'Height of Fashion' celebrates peak moments of individual expression


Thursday, June 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Bookshelf

Most people have had that moment: You glance at the mirror on your way out the door and exclaim, "I look GOOD!"

Unfortunately, what makes us look like a superstar in 1975, '85, '95 or even last week may make us look like a fool tomorrow.

Still, there's something wonderful about that foolishness. Lisa Eisner and Roman Alonso decided to make a project of collecting ultimate fashion moments. The result is their recently published book, Height of Fashion (Greybull Press, $49.95).

Mr. Alonso, a former public relations director for Barneys New York and image director for designer Isaac Mizrahi, met former West Coast Vogue editor Lisa Eisner through Mr. Mizrahi.

They became fast friends and hit upon starting a Los Angeles-based publishing company to merge their love of books and photography.

The result was Greybull Press (named after Ms. Eisner's hometown in Wyoming), which published Rodeo Girl earlier this year.

While working on Rodeo Girl, a photography book of glamorous rodeo queens, the co-editors and their partner, designer Lorraine Wild began to create Height of Fashion.

"We were thinking about what our favorite photographs are," says Ms. Eisner. "We love the idea that if you go in someone's house, the pictures on someone's wall or on their bed table of themselves are our favorite pictures."

"We came up with this idea that everyone - no matter where they live or how old they are - has had a height of fashion moment when they felt like a million bucks. It could be their bar mitzvah, or when they got their hair frosted or just learned to walk in heels. There's so many different categories of when someone feels good."

They sent out 350 query letters last May, asking for photos and anecdotes. Along the way, everyone they met was a potential page in the book.

"It was kind of like, if you had a party, the best parties are a complete smorgasbord of people," says Ms. Eisner. "We threw it up in the air and tried not to make it too fashion-heavy. It's all the people we grew up with, from relatives on. Then it got word of mouth - like, 'Oh, my God, you should see my manicurist."

It took eight months to sort through the stacks of photos. And there was a bit of heartbreak along the way.

"A couple of people were like, 'I had pictures, but our house burned down," says Mr. Alonso. "A lot of people had amazing moments but didn't have the pictures."

"It was a hard process for a lot of people," adds Ms. Eisner. "A lot of people couldn't send pictures because they never felt that good about themselves."

In the end, 750 pictures were chosen, and the number was finally whittled down to a more manageable 220 shots. Work by famous photographers is displayed alongside pictures taken by Mom and Dad; overtly posed moments (such as Tom Ford with two naked models) are few and far between.

"Even the one by Helmut Newton of [fashion editor] Polly Mellen was personal," says Ms. Eisner. "Tom's was the only posed one, but it was so out there, it fit in."

"Out there" does seem to be a running theme throughout Height of Fashion. For some, going off on the farthest fashion limb they could find was their shining moment: Just check out some of the shots from the New Romantic '80s. Mr. Alonso chose an ensemble from a childhood Carnival, and Ms. Eisner picked a fur outfit she wore when she decided on a whim to go to a Wizard of Oz reunion in Los Angeles a few years ago.

Music journalist Cherry Vanilla felt her best while naked on a horse in Jamaica. As she writes, "Clothes meant nothing, spirit was it all. I was hot and I was cool."

Other participants found their most glamorous moment had occurred when they were snapped simply being near someone famous or fashionable - such as the Beatles, Bob Hope or Yves Saint Laurent.

But for most of those chosen to be in Height of Fashion, traditional moments laden with good memories, such as birthdays, bar mitzvahs, prom nights or weddings, were when they felt at fashion's height.

"I think any time around a celebration you take the time to look your best. So naturally, those pictures are going to be present. We love having the wedding photos at the end, because it . . . [made the book] like a fashion show," says Ms. Eisner.

The duo hopes that the limited run of Height of Fashion will eventually make it a collector's item. In the meantime, they're continuing their work as "cheerleaders for individuality," with their next book, Custom, by photographer Dewey Nicks. It's due out in October.

"It's about taking something and making it your own - some Vegas interiors, lots of geezers with big glasses and jewelry, plastic surgery or custom cars," says Ms. Eisner.

The subjects covered in Greybull's catalog seem to be diverse, but Mr. Alonso says the books have more in common than you might think.

"Everything we're doing will have the thread of individuality running through it. Nothing we do is about being cookie cutter."