Though notoriously press-shy, Elle style director Kate Lanphear has a huge cult following — at least a handful of blogs exist for no other reason than to document her edgy, punky style and ever-changing platinum hair. The Lanphear Look, if you will, elevates the age-old jeans/tees/platforms/motorcycle jacket combo into something insanely fashion-forward — and nigh impossible to emulate, though many a fashionista has tried.
Lanphear, of course, doesn’t see it this way. She describes herself as the “biggest fashion geek” — she has an insatiable appetite for all things sartorial and spends her weekends poring over old magazines, books, and photographs. The daughter of federal judges, she is originally from Virginia, but her fashion career began in Australia, where she took any and every fashion-related job she could find, working late nights as a bartender to pay the rent. Eventually she scored work at Australian Vogue and Australian Harper’s Bazaar; eight years later, she returned to the States and took a job at American Harper’s Bazaar. It wasn’t long before her work caught the attention of Elle, who made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: senior fashion editor. Then finally, in 2008, Lanphear was tapped for the plum gig of style director — a job she never knew existed, let alone thought she might get. “I often feel like I have to pinch myself,” she says humbly. “I can’t believe it.”
We caught up with the fashion editor and style icon right as Elle gears up to drop its massive September issue. Like her style, her interview answers are minimalist but pack a real punch.
Who are your favorite designers?
I collect old Helmut Lang and Margiela. Although my new thing is Azzedine Alaïa — the boys seem to dig it.
What’s the first designer item you ever bought?
A Calvin Klein black sheath.
Where do you like to shop in New York?
The vintage stores and small shops on St Mark’s Place [in the East Village].
How would you describe your personal style aesthetic?
“Is it clean?”
What trends are you appreciating right now?
Religion: I’m fond of Catholic iconography.
What’s one item you’re saving up to buy, fashion or otherwise?
An [Attilio] Codognato ring.
What’s something you never leave the house without?
Turning off the straightening iron, and my keys, I hope.
What and/or who inspires you?
What’s the best part of your job?
Collaborating with creative personalities.
You look stunning in the new Eddie Borgo campaign. How did the whole thing come about?
Eddie and Keegan [the stylist] are dear, dear friends. I’d do absolutely anything for them — no questions asked. I was honored to be asked; I’m a huge Borgo bijoux devotee.
You have something of a cult following. What do you make of this?
I’m completely humbled by it. I mean, I am just your average redneck from Virginia.