So What Do You Do,
Libby Callaway? The people in your media neighborhood.
ALBERT LEE | How does a gal from rural Appalachia
"No Shoes, No Service" country succeed in New York's vicious
fashion scene? Is it the disarming drawl? The refreshingly unpretentious fashion
writing? Perhaps it's just that Callaway's more concerned with having fun with
her readers than issuing unforgiving style dictums. Call her the antiAnna
Wintour fashion's "Queen of Nice." Callaway just completed
covering New York's Fashion
Week, which ended yesterday, for the New York Post.
DOB: April 30, 1970
Occupation: Fashion editor, New York Post
Hometown: Cleveland, Tennessee the center of the
universe (whether they know it or not, everyone has ties to the Land of Cleve),
the headquarters of the Church of God of Prophecy, and the Stove Capital of
the World. (I make it sound like Mayberry, but it's really not that small: About
70,000 folks live in Bradley County.)
First real job: Sold smelly Guatemalan ponchos to trustafarians
at a head shop in Knoxville. From there, went on to my first real journalism
gig as the lifestyles editor at The
Cleveland Daily Banner(yep, the offical hometown newspaper of the Stove
Capital of the World, circulation 12,000). I learned so much doing that job.
Absolutely invaluable experience.
Grad-school roommates: As much I try, I can't seem to get
rid of 'em. I see Paula Szuchman, the Post's new deputy travel editor,
every day. David Kaufman, whom I met on the first day of grad school (he knew
we were meant to be friends when I told the class I read Vogue religiously),
writes for me from time to time. I recently convinced him to dress
up like Vin Diesel for the Post's most recent NYP Fashion supplement,
which came out last Wednesday.
Heroes: This isn't meant to sound sappy, though I know
it will, but I'm quite earnest when I say I think my sisters are amazing women.
She'll always read a story by: Sally
Singer, fashion news director of Vogue. I think she's one of the
smartest women along with The New York Times' Amy Spindler
working in fashion journalism today. She works for one of the most pretentious
magazines in the world, but you wouldn't know it from her writing, which is
so down-to-earth. She's brilliant. Simon Doonan's New
York Observer stories
make my day: He's one of the wittiest writers I've ever read. Funny in person,
too. Such a nice guy! Finally, my colleague Ian Spiegelman (he works at "Page
Six") is a genius writer. Love his articles in Details, and
can't wait for his book to come out next spring.
The conversation piece on her desk: The cast I wore after
breaking my wrist in a Manolo Blahnikrelated incident on some wet subway
stairs. (It happened on my birthday last April, as I was on my way to dinner
with friends can it get better than that?) I refused to let anyone sign
it, until I got an offer from fashion cartoonist Marisa Acocella, whom I've
recently become friends with (what a peach!). So, one night at the bar at Raoul's,
she drew the face of a woman with her eyebrow raised and the following: "I've
heard of killer shoes, but this is ridiculous!" I made my doctor be very
careful with his saw so I could keep the cartoon intact. Hopefully it will make
me a very rich woman on eBay someday. (Just kidding, Marisa!)
When she procrastinates... I answer questionnaires from
mediabistro.com instead of filing deadline stories for the news desk. TheOnion.com
burns up a lot of my time as well.
Five latest obsessions: The band Sahara
Hotnights (rawk chicks with great Ramones-y fashion sense and Swedish accents);
black vintage dresses (actually a recycled passion, or rather, a lingering passion
assigned a different color); Six Feet Under reruns; the new fall soup
selection at Au Bon Pain (Black-Eyed
Pea Stew!); my new multi-colored Miu Miu pumps.
degrees of Graydon Carter: Three years ago, I worked under Vicky Ward when
she was the features editor here at the Post. She left and went to Talk
for a bit, and then on to Vanity Fair, which Graydon Carter edits.
