DG Q&A: Joan Kron

Joan Kron epitomizes substance with style--a combination she has turned into a remarkable career in journalism. Over the years, she has brought style to The Wall Street Journal (originating the fashion beat), The New York Times (helping to create the Home section), and Clay Felker's New York magazine (covering design). Since 1991, she's been the contributing editor-at-large for Allure, where she covers plastic surgery, the subject of her 1998 book Lift: Wanting, Fearing, and Having a Facelift, a must for anyone contemplating a cosmetic procedure. Her work displays a keen intellect, a great knowledge of both art and social science, and an unusual ability to talk shop with surgeons. We're honored that she agreed to share her thoughts with DG.

Joankron DG: In the 1980s. you wrote about interiors and the meanings people attach to their homes. What's changed since then? Have people become more house-obsessed, or do we just have more cable makeover shows?

JK: People still care deeply about their homes—as a refuge, a status symbol, and identity device. But the rash of less-pretentious home magazines and home-design cable shows has made the younger generations more self-assured about their taste. I see much less “fear of furnishing,” a condition I identified in Home-Psych, my 1983 book. The pendulum has swung in the other direction, toward taste self-confidence, encouraged by some dreadful design solutions (sorry if that sounds judgmental) on home makeover shows: If you have a jigsaw machine from Home Depot, what better use for it than making empty picture frames for wall décor? Home Depot, shade warehouses, paint stores with designers on staff, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Pottery Barn, Design Within Reach, etc, are all enablers. Taste arbiters are out and DIY (with patterns we can copy) is in.

I also see a decline in traditional gender roles in home decoration. Husbands are often taking charge. I have young neighbors who are renovating, and the husband, a financier who never heard of Mario Buatta or Dorothy Draper, is making almost all the design decisions. Needless to say, media rooms and large TVs play a bigger role when men are in charge. Aside from Williams-Sonoma Home catalogue, one of the biggest design inspirations today is hotel design. Instead of What Happens in Vegas T-shirts, vacationers are bringing back decorating ideas. Forget stealing towels. Now, if they sleep well out of town, they’re buying the beds from their hotels.

DG: Celebrities with bad plastic surgery are so well known that it sometimes seems as if plastic surgery never makes people look better. Can you give us some famous examples of good plastic surgery?

JK: Ironically, good plastic surgery is invisible…there’s lots of it, but naming names would be an invasion of privacy. Take it from me, however: Almost everyone in Hollywood, TV, and politics (except possibly Madeleine Albright) has had some cosmetic enhancement—and they do it quietly and frequently.

DG: Is acknowledging that you've had plastic surgery antithetical to glamour?

JK: Absolutely—that’s an admission that one’s beauty is neither natural nor effortless.

DG: In January, you had a very public 80th birthday party, and you've been equally public about having had three facelifts. How do you respond to people who say they believe in "aging gracefully"?

JK: How one ages is a choice. It’s no different from deciding how often to have a manicure or a haircut. As someone who covers plastic surgery, I feel a responsibility to be truthful, since most people lie. I joke that I prefer to “age dis-gracefully.” I don’t see getting rid of my double chin as a moral issue. Some people say they’ve earned their wrinkles, but frankly I don’t care to wear my emotional resume on my face. There is no such thing as natural. I cut and dye my hair, I wear lipstick. I shape my eyebrows. I have no illusions about becoming a beauty object. But why should I give up and look like Yoda, or Jane Wyatt when she left the sanctuary in Lost Horizon (rent the movie) if I don’t have to? The technology is available. I don’t want to look bizarre, so I don’t ask for extreme procedures. And I draw the line--for myself--at lip-filling injections. They look so phony on someone my age. I hope I don’t look “done” but if someone thinks I do, I find it preferable to looking “undone.” Now could you all stop staring at my face.

The DG Dozen

1) How do you define glamour?

Glamour is enchanting superiority. It appears effortless (even though it’s not) and beyond the reach of mortals.

2) Who or what is your glamorous icon?

Old George Hurell photos… Lauren Bacall in Dark Passage.

3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity?

It’s a necessity—like a fairy tale or a myth that inspires and distracts from the mundane.

MyrnaLoy copy

4) Favorite glamorous movie?

I was knocked out by Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast when I first saw it in 1946. It seems dated when I see it now—but at the time it was magical. I copied Beauty’s pearl crown when I got married, the first time. Also, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire "dancing cheek to cheek."

5) What was your most glamorous moment?

Landing in a private helicopter on a host’s 350-foot yacht in the Greek Islands and being greeted by butlers with trays of champagne in flutes. Spending two days in L.A. interviewing Sophia Loren.

6) Favorite glamorous object (car, accessory, electronic gadget, etc.)?

I love my Treo but it’s not glamorous. It’s a necessity. No one needs sterling silver flatware, stainless steel would do, but I find silver incredibly glamorous. People say to me, “But you have to polish it.” And I do, with pleasure. It’s no different from washing your precious convertible by hand.

7) Most glamorous place?

