Meet Cathy Paul

Location: New York, NY
Age: Over 50
Marital Status: Single
Education: Degree in Art History and International Finance from New York University

Even as a teenager growing up in New York, petite Cathy Paul was “obsessed with fabric (‘I love swatches’), color and cut,” she says. She’d spend happy hours window-shopping up and down Madison Avenue to carefully examine the couture fashion…

Today, Cathy has a natural affinity for mixing styles, patterns and textures. You can spot her from blocks away: Her intense red hair, high heels, funky glasses and artistic combination of colors are consistently eye catching. Cathy manages to exquisitely pull it all off.

Who influenced your style?

I’ve always been inspired by what people were wearing in the media and the movies. I take something I like and make it my own. When I saw the black and white sharkskin suit Al Pacino wore in The Godfather I and II, I had to find the fabric and have a coat dress made.

Who are your favorite designers?

The cut of Gucci jackets when Tom Ford was there, Dolce & Gabbana for skirts, Armani, Versace for summer, and Timothy Everest, the tailor I’ve used in London since 1997 (www.timothyeverest.co.uk).

When Timothy creates something wonderful, I’ll sometimes have him make the same piece in three different fabrics.

I have to have a symbiotic relationship with a designer. I love Lacroix’s fabrics, colors and sense of extravagance. He sneaks in seductive details. Dolce is structured, sexy and colorful.

How your style changed over the years?

More focused.

Do you have a signature piece of clothing?

Blazers when they have sexy fabrics and fit. Pointy toe, high-heeled shoes with ankle straps and open sides. Could be from any designer. I like to wear evening shoes in the daytime. I hate heavy shoes.

I’m obsessed with emerald green because of my red hair.

Is anything a no-no?

I never wear pants because I’m short and my legs are my best feature.  It’s okay just as long as you see my legs below the knee. I don’t like exposed zippers on anything.

Beauty routine?

Dior’s L’Or de Vie, La Creme. It’s wonderful. I’m allergic to everything and this doesn’t irritate my skin at all. It’s made with a rare wine called Chateau D’Yquem, and it makes my skin smooth and gives a wonderful finish.

What’s your secret favorite spot in New York?

Sitting on the terrace of The Maritime Hotel and pretending I’m in Miami.

 Favorite restaurant?

Sakagura sake bar near Grand Central Station because it looks like a spy restaurant; John Dory for the décor and fish, and Park Avenue (Summer, Winter, Spring, Fall) for the ambience, whatever the season.

Signature lipstick?

Nouba from Takashimaya. I like their bricks, browns and oranges.

Great book you’ve read?

I’m always buying books and never read them.

Biggest indulgence?

Champagne, especially Bollinger, Dom Ruinart, Blanc de Blanc and Veuve Cliquot; Euro magazines. I often go to Universal News on 56th Street and buy them out when I find a new one on lifestyle, interiors or fashion.

Do you have a favorite perfume?

Cartier Panthere is my most favorite, but also like Essence by Narciso Rodrigues and some male fragrances like Eau Sauvage by Dior.

How do you rejuvenate?

A bath, sometimes more than one.

Passion project?

Collecting fabulous vintage jewelry. I’m addicted. I love old plastic pieces, but there’s no resale value in that. I search all the antique shows and buildings around New York, like The Showplace Antique and Design Center on West 25th Street. My friend Eric just opened Antique Reflections there.

I also like Chrome Hearts silver jewelry.

Who inspires you?

I inspire myself, but there’s always something on TV or in the media that grabs me.

Do you decorate your home like you dress?

My apartment is eclectic with a neo classical “grande tour” feeling, Biedermeier and American Empire furniture with quirky accents, animal pillows and feathers, old photos and paintings and etchings.

My kitchen looks like the Soviet space ship the Mir, retro techno slate grey and steel. Living room is dark green and bedroom is yellow. The rooms are filled with lots of books and interesting antiques. The bedroom looks like a cross between Bergdorf Goodman, Rizzoli and the stock room of the magazine store, a bit Grey Gardens

I’ve bought furniture at the Pier, at Niall Smith and Christie’s.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?

Make money, but have fun making it. Your co-workers are far more important to this than you ever imagine. If you have at least one co worker you really bond with you will probably be more productive and achieve more with less stress. If you have a co worker you bond with and share a sense of humour with even if they 20 years younger, you will look forward to coming to work.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about money?

It comes and goes. I’ve gone from choosing between spending my last dime on bread or a newspaper to buying Dior. And if you buy jewelry, buy gold. That’s the lesson I learned in 1991, which proved to be the worst recession I have been through.

Meet Valerie Ramsey

Location: Monterey, CA
Age: 70
Marital Status: Married
Education: Choate-Rosemary Hall and Rollins College

A stay-at-home mom with six children in tony Greenwich, CT, throughout the seventies and eighties, Valerie dressed pretty much the way she had when she attended Choate Rosemary Hall prep school: “Preppy.”

