She emerged from a bustling room, behind a dense crowd of shoveling assistants and stylists. What I first saw was a giant pair of cherries, and then her toned arms, and then her face. I thought she was involved in a photoshoot — afterall, a rigid lace corset which is barely enough to cover your derriere isn’t exactly your average 3pm outfit. But Anna Dello Russo isn’t your average woman. She is the number one stylist in the world, one of the most recognisable faces in fashion, proud owner of 6000 pair of shoes which require an apartment to display.
“I am wearing Dolce & Gabbana today,” Anna speaks slowly and clearly in English, with a slight Italian twang, “and the shoes are Manolo.” Last time we checked, she had 6000 pairs, mostly heels, but there was a pair of white glitter mary jane flat too. How far has her shoe wardrobe advanced since then? She hesitates, and says, “I have lost count. But I am a collector of fashion you know. Everything in my apartment is archived and catalogued. I display my shoes.”
Anna says she doesn’t collect any vintage pieces, but rather she documents the fashion from our living memory. And since she styles many catwalks and adverts for the world’s biggest fashion brands, does it mean that she gets her collector’s items for free?
And then her friend Sarah Rutson, Lane Crawford’s fashion director of 15 years, a face that is commonly seen on blogs such as Chictopia and Sartorialist, appears at the door and Anna shrieks elegantly, “where are those shoes?” She is referring to the pair of black Yves Saint Laurent suede heels. She had tried them on earlier and she needs to buy them. “It’s a pair of 7 and a half. 7 and a half.”
Sarah told us that during fashion week, Anna told her that “I am envious of your job. I only ever do photoshoots and I’d really love to style some customers. Maybe we can trade positions one day!” And here is Anna. She is here for two days, giving styling advice for some private customers (first a banker mum from Credit Suisse; then a Beijing client dressed in Pucci and carried a Hermes Birkin, who flew down especially for the session) at Lane Crawford’s Platinum Suite, overlooking the Victoria Harbour.
Anna styled while she answered my questions, “when I am not busy, throw a question at me!” She taught the banker mum how to wear this season’s chicest look — a round neck knitted jumper on a wool A-line skirt. The lady emerged from the fitting room, and stared at her reflection. Her expression was quizzical. Afterall, bankers are a conservative lot. A jumper is perhaps too Alexander Wang for a Chanel kind of girl. And such is the difference between styling a shoot and styling real people. The functionality associated with clothes isn’t an element at the top of Anna’s equation.
Anna went into her fitting room, came back out and asked, “Where’s the thin belt?” Her voice sent assistants scrambling around the room, “Never lose a moment! Fashion is a moment!” And indeed it is, fashion is ephemeral according to Karl Lagerfeld, and one has to constantly evolve with fashion in order to stay on top. Anna takes this concept to the extreme — she wears clothes off the catwalk. Soon after a look has stormed down the runway, it will be Anna’s next outfit.
When the lady tries on the clothes and Anna has a free moment, I ask Anna to explain what does she mean when she writes on her blog, “I don’t want to be cool, I want to be fashion”?
“You know, people don’t dress up nowadays. Everybody tries to be cool. For example, Kate Moss. She is an adorable girl. She is cool. She wears t-shirts and jeans. But I am born fashion. I love fashion, I love clothes, I love brands. There’s nothing vulgar about it.” Anna is unapologetic about dressing up. And indeed why should she? She has impeccable taste, her style influences millions worldwide. She has got the figure to flaunt it, so why not?
Anna keeps fit by swimming and practising yoga everyday. “If I work in Milan then I walk my dog, Cicciolina.” How about her makeup routine? “I have a flexible body. My body is really good for clothes. But I never wear makeup because I have an androgynous face. If I wear make up I look like a tranvestite. For skincare I use La Mer, and nail varnish YSL.”
Indeed her body is perfect. She looks much fitter than on photographs — she somehow looks thinner in real life, but she is definitely not a waif. She looks healthy. Her proportion is perfect. Although she hunches when she stands, her shoulders are straight and her legs are firm and toned. She has a befreckled back, perhaps evidence of a lot of sunning in Portofino?
“I used to holiday with him every year. But this year we only spent a couple of weekends together.” Anna is referring to Stefano Gabbana, whom she says without a hint of hesitation that he is her best friend in fashion. Is it any wonder? Earlier this year, Stefano twitted Anna’s photo via his account. It was the back of Anna descending some steps in the background of an azzaro sea. And most of the time Anna can be spotted in Dolce & Gabbana outfits, two seasons ahead of time. Does she style the boys’ show as well?
“I never speak about the shows I styled. The designers should be given the right spotlight. I used to style many many shows, but now I am more selective. Maybe only once or twice a season.”
Anna says her proudest moment in fashion is during fashion week because “it is like the Olympics. You prepare for it before. You get into shape. And during fashion week you see the results of what you have worked so hard for. And you know September is the most important week in fashion, and it is also the best issue for my magazine, Japan Vogue.”
The creative director and consultant for Vogue Japan works from Milan, and travels to Japan twice a year. According to Vogue Japan’s fashion market director Saori Masuda, “Anna creates the look for the Vogue girl, and is in charge of the whole feel of the magazine. Anna follows the photoshoot for Vogue Japan in Milan.” Saori is writing an article about Anna for Vogue Japan, which will be out in late November. “Anna is very friendly. She is very direct with what she wants. She is very inspirational.”
It has been rumoured that Anna puts fashion before men. The fact that she is never snapped with any straight male companion has fueled the rumour. So what is her view on men? “I can only say that don’t overdress when you go out with men. They don’t like it. They don’t like excessive. But of course I love men. I think gay men with fashion, [she makes a perfetto gesture], but straight men… But I love men, of course.”