NEW YORK — The Times of London calls Lucy Sykes “New York’s party queen.” The fabulous West Village apartment the British fashion stylist/author shares with her husband and two children has been featured in too many glossy magazines and websites to mention.
And when we meet for a drink during fashion week, she suggests her favorite watering hole, the ultra chic Waverly Inn, where she is on a first-name basis with owner Graydon Carter and the many celebrity regulars.
While we sit on the outdoor patio, the incredibly stylish Allison Sarofim strolls by with two handsome movie producers. Of course, Sarofim, who hails from Houston, and Sykes are good friends. I feel like I am a bit player in a glamorous film about life among the rarified elite in the city that never sleeps.
But Sykes, who has a knack of making everyone feel important, shares gossip and intimate details about the fashion world, where she has been the stylist to the stars and worked at top jobs at Marie Claire, Town & Country and Rent the Runway, like we are longtime chums.
Devil Wears Prada meets Silicon Valley
Some of Sykes' best stories have made it into a new book, The Knockoff, that she co-authored with Jo Piazza. Set in the social media-threatened fashion magazine world, it's been described as ” a juicier version of The Devil Wears Prada meets Silicon Valley." (I kind of like the original title, Tech Bitches, better, but it got nixed for fears that some bookstores might not display it as prominently — or at all — with such a title.)
But the story about a 42-year-old techophobic magazine editor whose role is usurped by a twentysomething All About Eve assistant, is all too real, says Sykes, who will be in Houston Wednesday night for an appearance at Sloan Hall, with cocktails and a fashion presentation, and a dinner afterwards at the home of Carrie Colbert to benefit Recipe for Success.
"Being an editor from a fashion magazine basically going over to the fashion tech world is a different experience. I wanted to put that experience into something and make it funny," Sykes said. "It's two different worlds and I basically brought them together. For me it's the tech revolution that is changing everyone's life. This is not going away."
Just as most readers assumed The Devil Wears Prada was based on Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour, The Knockoff has spawned a guessing game as to who the main characters might be in the fashion world.
"I have been inspired by real people but that one person was a head, another person was an arm, another person was the soul, so it could be five people within one person. I have to admit I do not imagine them out of nowhere," she said. "I had an incredibly editor at Doubleday who kept telling me to overexaggerate."
Handle with care
But Sykes didn't have to overexaggerate the changes in the fashion world brought on by new technology and social media. "Technology is fantastic. It's like a force but you have to handle with care," she said.
While fashion magazines are losing their clout, just about anyone can become a fashion insider by attracting a sizable number of followers on Instagram. Look at Kim Kardashian, who Sykes calls "the biggest fashion icon of the last two years and it's due to social media."
Sykes credits Kardashian's husband, Kanye West, for much of her fashion triumphs. "He has an unbelievable eye and is very underrated. He went to art school and he lived in France before he became this (music) person. I think he basically with his eye completely restyled her."
But there's more to Kardashian's success than West's influence. Sykes believes the popularity of the reality TV star and her sisters stems from the fact they are so approachable. "They're not Linda, they're not Christie; they are normal girls that you can aspire to be like. With the supermodels, fashion was behind the velvet rope. There isn't a velvet rope any more."
Where is fashion headed?
Since we were in the middle of New York Fashion Week, I had to ask has the extravaganza outlived its usefulness in the social media age?
"That's a tricky question," Sykes responded. "I don't get the same vibe honestly from watching a streaming of the show to being at a show. I think it's an extremely different experience. But I will say that social media is incredible. I look at Instagram to see the latest, hottest, coolest fashion from the shows. Someone's backstage shooting it on their iPhone. Access like that is incredible.
"Is fashion democratic? I don't know. Should it be? Yes and no. I read a quote today basically saying, 'If everyone can have it, no one wants it.' I do feel that we're running on overload by choice. Sometimes if there's too much choice it's hard to figure everything out. In a way it's good because it's competition — and the good ones will last."