by Alex R. Travers
It’s easy to say that, after 40 years, Elie Tahari has it all: the multi-million dollar company that has grown exponentially since it was founded in 1974; an intimate knowledge of what his clients love; and, most recently, a day named after him (September 4 is known as “Elie Tahari Day” in New York). But Tahari’s path to success was not paved in gold. He came to New York City with nothing. That’s why it’s astonishing that after all his accomplishments and accolades, he remains one of the most humble designers alive today. “I’m looking at a sign right now,” he tells me over the phone. “And the sign says: Too much ego will kill your talent.”
We sat down a few days before his Fall 2014 Fashion Week presentation to talk about the Elie Tahari Edition 1974 collection, which celebrates his brand’s 40th anniversary.
Alex Travers: I’m interested in your past, especially how your move to New York relates to your design aesthetic. What was New York like, in your eyes, in the Seventies?
Elie Tahari: The Seventies were such a liberating time in New York. Women felt confident and free, they wore flirty dresses to the disco, and they weren’t afraid to bare a little skin. That’s why I had so much success with the tube top.
AT: Your Elie Tahari Edition 1974 is a 20-piece capsule collection—tube top, included—that mines the brand’s past. What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to updating your silhouettes?
ET: I wanted to stay true to the original silhouettes so I updated them to make them more modern. The Hudson jumpsuit is one of my favorite pieces from the collection: It stays true to the original Seventies feel with its high waist, but I updated it by adding a silicone insert.
AT: Do you keep archives of all your past collections?
ET: Yes, I have a warehouse in New Jersey. It was great to have a few of my pieces from the Seventies and Eighties when I was creating Elie Tahari Edition 1974.
AT: If you could, would you change anything about the past?
ET: The evolution of Elie Tahari has been something to cherish, and I have learned so much from my experiences in the business over the past 40 years: From opening to my first boutique on Madison Avenue to my first international boutique in Turkey, I wouldn’t trade any of it.