Describe your style today.

Still classic, but often with a sexier, more feminine twist, and with much more attention to cut. I always choose pieces now that will flatter and make the most of my figure, like my Ralph Lauren riding jackets and Tahari’s long, lean pants.

Favorite designers?

Nina McLemore has beautifully made and finished jackets in rich colors and in the same fabrics that Armani and Chanel use. I also love her line of equestrian-style pants. I wear her clothes when I travel, make television appearances and give speeches.

Signature items?

A 10-strand pearl torsade from Tiffany’s and my Hermes watch and enamel bangle with horses and tassels.

My hair is my signature too. It’s my natural color, platinum silver with blondness to it. The color of wet spaghetti.

Favorite perfume?

Tiffany.

Lipstick?

Revlon Golden Rose #718.

Beauty routine?

Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash and Cetaphil moisturizing body cream.

Why do you love Pacific Tweed?

I feel good just walking in the door. It’s warm and expansive, a fire is often burning in the large stone fireplace and wonderful music is always playing. They help me express my own style. I’m happy every time I put on something I buy from there. They carry a line of distinctive European and American designers.

How do you rejuvenate?

Being with family and close friends. It’s energizing to get into a new project or make great headway on an existing one. The simple pleasure of a long walk on Carmel Beach.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Carmel?

One of my favorites is Casanova, very European with a wonderful indoor/outdoor atmosphere and fabulous food. Just down the coast, there’s Cielo at Ventana, which has one of the most spectacular views on the California coast. It’s high up over the Pacific, with a beautiful large terrace with an outdoor fireplace for dining.

Your inspiration?

People who accomplish amazing things, especially older people who take on exciting new challenges, and anyone with a strong and positive outlook in spite of incredible adversity or challenges. We’re never too old to chase our dreams.

People who have a great sense of humor and adventure about life also inspire me.

Jackie Kennedy was strong and smart and handled her role as First Lady with intelligence, leadership and grace. She was a wonderful wife and mother and she was always able to maintain her privacy and dignity. I admired her tremendously.

A great book you’ve read?

I like all kinds of books, particularly biographies.  During the last few years, I’ve gravitated to spiritual books that inspire and enlighten me as I move into yet another exciting chapter in my life.  A few favorites are: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert; The Unmistakable Touch of Grace by Cheryl Richardson, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

Who influenced you?

My mother was a role model. She had a very big career with InterContinental Hotels in South America when I was still a little girl. She later became one of the most recognized comedy writers in the country and went to law school when she was older.  When she was stricken with cancer, she stayed brave and strong.

Do you have a passion project?

Speaking for The American Heart Association. I’m also in the process of creating a TV show.

Meet Victoria Jackson

Location: Los Angeles, CA
Age: 54
Marital Status: Married

Victoria Jackson believes in “the power of mascara.” Despite her humble beginnings, this mother of three built a cosmetics empire by demystifying makeup in her wildly popular infomercials and books. Her husband of eighteen years, Bill Guthy, is a founding principal of Guthy-Renker, the marketing juggernaut behind fifteen other infomercial-driven brands including Proactiv and Sheer Cover makeup.

Between the two of them, Jackson and Guthy have amassed a couple of thriving businesses, six homes, three kids and a small fortune. But Victoria says the reason for it all wasn’t quite clear until two years ago. That’s when her then 17-year-old daughter, Ali, was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder. Now she’s a mom on a mission, dedicated to finding a cure for the disease. She talked to FOF about how her “mascara empire” is fueling a medical revolution.

When did you become interested in the beauty business?

I always had a certain aesthetic. My family had no money, but if my mom had enough to buy three blouses, I’d rather just have one blouse that was really fantastic. I’d do my friends’ makeup—style them. I always say I had good taste, waiting for money to happen. My mom could afford to send just one child—my sister—to private school. She became a doctor, a clinical psychologist. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I got a scholarship to beauty school.

You learned to be a stylist?

I learned hair cutting and all of—and I’m still a good hairstylist—but I loved makeup. That was an area I really carved out for myself. I always hated the intimidation that you’d feel when you were having somebody do your make up at the department stores. I thought, ‘I want to learn this so I can teach other women how to do it.’

So you liked the concept of make up for others too, not just for yourself?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I wanted to take all the mystery out of applying it and looking better. I taught makeup at UCLA for ten years.

I didn’t realize they had a makeup course.

I created it. It was an extension of the visual arts department. That’s how I went on to do the infomercial. One of my students approached me; he worked for a group of guys that market products through television. This was in 1988. I said, ‘That’s interesting, because I’ve created this line of cosmetics…’

I met with the company—American Telecast—and I pitched them on my concept of how to sell cosmetics on television. I had created these color-coordinated kits—peach, pink and red—inspired by my teaching. The lips matched the blush and the eyes, and it was packaged with a how-to video. My first infomercial came out in 1989 and was a huge success. I since went on to do 11 more infomercials over 13 years.