This one's more fun: I'm friendly with Diane Von Furstenberg, who's a contributor
at VF and who once put me in touch with Dolly Parton. (That doesn't really
fit here, but I think it was so great that a princess had to bring two girls
from East Tennessee together! The irony wasn't lost on the dee-vine Ms.
Parton either.) Doesn't really fit your question, but I love that story and
wanted to tell it.
Smartest thing she ever did for her career: Learning as
much as I could while working at my small hometown newspaper. It was a teeny-tiny
staff (seven in the newsroom!) and we did everything ourselves EVERYTHING.
I was responsible for filling three pages each Tuesday and a 10- to 14-page
section on Sundays. I wrote, edited, assigned stories to my one staffer (there
are no working lifestyle freelancers in Cleveland, Tennessee, that I know of),
took photos, worked the darkroom, did the layout (we did cut-and-wax then, so
it was kinda like doing a massive puzzle each week), not to mention did the
jail dockets on occasion (which involved going into the pens at the local jail,
which I do not recommend doing in a mini-skirt under any circumstances), and,
once a month, put the entire paper together on a rotating Saturday night. I
can honestly say that, thanks to the experience I had at the CDB, I would
be able to put the Post to bed if I had to.
Translation: I would not have the job I have now if I didn't work
my ass off at a small paper first. Was it glamorous? Hell no. Fun and educational?
Best and worst moment on assignment: Having to call one
of my close childhood friend's homes when we heard her pilot mother's plane
had gone down rates as one of the hardest things I've had to do in my life,
let alone my job. Best would be interviewing the late, amazing Bill Blass, and
then having him request me to do any Post interviews with him from there
on out. That was one of the biggest compliments I've ever gotten.
Nuttiest fashion-show moments: They are legion. But just
last night, I watched Britney Spears come in to the Matthew Williamson show
trailed by seven seven! bodyguards. What did she think a bunch
of fashion wimps were going to do to her? That stuff amazes me.
"I Was A Teenage Fashion Nightmare": As a kid,
I was the black sheep of the family when it came to clothes wearing old-man
suits from the Salvation Army (Molly Ringwald was a role model), Doc Martens
with Laura Ashley pinafores, etc. My mom so hated the way I dressed and sometimes
still kind of does. But when I started going on TV talking about fashion dos
and don'ts and being featured in magazines talking about how to put outfits
together, she finally realized she could never criticize any of my wardrobe
choices again. Justice!
Next big fashion trend: I'm afraid ruffles are going to
be big next spring. I don't know when I started to hate them, but judging from
my reaction to the ones on the runway this week, I really do.
Fashion trend she's sick to death of: I'm going to be
prescient and say ruffles.
Best boutique in New York City: There are so many! But
I love Foley
& Corrina, though I've only bought one thing there (it's expensive!).
I also really love the Hollywould
store on Mulberry, Kirna
(yet more vintage), and Decollage,
which isn't really a boutique but a combination atelier/showroom/party space
or something like that. Whatever it is, Leah Forrester and Heather Rich have
really created a genius space. I wish I lived in it.
Most number of drinks consumed while writing "Bar Belles"
columnwith Megan Turner: How many grains of sand are there on all
the beaches of the world? How many drops of water are there in the seas? Let's
just say our expense reports grown since we started Bar Belleing a year
and a half ago ("Bar Belle" can be used as a verb, noun, and adjective,
you know). Megan and I still can't believe we get paid to drink and write about
it, in addition to covering beats we love (movies and fashion, respectively).
Ever been blacklisted from a show? Yes. PR Consulting
refuses to allow the Post to cover Balenciaga and Narciso Rodriguez.
It's a long story, but suffice it to say this is the kind of thing that happens
when you work at a paper with the world's
best and most famous gossip column. I really wish they would get past it,
though, because both houses are very influential right now and I feel like my
readers are missing out by not having access to these shows via Post
Three tips for surviving Fashion Week:
1. Wear (or at least carry) comfortable shoes.
2. Drink lots of water.
3. Don't believe the hype.