Not Your Mom’s Chocolate Cake

It’s no secret that more and more fashion brands are focusing on archiving their collections, but this has never been surprising for fashion archivist Julie Ann Orsini. Orsini works with a variety of brands – from Tom Ford and Ralph Rucci to Proenza Schouler and Jason Wu – to create and maintain archives that could culminate into something like the Alexander McQueen exhibit in 2011 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the 2010 Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at Le Petit Palais in Paris.

We decided to deal with a different kind of archiving with Orsini – food archiving – selecting Diane Von Furstenberg’s Mother’s Chocolate Cake recipe (from the vintage cooking book Food in Vogue) to make in Orisini’s kitchen, while she chatted with us on everything from fashion to her favorite New York restaurants. Is it technically archiving if you eat the recipe after you make it? We tried not to trouble ourselves with such questions…

On fashion archiving… 

I think this is a new thing…people exhibiting fashion. The [Alexander] McQueen show at the MET really opened everybody’s eyes. People are so interested in fashion and it brings so much attention to the clothing, and the brand, and to museums. So many museums want to get into this bandwagon of fashion now because it brings people in and gets them to see the rest of their collections. But it can be an issue. Certain designers have to go out and buy things back. It’s always better to have just preserved it from the beginning.

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On what items designers choose to archive…

It depends on the personality. I’ve worked with people who want to archive every look that goes down the runway. I’ve worked with people who only care about certain select looks. Some people want to save everything and with that kind of personality, I’m usually telling them, “Well, we don’t need three copies of this dress – maybe something we could sell in a sample sale and we’ll have some money for funding the archive.” And then there are other people to whom I’m like, “No, you really need to save this and it needs to be in better condition before we archive it!”

Typically, it’s pretty instinctual. Obviously if something is on the cover of Vogue, you want to keep that. If it was the piece that was in your advertising campaign, or if someone wore it to the Oscars…these are things that people would remember.

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On what we’re cooking…

Diane von Furstenberg gave it to Vogue [her mother’s chocolate cake recipe]. And it’s really simple – it’s really straightforward. I really like the batter because it reminds me of the consistency of a Duncan Hines box cake. So it has that nostalgic yumminess from childhood. The texture is really great and it’s simple and delicious.

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On your favorite restaurants…

Scarpetta is consistently an excellent and most gracious experience. The food is always amazing, and the service is perfect. There’s nothing quite like returning to a place where they know your drink and have it waiting on the bar the moment you walk through the door! My favorite dishes there are the Tuna Susci and the Bay Scallop Crudo. L’Artusi, Dell’Anima, and L’Apicio are other standbys that I adore and return to again and again. Franny’s is my weekly mommy-son date spot. The clam pizza is always perfection, but I usually wind up with a few different small plates. Everything is super fresh and seasonal, and constantly rotating. (Can you tell yet what my favorite cuisine is?!) Minetta Tavern for the Minetta Burger is a must-do at least once a month. I never get the Black Label – sorry – I like cheese on my burger! I love Tamarind for Indian. And for dessert, a slice of red velvet or chocolate valrhona cake at Betty Bakery on Atlantic Avenue.

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On Food in Vogue…

[The book] is a collection of recipes and ideas for entertaining that appeared in Vogue over the years. I think this copy is from the late seventies or early eighties, but a lot of the recipes in it are very seventies dinner party chic I think. It’s from my personal library. I have a ton of vintage fashion books for reference – for when I was in school and for researching collections for people. Some of my clients will hire me to date all of their pieces – like they’ve collected a bunch of stuff from a certain time period – and so the books are really instrumental and helpful. I have a ton of cookbooks also because besides fashion, I love food and cooking.

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*Julie Ann Orsini, photographed in Brooklyn, New York by Danielle Kosann. Julie Ann wears a Celine sweater, Rag & Bone jeans, Tabitha Simmons boots, Repossi ring and Eddie Borgo bracelet.

GTL