The New York-based fashion archivist Julie Ann Orsini of The Wardrobe has worked with top designers including Tom Ford, Jason Wu, Calvin Klein and Proenza Schouler on meticulously organizing and archiving their most precious garments. Not only is she one of Brooklyn’s most stylish fashionistas, but she is a beauty and workout junkie. We chat with her on the must-have items every woman should have in their closet, her favorite beauty products and where she likes to break a sweat.
1. Can you explain what a fashion archivist does?
The way that I describe my job for the uninitiated is to tell them to imagine that each of my clients has a mini-museum dedicated to his or her past work. I am the curator or collection manager who runs the museum behind the scenes. I ensure that we are archiving everything of importance, that each piece is stored properly by utilizing museum techniques and archival supplies, that everything is documented, photographed, and organized. For private clients I will typically also do a great deal of research. For one, I dated every piece in her collection, photographed everything, and created leather-bound catalogs of everything for her to display.
2. What do you look for when archiving a garment?
For a designer client, some archive every piece that went down the runway, while others choose only the top 10 or so looks from a season. I also advise archiving anything that featured heavily in editorials or campaigns, was worn on the red carpet, or was significant from a business perspective. Private clients typically archive pieces of sentimental value, but also things that were standouts for a particular designer. And naturally, I tell them to store couture if they are lucky enough to have it!
3. How did the Alexander McQueen exhibit at The Met influence your world?
I think now more designers are interested in preserving and maintaining their archives. The success of the McQueen show in 2011 definitely highlighted how hungry the public is for fashion. Having a proper archive is an invaluable resource—design houses can leverage the assets in the archive myriad ways: exhibitions, loans, books, to commemorate anniversaries, for advertising campaigns, and more. But in order to leverage it, it is imperative that the pieces are stored in a proper environment, using the proper materials, and by someone who knows what they’re doing. I work with trained staff, and advise my clients to store in a top-notch fine art storage facility that provides the proper environmental conditions.
4. What are the five items every woman should have in their closet?
1. We live in the northeast, so if nothing else, invest in a major coat. It’s the only thing people will see for five months out of the year anyway! 2. A boot in a classic shape with a walkable heel. 3. A dress that you feel amazing in. Choose a neutral shade and a classic cut—it won’t be immediately recognizable, and you’ll get more life out of it. 4. A classic stiletto you can wear with a dress or even with jeans. 5. A classic bag. I have a black quilted Chanel chainstrap that works day or night. It was pricey, but it looks right with everything.
5. Should we spend more on classic garments and less on trends?
Absolutely spend more money on classic items investing in simple colors and shapes. Because they very well represent a specific moment in time, super trendy things may be great to keep for an archive, but you’ll be over wearing them nearly as soon as you pay the bill for them.
6. Can you share with us your exercise routine?
I am a Body by Simone junkie! I go to the studio 4 to 5 times a week, and like to take dance cardio and sometimes double up with another hour of toning. It is by far the most enjoyable workout I’ve ever done. Growing up I rode horses competitively—and still ride whenever I can—but it can be tough to find the time living in the city. BBS keeps me strong enough to hop right back on the horse and jump a course like no time has passed.
7. Can you share with us your favorite beauty products?
I am not blessed with great skin. It’s extremely fair, very sensitive, shows everything, and is prone to hormonal breakouts. I am on a strict regime of unglamorous prescription products that Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenkas put me on to keep it in check. I use Dr. Alexiades’ 37 Actives cream for my face. It’s super moisturizing, while also being gentle and light. I also use Natura Bisse Diamond Extreme Eye. I love the scent, and a little goes a long way. I’m addicted to Aesop rejuvenate body balm for my body. I don’t wear a lot of makeup during the day, but I almost always line my eyes and put mascara on. My eyes are very deep set, and Tom Ford Eye Shadow Quad in Cocoa Mirage helps make them pop. I keep it simple for day or vamp it up at night by layering and blending the different shades. d.j.v Beautinizer Fiberwig mascara is a product I buy in bulk. It’s not so easy to find, but I swear it conditions your lashes and makes them fuller. Sachajuan makes my favorite dry shampoo. I actually prefer to use it as a finishing hairspray after I dry my hair, to give it a little oomph.
8. Where are your favorite places to shop in Brooklyn and NYC?
In Brooklyn, Zoe is a great boutique that has everything from Saint Laurent to Rag & Bone, and it’s right in my neighborhood. I’ve been a Barney’s girl for just about as long as I can remember (and now they’re even in Brooklyn!) I also love Kirna Zabete, and Resurrection for vintage. I love to buy hostess gifts at Aedes de Venustas. For my son, Crewcuts, Jacadi, and Gap are all in heavy rotation. The shop Acorn on Atlantic Avenue has great, unusual kid’s toys and games, and is great for buying unique presents. I’m a huge reader, so I also do a lot of shopping at PowerHOUSE Books in DUMBO, and McNally Jackson in SoHo.
Julie Ann Orsini photographed by Vix Walker in DUMBO, Brooklyn