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August 10, 2012 6:20 pm
As celebrities from Gwyneth Paltrow to Jay-Z and Beyoncé flock to the Hamptons for their vacations, the upmarket stretch of Long Island coast still enjoys a reputation as one of the chicest summer hotspots. It’s an image reinforced by popular culture: Gossip Girl characters Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf refer to their Hamptons escapades and, more recently, TV drama Revenge has reinforced the “playground of the rich” image.
Revenge, the tale of a girl-next-door who gains access to Hamptons high society to secretly avenge the framing of her father for a past crime, presents a classic image of Hamptons lifestyle. Think sprawling mansions, effortless beach style, smart lunches, charity benefits and, of course, preppy clothes: button-down shirts, blazers, board shorts and neat dresses.
So far, so familiar, but how accurate is the image? And for those making the pilgrimage to the South Fork of Long Island, whether by helicopter or jitney ferry, can the small screen be a guide to living large?
According to Hamptons regular (and 2012 Vanity Fair best-dressed nominee) Stacey Bendet of Alice + Olivia, who opened her second store in East Hampton in May, “There are areas of the Hamptons that are preppy and old school, but it has definitely changed. It’s more about the youth culture.” Indeed, she says, “We get girls coming in to shop with their mum, which is highly unusual for the Hamptons.” Bendet acknowledges these generational pairs make different choices, with adults opting for 1970s-inspired chevron bell-bottom trousers ($235) and faux fur jackets ($396), and the teens choosing short pleated leather skirts ($396).
The most talked-about store to open this year has been C Wonder, the colourful clothing, accessories and home decor brand. “We are re-engineering the modern preppy look with our neon colours and lobster prints, making it more accessible with the lower price point,” says Amy Schecter, the brand’s president, referring to cropped skinny jeans in fluorescent green ($88), tailored chino shorts printed with bright pink critters ($78) and neon orange flats decorated with gold lobsters ($128).
In a similar vein, British designer Grahame Fowler has opened a pop-up shop in Southampton that showcases his eclectic range of military-inspired clothes, accessories, rare watches and Vespa scooters. The shop is favoured by interior designer Muriel Brandolini, who has a house in Hampton Bay. “Novelty is what people look for here,” says Brandolini.
Samantha Yanks, editor-in-chief of the glossy Hamptons magazine, likes Nili Lotan, the eponymous label of an emerging Israeli-American designer who was formerly at Ralph Lauren, for exactly that reason. “Her neutral palette contrasts sharply with the traditional Hamptons hyper-saturated colour,” says Yanks, who favours Lotan’s graphite tank ($185), white tuxedo top ($285) and white linen twill micro-shirt with frayed edges ($280).
Theodora and Callum, opening its first permanent shop in East Hampton’s Main Street, showcases exotic print scarves ($175) worn by the likes of Heidi Klum, Reese Witherspoon, and Blake Lively that reflect the global lifestyle of today’s Hamptons women, rather than the old school stay-at-home mum. That is true, too, of Minnie Rose, the New York cashmere queen, who is opening her first pop-up store in the Montauk Beach House, with a limited-edition capsule collection featuring shimmering gold sheath dresses ($260) and the tiniest crocheted shorts ($132).
If the Sunset Beach Hotel on Shelter Island was the hottest place to go last year, this season it will be the surfers’ paradise of Montauk, where the Beach House, a swanky hotel with private beach club, opened in June. “It’s all Ray-Bans and vintage clothes,” says Jaclyn Houseknecht, director of fashion brand development at the Greenberg Group, a New York real estate advisory firm, who has been a Hamptons devotee for 10 years.
In the Hamptons, says Ruth Runberg, a former buying director at London’s Browns who is now based in New York, the rule is to “keep it small and simple. I carry my Balenciaga or Céline clutch both day and evening with only lip balm, iPhone and sunscreen.”
Jana Pasquel de Shapiro is president of US operations at Jaipur’s Gem Palace jewellers and a Hamptons stalwart. She sums up the Hamptons look as “things that are versatile and not too specific like [this season’s] grey Isabel Marant dress with yellow flowers. You can just throw it over a bathing suit or put heels on for dinner or a black printed ALC jumper – which also works when running around to the vegetable market or dropping the kids off to class.”
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