Perfect Match: Bridgehampton Polo's Chris Del Gatto and Veronica Webb
by isaac mizrahi
I met Veronica Webb in the 1980s. She was a star, and if you were lucky, you got her to do fittings, to try on clothes in the various states of creation, and give them life or reveal them as frauds. She became to me, not only a gorgeous face and a perfect proportion, but also an arbiter of things, someone who could look at a dress or a pair of shoes and pronounce its worth. That trust is sacred. It brings people together like nothing else. After a while, a funny thing began to happen—something I’ve never told anyone, not even Veronica herself. I started hearing her voice in my head. In my design process I allow these fictitious voices to opine while I work. They say things such as: “I like it. I’d wear it on a date, but not to the office,” or “I don’t think so darling. Maybe in red? Or maybe with the other bracelet?” These voices have faces. I think they’re what one might call muses, imaginary Style Guides. I had Greta Garbo talking to me. Babe Paley and Pauline de Rothschild. Tina Chow speaks regularly. And Veronica.
I love Veronica deeply; we’re soul mates. But even more, we amuse each other. We have fun. We laugh. I always thought of us like a platonic version of Nick and Nora Charles. Whenever we’re together, the world is a giant cocktail party full of mad-capped, stylish riddles. So in order for me to make room in this picture for anyone else, he had to be very special.
I had heard glowing things about Chris Del Gatto from Veronica. Before I met him, each time she spoke of him I would growl and bare my teeth like a protective lapdog. I’d met him in passing a few times at social events, but the first time we actually sat and talked was at Robert’s in Water Mill about a year ago. I went with the intention of interrogating him, revealing him as a mere interloper in the Nick and Nora scenario, but I was charmed right away.
Chris is a stylish guy, a kind of male version of Veronica in so many ways: handsome, eclectic, witty, and deeply soulful. He’s the better half of Veronica. I noticed right away. She relaxes with him. Breathes. Shines. And he does the same with her. Chris sees Veronica in ways others can’t. He sees the whole woman, of which there is so much depth, and when you’re with Veronica and Chris you feel the good energy. It’s a hard thing to explain, this energy that comes from a good union, this chemistry, but they have it.
ISSAC MIZRAHI: Circa, your team, won the coveted Hampton Cup last year, correct? Are you going to compete again this year?
CHRIS DEL GATTO: We are.
VERONICA WEBB: I’m learning about the world of horses now. It’s incredibly beautiful. I never really understood how elegant and how violent and how traditional the world of polo is and how much of fashion actually has come out of polo.
IM: You guys spend your weekends in the Hamptons—date night, describe it between the Del Gattos and Webbs.
VW: It’s so funny to say date night. Anything we do when we’re alone is fantastic—and this is something I’ve never experienced before—I don’t really need anything in order to be entertained or happy or engaged or amused, other than being with Chris.
IM: I’ve known a lot of Veronica’s past significant others, and I never quite felt the chemistry until you. What do you owe that to? Do you make certain adjustments for each other?
CDG: No, I think that’s part of it. We always made adjustments before and there really aren’t any adjustments to make.
IM: What about the kids—Veronica your daughters, Leila, 9, and Molly, 8, and Chris, your kids, Leonard, 12, and Alessandra, 10?
CDG: The kids definitely add to the dynamic. From day one, the way they meshed together and have been protagonists in this story has been incredible.
VW: All the children adore each other. They came together through music and costume because when we first introduced them, the first thing they did was start to play piano, get dressed up, and sing songs.
IM: High summer in Sag Harbor where you live, where do you go when you want to get away, out of the house?
CDG: We really stay with ourselves, with family, or with a very small circle of close friends most of the time. We see you for dinner once in a while.
VW: I can’t even really remember going out for dinner without the kids that often.
IM: I always think that this is what makes people stylish. Not the idea that they can dress up, be on a red carpet, and look good; I always think it’s the day-to-day thing. We used to say about Veronica that we could just leave her in the room with clothes and she’ll do the fitting and just show us the Polaroids at the end because no one has a sense of putting accessories with things like Veronica. What are your secrets?
CDG: I dress her. No one believes it, they think it’s the other way around, but it’s not.
VW: It’s a ton of fun to have someone who knows what they’re doing dress you, like you can’t imagine what that is! (Laughs.)
IM: I cannot. There was a time when being a designer was a respectable profession. At one point my word was law about what shoe and how the hair was going to look. Now it’s a democracy, let’s put it that way. What’s in your closet, besides old Mizrahi’s that have recently been given to FIT….
VW: I offered you the kilt dress before it went, so I don’t want to hear about it! Chris just bought some pieces from Sophie Theallet and some pieces from Prabal (Gurung) for my birthday.
IM: Do you have a storage space with a million evening dresses?
VW: No, I don’t really keep evening dresses. I’m lucky enough that throughout the years you’ve made great things, like the totem pole dress and the rodeo dress, I’ve worn them hot off the runway. Then I give them back, and they go in their pure couture form back into the designer’s archive or into a museum where they belong.
IM: Do you have one thing you just love to wear because it feels right to you?
CDG: I think we’re a lot alike in that way. We have our taste that is very similar, and we don’t care very much what is happening around us. We definitely have our own vision aesthetically and stick to it.
IM: Veronica, you and Elaine Irwin are currently starring in the ad campaign for Circa, Chris’s jewelry company; what is that about?
VW: Circa has revolutionized the industry because they’ve created a new form of recycling, which is to recycle your jewelry.
IM: Where did that thought come from?
CDG: Before Circa there really never was a luxury brand for the general public to access when they wanted to sell diamonds, a watch, or a piece of jewelry. Typically you’d have no desire to sell if you didn’t need the money because people thought pawn shop on one end or auction on the complete other end, which a lot of people were intimidated by. When we started to buy significant numbers of pieces seven or eight years ago, people would say, “For $50,000 I’ll leave it in my box, it’s not going to change my life.” I knew about the negative environmental effects of mining and you can significantly reduce the need for mining if people would think about jewelry that they no longer wore like a plastic bottle and recycled. There are trillions of dollars of inventory sitting in public hands, of which five to 20 percent is unworn, unwanted, and just sitting in boxes. If that came back onto the market, mining could stop significantly. The response to our offices and the business model in Europe has been phenomenal.
IM: You’re not terrified about the whole financial thing?
CDG: It’s unsettling. You hate to see what’s happening happen, but I’m not terrified of it. We tried to really build a business where if the economy is good or bad we still have a leg to stand on. But, we do better as a luxury company when the economy is doing well and when people have a sense of confidence in what is happening.
IM: Tell me about exciting things that you have coming up, the possibility of a wedding or a marriage? Is that going to happen?
VW: I think the marriage starts once you put your families together, which we’ve already done.
CDG: Frankly, I think we’re more “married” than most people who are legally married.
IM: But, is that in the plan? Why am I so concerned about this? I just want you both to be off the market completely.
CDG: I think we are off the market. We’re engaged with so many different things, but always together. So, when the time is right.
IM: I just think it’s hilarious how reverse the situation is—straight people no longer want to get married and gay people are just dying to get married.
VW: I think it’s not a question necessarily of timing. It’s when you meet that person, when you have absolutely no other choice than to want to be together all the time and to want to live every moment with and for that person because you’re compelled to be in love with them in a way that nothing else can stop, nothing else can touch, nothing else can alter.
CDG: I think it’s amazing how you can change when the right person all of a sudden is put in front of you.
photography by stephan wÜrth; Styling by Lauri Eisenberg; Makeup by Anthea King for See Management; Hair by Mitch Barry for Bryan Bantry Agency; Photographed at Southampton Hunt & Polo Club