It Seems Like Yesterday

John Loring Tiffany @Benson 1984 lg

It was 1984—not George Orwell’s 1984, but Tiffany & Co.’s utopian 1984.

The legendary American luxury retail emporium had taken back its luster in a leveraged buyout from Avon, who had owned it since 1979. Tiffany’s celebrated design director John Loring was beginning to shoot for Tiffany Taste, his second book with his famous editor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

He and Jackie O. would go on to produce four more Tiffany books together over the next eight years. Their list of possible titles was so long that she quipped, “I suppose at eighty we’ll be writing our fiftieth with a title something like Tiffany Mushrooms.”

While compiling photos for Tiffany Taste, which included everyone from Estée Lauder to Mary Martin, they were also working on Tiffany’s “150 Years” celebration in order to have it coincide with the upcoming Tiffany exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

John Loring’s “Atlas” designs, introduced the year before, were taking the world by storm. Star designer Elsa Peretti was celebrating her tenth year at Tiffany’s. His lifelong friend (whom he brought to Tiffany’s in 1980) Paloma Picasso’s amply-scaled and colorful jewelry collections were making their considerable impact on fashion.

I photographed the then-45-year-old Loring sitting on top of the world in his teak-paneled office with its sweeping views of Central Park, where he and Jackie often had working picnics sitting on the floor surrounded by photos and Styrofoam containers of deli food. The mess led Jackie to comment, “I wish Robin Leach could film this for ‘The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.’”