I am thrilled to announce the promotion of Dara Block to style editor for I Want To Be A Roitfeld. Ethereal and earthy all at once, Dara is a true original: visionary, imaginative, inspiring, while at the same time always kind, gracious, modest. It is with gratitude and admiration that we recognize Dara and her work today with the announcement of her new role; in celebration I am delighted that Dara agreed to respond to a few questions about herself, I hope curious readers will enjoy this opportunity to learn more about her intriguing life. Merci mille fois et félicitations, Dara !
Your photographs will be part of a book that Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani is publishing, what can you share with us about the experience?
The whole experience is quite surreal as it all started when I found Franca Sozzani on Instagram. I have admired her vision at Vogue Italia for many years and what I loved about her Instagram page is the way she used it for her followers to display their photography skills. Each month, she chooses a different hashtag like #people, #travel, and #beautyinwonderland, which allows the photographer to take a picture of something that goes with that theme. To be honest, I just submitted some photos for fun and came up with unique ideas along the way. I was completely surprised that she actually liked the photos I was taking. Last month, it got more exciting when Franca Sozzani decided to use 4 of my photos in a book she put together for the Beauty in Wonderland exhibit, which happened in Milan during fall fashion week. It's really strange how this all happened, but I love how supportive and generous Franca Sozzani has been throughout this whole creative process.
What inspires you about Carine Roitfeld? Do you remember when you first became conscious of her influence?
There is so much that inspires me about Carine Roitfeld... .where do I begin! I think it all started when I saw Kate Moss on the cover of the Vogue Paris February 2001 issue in a sleek blonde haircut and a Balenciaga white dress. I totally thought to myself... something has completely changed and who made Kate Moss look this way. It was such a cutting-edge, chic look that I have never seen before on the cover of Vogue Paris. As I flipped through the issue, I saw an editor's note with Carine Roitfeld looking very much like that Kate Moss cover and I knew something special was happening with the publication. A couple of months later, I read an interview with Carine Roitfeld in the August 2001 "Age Issue" of US Vogue and I very much connected to her style and her frame of thought. She not only had a unique look all her own, but she had a great sense of humor. I liked how she didn't take fashion too seriously. I will never forget when she said how much she loves a fur coat in the summer. She just totally gets it and I love how she understands that style isn't just about wearing a label head to toe, but more about individuality and being yourself.
You practice African Dance regularly, when did you begin your study? What do you typically wear while dancing? You have such a sporty chic approach to life, are there other ways you stay active?
I started African Dance in my teens. My dance class in high school had a special seminar at UCLA and I was completely drawn to it. I loved the movements and the live drummers. African dance is not so much about choreography, but more about expressing emotions as you dance and I love that it is a group effort. It's very tribal and also a great way to stay in shape. Generally, I like fun and energetic forms of exercise like hip-hop and jazz, but I also like yoga and Pilates to build strength. When dancing I always like to be sporty-chic. Typically, I like to wear solid colors... normally, all black or white. I generally like loose pants with a flowy top... together, they both look pretty when you dance and it feels nice on your skin. Calvin Klein makes great workout wear. I tend to wear his pajamas as my dance wear. It's all about soft material when exercising and he is an expert at making comfortable yet stylish active wear.
We'd love to know a few of your favorites in Los Angeles...
Favorite Bookstore: Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard is by far the best bookstore in LA. It's small, quaint, and they have everything, including international magazines... I could spend all day there reading!
Favorite Boutique: To be honest, I don't shop much in LA, but one store I have liked for years is a vintage boutique called Playclothes. I always find such great vintage hats and the prices are not outrageously expensive. This summer I bought a fabulous vintage orange hat from the 1960s. I actually incorporated it in one of my pics that was chosen by Franca Sozzani for the Beauty in Wonderland book. This store will always be special to me as it is where I found my one of a kind vintage Lanvin dress from 1966... so much style in this store and it is one of the best kept secrets in Los Angeles.
Favorite People Watching Spot: This may sound strange, but I love watching Hasidic Jews walk the streets, especially on La Brea. They tend to walk every Saturday in groups and I love the way they wear all black and dress in uniform fashion. It's interesting and inspiring to watch them when they travel in unity. I love minimal and sleek black fashion and I think Hasidic Jewish men surprisingly fit in this category. Probably the best spot in Los Angeles to see noir chic on the streets.
