December 7, 2015

Andrew Basile: How would you describe what you do?

Amy Fine Collins: My official title is Special Correspondent to Vanity Fair; I write stories, contribute ideas, promote and consult. Generally I’m out finding out what’s happening and observing what people are wearing. I am one of four keepers of the International Best-Dressed List, founded by Eleanor Lambert in 1940. I’m also involved with numerous institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum, the Lighthouse, and Vassar College.

AB: How did you develop this passionate connection to fashion, art and design?

AFC: My connection to fashion, art and design is the same as my connection to my mother, who was a fashion-design student, artist, art historian and collector of antiques. Unlike her, I tend to take things to an extreme.

AB: You are a muse to many designers who want you to wear their clothes. What do they find most desirable about you?

AFC: Maybe I serve as a flesh-and-blood abstraction; I’m sympathetic to their creative processes and enjoy facilitating and interpreting their ideas. Wearing clothes is a kind of dialogue with their creator rather than a passive act of display or consumption. I have had similar relationships with artists and photographers.

AB: You have an impressive collection of furniture and art from the estate of cosmetics mogul Helena Rubinstein. What do you most admire about her?

AFC: Helena Rubinstein is under my skin in a way that defies explanation: I worship her fearless, far-out taste, her imperious independence, her attraction to bizarre forms of beauty. An aspect of Madame Rubinstein reminds me of my grandmother, but exaggerated beyond recognition.

AB: You’re a fashion figure, society swan, art collector and writer. Which gives you the most pleasure?

What gives me most pleasure is the one part of my identity not on that list – being a mother.

AFC: What gives me most pleasure is the one part of my identity not on that list – being a mother.

AB: Diana Vreeland said, “The only real elegance is in the mind; the rest comes naturally.” Do you agree?

AFC: Mrs. Vreeland is correct. To have an elegant mind one must be educated and endlessly curious. It also helps to be kind, but not in an ostentatious way.

AB: If things in your apartment began to disappear before your eyes, what would you rush to save?  

AFC: This is a hard question to answer, as the prospect of objects dematerializing before my eyes gives me as much a sense of peace as of panic – but I suppose my engagement ring would be the souvenir I would most want to keep.

AB: With whom would you most like to have tea?

AFC: I would bring back my father and continue talking with him exactly where we left off.

AB: Is there a secret unseen place to which you would want access?

AFC: I’d like to find that little metaphysical loop that allows you to time-travel. I’d revisit my childhood and stay a while with young parents, my sister, cats and grandparents.

AB: Your husband is a man of learning and letters. What does he think of your connection to fashion people?

AFC: Everything and everybody is of interest to Brad. He appreciates aesthetes and design past and present, close up and from a distance.

AB: You have the presence and poise of a Penn or Avedon model. Into which of their pictures would you step and push aside the model?

AFC: I am not one to push. But I would certainly be game to re-enact some of the great photos Horst did of Lisa Fonssagrives and Lud, or Avedon’s great images of Dovima. Horst shot me, but I regret that I was too timid to act on Avedon’s suggestion that he photograph me. Coincidentally, Iké Udé just proposed a series inspired by Avedon’s portrayal of the model Sunny Harnett. Let’s see where that takes us.