After a Fashion

Touching a nerve at Todd Oldham central.

A SLAP FROM MANHATTAN It was meant to be a fairly innocuous remark -- I only thought I was entertaining us peasants here in the hinterlands. All I did was remark, in the context of a book review, that designer Todd Oldham was "currently jobless." The remark was innocuous next to the remarks in the book I reviewed -- Michael Anketell's Heavenly Bodies ("Coffeetable Books: Remembrance of Things Past," Dec. 17), which seem to be a sore subject at the House of Oldham, as well as at the root of the diatribe I received from a Ms. Tony Longoria of the "Todd Oldham studio in NYC." I refer to Longoria as "Ms." since that is how (s/he?) refers to me, and I can only assume that it is his/her preferred manner of being addressed. To prove that Oldham is not "currently jobless," Ms. Longoria informs us, in no uncertain terms, that s/he is taking time out of his/her "wildly busy" schedule (s/he shouldn't have bothered, really) to let us know in the gassiest terms possible that "Creativity from the house of Todd Oldham is touching the fashion, architecture, and photography field (sic) just to name a few." It's clear that what s/he seems to be really peeved about is not the review of Mr. Anketell's book that I "pinned" (Ms. Longoria's word), but the content of the book itself. The book is an entertaining, behind-the-scenes look at the series of fashion fundraisers for AIDS charities in L.A.; in a bitchy aside, Ms. Longoria refers to it as the one "Mike Anketell decided to write after he was let go by AIDS Project Los Angeles." Gratuitous, perhaps, in the way my original remark was, but the depth of Ms. Longoria's reaction to the book piqued my interest, and I immediately referred to Anketell's section on Oldham. Ms. Longoria has reason to be sensitive. Anketell says working with Oldham was a "hair-raising and hair-losing" experience and the book skewers Oldham and especially his entourage (to which Ms. Longoria must belong) as demanding and extravagant, causing the fundraiser, after expenses, to have barely a third of the proceeds remaining to give to AIDS charities. He describes Oldham's assistant, a pushy red-haired toady and a "court jester" (surely not Ms. Longoria?) as especially irritating. Is it Oldham to whom Anketell refers when he writes of "a glamorous kingdom of model perfection, where imperious designers clamor for absolute power -- and sometimes Absolut vodka -- as subservient scribes dictate fashion law and shower hyperbole on the heads of the chosen"? The theatrics and diva-ish behavior by many of the parties concerned seemed to signal the demise of the reign of Oldham, just as he reached the apex of his career. Anketell has Oldham confessing to him that "I became a designer to meet people in the movie business who could help me become a big director." Hopefully Oldham met those people that night in L.A., though Ms. Longoria does not mention any current movie work. "I just wish you had spent as much time fact checking as I did writing this." Dear God, Ms. Longoria, I do too, because then you wouldn't have forced me to subject my small but very sheltered readership to this dirt. But we thank you for it, anyway. And readers, lest I leave you with the wrong impression, I did get to find out that Ms. Longoria is not 100% harpy -- we shared a tender moment in which s/he called me "Darling," and confided in me that his/her New Year's resolution was to be honest and truthful -- that was his/her reason for sharing his/her vitriol with us. One shudders to imagine what it would be like if Ms. Longoria had made the resolution to be venal and tacky.

FOR THE RECORD I have a great deal of admiration for Todd Oldham -- once, in a distant fashion galaxy far, far away, in which I, too, was a promising young fashion designer, we lived in the same building, and our clothes hung side by side in the New Createurs department at the swank Henri Bendel on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I know how hard it was to get there, and, like Mr. Oldham, how much harder it was to stay there. If my remark was catty, so be it. As Ms. Longoria demonstrates, the fashion world thrives on cattiness, and that the casual catty remark is as ephemeral as the fashion our lives revolve around -- here and gone. It may have been that very aspect of the fashion business that I disliked most, that constant striving, not to leave a mark, but to be "of the moment." Not to design beautiful clothes, but to sell something now. That is the area in which Oldham excelled, but ultimately, his clothes were too expensive for the junior high-school girls who should have been wearing them.

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