I can’t choose one. The lobby of New York’s Hampshire House by Dorothy Draper, the Chrysler Building, French designer Andrée Putman’s loft in Paris with the bed in the open behind sheer curtains, the Versailles Hall of Mirrors, the gardens in Last Year at Marienbad, the Parthenon, Manhattan on a summer night seen from the water. For years I was enchanted by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water in Pittsburgh until I visited it and found the rooms so cramped—but as a dream house, viewed from a distance, it still qualifies.

8) Most glamorous job?

Astronaut, architect, magazine editor.


"Some people say they’ve earned their wrinkles, but frankly I don’t care to wear my emotional resume on my face."


9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't.

I enjoy “red carpet” parades but they’re more glitz than glamour.

10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized.


11) Can glamour survive?

There will always be mysterious superior beings or entities, but the forms as we know them, will evolve.

12) Is glamour something you're born with?

No. But it often requires a lot of stagecraft.


1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett?


2) Paris or Venice?


3) New York or Los Angeles?

New York

4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace?


5) Tokyo or Kyoto?


6) Boots or stilettos?


7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau?

Art Deco

8) Jaguar or Astin Martin?

Astin Martin

9) Armani or Versace?


10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour?


11) Champagne or single malt?

Only if the Champagne is French in a magnum.

12) 1960s or 1980s?


13) Diamonds or pearls?


14) Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell?


15) Sean Connery or Daniel Craig?

Sean Connery

[George Hurrell's photo of Myrna Loy courtesy of the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate Archive.]

Dear WSJ, A Style Magazine Doesn't Have To Be Superficial

DSCF0962HottubMost obvious is the words-versus-pictures balance, which begins on the cover. Once, the difference between a magazine and a newspaper was that the latter had shorter articles. Now (my employer excepted) it's the opposite. At least that's what the WSJ seems to think.

The Wall Street Journal Magazine didn't survive beyond the prototype, possibly because it didn't have an obvious ad base beyond the one already served by the newspaper and possibly because 1981 marked the worst recession since the Great Depression. But 27 years later, it's still interesting--because the curious writers who put it together were reporting on world-changing trends, from California wines to Silicon Valley job hoppers (like the guy in the hot tub).

On the other hand, the car ads are a lot more glamorous now.






Glamour Editor Named Most-Powerful By Forbes

Cover_glamour_190 Forbes announced their picks for Most Powerful Fashion Editor, and it's not you-know-who.  Cindy Lieves, EIC of Glamour (no relation) gets the crown and the sash, with Wintour tying for number two with Elle's Robbie Myers. Conspicuous by her absence in the top tier is Kim France, much mocked EIC  of love-it-or-hate-it Lucky.  Slideshow here.

Glamour has a paid circulation of 2.4 million, but the web traffic has jumped over  100%, to 862,708 monthly, in the past year.   That's not a huge number, but it's way ahead of the competition. Style.com, Conde's Nast's nod to the web, dropped by 23%.  Fashion books don't get the web, as Lauren Sherman explained:

Founding editor Kim France's  Lucky, the magazine about shopping that launched with strong buzz in December 2000, has seen a 7.8% decrease in ad revenue for the first half of 2008, while its circulation numbers have remained virtually flat. Granted, the Web site saw a 40% increase from the previous year--but that only came to 145,448 unique users for 2008--a paltry number compared to the online visitors of other magazines that made our list.

DG hopes and prays we do better than 145,000 uniques by this time next year.

Vogue is aspirational, Glamour attainable, but where's the art? Where's the fantasy, the inspiration  and the drama?  WHERE'S THE...GLAMOUR?

This is a subject that deserves a longer post, and readers--what do you think? What do you want from a fashion magazine? Send us your thoughts or comment below.

Chicago Jewelbox Apartment--Anointed By Oprah

DG: What are your design influences?

BS: Obviously, everything. History is everything before today, so there’s a lot of precedent for me to work from. And every period and every style has good features. These days, Dorothy Draper is back in style but in the Miami Vice 80s and the Barbara Barry all-beige 90s, a mention of her name made people--OK, designers--roll their eyes in horror. That’s if they even recognized her name in the first place. But I always liked DD’s style.

51wlxw0ohml_ss500_ When I was in interior design school, we were asked what direction we thought design might take in the next few years. This was in 1992. I said “Vogue Regency will come back big time.” That was British version of Hollywood Regency, with Syrie Maugham instead of William Haines, and I about got laughed out of class because of it. But sure enough, Jonathan Adler & Kelly Wearstler brought that glittery, high-contrast look right back into the mainstream. Of course, things never last as long the second time around. I mean, Tony Duquette had a thirty-year career, faded out of the popular consciousness, and then, last winter, his style came roaring back—well, at least, in NYC--with the publication of his mongraph, and the installation of last season’s holiday windows in Midtown, but by February, blogs were already saying “If I see one more reference to Tony Duquette, I’m gonna scream!” All I can say is today, people have really short attention spans. That comes from TV, which I don’t watch. To me, if something is beautiful--and I don’t mean if it’s trendy—it will always be beautiful. To hell with trends.

