As a designer, model and legendary New York style icon, Tziporah Salamon has been the highlight of the New York fashion scene for decades. This loud and exuberant woman lives her life to the fullest working with acclaimed photographers and artists around the world, such as the New York Times’ Bill Cunningham and Ari Seth Cohen. I had a chance to catch up and get personal with Tziporah after New York Fashion Week to discuss her wild fashion sense and r fearlessness.
How and when did you get started in the fashion business?
I moved back to New York from California where I was getting a PhD in psychology to pursue fashion. It was 1979 and I was only 29 years old. My first job was as a salesperson in a gorgeous vintage store in Soho called Victoria Falls… and there the story begins.
You have lived an extraordinarily fashionable, full life. Can you give me a story of the most outrageous situation you’ve ever been in?
I have been in several outrageous situations but the most memorable was the time I had just started working at Jezebell, a wonderful restaurant in the theatre district owned by Alberta Wright. She was a brilliant woman who had just closed a renowned vintage clothing store also called Jezebell located on the Upper West Side where John Lennon and Yoko Ono used to hang out. It was 1984, I was 34 years old, and I loved my new job working as a waitress. The restaurant was gorgeous and I was making great money. I had to wear antique clothes because Alberta insisted that her four “Jezebells” all wore vintage.
I always looked gorgeous and I was surrounded by beauty. I met fascinating people and I was happy. In a sense it was my most fashionable job. It was like being in a gorgeous Hollywood movie. Stevie Wonder and Harry Belafonte had their birthday parties there and Joanne Woodward used to do needle point as she waited for her husband, Paul Newman. One day, I was approached by a woman who told me she was Wendy Goodman, Fashion Editor of New York Magazine. She wanted to do a fashion shoot of me in my clothes so she sent for Cheryl Koralick, the best and most gifted photographer in NYC at that time. We took threee outfits out of my closet and snuck into the Ansonia Hotel and created masterpieces together. There were no stylists, makeup artists or even mirrors. The whole experience was a work of art.
What inspires you and your work?
I am inspired by so many things such as Henri Matisse, old films, Persian miniatures, Islamic art, Russian Constructivism and Charlie Chaplin’s movies to name a few.
What is a trend you wish would come back and what is a trend you wish would go away forever?
The trend that I wish would come back is dressing up: where taking care with one’s wardrobe, looking elegant, as becoming as possible, and taking the time and effort to know what looks good on your body is of utmost importance. I pray that the grudge trend, bad taste, and inappropriate dressing go away forever.
I was led to offer seminars on fashion styling and clothing because I noticed there is a huge gap in people’s fashion knowledge and, since I have had so many important lessons given to me and have learned so much, I had to start sharing those gifts. Dressing really is what I do best in life and I happen to be an excellent teacher. I am a professionally trained, educated and a natural storyteller. So I‘m a triple threat: dresser, teacher, and storyteller. My seminars are my favorite thing! In a way, they are all one and the same. Whatever I do, be it telling stories, showing off clothes, or teaching the elements of style, all my offerings are imbued with my stories, my clothes and my style. I love to show my incredible, exquisite collection of clothes and I love telling the stories behind them.
You are such a fearless dresser. What events in your life led you begin experimenting with the art of fashion?
I was always a good dresser. My father, Izak Izidore Salamon was a master tailor and my mother, Dina Ida Berner was a gifted dressmaker. They made all my clothes. From day one, I was the best dressed little girl in town. I realized the incredible wardrobe I had amassed only when I was in my 50s and that I was really blessed. I was encouraged to take it to the next level.
What is fun about fashion is the opportunity to be over-the-top and excessive. What is the most over-the-top look you have ever styled or worn? How did people react?
What I love about dressing is the process and the opportunity to build the outfit and to create a work of art by piecing together each element that I find or, rather, that finds me. I love flea markets, vintage fairs, shows, Barney’s, Bergdorf Goodman and any other magical places I can find. Often my outfits are seen as over-the-top and I have had my fair share of comments that were not so nice and flattering, but I don’t concentrate on those.
You are an expert at walking that thin line when it comes to your dressing. How are you able to find the right balance between looking polished and looking too extreme? Is there a system of checks and balances you put into place that helps you do this?
That’s a great question because it really is a thin line. I guess it has to do with looking in the mirror and really seeing what is in front of you and keeping in mind the elements of design (proportion, texture, color, balance and rhythm). For me I always aim to look like a refined lady. I always want to be viewed as marriage material. Think Grace Kelley, Ingrid Bergman, and also Myrna Loy.
What are some quick tips you can give to women who are not quite as fearless as you but still want to experiment with their wardrobes?
Get to know your body, what looks good and what do you want to show. What story do you want to tell the world? How do you want people to view you? Look at art and find out what turns you on and then make a notebook of those images. Always experiment and stretch yourself. Don’t be afraid to take it up a notch.
What is a quote or motto you live by?
Be true to who you are.
Tziporah is still fabulous and living in New York City. If you are interested in Tziporah’s work or would like to book her for a personal styling session or to participate in a style workshop, contact her here: http://www.tziporahsalamon.com/
by Dolly Donshey