THE WOMAN I AM
THE BUSINESS OF FASHION
4. THE AMERICAN DREAM
5. THE COMEBACK KID
6. THE NEW ERA
About the Author
I want to thank all of the people who helped to bring this project to life. Linda Bird Francke for her patience and dedication as she collected my memories and structured this book, and for her friendship for the last four decades.
Genevieve Ernst for reading and correcting it with me over and over and putting up with me and my endless changes.
I could not have done it without you both.
Alice Mayhew for her macro support and knowledge, and Andrew Wylie for being the best agent. Franca Dantes for her incredible archival skills, Peter Lindbergh for the cover photo, and Tara Romeo for her assistance with the cover design. Lisa Watson for transcribing my rambling, Jonathan Cox for keeping all of the chapters straight, and Liz McDaniel for helping with the book jacket.
When I was a child, studying for my exams, I would pretend I was teaching imaginary students. It was my way to learn.
Living is learning, and as I look back at the many layers of experience I collected, I feel ready to share some of the lessons I learned along the way. Living also means aging. The good thing about aging is that you have a past, a history. If you like your past and stand by it, then you know you have lived fully and learned from your life.
Those were the lessons that allowed me to be the woman I am. As a girl, I did not know what I wanted to do but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be. I wanted to be my own person, independent and free. I knew that freedom could only be achieved if I took full responsibility for myself and my actions, if I were true to truth, if I became my very best friend.
Life is not always a smooth ride. Landscapes change, people come in and out, obstacles appear and disrupt the planned itinerary, but one thing you know for sure is that you will always have yourself.
I have arranged this book into chapters on what has inspired me the most and continues to give me strength: family, love, beauty, and the business of fashion. But I must single out the person who was the most important in shaping my life, in making me the woman I wanted to be . . . my mother. That is where this memoir begins.
THE WOMAN I AM
There is a large frame on the bookshelf in my bedroom in New York. In it is a page torn from a German magazine of 1952. It is a photo of an elegant woman and her small daughter in the train station of Basel, Switzerland, waiting for the Orient Express. The little girl is nestled in her mother’s tented coat and is eating a brioche. That was the first time, at the age of five, that I had my photo in a magazine. It is a sweet picture. My mother’s older sister, Juliette, gave it to me when I was first married, but it is only recently that I realized its true importance.
On the surface, it is a photograph of a glamorous, apparently wealthy woman en route to a ski holiday with her curly-haired little girl. The woman is not looking into the camera, but there is a hint of a smile as she knows she is being photographed. Her appearance is elegant. Nothing would indicate that only a few years before, she was in another German-speaking railroad station coming back from the Nazi concentration camps where she had been a prisoner for thirteen months, a bunch of bones, close to death from starvation and exhaustion.
How did she feel when the photographer asked her name to be put in the magazine? Proud, I imagine, to be noticed for her style and elegance. Only seven years had passed. She was not a number anymore. She had a name; warm, beautiful, clean clothes; and most of all she had a daughter, a healthy little girl. “God has saved my life so that I can give you life,” she used to write me every New Year on my birthday. “By giving you life, you gave me my life back. You are my torch, my flag of freedom.”