older patrician women who live on the Upper East Side and continue to take great pride in their appearance. Ethel, one of his ladies, admitted she is preoccupied with how she puts herself together, but it’s a “silent thought process that doesn’t interfere with anything else.”
Mildred was a principal for over thirty years and a teacher for many years before that
Joshua’s ladies know there are some rules to be followed; they understand the idea of appropriateness and appreciate the fact that dressing smartly is a mark of respect. Many women factor in what their grandchildren will think when they put themselves together. Also, they are savvy shoppers who believe in investment clothing, often pulling out coats and jackets that are decades old.
“It’s not just about asking these women what they are wearing but diving a little deeper. I’m so sick of seeing so many interviews where it’s just about labels. You don’t learn about the woman or the thought process behind her outfit. I want to know where she’s coming from, where she’s going, and why she chose what she did.”Joshua Kamei, Creator of Ladies of Madison Avenue
Rory Gevis wearing Zara with Elsa her beloved poodle
While the majority of Joshua’s subjects are relative unknowns, Joshua has also interviewed people like Amy Fine Collins, Jean Shafiroff, Aerin Lauder, designers Joanna Mastroianni and Naeem Khan, milliner Stephen Jones, Rory Gevis, Barbara Tober, Susanna Talley and Amy Tarr among others.
Author Susannah Talley at home
It’s not just about how people dress that interests Joshua, but how they live. “Their style is apparent in everything.” Last Saturday, Joshua shot his third video of author Susannah Talley in her Upper East Side apartment, “I think we are going to be friends for life now.”
Joshua stays on the Upper East Side because it’s a niche market for him, but he is not ruling out going to other areas like Tribeca or Soho. Meanwhile, in the same way, “We all dressed for Bill,” with Joshua’s popularity on the rise and more publicity surrounding his TikTok and Instagram accounts.
I would not be surprised if the “Ladies of Madison Avenue” will begin to put themselves together with even more consideration, just in case they run into Josh.
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