Alek Wek, Nina Garcia + Robert Verdi

A supermodel, an editor, and a stylist all in the same room? Last night art director Todd Gast and I had the good fortune of seeing three fashion titans converge on New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology: supermodel Alek Wek; editrix Nina Garcia, fashion director of Elle magazine and judge of Project Runway fame; and stylist Robert Verdi, of Fashion Police (look for Carrie Soucy’s exclusive with Verdi in your next issue of JCKstyle).


Robert Verdi, Alek Wek, and Nina Garcia at F.I.T.

The trio was there to promote Garcia and Wek’s new books, The Little Black Book of Style and Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel, but also to provide wisdom to the crop of fashion aspirants in their company. Verdi deftly, if not irreverently, emceed 1½ hours of Q&As with razor-sharp wit, eliciting raucous laughs (and making me wish he would host the Emmys). Verdi and Garcia are both F.I.T. alumni; Wek is a former design student with a new luxury handbag line named for her father, Wek1933. All clearly care about mentoring and giving back to the industry that embraced them.

Garcia and Wek signed their books for a long while after, taking time for pictures and individualized chatting. Both ladies were dressed stylishly, but distinctly, in all black…an editor’s “uniform,” according to Garcia. She wore skinny pants with chic ankle zippers and heels that looked like Louboutins. Wek wore a tank, also with sleek pants. For jewelry, Garcia says she favors black statement rings. Of course! She paired this one with a long black necklace. Wek says she’s attracted to simplicity—a perfect match to her grounded sensibilities—and wore diamond studs and a cross her boyfriend gave her. (Wek is Dinka, which is not represented by the cross, but she wears it lovingly because of its sentiment.)

Toni Rumore, Nina Garcia, and Todd Gast

Both Wek and Garcia spoke about the passion and hard work it takes to make your mark in the fashion industry. And while I wouldn’t say the ladies clawed their way to the top—because there is nothing inelegant about either—they both overcame obstacles (Wek enormous ones as a Sudanese refugee and Garcia as a Colombian student here on a visa), and they both worked, and worked hard, to get where they are.


Toni Rumore, Alek Wek, and Todd Gast

Wek, a socially responsible, humble, and creative soul, and stunningly beautiful in person, has always caught my attention on the runway because of her understated poise, but being privy to her back story and hearing her speak, I’m convinced that her true beauty comes from within. She spoke about looking at every single person, as well as to diversity, for beauty. Garcia, who’s demure but driven and passionate about her medium, and a svelte new mom, urged us to be inspired by the beauty all around us, be it “a movie, an art exhibit, a girl on the street, a sunset, anything.” You didn’t have to look far to see the beauty of these women. It was larger than the room.

 

For other recent and fashionable book releases, see Book It: Fall Reading.