Monday, November 8, 2010

No Holds Barred

Cameron Silver slapping on his Lazlo in his custom Balmain suit.
by Blair Sabol

Ten years ago Cameron Silver — at that time a fledgling vintage clothing dealer and owner of Decades in Los Angeles — arrived at my door to clean me out of my former identity. He loaded up his car with my Jean Muirs, Puccis, Stephen Burrows, and suede fringed rock and roll jeans and jackets. He left me standing in my driveway dressed in my yoga pants and a man's shirt. I was thrilled to have met him and to be relieved of all my previous visual time warps.

Before he actually left he introduced me to Dennita Sewell, who had just arrived in town to become The Phoenix Art Museum's fashion curator (she was originally from the Met.) I was not charming. I told her bluntly that she wouldn't last a month in a city that believes carwash boutiques and golf pro shops are the height of style. She was sweet and wary.

Cameron doing last minute pre-party credit card check
Cameron's "Rapper" Rolex and Loree Rodkin ID bracelet.
Half of Cameron and Tatiana Sorokko, who strikes the perfect pose on call.
Back then Cameron was kind, soft and tall (dressed in nondescript jeans and a jacket) with shoulder length hair. Today he is tall and Karl Lagerfeld lean — he even has sharp cheekbones — and dresses in custom Balmain. He has worked his way through thousands of women’s closets (here and abroad) to get what he could and to arrive where he is — a fashion innovator. He singlehandedly (in the U.S.) put the "vintage craze" on the map. More than that ... everyone adores Cameron! He's so sweet that the profile reporter of The New Yorker admitted to me she frustratingly couldn't find or reveal any "dark edge" to his personality.
He has worked long and hard for this acclaim. And imagine ... he is still kind! He has remained my friend in spite of the fact that I do nothing but trash most fashion and no doubt many of his associates (lead designers). But he has always known how to play both sides of the street or talk discreetly out of both sides of his mouth. He can and does trash talk (or in his case "listen" but not always "say") with me and can appropriately praise all the industry heavies with the right amount of wisdom and encouragement. He's gifted that way. He is extremely politically correct without selling out or becoming a gossip mongering /complying airbag. In the end Cameron has a real POV. And people take him seriously. After all, he's been on the front lines of women's closets for years. He's seen a lot. And heard it all.

Two weeks ago he arrived in my town again
to take me to The Phoenix Art Museum's opening of Tatiana Sorokko's ("International Russian Supermodel") private clothing collection. I had never heard of Sorokko, but what would I know as I left off at Veruschka. Cameron was fresh from a business trip to Beijing dressed (visually "shovel ready") in his Balmain suit and gold lame scarf ... ready to go.

We stopped for ten minutes at his hotel where he slabbed on his Lazlo and taught me how to "apply" cologne. ("Never spray it on your clothes ... spray it in front of you and 'walk into' the scent"). I examined all his Prada traveling pouches and his gold Hermes pinky ring, diamond and gold "Rapper" Rolex and Loree Rodkin ID bracelet.

At all events Cameron is treated like the fashion adored rock star that he is. Ironically the day Cameron arrived, my Scottsdale hairdresser "fired" me on many counts, one of which was I couldn't set up a "meet and greet" with her "Silver icon.”

When we arrived at the museum he immediately introduced me to Sorokko who was decked out in voluminous black and white boa-ed Ralph Rucci and fingers full of JAR jewels. I stood in my plastic Joan Rivers necklace and a Costco cardigan and felt warmly "received."

In the previous week Sorokko had been feted for her book (Extending the Runway) and collection in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. She even did a stint on Martha Stewart. She is obviously backed by a giant "engine" of Bulgari, Thomson Reuters publishing, and various European hedge funds. This girl is hard at work "working it," and spreading her image as fast as she can.

When I asked her for a picture with Cameron she quickly stopped talking, sucked in her cheeks and struck THE perfect pose. The rest of the "party" was filled with her family and friends whom had all flown in from San Francisco (her home) and Los Angeles. (I saw a classy-looking Denise Hale all in black with multiple pearl strands and multiple diamond scatter pins along with a pair of glorious LOW Manolos with diamond buckles.)

Very few Phoenicians were present. The Phoenix mayor came for the dinner but no one knew his name or even cared. So much for my town's political style.
Denise Hale, in perfect pearls and diamonds, with Ralph Rucci.
The show itself is stunningly simple. At one point Cameron called me over to reconnect with curator Sewell (who also helped Sorokko with her book). She knowingly smiled at me and looked glorious in the best dress (Ralph Rucci) of the evening. A plain soft green long "gown" that was cut perfectly FOR her and moved like a dream. I gladly ate my dish of "crow" right in front of her. I blurted out: "Well ... it's been ten years and YOU are still here."

