Elie Tahari: 40 Years Strong
by Laurie brookins
Elie Tahari enjoys being a man of many questions: Every day, the designer says, dozens of thoughts stream through his mind as he surveys the hundreds of pieces—ranging from sleekly structured dresses to peplum-adorned tops, chicly minimal leather jackets, or easy knits in an array of lush colors—that comprise his men’s and women’s collections. “I try to keep it simple,” he says. “For the woman who wears my clothes, I ask myself: Where is she going? Is she the best-looking woman in the room? Or is she showing off? Is the shape good on her? Does it look new and cool and fresh? Is it going to fit well? And that’s just the start. But to feel good about what you’re doing, you have to always be having these conversations with yourself.”
Those internal queries extend beyond the 12 collections of men’s and women’s ready-to-wear and accessories he produces yearly; lately Tahari is applying similar thoughts to the design of his stand-alone stores, including his Bal Harbour Shops boutique, which opened in 2008. “The environment, like the clothes, should feel very luxurious,” he says. “It has to be about servicing the customer, that they feel inspired and are made to feel good—for me it’s not just about selling, but about putting another drop of good energy in the world.”
This year Tahari celebrates the 40th anniversary of his label, so it’s not surprising to find him in a somewhat reflective mood, with a desire to pepper his conversation with mentions of positive energy and the reciprocal, karmic value that results from that outlook. Indeed, one could associate the tenets he applies to his work and life with his designs, which always hit the right notes of classic sensibilities, sublime tailoring, and just the right touch of luxe details—an aesthetic that has garnered him a fan base that includes celebrities such as Katie Couric and Kelly Ripa. For his Resort 2013 collection, Tahari describes his women’s looks as “very happy clothes,” most easily seen in a duo of Miami-friendly palettes: rosy tones of reds, pinks, and corals, and especially an ocean-inspired grouping of blues and turquoise. These hues add a joyous splash of color against the neutrals that anchor the collection. “It’s not really about the neutrals, but about those colors against the neutrals,” Tahari explains, pointing to pieces such as a coral leather jacket that’s been laser-cut to create a luscious texture yet, in typical Tahari fashion, offers the practical bonus of being reversible.
Tahari also has been putting greater emphasis on his men’s collection, and for Resort 2013, this shows in the easy, sophisticated elegance seen in the butter-soft knits and button-down shirts in navy and teal, and exquisitely cut leather jackets for those chilly nights at Soho Beach House. “The collection is very luxe,” Tahari explains, “but it’s more about the guy who wants to look like himself and be natural and not trying too hard, yet he still has a certain polish or a sense of sophistication.”
You can see these clothes easily in South Beach, both in their hues and in their effortless point of view. Not unexpectedly, Tahari is a fan of the Miami lifestyle, both through his love of contemporary artists, whom he discovers via Art Basel Miami Beach, and through his philanthropic efforts: His Bal Harbour boutique supports local philanthropy, including Jackson Memorial Hospital in 2012. Ask Tahari what drives him, and his answer is simple: “Can we live in a world where everything is done out of love?”
If there’s one thing Tahari need never question, it’s the assuredness he brings to his work, whether it’s the intuitive sense that a woman needs a reversible leather jacket or that a guy wants to look good without appearing fussy. And these days, that’s a lesson he’s happy to share: In late December, Tahari served as a guest judge on Project Runway All Stars, the Lifetime reality show that bestows a hefty prize package on one budding fashion designer. Tahari broke from the format, becoming one of the first guest judges in the program’s history to venture into the workroom and directly mentor the fledgling designers through their projects. The man who loves to ask questions also finds the role of educator to be tremendously fulfilling. “I’ve always thought the best form of teaching is when you walk away having learned something yourself,” Tahari says. “And the more you give, the more you receive.” 9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, 305- 868-3824
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GREG DELMAN (model fitting); MICHAEL STAVARIDIS (STORE)
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