There are those people—most of whom don’t actually know this magazine very well—who think of Departures as some sort of high-end guide to a life of caviar and Champagne. Wrong! The rich and sometimes famous are, no doubt, part of our readership, but we have never, ever thought of Departures exclusively as “their” magazine. Rather, it’s a publication designed to enrich, educate, and amuse all those with a passion for the best things in life which, alas, are not always free. But then, quality and value often come with a price, and our mission has always been to present the truly valuable, not just the most expensive. Given the state of the economy as we went to press, we decided to dedicate this issue to Re-Mastering the Art of Living Well now as a way to rethink how…we spend it. In “The Trend Report,” for example, we look at shopping that’s over the top to deliciously under the radar; our “Material Comfort” columnist, Mike Offit, reports on how to stretch the euro; and wine enthusiast Alice Feiring finds incredible values for less than $25. Along the way, we also asked ten interesting individuals—from our favorite lady of the tabloids, columnist Liz Smith, to architect Charles Gwathmey—to define for us what “necessary luxury” means to them. Their answers are smart and revealing.
Flashback to 1973: Nixon was president. the ribbon was cut for the World Trade Center, Steinbrenner bought the Yankees, and fashion became enthralled with The Little Wrap Dress, created by an exotic arriviste who went by the rather outré name of Princess Diane von Furstenberg. The 27-year-old designer lived on Park, partied at 54, and was married to an Austro-Hungarian prince. Fiercely intelligent and unabashedly sexy, she was supremely practical, too. Just like The Little Wrap Dress priced at $86.
Thirty-five years later Von Furstenberg is back on top with another riff on wrap—and much more. I met Diane for the first time in April at the American Express Publishing Luxury Summit in Los Angeles. She had been invited to talk about luxury, design, and style. Along the way she included so much more—stories about her mother, the Holocaust, her life as a businesswoman, wife, and grandmother. To put it not so subtly, she was simply unbelievable—down to earth, a force of nature, commanding and endearing. I thought of that scene from Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady in which the young Ralph Touchett says to Lord Warburton, “I should like to see your idea of an interesting woman.” Who, we ask, better personifies Re-Mastering the Art of Living Well now than Diane? In this issue the designer makes her debut as a regular Departures columnist with “The DVF Files” and writes about Florence. As for upcoming subjects? No idea. The unexpected has always been part of the DNA of DVF.
One final note: “Seeking Paris Rental: Must Have Kitchen” is a piece of which I am particularly proud. The author, Judith Jones, is not only an important literary presence in New York but, along with her husband, Evan, who died 12 years ago, among the people I have treasured knowing most in my life—as colleagues, for sure, as close friends, forever.
At 84 years old, Judith is still working at Alfred A. Knopf, where she’s edited all sorts of books by all sorts of writers—M.F.K. Fisher, John Updike, Julia Child, John Hersey, and Anne Tyler among them. ’Twas Judith Jones who championed Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl in 1950 when she found it in a slush pile early in her career at Doubleday in Paris. Judith’s own memoir, The Tenth Muse, was published last year, and for anyone interested in mastering the art of living well, it’s essential reading. Raised in New York and rural Vermont, Judith comes across in those pages as sensible, romantic, frugal, and frank. No unnecessary luxuries for her. I must say that I have the feeling that even if Judith were given the opportunity to stay in Coco’s old suite at The Ritz rather than rent a flat of her own, she would say, “Thank you, but I’d prefer to do it my way. The Left Bank is where I’d like to be.” And besides, where would she ever be able to find a sensible pair of poultry shears on the Place Vendôme?
Necessary Luxury Is...
Samuel Goldwyn Jr.: Producer
“My strawberry margaritas made with El Paso Chile mix and Cazadores Reposado tequila. Crossword puzzles. Movies. And gingersnaps from Naughty Biscotti in Santa Clare.”
Liz Smith: Columnist
“Dover sole at Le Cirque. Swifty's caviar, a car and driver from Bermuda Limousine—their men wear caps!”
Paola Antonelli: Curator of Architecture and Design, MOMA
“A Bic lighter (helps me at night). The zipper, for obvious reasons (try to imagine life without it).”