Elie Tahari, with his custom-designed bicycle for Hamptons’ 35th
Anniversary Brooklyn Cruisers
auction, in front of his
East Hampton outpost.
The interior of Elie
Tahari’s East Hampton store
was fully renovated while
preserving its historic exterior.
Metallic Cleopatra heel ($350).
Mallory jacket ($1,298).
Emmy Rossum is a
The day that officially kicks off New York’s Fashion Week, September 5, 2013, is also being hailed as Elie Tahari Day. In celebration of the brand’s 40th anniversary, Tahari will be honored by New York City Mayor Bloomberg as a tribute to the man who began in fashion in 1973 by popularizing the tube top and who has consistently designed clothing that makes real women look their best.
Elie Tahari has come a long way since arriving in Manhattan with less than $100 in his pocket; he now heads a hugely successful multinational brand, built with courage, tenacity, humility, gratitude, and just enough fear to motivate him.
“Coming from Iran, my parents had lived in fear all their lives,” says the designer. “I grew up in an orphanage in Israel, and I went into business; there always was fear. At a certain point you have enough finances to not be afraid, but there were always ups and downs: success, chaos, disasters, appreciation, and success again...”
Tahari first found success on the East End when he opened his East Hampton boutique in August 2007. Deeply involved in the aesthetic of his stores, he recalls, “The building was rundown. For anyone to take it over it needed major renovations.” So the designer committed to salvaging the exquisite redbrick landmark, built in 1917, from ruin. “We bought it and fixed the whole building. It used to be the post office downstairs, and the telephone exchange upstairs. It’s part of East Hampton history,” he explains. “It’s a brand-new building now, but everything on the outside remains the way it was” to maintain the history of the structure.
On the 40th anniversary of his brand, Tahari’s own history is being honored. In addition to Elie Tahari Day in New York City, the commemoration of the milestone will begin in September with a 10- to 12-piece capsule collection of “greatest hits” for Spring 2014, featuring the aforementioned tube top from the ’70s, the fitted women’s suits Tahari popularized in the ’80s, and the leather workmanship for which he is known. The collection will be shown along with the rest of Spring/ Summer 2014 in Elie Tahari’s NYC pop-up store, designed by Gordon Bunshaft to embody Tahari’s idea of a fashion lab—a place where his collections are created in smaller lots that evolve according to customers’ reactions. Tahari loves being on the floor with the customer, tweaking clothes with seamstresses tailoring samples to fit.
“I like to look at beautiful things, do beautiful things,” says Tahari. “Trends or fads don’t matter. Does the woman look good, fresh, elegant, sophisticated? That’s what matters.” With Fall 2013 around the corner, the upcoming line features skinny bottoms, leggings, and large tops, lots of leather, leather trim, and body-hugging silhouettes.
“It’s all about mixing dressy and sporty and whatever makes you feel good,” he continues about the fall collection. “It’s a lot more free and inspiring to see people mixing and having their individual style. I like fluid, soft, feminine things. The clothing I design is multigenerational; it looks great on both a mother and a daughter.” It’s also stunning on Jessica Stam, the face of the fall campaign.
Another upcoming launch is a Tahari eyewear collection for spring 2014. The designs will have the same stylish and sophisticated aesthetic as Elie Tahari clothing. Then legwear, men’s underwear, socks, and T-shirts will be rolled out for fall 2014.
With a plethora of accomplishments over the past 40 years and a host of projects on the horizon, Tahari treasures precious downtime spent with his kids at his home overlooking the beach in Sagaponack. “It’s a Luna Park for kids,” he says enthusiastically. “My 8-year-old daughter, Zoe, likes the trampoline, swimming, and playing Ping-Pong. My son, Jeremey is 11; he likes to throw a basketball. And I hang around and walk on the beach. I don’t leave the house much.”
To stay centered, Tahari has been studying Kabbalah for the past 18 months, in New York and the Hamptons. He says it has changed his life. “We have to be humble,” he says with great respect, as he recalls his upbringing. “I didn’t feel good enough for anything. I never felt I deserved anything. I never had anything. So, I never thought that I was suffering, but I was. I was looking for truth, but I didn’t know what truth was. I studied different spiritualities, different religions…. I now believe that the teaching of the Zohar is the clearest way for truth [for me]. It’s sharing, truth, love, compassion, and understanding…. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you can exercise that thought, even a little bit, you’ll be living a very elevated life.”
As a result, Tahari has a clear definition of what makes him happy: “As long as you’re appreciative, you’re happy,” he explains. “If you know that in a second everything can change, and you appreciate and enjoy what you have, then you can be happy.” Words we can all live by. 1 Main St., East Hampton, 329-8883.