With a Central Saint Martins degree in fashion journalism and a lengthy list of celebrity clients, Annabel Tollman has an impressive résumé (several years as the fashion director of Interview magazine made her quite the New York insider). The leggy blonde now has her own styling company based out of the West Village, and a large-scale obsession with glamorous, old-Hollywood style. And her client list boats Scarlett Johansson, Mariah Carey, and the Olsens. In between fittings with Brit musician Jamie Cullum for his new album, we caught up with Annabel to talk about her personal style, designers that start with the letters A and B, and where to shop for vintage in New York.
How did you get into fashion and styling?
I loved fashion and magazines when I was growing up. I was good at English, so my mother convinced me to study fashion journalism rather than design at Central Saint Martins, a wise move, as I have very little patience and hate sewing. At school, while wearing a black dress with major accessories (a huge Vivienne Westwood handbag and silver shell-toed Adidas sneakers, I believe), I had a tutor tell me that I was probably really a stylist and not a designer or journalist.
What’s the inspiration behind your own look?
Elizabeth Taylor meets Brigitte Bardot. I’m a big believer in bombshell glamor. If it ain’t broke … I’m also very inspired by literature. I get very inspired by literature because certain authors just paint such wonderful pictures. Nancy Mitford and Truman Capote are two of my favorites.
What was the first designer item you bought or wore?
It might be the aforementioned Vivienne Westwood handbag — it was huge and black patent with a big orb on it. I went through a big Westwood phase in my Saint Martins days.
Who were some of your favorite designers growing up? What about now?
The first designers that I loved and identified with were Rifat Ozbek and Katharine Hamnett, though I never owned any of it (it’s sort of hard to pull that off at age 12, living in the sticks). Now I love designers whose names begin with A or B … Alaïa, Azzaro, Balmain, Antonio Berardi — but Roland Mouret remains an enduring favorite. I love some of the new Brit designers too: Meadham Kirchoff, Louise Goldin, and Richard Nicoll are all very exciting. My enduring love, however, is vintage.
What are some items you can’t live without?
I love belts. I’m particularly enamored with my black Alaïa belt because it adds some badass punch to an otherwise soft and pretty look. I bought these strapless bullet bras at a vintage show and I’ve been wearing them over T-shirts — people laugh and point, but as long as I’m happy, then they can laugh all they like.
Where do you shop most in NYC?
I love New York Vintage on 25th Street. Jeffrey and Barneys are amazing for shoes.
Is there an item you are currently coveting?
The Chloé white shorts with the scalloped hem. But they’re totally sold out and I don’t own a pair.
What trends are you into this season?
I try not to dress according to trends. I think that a woman should wear her clothes rather than the clothes wearing the woman.
Any trends you wish would just disappear?
What’s something every woman should have in her closet?
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: a black shift dress.
Finish this sentence: I never leave the house without ….
Changing at least seventeen times.