What did you take away from that relationship that serves you today?
Yes, conceptually, it’s clearly been Cristóbal Balenciaga. In the early 1970s when I was in college I discovered a man working in New York who was also from the school of Balenciaga. And I came to New York to work for him. His name was Halston and he was a genius. The third person is a man whom I consider a dear friend; the way he has worked and lived I admire so much, and now he is a mentor in many ways, and that’s James Galanos.
Have you assumed the role of mentor for someone else?
You know, that’s a good question. So many young people come in here and we start them as interns, we see that they have promise, and they’re hired. For example, there’s a young man in the studio right now, and I recognize in him so much of myself when I was his age. So I suppose they would say, yes, but it’s not a question for me to answer.
How important is the history of fashion to your creative process?
Essential. Essential. I am adamant and almost rude about my expectations that editors and also buyers have an encyclopedic knowledge of our profession to qualify them to judge. How can you possibly talk about satin structure or jersey draping unless you know who Charles James and Madame Grès were? And it’s fascinating how many people don’t know who these icons were. I have no patience for these people. I approach my profession as an academic also, so I expect everybody around me to know when I make references. My staff is genius, in this respect.