Schumacher1955 Greatest coup?

In 1981 I went to the last day of a liquidation sale at a bankrupt Peoria hotel & found an entire bolt of a fabric that Frank Lloyd Wright had designed for Schumacher in the 1950s, sitting in a barrel of other fabric. How many hundreds of people had pawed through that bar rel & missed Wright’s little red square on the selvage? I spotted that mark from clear across the lobby. The whole bolt cost me 15 dollars. I gave it to the Art Institute of Chicago,  which put it on display the next year and  somewhere I have a picture of me standing in front of a ten-foot tall panel of it.  But here’s the weird part: a few years later, I found another bolt of the same fabric--in a different colorway--at a Goodwill store right up the street. On one hand, I thought “What re the chances of that? “But then I realized they’re actually pretty good., because most people look without seeing, so stuff like that can sit there for a long time. Sit there waiting for me.

Best design advice someone gave you?

Nancy Lancaster: “Understatement is extremely important and crossing too many 't's' and dotting too many 'i's' make a room look overdone and tiresome. One should create something that fires the imagination without over emphasis.”

Ever tempted to change it all completely?

I already have my apartment’s next incarnation worked out in my head.

Inspirational book or movie or magazine recommendations?

Book: Chicago Interiors by David Garrard Lowe & Depression Modern by Martin Greif.
Magazine: The World of Interiors
Movies: Robert Altman’s Gosford Park, Alain Resnais’ Pas sur la Bouche & Ernest Lubitsch’s <em>Trouble in Paradise

How did you come to develop your own style/taste?

Reading every design book I could get my hands on since I was ten. Familiarity with good design makes it easy to resist buying junk, even if it’s inexpensive junk. Better to have nothing than something ugly.

Object of desire--money is no object--what do you covet?

The most achingly beautiful automobile ever designed, Gordon Buehrig’s 1937 Cord. If I can’t have that, I don’t want a car.

Vogue India's Fashion Spread--Cruel Or Just Cliché?

Vogue India resorted to a fashion spread cliché*--real people posed with expensive merch. But, as many real Indians are extremely poor, the NY Times felt called upon to report about  how unseemly this was:

The juxtaposition between poverty and growing wealth presents an unsavory dilemma for luxury goods makers jumping into India: How does one sell something like a $1,000 handbag in a country where most people will never amass that sum of money in their lives, and many are starving?

On the other hand, is a country, city, state, region to be defined only by those things or issues that the NY Times deems suitable? Kanika Gahlaut, a columnist at the Mail Today, was appalled by the insensitivity of the photos, but the EIC, Priya Tanna, suggested that everyone "lighten up". India's luxury market is growing fast, and purveyors of such goods are always looking for new customers.

And as India's poor co-existed for centuries with some of the most conspicuous consumers the world has ever known,  it seems a little late to suddenly notice that "Ohmigod--there's begging in the streets outside Louis Vuitton!"

If Burberry was distressed by British chavs sporting their trademark plaid,  how will they react to the $200 umbrella in the photo?

Burberry opens in Delhi

* Remember the Diana Ross vehicle, Mahogany?
**ANTM not only posed the contestants with the homeless, they found a new wannabe in the extras.

Sarah Palin On The Ticket And In Vogue

SarahpalinvogueDG missed this issue.

Gov. Sarah Palin,  just announced as McCain's running mate, did indeed pose for Vogue last December.

Vogue's breathless caption read:

Besides being telegenic, she had a tough-girl Alaskan resume that most politicians could only dream of - the protein her family eats comes from fish she has pulled out of the ocean with her own hands and caribou she has shot.

But the cover? Alas, no.  She was joined by daughters Willow, Bristol and Piper for a spread on the inside of the February book.


Slate's Timothy Noah has the backstory on  Palin.

September Fashion--The Big Books

Vogue_september_keira_knightley_2 Vogue

Keira Knightly in Balenciaga pirate togs.

Glossed Over live-blogs the behemoth.   Best line:

Eye makeup looks for fall are "channeling thirties Berlin," says makeup artist Pat McGrath. Indeed! The Weimar Republic did take quite a stand on eyeliner.

Tyrabanksharpersbazaar_2 Bazaar

Tyra Banks as the biggest cover model ever.  (This is the subscription cover.  Newsstand is here.)

Yes, she's supposed to be Michelle Obama.  Yes, it's weird. Limelife readers agree:

It's totally bizarre and not Bazaar. What was she thinking?

(There's a fashion spread inside that we'll be discussing later, so stay tuned.  And no, it's not the plus-sized Rachel Zoe.)

Maureen Callahan of  the NY Post  labors through all the big books and comes up with ashes and black roses. Tough times ahead.

Lauren Sandler at Slate reviews hemlines, the markets and ad sales at the fashion mags.

And if you're too broke, eco-conscious or cheap to pay full price, you can always  read them at Mygazines.com