Boaz Mazor has worked for Oscar de la Renta for forty years, having now earned that wonderful “At Large” title (although technically he is a vice-president) and this is one of those conversations that made us feel we had met someone who really relishes and celebrates life. He must have his demons because he has depth, but he is an unapologetic maximalist and we loved the exuberance of his apartment and his expansive emphasis on genuine face-to-face connection with people as opposed to the dislocated world of Facebook and Twitter and iPhoning. He was born and brought up in Israel and speaks with a rich, Hebrew-inflected accent that also sounds strongly French, which he also speaks. We loved the lengthy replies he gave to our questions as well his idiosyncratic way with the English language: “Tel Aviv! It’s the heart and the beat of the Middle East! Amazing! And the good looks … the girls … the boys!”
So you said as we came in that you don’t believe in decorators…
No, it’s not that I don’t believe in them—I don’t believe for myself.
You obviously have great confidence in your own eye.
Well, I guess so. I ask occasionally people like Geoffrey Bennison or John Richardson [for their advice] … but I look at people who have minimalism now … I look at the pictures and I always think “My God, what do they do with their books?”
They don’t have books. They have a Kindle.
It’s not for me. I love books. I love bookcases. I love magazines around your bed. To a point. I exaggerate a little bit, I’m afraid. You’ll have to edit everything. However, life is all about magazines and paintings and drawings and objects.
Yes, external evidence of a rich inner life perhaps.
You know we have these … stagiaires, how do you call it? interns? who come by [my desk] fascinated by my board—there’s clips and there’s notes and there’s pictures of people everywhere. Everybody else has a very tidy little desk. They all have their computer and they all have their little … thing [taps his thumbs indicating an iPhone/BlackBerry] … and I see a line of interns standing my desk … saying “Oh look …” It’s a mess, a mess of a desk. I just don’t know how to be minimalist.
Minimalism or even just being very tidy can seem very safe. Perhaps you’re not a safe person. Tell us about not being safe.
[Sighs] No, never being safe. Not being safe is going where your heart is. I always took risks, but not in my job though. It’s funny but I’m the only one in my job that has been with one company for forty years. I’ve been with Oscar de la Renta since 1968.
Why have you stayed for so long?
You know, it was another life. It gave me a lifestyle that I enjoyed. It was the same as in those days when the girls used to work at Vogue. They were never paid any money but Vogue had the chauffeurs and the cars and the best hotels. It’s all about living well. The same thing with Oscar de la Renta – you work but we always had the first class of everything. And I’ve lived like this for forty years.
What is your relationship with Oscar de la Renta like?
He’s my boss … I just spent the weekend with him and Annette. But I would say it’s like family.
Have you argued with him?
Many times. And many times he scolds me. And many times he teases me. We know each other better than anybody in the world. I hate to think he’s not happy with me. He’s a father figure for me.
What was your childhood like – were you ever poor?
No, we were not poor. We were middle class, I would call it. I was born in Israel and I was raised in Tel Aviv. I did the army. I came out of Israel when I was eighteen and I became a model for Pierre Cardin in Paris. I came to New York as a male model. My agency sent me here. I was in the Dorian Gray Agency. It was up and down and that’s when I started to realize that I needed to do something else.
Your sister is Judy Taubman, isn’t she? She came here ahead of you, didn’t she?
Oh yes. I came here for her first wedding and I fell in love with New York. Everybody was so wonderfully dressed! Ohh …! Beautiful black dresses with white pearls and white gloves … and the models were walking on the street, on Park Avenue, and every model had all their makeup on. You didn’t go like today for a casting. You went from studio to studio all made up with the eyelashes and everything. It was fantastic! And I went first time in my life to El Morocco and my sister came to pick me up in a long limousine; [the women] were all wearing long dresses and my sister had a long shawl in mink. The men were in black tie … ohh!
Do you feel modern life is not for you? I mean life is not like that now, is it?
I love modern life for the practicality. I love the fact that the telephone has many extensions. I love my cell phone. I cannot stand people clicking on the BlackBerry during dinner. There is a problem with young girls who sometimes have to travel with me, or assist me [with clients] and they are clicking [does his thumbs again] and I say, “What is so important?” And they say, “The office is waiting …” and I say, “You know what? I went for forty years without these things and we survived.” Once a day, at the end of the day or if it is an emergency—that’s all you need.
Yes, it’s depressing.
Most pathetic is I see couples in a restaurant not talking to each other and each one is on their BlackBerry. The one thing I learned in New York when I came is the art of the conversation. It’s an art. You have to practice the art. You cannot be at a Helen Keller party. You are not supposed to come to dinner if you have nothing to contribute.
Is that your gift then?
You say :“I’m going out tonight to be with you.” You have to light up [the room]. If I see that it’s dying … I don’t let it die. I jump in—and people say, “My God, he doesn’t stop talking!”
People expect it of you now!
They say, “We hear you are great story maker.” They invite you, and sometimes you let them down because you are not in the mood … sometimes. I go to Palm Beach or San Francisco and someone says, “Oh we hear you have very naughty stories—tell us!” And it’s like somebody has clipped your tongue … it has to come naturally.
You seem very confident – have you always been confident, even as a young man?
I think confidence comes from realizing that if you have it, people listen to you. The moment people listen to you, you know you are on the right track. I think being around for a long time makes you confident. It sounds very arrogant, which it’s not, but when I see kids coming to the office and they all come with their “new” ideas. For them it’s new, for me, it’s old. Sometimes I say, “Do you realize that we have gone through this door already?” But one should welcome it because it’s full of enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is the most valuable thing young people bring.
I love to see it, to [hear] them say “Oh my God!” when they see the collections. I am excited when I see them excited.
What do you do at the end of the day—do you tend to have a dinner engagement?
Most evenings I have a dinner
How do you cope with all the food and drink?
I don’t cope. I eat it. I drink it.
What do you like to drink?
Cranberry juice with vodka—sort of a semi-Cosmopolitan.
I listen to opera non-stop.