We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what’s “you”? These are some of the questions we’re putting to prominent figures in our column “How I Shop.”
As I may have mentioned before, I’ve been a longtime stan of fashion editor, stylist and now Bergdorf Goodman Creative Director Elle Strauss‘s aesthetic. I’ve watched her personal style evolve along with her professional journey, starting with her IRL #ootds that I always wanted to cop during her senior fashion editor days at Lucky. (She made lots of visits to the photocopier that I happened to sit in front of, OK?). During multiple Bridal Weeks, I admired her refined-with-a-runway-touch street when she turned her fashion editor-honed eye to the weddings industry as fashion director at Brides.
Obviously, I’ve been following her on Insta for ages, too, so I watched her embrace the relaxed SoCal lifestyle when she moved to Los Angeles to work as a freelance stylist, plus have followed her fabulous travels with her unsurprisingly well-dressed family and recent return to the East Coast. (Doesn’t hurt that her Instagram husband — as in actual spouse, James Dimmock — is a successful fashion, entertainment and celebrity photographer, who counts my dream life partner, Idris Elba, as a subject.)
Of readjusting her wardrobe from sunny L.A. back to the wintry streets of New York, Strauss says over the phone: “It’s more footwear than anything else. In L.A., it was really much more of a chunky sandal versus when a lace-up boot or something that’s more practical to commute in the city.”
Her commute, of course, is to legendary “pure, pure luxury” department store Bergdorf Goodman, most recently portrayed on the small-screen (the exterior anyway) as Lacy’s on “Katy Keene.”
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As creative director, Strauss most recently focused her editorial and styling expertise to spearhead the relaunch of BG.com. On it, you’ll find chic imagery, engaging video and luxurious content speaking to the current — and aspiring — Bergdorf clientele, produced by her dedicated team. Then, there’s the accompanying app, which debuted along with the refresh and which Strauss herself regularly test-drives. For research purposes, of course.
“The app is really easy [to navigate] and the images, which myself and my team are producing, they’ve inspired me to shop and I hope that that’s what they’re doing for everyone else,” she says. Timely statement, since shopping is what we’re here to talk about, right?
Below, Strauss shares how her posh job influences how she dresses, where a chunk of her paycheck regularly goes (spoiler: back to Bergdorf Goodman) and what successful method she’s devised for cleaning out her definitely stacked closet — or two, if she’s being honest.
“I definitely take more of a practical approach to dressing: sleek, functional pieces that work within the work environment. Clean. Minimal. I have a foundation in terms of layering. I love building with structured pieces. I love a turtleneck. I love a blazer. One of our newest designers to the store, Jil Sander, would be my goals that I aspire to.
“I can’t help but be influenced [by where I work], but, as I’ve gotten older, to be honest, my style has calmed down. In my past life there was a little more color going on for what I needed to promote. But now, there’s that confidence about me and being like, ‘Oh, I just represent me now.’ And, luckily, I’m also surrounded by these gorgeous brands that reflect that. Right now, I’m sitting here in a pair of black lace-up Chelsea boots by The Row and a black ribbed jersey maxi-dress with long sleeves. It’s practical and definitely that modern minimalism that I think is reflective of BG.
“In my previous life, I would have maybe been [shopping] on the street, whereas now I’m more just in Bergdorf and on BG.com. It’s an occupational hazard because you’re seeing the very best and new arrivals are always coming. Literally, I was looking at an email just now and it contains all of these new delicious luxury brands, like Bottega Veneta.
“It’s just such a privilege to see all this come alive. I just feel much more exposed [to fashion as it] comes down the runway, but then seeing the product as its shot — as we build out the editorials for the pages in BG Magazine — I’m much more educated around it. So I probably shop more carefully and look for pieces that last longer and are made better. They’re forever pieces.
“I’m a big fan of The Row, I have to say. The two things I bought recently are the black lace-up boots and a navy blue maxi dress with nice bell sleeves. Those are my two splurges. I actually keep splurging in the beauty department because as you walk through the store it’s so enticing. I just bought two foundations from Gucci Westman that you mix. I also just bought Maya Chia’s The Super Blend Pressed Serum Moisture Concentrate. You know how you’re meant to change up your beauty routine for the weather? The sales associate used to be an aesthetician and she was like, ‘You need this.’ And I thought, ‘I need this, I do!’
“I also bought a piece from [former (Old) Céline designer] Peter Do from our new Radar collection, which is an incubator for up-and-coming designers. It’s in my shopping bag right now: this amazing, amazing pleated skirt with a utilitarian vibe. You must check him out.
“Because we moved back from Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to basically hit the reset button for about the fifth time. I reread Marie Kondo — not going to lie — and went through my wardrobe again and did a massive edit. Basically, I forced myself to merchandise my wardrobe. So every single piece is organized by tops, jackets, pants, etc. Then, it really does run from dark to light. I know. I’m so impressed. I was going to pay someone to do it and I was like, ‘You can do this. You can do this!’
“I don’t think I actually have a method to organizing my shoes, though. It depends on the shoe. If I’m wearing it often, then the box just disappears. Whereas if it’s something very specific, very high, very vertiginous, then it’s in a shoe bag and a box.
“I have been so very disciplined [in maintaining the organization]. It helps because we didn’t move back to Brooklyn. We moved to New Jersey and I have the luxury of space. I have two walk-in closets. I realize how wonderful that sounds. It’s a definite luxury. I had to move out of the city to have that wonderful advantage. The secret is the luxury of space, to be honest. There’s something so very calming and it just is necessary. I have two little girls. I obviously work full-time and now I commute. So getting dressed in the morning has to be easy and functional; a bit like my wardrobe. I try to plan my outfit the night before and lay it out so I minimize time. I know. It’s more for necessity than maybe my true personality. But there’s a comfort to it.
“I’m very decisive. I’m naturally a hoarder, but when I put my mind to something, I’m like, ‘Right, let’s go.’ When I moved to L.A., I really, really got rid of years and years of clothes. I set up a system and basically broke it down: The very designer ones went to The RealReal and what they didn’t take went to Linda’s Stuff [on eBay]. Over the years I’ve accumulated a lot of denim, so the brand new pieces went to The RealReal. I also did Beacon’s Closet and everything leftover, including the kids’ clothes, ThredUp. Also, I give a lot of the kids’ clothes to my mom friends, who have kids younger than mine. I love it, I’m like, ‘Oh, they’ll really appreciate this Bonpoint.'”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.