A Possession Obsession: Sally Singer
Everyone has heard of Vogue, the world’s most influential fashion magazine. And with the theaterical release of last fall’s documentary film, “The September Issue” (now available to watch instantly on Netflix), even fewer people are in the dark about who runs this legendary 118-year-old publication. Certainly, we all know the respected editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. But another force behind every issue is the irreplaceable Fashion News and Features Director Sally Singer.
Passionate about sewing and magazines since her childhood, the Yale-grad took the roundabout way to her permanent front-row seat at fashion shows in New York and Paris. Her career path detours include a brief stint as a San Francisco beautician and editor at the London Review of Books, which she eventually left for a job at British Vogue followed by Elle.
The California native openly credits her experiences outside of fashion as part of the reason for her success. Going on 11 years at Vogue, Singer inarguably brings a fresh, interesting and unique perspective to both the magazine world and fashion industry with her “colorful, laid-back writing,” “intellectual view of the world,” and “buy less, but buy better” philosophy.
Here, Singer shares with us how her favorite heirloom isn’t something she inherited, though she cherishes it as if it were and will most-definitely pass it down.
Tell us how you came to own this precious object.
“My heirloom is a 40-square-inch brass table by Philip & Kelvin LaVerne, a father-and-son team who made unique metal furniture in the 1960s. This is a strange piece for the craftsmen who were best known for much more elaborate, often historical, scenes on tables. Etched into the face of this particular table are figures from the Sistine Chapel that appear unfinished by these designers’ standards.
I found the table seven years ago in a storage space that belonged to a copy editor, who worked at House Beautiful. I was looking to buy some furniture when I saw the table under a pile of things. I immediately thought, ‘That is what I need in my life.’ I paid $800 for it, which seemed like a fortune at the time. But actually, when I later looked up the LaVernes, I realized their pieces start at around $10,000 at most auction houses.
I bought the table when my three boys were small (they’re now 10, 9, and 7). I think children remember things like faces and have an appreciation for representational art. My sons always sit in the same places, next to the same figures. They know who has got which guy. There’s not a lot of etching, but the faces are specific and important to my kids.”
How do you live with your heirloom?
“As you enter our house and go down a hallway, you’re immediately in our kitchen, which opens into our living room. The table is one of the first things you see. It sort of defines the center of how we live because we’re always at that table. We eat on it every single day. Anyone who comes in and sits at it, looks down and smiles because they see a funny little face staring up at them. I’ve really come to appreciate it.”
Who in your life has most influenced your personal style and taste?
“My maternal grandmother influenced me, but not in a direct way. She was a bourgeois, mid-Western, Jewish woman from Minneapolis. She had very precise ideas of what looked, as she would say, ‘smart.’ She bought expensive things and wore them often. She had one Valentino sweater (not ten) that she kept in pristine condition. She also had a Calvin Klein and Chanel jacket and three St. John’s knits. She wore these pieces repeatedly to every event and party.
That kind of rigor and precision in how you pick the things that define you (there was no promiscuity in her wardrobe or life) was everything I rebelled against for an enormous part of my life. I was a punk kid with little respect for things like that.
I probably started appreciating her style when I began working in fashion and thinking about clothes professionally. It was right around the time she passed away. I had to go through all her stuff with my sister. There wasn’t much, but what she had was really good and in impeccable shape. I think this is very much the way I live now. Our look isn’t the same, but our approach to our look is.”[Fill in the blank] Whenever I look at __“my sons sleeping”___I can't help but smile. “When I go to wake them up in the morning, they look so adorable and peaceful. It’s the moment right before the chaos begins.”
What's the best part of your day?
“When I take a bath every night, it signifies the day is done. It’s really nice. I like to add Japanese Yuzu bath salts, which I buy from Tortoise in Los Angeles. It has this pretty citrusy scent.”
What was the most memorable gift you've ever given or received?
“When I went to British Vogue from the London Review of Books, which was a huge change in my professional life (I basically exited one world and entered another), I decided to reward myself with a Hermes date book. I organize my whole life in this little thing, which is now falling apart—literally, the inner side flap is hanging on by four stitches.
It’s the one thing I bought myself that I have never wanted to replace. I have so many memories around it. I save all the little date books, so I can always go back and know where I was at any given time. The last few years are lined up (in order) in the back of a desk so I can go through them to remember where I was or find a phone number.”
What was your last purchase that you believe (or hope) will mean something to you 10 years from now?
“Two days before Christmas last year, I bought a ring from Fred Leighton that I had been eyeing on my screensaver for seven years. It’s from the turn of the 19th century and has a little enamel of a child’s face surround by extremely tiny diamonds. I decided to finally buy it specifically to get me through the New Year (it was an emotional time for me for family reasons). Something about this little enamel face that has survived for centuries just charmed me. I knew I could look at it every day and be happy.”