Inside the World of Bill Cunningham's 67-Year-Old Muse – M & S
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Inside the World of Bill Cunningham's 67-Year-Old Muse

Everyday

Welcome to My Influence, a celebration of personal style that explores the unique, diverse, and eclectic points of inspiration that inform the way we dress. Here is where we shine a spotlight on some of the coolest and inspiring women in fashion and take a closer look at not just what they wear but why they wear it.

We’re all pretty familiar with old tropes of being “born to do it” or that a certain life path was “meant to be,” even if we know everyone takes their own personal stance on the overall concept of fate. After chatting with Tziporah Salamon, however, we just may be gravitating toward the side of believers—and think you might too after meeting her.

The style star first came to our attention several years back when Ari Seth Cohen’s blog turned book turned movie, Advanced Style, grabbed everyone’s attention. It spotlighted women in their 50s through 90s, Salamon included, whose personal style was eclectic, celebratory, and deserving of a greater platform. Today, at 67 years old, Salamon continues to inspire us, as she’s about to leave her longtime New York home for the West Coast and begin a whole new chapter of her life. But before jumping ahead, let’s look back.

“Of course it starts with my parents,” Salamon begins when we start to dive into what really informs her sense of expression. “They were both physically beautiful, like movie-star beautiful.” Clark Gable and Ingrid Bergman, she says, come to mind. Her father, a Holocaust survivor who she tells us was saved by his ability to sew Nazi uniforms, was a master tailor. Her mother, a dressmaker. The result, she recalls, was a childhood full of clothing as close to the couture creations seen on a Paris runway as possible. “That would’ve been enough. I would have been the most stylish girl from day one,” she says. “The way I look at it, God really wanted to make me a thoroughbred.”

As elevated as her fashion knowledge was while growing up in Israel then later in Brooklyn, Salamon didn’t pursue her interest professionally at first. “I always wanted to be a teacher. I got a master’s in education, and then I became very interested in therapy, and I decided I was going to be a therapist.” But at 29 (blame it on Saturn’s return), things changed. The then Berkeley resident quit her PhD program and moved back to New York.

She began working in retail and hospitality, opening herself up to new creative individuals who, in turn, befriended her and wholly transformed her style, she says. Take, for instance, designer Renee Lewis, who met Salamon where she worked at Charivari, a now-defunct men’s clothing store. A friendship struck, and soon she inherited all of Lewis’s antique clothes when they no longer fit. “I still have those pieces. Those are still some of my finest pieces,” she tells us.

There was also Alberta Wright—the owner of Hell’s Kitchen restaurant Jezebel as well as a vintage shop on the Upper West Side—who, as Salamon tells it, practically hired her on the spot upon seeing her outfit. “She is an incredibly well-dressed woman. She would literally bring her hats to wear. She would say, ‘Here, put this on tonight,’” Salamon tells us about her deceased former mentor. “The bar was just raised so high for me. I have an incredible collection of vintage clothes. It is mind-boggling to me when I look at my clothes. It really is.”

Technically, Salamon didn’t work in the fashion industry longer than a few years. “I couldn’t stand the business end of it, and I couldn’t stand manipulation of women,” she explains. “Fashion always has to keep changing, and so you have to convince the women that this is in and that is out. What you wore last year is no longer in, and this year it’s this. How else are the designers going to sell whatever it is that they just made? And I saw how that just kept women victims and always chasing the carrot that they can never obtain.”

Of course, for anyone who’s seen photos of the style star, trend-chasing was never her MO. In fact, it’s not It girls, runway collections, or the pages of glossy magazines that spark her creativity at all. It’s art—namely Matisse—travel (she often finds inspiration in Chinese and Japanese culture, as well as Persian miniatures), and personal expression that play huge roles in how she puts together a look, essentially a head-to-toe piece of performance art each time. “Every element of the outfit has to tell the same story. Otherwise, it doesn’t bring the story forward,” she says of the process of honoring each of her most special garments. “I am as meticulous as Matisse was. That’s my standard.”

It’s also important to note that, while Salamon’s particular, the one thing she is not with her clothing is precious. “It’s exactly the way that I feel about my face and age. I wrinkle—it’s part of life,” says the sexagenarian, who often commutes via bike around New York City. “I have patches on my clothes if need be. I live in them. I get joy out of them.”

All this said, the Manhattan cycling will come to an end as soon as Salamon changes coasts this winter and settles down in Los Angeles—an undoubtedly bittersweet decision. She says that part of her choice to leave was following the grief of losing her close friend, Bill Cunningham, the iconic street style photographer who’d always take her photo whenever he saw her. “He helped me realize my worth. He would tell me a lot of times that he sees women from all over the world, and very few do what I do, and that gave me confidence,” she tells us. “Once Bill left, I realized there is really no reason for me to stay in New York. Hollywood is calling.”

Fittingly, Salamon isn’t leaving her longtime home without a proper send-off. This coming weekend, on February 25, she’s kicking off a set of classes in NYC, entitled “Art of Dressing.” (Good news: Tickets are still available). The event will be all about passing on the personal style and exquisite fashion knowledge she’s been surrounded by since birth. What I teach is the element of design and good taste. It’s scale and proportion and color and intensity and rhythm, all of that,” she says of her class, which shares its title with her 2017 book, The Art of Dressing: Ageless, Timeless, Original Style.

For those in L.A., don’t fret—her unique and ingrained-from-birth insights will continue to be shared in her new home, as well, starting (ideally) with L.A.’s biggest players. “If I am going to make a difference in how women dress, then I want to shake up those Hollywood actresses,” Salamon says of her next career steps. “It’ll be nice to shake it up a little bit. Throw in some vintage, throw in a hat or two, mix it up a little so that it is not the same strapless gown that we’ve seen over and over.” If the red carpet starts to look a little different come next year, you’ll know exactly why.



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