Favorite Museum or Gallery: As far as galleries go I really like the PRISM Gallery on Sunset Boulevard. Every couple of months, they feature a different artist or photographer. I love both not only for the art, but I always find some inspiring sartorial fashion moments. I guess you could say art and fashion do go together. Recently, they held two shows that caught my attention. One for photographer Mario Testino and the other for photographer Daido Moriyama. I love the space and I love how non-pretentious it is. I hate it when art is snooty. I also like the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills. Recently, I saw the Inez & Vinoodh photo exhibit as well as the Cecily Brown show. Two very different shows, but inspiring, nonetheless.
You seek inspiration in the most interesting places, what are the sites you read regularly? Which magazines garner your interest to the point of subscription? Where do you turn when seeking inspiration?
Nowadays, it is so difficult to keep up with all the websites, but I tend to always look at Stockholm Street Style and The Sartorialist for style inspiration. For photo inspiration and keeping up with what is going on in fashion I turn to Vogue.it. The sites are pretty innovative in their own ways and keep me updated on what is chic, without trying too hard. It's more about style than trends with these sites and I really gravitate towards that. I really hate boring cliche blogs that talk about the same celebrities and designers... there is nothing original about that. As far as magazines go, I really like Interview Magazine. Fabien Baron has an amazing eye, I can definitely see that visual aesthetic that he brought to Harper's Bazaar and Vogue Paris. It's all resurrected in the pages of Interview Magazine. I also like CR Fashion Book. As we all know, Carine Roitfeld has such a distinct sense of style and I love that she has fun with fashion. W Magazine is on my list too. The magazine has an amazing team of stylists such as Giovanna Battaglia and Edward Enninful. These two always know how to bring cutting edge style to fashion editorials. I have been really impressed with W Magazine this past year. Lately, I have also been finding inspiration from travel magazines. I love National Geographic... always such great photography and I love how they showcase such non traditional forms of beauty. I was really taken with their February issue on Libya... so inspiring!
If it were your decision, who would you put on the next cover of Vogue Paris? Vogue Italia? CR Fashion Book?
I would love to see some of my favorite 90s supermodels on the cover of Vogue Paris, especially the ones I haven't seen in years like Meghan Douglas, Claudia Mason, Shana Zadrick. These girls were so beautiful in the 90s and I would love to know what they are up to and how they feel now about beauty and glamour. For Vogue Italia and CR Fashion Book, I think for either magazine, it would be interesting if they made a cover on the idea of jolie laide. The term is French and it basically means a good looking ugly woman. I think it's an offbeat beauty concept, but I would love to see women like Angelica Huston, Sofia Coppola, Rossy de Palma, and maybe even model Saskia de Brauw on the cover, to show how you can be beautiful in a non-traditional way. I think that would make for a groundbreaking cover... it's time we celebrate being non-perfectly pretty!
You have an incredible knack for random encounters with artists that you admire, designers, photographers, editors, and so forth, what can you tell us about your recent rendezvous with talent?
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting photographers Inez & Vinoodh. In July, they had a photo exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills and I was so honored to meet them the opening night. Both Inez & Vinoodh are extremely kind and we had an interesting conversation about one of my favorite covers that they photographed for Vogue Paris back in August of 2011. It was so cool to hear their thoughts about that cover and some of their favorite photos inside. It was also such a highlight to take a photo with them and to have them both sign the cover. I am so touched by what they wrote... by far, that was one of my most memorable encounters of 2013.
Which designers do you prefer to wear? Which pieces from the most recent collections caught your eye?
That is always a hard question to answer... but as of now I am liking Yohji Yamamoto... I loved his recent fall 2013 collection, especially those hats. Calvin Klein is always nice too... I like sleek minimalism and I think Francisco Costa really exemplifies that at CK. For drama and drapery I turn to Rick Owens and Haider Ackermann. These two designers get that you can be sexy and stylish by covering up in a sleek leather jacket and a dramatic skirt. I also like Issey Miyake... just because it is so innovative in terms of material, but also completely wearable. My favorite sporty chic designer would have to be Norma Kamali. I recently bought this amazing long black dress with wings and I love how soft and dramatic, it is. That is what I love about her clothes... it can go from sporty in the day to fancy in the night. Normally, I respond to designers who make clothes just like that. In general, it makes me really happy when I can find a sleek black frock... perhaps, that is why my sister and I named our blog Sisters in Black Frocks. For us, black will always be such an inspiring color!
Dara Block photos © 2013 Dara Block. Other images courtesy of Condé Nast.