A long-time front row fixture and certified lifestyle expert InStyle editor-at-large Hal Rubenstein is considered to be among the most influential voices in fashion.
In addition to his editorial and on-air commitments (The View, Today, The Early Show...), he regularly produces events, consults, and advises on marketing for brands including Giorgio Armani, Coach, WWD MAGIC, Neiman Marcus, and Jones New York. He has also consulted for new products at DKNY and Tod’s where he designed men’s accessories and has his very own namesake collection for HSN.
We spoke with the multitasking maven to get his take on print vs web, career advice, upcoming trends, and designers to watch.
Do you think runway shows are still the biggest trend drivers?
Yes, they still are because simply because they get the most press, but now that people can live stream the shows and watch them directly, it’s both a trend driver and a source of confusion. Runway shows used to be a laboratory for designers to present their concept solely to editors and retailers who then distilled what they liked and presented it to the public 6 months later. Now everyone sees it all at once and average viewer can’t always separate the theatricality from the commerce. Runways vary in their relationship to realism. If you want that, the street can be equally important if you’re based in a fashion conscious city.
What designers are the most influential in setting trends?
Marc Jacobs, Raf Simons, Ricardo Tisci and Phoebe Philo, though there is greater diversity than ever before. However, I don’t necessarily think these designers are the most influential for young people, especially those with limited budgets, who can put together looks from Uniqlo, Zara, Asos, etc.
Any up and comers we should keep our eyes on?
LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize and CFDMA Vogue Fashion Fund are shepherding and highlighting potentially great new talent. Also, J. W. Anderson and Anthony Vaccarello in women's ready to wear. Public School and Craig Greene are doing exciting menswear and Paul Andrew is an accessories name to note.
Spring trends you're most excited about?
The most vital element is color. The is the season to discover your favorite vibrant hues and embrace them in fabrics and silhouettes that feel loose and comfortable. I’m excited about seeing women in looser longer skirts in flowing fabrics that move freely against the body. I'm also partial to the predominance of white, especially with strong accents of black. The softer take on menswear, the cropped blazer, the full trouser worn with a draped blouse is so sensual and an inspired alternative for day to night. Most importantly, have fun with fashion. Clothes shouldn’t be so serious.
Any trends you're really hoping don't last?
Anything that makes you self-conscious or feel like you are wearing a costume is not going to last long in your wardrobe. It may be bold to show midriffs and strategic cutouts on the runway but women aren’t going to wear that into the office. Are you really going to wear boho in town? You really think socks with sandals or high corked wedges make you look attractive? And no matter how much press its revival is getting, we all looked awful in the 80's. I have the pictures to prove it.
What do you consider perennial spring must haves?
Score a cropped trench in a color that makes you feel happy, horizontally striped tops with a boat neck look incredibly attractive on women, A-line dresses with full skirts that are flirty, and a pair of pants with deep pockets that you can strut in.
Favorite city for street style inspiration?
New York, hands down. London has a great eccentric street style, Paris has polish and LA is world unto itself. But New York offers unparalleled energy and a daring sense of adventure. Now what works in New York may not work in Miami or Houston but for me, New York offers the widest range because it has the most diverse population, incorporating inspiration from different ethnicities and social and economic classes. Style should never come from only one oracle.
New York. However, if you can get to Milan at the beginning of July for their annual clear-it-all-out-so-we-can-leave-town-for-August sales you can get incredible stuff.
Unfortunately, now it's more about brands and less and less about the individual store that has been curated by someone with an eye. It saves a lot of time and is so satisfying to go into a store where someone says “this works for me” if their style matches your own. Stores like Forty Five Ten in Dallas, Texas, The Webster in Miami or Roden Grey in Vancouver, Canada. As far as brands go, I like Louis Vuitton, Uniqlo, Rag & Bone, Zara in Europe and Space Cowboy in New York City for my cowboy boots.
What's your take on print versus online?
I don’t think print will ever or should go away. There’s still that rush in turning a page and looking at a gorgeous image, and that has yet to be duplicated online. The computer is designed to look at everything quickly to provide immediate and discard-able information. The danger with online is that it can tempt people to shop too quickly. Everything shouldn't be an impulse. There is still something savoring fashion in print, to going to an actual store and having a person who is knowledgeable about clothing and how you will look in it, wait on you. But one shouldn't be played against the other. Print and online should be used in tandem.
How important is social media for you personally?
For my brand, social media is probably more important than I give it credit for. For me personally, I think it’s fun to know what your friends are thinking and doing. I don’t know if I need social media to tell me a trend. I think it’s great that everyone has a way to express themselves, though it's debatable know how many of those opinions I really need to follow. When it comes to style, it’s swell if the 25,000 people you follow open you up to discovery and new information but when it counts, the only opinion that matters is yours.
Any tips for aspiring editors?
1) Learn how to write. Not just how to speak, how to write. Practice. Communication is everything.
2) Learn about subjects other what you’re immediately interested in. If fashion is your field, then you owe it to yourself and your talent to learn about travel, politics, music, furniture design, art and the history of fashion. Otherwise I don't know how you can make an original contribution because fashion doesn't exist in a vacuum. Most importantly learn the value of saying “I don’t know. Go to people above and ahead of you and bombard them with questions, but then actually listen.