A conversation concerning '70s advertising, summer road tripping, and the death of hashtags.
MONOGRAM: List your full name, profession, and place of residence:
LAURA REGENSDORF. Senior Beauty Editor, Vogue. Brooklyn, NY.
MONOGRAM: We know you were raised in Florida (and that you knew Jeff during his peak unibrow high school years). How did growing up in Fort Lauderdale impact your personal style?
LAURA: It meant a delayed understanding of winter layering, for one thing! Being equidistant from two vintage hubs – Palm Beach and Miami Beach – helped stoke the thrill of the hunt in me. Fort Lauderdale has always been slim pickings, but I found a ’50s swing coat in high school that’s still in my closet. And I scored a cache of vintage postcards last December. I have a pen pal.
MONOGRAM: Prior to Vogue, you were an editor at Elle Decor. What made you decide to transition from interiors to fashion?
LAURA: In part it was chance – doors opening at the right moment. But I’ve always been interested in the people and processes that shape how we live, and that’s a story that can be told in Bauhaus furniture or ’80s shoulder pads or androgynous buzzcuts.
MONOGRAM: What are your favorites interviews? And who is your dream interview subject?
LAURA: My favorite pieces wind up skirting genres: the designer Katie Stout on body positivity and her playfully anatomical Lady Lamps, for instance, or Marilyn Minter on female rivalry in the art world and the return of the bush. Jane Birkin was a gem: raw, wry, vulnerable, generous. I loved speaking with the curator Paola Antonelli, too, about the nontraditional exhibits (sunscreen, Spanx) in MoMA’s “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” show. She took me back to her childhood in Italy, where friends chased tans by slathering on beer and olive oil, and had a great line when asked about the Fitbit: “I’m waiting for everything to be in a beauty mark, and then I’ll definitely wear my technology!” Erudite, open, real: That’s the holy grail. Patti Smith would be a dream.
MONOGRAM: We can only imagine how many product pitch emails hit your inbox every day. What’s the most overused (shall we say annoying?) word in beauty or fashion?
LAURA: The first thing that comes to mind is “hashtag” – not that it’s unique to the realm of beauty and fashion. But it’s emblematic of the way that every press breakfast, every appointment, every mailing is commoditized with a sort of gram-what-you-wish fee. No foul on the brands’ part; visibility and searchability are key to success today. It just makes you think about public self versus private self, about support versus shill – and whether it’s even relevant anymore to ponder the difference.
MONOGRAM: From your insider’s perspective, why is the beauty category suddenly so hot? It’s everywhere!
LAURA: Beauty has always been a sleeper hit in terms of payoff; the industry is famously recession-proof with approachable price points, hence fragrance rollouts from every fashion house. But a few things have happened lately to make the category spike. If makeup used to be about fixing flaws, its repositioning as a tool of self-expression is right in step with today’s themes of empowerment, as borne out by sexy-smart campaigns from Glossier or the selfie catnip of Fenty Beauty by Rihanna lipsticks. Wellness and self-care – now as much under the beauty rubric as mascara is – has become the ultimate luxury, driving people to stock pantries with adaptogenic herbs and fine-tune their sleep hygiene. Who doesn’t want to feel good and look good? But smart makers (and marketers) take it beyond vanity because one’s beauty choices can signal so much more, whether fair-trade ethics or punk transgression.
MONOGRAM: Who’s your all-time favorite designer (fashion, interior or otherwise), and why?
LAURA: I don’t do well with superlatives! I love Charlotte Perriand’s work, both for her use of brusque materials (like tubular steel) and her humbler side (those wood stools). Phoebe Philo at Céline had a brilliant way of teasing out a sort of tensile femininity. And I love how Simone Rocha’s interwoven references – 19th-century painting, modern motherhood, dark romanticism, and so on – come off with unabashed prettiness. Much as I love minimalism, sometimes I swoon for a good layer cake.
MONOGRAM: Your Instagram feed is filled with incredible ’70s advertising imagery! Why do you think advertising from that era speaks to so many design-oriented people right now?
LAURA: There’s something about the id of that time that upends the polish we’ve come to expect from advertising – like the 1978 Sun Cosmetics ad (with nip slip) that says, “There isn’t a single inch of you we haven’t thought about.” So thoughtful. Sex appeal and knockout graphics and taglines that read like they’re straight out of Crazy People (the 1990 Dudley Moore/Darryl Hannah movie on repeat at our house growing up) – it’s all uncannily right for right now. I could get lost in the Vogue archives, where the ’70s headlines are just as good: “It’s not an orgy, it’s...Pilobolus.”
MONOGRAM: You mentioned you’re a big flea market and vintage store shopper. Care to share any of your go-to spots?
LAURA: With the Chelsea Garage flea market closed, I like to swing by the hit-or-miss outdoor lots on 25th Street (African textiles, found photographs, etc.). Star Struck on Greenwich Ave. is worth cruising for denim and t-shirts, and Pilgrim on Orchard cherry-picks Comme and other labels. For a careful edit of Americana and workwear, I love Stock Vintage on 13th Street (shoutout to Melissa Howard and her dog, Hazel); it’s conveniently around the corner from the Strand (rare books) and not far from Mast (rarer books). Fairs like A Current Affair and Manhattan Vintage are worthwhile, but I’m hoping for road trips this summer to less-picked-over spots (Pennsylvania? Maine?).
MONOGRAM: Tell us about your favorite vintage t-shirt. How and when did you acquire it?
LAURA: It’s a Michael Jackson Thriller shirt from the ’80s: worn in all the right ways, which means it’s a hang-dry situation. It was a gift five or so years ago from an ex with spot-on taste. He could eyeball size better than any sales clerk.
MONOGRAM: What’s your favorite way to style a t-shirt?
LAURA: I love a high waist: Levi’s 701s (the wide-leg cut Marilyn wore) or vintage pencil skirts or these super-flared Marni jeans I picked up last year. It’s sort of like the Sistine Chapel hands, the way my long hair and high waist seem desperate to meet.
MONOGRAM: Do you use graphic t-shirts to articulate your point of view? How so?
LAURA: For me, it’s less about point of view than mood: After a work week that left me wrecked, I brought your “Motion of the Ocean” shirt to Barbados last month, in part to baptize it in holy Caribbean waters and in part to impregnate it with everlasting good vibes. (It worked.)
MONOGRAM: Lightning round: describe yourself in terms of the following:
ERA: ’70s flash into ’80s pastels
SYMBOL: The perpetual low-battery icon on my phone
LOCATION: Airplane to anywhere
OBJECT: Vintage postcard, fresh ink
BEVERAGE: Good fizzy kombucha
VEHICLE: 2/3 train (hurry up with the repairs, MTA!)
RITUAL: Mid-conversation handstands
TAGLINE: It’s not an orgy, it’s...
PHOTOGRAPHY: Susanna Howe