Not only is she still surviving at The Phoenix Art Museum but she has become one of the country's most important fashion curators. Her shows are consistently brilliant. Truth be told, I never go because the museum is very far from where I live. Simply NOT a geographic desirable. Believe me, I am not proud ... I am lazy and rude.
Part of Sorocco exhibit at The Phoenix Art Museum.
Two local young fashion reporters from The Phoenix Republic present at the opening also admitted to me that though they respected Sewell they couldn’t imagine how her shows play in a town weaned on WalMart and inspired by the likes of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Megan McCain. But Curator Sewell assured me she is on a mission "to inform and educate" our cowboy community. I respect her for being a true fashion patriot.

As is Sorokko. Even though I remained clueless the whole night as to who and what she is ... it is obvious that she and Cameron and Sewell passionately walk the walk. They live, eat, and breathe good quality fabric, trend and design. They all care immensely about personal style and how it reflects our culture. This goes wayyyy past Rachel Zoe. For that I applaud all three of them.
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Phoenix fashionista from the bottom.
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
James Galanos's perfect socks and shoes.
The hit of the night was meeting the great James Galanos. (Personal friend of Cameron's and Sorokko) I cornered him long enough to find out that he just turned 87 and sees "no need to ever design again."

“I had my day. I wouldn't even pick up a pen to sketch. There's nothing there. I have no regrets and I feel wonderfully complete. I simply never look back."

He doesn't follow the current fashion all that much: "I love looking at all the kids on the streets. I don't always get it. The skirts are way too short and the heels too high and their legs are awful. But I appreciate their effort."

He himself still dresses in Rodeo Drive custom tailored clothes and lives gloriously alone in Los Angeles. "I under eat always so I maintain the same weight I have always been."

At one point I accidently dropped my bag in front of him and I could barely lean over to get it — he swooped down effortlessly and retrieved it for me. I asked him what designers he currently liked. He couldn’t (or wouldn’t) quite comment.

"I do like Brooks Brothers for men."

What about Ralph Lauren? He didn't really answer. He lives a quality "measured life" and enjoys "great friends who take me everywhere."

Does he have a personal valet? He raised his eyebrows and laughed but didn’t respond. I want Galanos' life. I also want the vintage jacket he wore that night. He seemed happy, engaged, accessible, and truly polite. No trace of affect or arrogance. He stood with a fashionable one-hand-in-pocket-slouch and walked with the jaunty rhythm of Fred Astaire. He was remarkable.

As Cameron says; "He's the remaining USA fashion 'royale.'" Indeed.

When we sat down for a 9pm dinner (my bed time) both Cameron and I refused to eat (too late) and he engaged his lovely seat mate — Sally Perrin, owner of LA's Perrin Paris (store of elaborate gloves and handbags). She wore a black vinyl dish on her head but seemed truly fun and accommodating. The conversation centered around the hassles of today’s travel, probiotics, regularity, and the choices of meat or vegetarian diets.

At one point Cameron precociously asked the table of ten "what great event have you done recently?" Everyone spoke of Paris, Milan and New York charities, design openings and book signings. When it came to me I openly stated: "merely standing straight up from my bed this morning was my best event." NO one reacted. I had to remember these people "do events" as a living.
Denise Hale's diamond-buckled LOW manolos.
The fashion design of the night was Sorokko's own "Lapkins" she brought with her for the dinner. They are 4 times the size of a standard napkin (way past lobster bibs) so you can sarong yourself at a meal and not get a dollop of food splattered on your attire. Who better than a woman so heavily invested in high end clothes to realize the horror of food stains. No doubt "Lapkins" can also be used for lapdance protection.
Near dessert Cameron insisted on leaving early ("but try not to be the first"). This is another one of his art forms of early event exiting: "get to the host and never ever say 'goodbye,' just 'see you later,' and keep walking quickly to your car." In the car ride to his hotel Cameron dropped his traditional gentleness and confessed his honest anxiety over his latest venture: Decades Denim. This is the first time he is actually designing his own line of clothes. "After years of helping and consulting everyone else to get their acts together, I think it is finally MY turn."
Cameron, Galanos, and Dennita Sewell in her Rucci gown.
Seller sell thyself. No more "sweet soul" reselling a croc Kelly vintage Hermes handbag or Chanel jacket to starlets. Now HIS name is on the line and on the label. He will actively continue Decades to high end vintage stores, online and pop up outlets.

"I've got great people behind me — a decent design team." He's busy being "in business" and body training by doing his Pilates/ballet regime, strict dieting, and having a personal "body stretcher" three times a week. "Discipline is everything."

Meanwhile ... Decades Denim is his first outing, but in the future it will be more than denim and more than women (men? dogs?). The premiere collection (out soon) is minimal and lean and consists of 11 essential pant styles: cargo, skinny, trousers, leggings, "hot mama shorts," etc.

Welcome to the new tycoon Cameron Silver — no more Mr. Nice Guy. He's into a whole new right of passage and coming of age at 41. I say ... stay tuned. My money is on him!
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