Hal Rubenstein Part 2

hal rubenstein instyle

(PART 2 Continued from Part 1)

We hate to use the phrase, but if there was ever a renaissance man – Hal Rubenstein would no doubt be one. Currently the editor-at-large for Instyle, Rubenstein seems to have an extensive history in every industry (including food). One of the most esteemed restaurant critics for two decades, Rubenstein’s worked alongside luminaries such as Michael White, Sirio Maccioni and Steve Hanson. Also an icon in the fashion industry, he’s known for creating the signature section “The Look” for Instyle as fashion director – making the publication an authority on celebrity style.

You know you’re having a great interview when every other sentence seems to be a quote that people will be tweeting, retweeting, and even referring to for years to come. Quotes on food, fashion, and lifestyle can be found at every turn of this incredible two-part interview. Hal Rubenstein has a hand on the pulse of ever industry (to us the sign of a truly amazing writer and editor.) Even more-so though, in our talk with Rubenstein – conversations about food became conversations about fashion, conversations about fashion became conversations about entertainment, and thoughts on entertainment brought us back to musings on food. Isn’t that what we’re always trying to do here at The New Potato?

If you had to say a few fashion or food websites or publications that you do love, read, and listen to, what would they be?

I’ll go on Eater. I certainly like InStyle.com – I’m sorry but I’m prejudiced. I love to read Nicole Phelps and Tim Blanks on InStyle.com because I think they’re intelligent and they’re both good writers. They don’t really affect my opinion. I have a very specific way that I look at clothes. I’m a real pragmatist. To me, clothes have to live off a runway. Clothes don’t have a life until they’re on a body. Great concepts and great ideas are wonderful, but the runway isn’t the sidewalk, and I think there’s sometimes a disparity in magazines in how we present fashion, as opposed to how fashion lives. If you present a collection where a dress is $4,000, very often it’s not being worn by a woman who looks anything like it’s presented on the runway. Perfect example: I think Alber Elbaz is one of the most wonderful designers in the world simply because Alber loves women of every age. The other night at the Oscars, who does he choose to dress? Emmanuelle Riva. She’s eighty-six years old and she looked incredible. She looked amazing, elegant and statuesque. That shows that the designer truly loves women.

On that note, when you say the runway isn’t the sidewalk, how does this translate to the new wave of online street style? Is that filling a void? 

Street style has always been there. It’s just that no one was paying attention to it. Street style has been around since the fifties and sixties – maybe even the early days of fashion in postwar Europe. Think about zoot suits in the thirties and forties; think about the birth of sportswear in the late forties and early fifties. Young people have always adapted fashion in their own way – always. It’s just that now, people are paying attention to it and copying it. I like street style when it’s individual. I can’t say what’s going on around the tents at New York Fashion Week is necessarily street style. I think that’s showing off. To me, that’s like ‘Please take my picture, please take my picture.’ In this day and age, we’ve made it possible – as long as you have an iPhone – to make everyone a photographer. As long as you have websites, everybody can be photographed and be “famous”.

A lot of people want to do things just to get their picture taken. That’s not street style because you’re wearing things that are not organically about you. You can see it – when clothes wear a person and when someone is doing something simply to be noticed. It doesn’t look organic, it looks showy. Great style presents you in your best light; you’re presenting your best self. Everybody can have style. Yes, there are some people who are born with it – I get it – but it can be taught. It’s about judging from the inside out rather than the outside in.

Unfortunately a lot of people pick from their closets judging from the outside in. From the inside out is looking in the mirror and figuring out what parts of yourself that you like the most, and women often don’t dress like that. They see the things that they don’t like about themselves and move forward. And that’s a very dangerous way to get dressed. I think women are their own worst enemies a lot of the time. Women are very self-deprecating. Culture has built it that way. Very often when women get dressed, they see their flaws, because you compare yourself to others. ‘I don’t have so and so’s hair; I don’t have so and so’s lips.’ Women put themselves down a lot and I find it very distressing. Men almost never do – as delusional as they may be!

How do men dress?

It’s very simple. The average woman looks in the mirror, sees the five things she doesn’t like about herself and gets dressed from that place, which is dangerous. Men look at themselves and – regardless of what’s really in the reflection – what they see is about two inches from Brad Pitt. No matter how delusional that is, most men think they rock. They really do. And frankly, you are what you think you are. I’m not saying men dress better; I’m saying men think they look great and sometimes thinking it makes it so.

Women are incredible creatures. I’m in fashion for that reason. I’m fascinated by that fact that – looking at how many people there are in the world – nobody looks exactly like you. I think that’s extraordinary. I think if women realized how extraordinary looking each one of them is, they would enjoy their wardrobes. They would enjoy shopping; they would enjoy themselves a lot more. Dressing is about private self, and people should walk out the door proud of themselves. Their wardrobe should reflect their pride. When you’re dressing like you’re gift wrapping yourself for the world – that’s when people make mistakes. It’s presenting yourself to the world, which is slightly different. Your clothes should reflect your personality, your energy, your happiness, your goals and your family. That sounds esoteric but it’s really not. It’s really very pragmatic. You don’t dress to satisfy trends; you don’t dress to impress other women; you dress to make yourself happy when you look in the mirror.

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