CHIC PEOPLE IN NEW YORK:
Last year at the FIT summer kickoff party, hosted by Charlotte Moss, I saw a young woman dressed in a fabulous outfit. I had to talk to to her, because I was very curious about what she was wearing.
It turns out her clothing was by Victor de Souza, who accompanied her to the party (and for whom she acts as a muse). She looked absolutely amazing–her suit was so different–and that’s what all women want, isn’t it? A few months later, I bumped into her again, at La Grenouille, where she was having dinner with Zac Posen and stylist Christopher Niquet. We chatted a bit about getting together–perhaps with Zac–but you know how fashion is! We’re all overwhelmed with things to do (not to mention conflicting travel schedules), so it never happened.
A few weeks ago, I saw Michelle again, at the Couture Council’s cocktail party in advance of their lunch for Karl Lagerfeld. Michelle looked so lovely, I had to find out more about her! So we finally scheduled a time and date to meet at her extraordinary apartment off Central Park West.
This is a woman after my own heart. As she talked, tried on favorites from her closet and posed in her enormous living room filled with art, family photos and children’s toys (Michelle is the aunt and “professional spoiler” of a 2-year-old boy and a baby girl), it became obvious we share the same European sensibilities. Her wardrobe is like nothing else I’ve ever seen.
She explained that she was born in Columbia, but grew up in New York and Europe–and credits her sense of style to her grandmother, whose own father often sent her to Paris to shop at Dior and Balenciaga. Thanks to her, Michelle loves fashion. “I appreciate The Gap and all of that,” she says. “But it’s not what gets me up in the morning.”
When asked where she buys her clothes, Michelle responds quickly. “I like to shop in New York, Paris, London and Antwerp. I like Yves Saint Laurent, Dior by John Galliano, Lanvin by Alber Elbaz, Alexander McQueen, and Zac Posen. And I love vintage! For shoes, I shop a lot at YSL, sometimes at Prada, and, of course, at Christian Louboutin.” She sighs. “My poor husband–his part of the closet is this big,” she says, holding her hands a few inches apart. “My part,” she continues, spreading her hands wide, as if to include the entire room “is THIS BIG.”
And then there’s Victor de Souza. For a recent gala to benefit Casita Maria, an organization providing assistance to Latin American children in Harlem and the Bronx, Michelle booked a room in the hotel where the event was taking place, so Victor and his team could build a gown on her body (which, incidentally, became the finale of his Spring 2011 show). “There was no room in the elevator for anyone else,” she explains, laughing. “The doors would open and I’d say, Sorry, guys, it’s all fuchsia in here! But it was worth it: we raised a lot of money for Casita Maria. And in the end, isn’t that what these events are for?”
Photographs by Noël Sutherland