Is your infomercial the one where there are three women…

It was Lisa Hartman, Ali McGraw, Meredith Baxter…

Yes, yes, sitting on the sofa?

Yes. That was my thing. And since then I’ve always looked at myself as a goodwill ambassador for make up.

Is that how you met your husband—through the infomercial business?

No. I had already done a few infomercials before I met my husband.

Do you still do infomercials?

I stopped about seven years ago.

Why?

Basically, my products now are licensed worldwide in retail. So it felt like a natural time to transition off television. I had another cosmetics company called Lola, which I licensed to Marc Jacobs for his fragrance. I have a library of over 600 products and I sell off of my website www.vmakeup.com.

If you had to give women over 50 one beauty tip, what would it be?

Less is best. That’s the biggest gift you can give yourself. Adding too much—wearing too much cover up and concealer—just makes you look older.

That’s great advice. I see young women in Sephora wearing so much makeup.

Well, they’re still trying to find themselves. They almost need to do that. I had to do that. We all have to figure it out. You’ve gotta apply ten layers to find out you’re still beautiful without it.

It’s really a metaphor for aging, you know? As you start peeling back the layers, you get to the core of who you are. By the time you you’re fifty, you just need strategic camouflage here and there—the accents—and then you should be good to go. That’s what’s so great about being fab over fifty—you’re figuring it out.

I agree.

And if you’re still carrying around that same baggage of insecurity about how you look at fifty, I think you’ve wasted a lot of time. Where is it getting you?

Exactly. Let’s talk about your passion now—your daughter.

Yes. My passion now—and what’s on my to-do list—is to find a cure for this orphan disease that my daughter was diagnosed with.

Orphan disease—what does that mean?

They’re rare diseases that are often ignored by the medical community because not enough people have them. But they’re probably the diseases that are going to unlock the mysteries of bigger things like MS and other autoimmune disorders. My daughter has one called NMO, neuromyelitis optica.

How does that affect her?

She’d never been ill a day in her life. Then almost two years ago, when she was 14, she started having eye pain. Within a week she began to go blind in one eye. NMO affects the optic nerve and the spinal chord. It’s an autoimmune disease—the body is attacking itself and they don’t know what triggers it.

How frightening.

When she was diagnosed, they told me I could have four more years with her before she might be a quadriplegic, blind, paralyzed or—gone. As a mom, I felt that just wasn’t even an option. I went into “Mom on a Mission” mode.

What did you do?

I learned every single thing I could about the disease. I said to myself, ‘I will now close the book on mascara and open the book on medicine.’ I learned the science and started a foundation—The Guthy-Jackson Foundation—to unite and fund the smartest people in the world that are working on this. I’m probably about $15 million into my funding for different institutions from the Mayo Clinic to Johns Hopkins.

I just had my second symposium where I brought all the people from around the world that are researching this together in one room to talk to each other and create a blueprint for finding a cure.

How many people have this disease?

Probably 10,000 people in the United States, however, this number is considered low, as many people have been misdiagnosed with MS who actually have NMO.

Does it affect mainly young people?

No, the range is all over. You can have this when you’re 20, 40, 80 years old, or even as a child. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.

What is your daughter’s prognosis at this point?

I think it’s going to be very good. We’re keeping it under control, controlling attacks. Her sight came back in her one eye. But, she’s had many, many attacks in her spinal cord.

What an incredible story.

It’s why I have a bigger calling in life now. And probably everything I did in my career brought me to this moment. I’ve learned how to structure and build a business and I’ve applied all of that into the world of medicine.

If this happened to you and you didn’t have any resources, meaning money, how do you think you would cope?

I think maybe that’s why it happened to me. I mean, maybe I was supposed to have this money just to be doing what I’m doing now. As my daughter said at some point, ‘this isn’t just about you and me anymore.’

If someone had told me that I’d be having meetings with molecular scientists at Stanford and traveling to the Mayo Clinic three and four times a year to work with their scientists? I mean, not my sister—the doctor—but me, the makeup artist! That is the Power of Mascara.

Meet Gerri Shute

Location: Chicago, IL
Age: Over 60
Marital Status: Single
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in English, Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science

Gerri Shute enjoyed a wonderful career in the world of executive search. She was named Vice President of Research for a leading international search firm, a title rarely given in a research function. When asked about her passion project, Gerri says, “My family. Their health, their happiness, their well being. As one relative said, there’s not a dud among them.” And when talking about her fantastic husband whom she recently lost to Parkinson’s she says, “I had the great love of my life. How lucky can a girl get?”

Tell me about your career.

I started out in education and then moved to advertising. I was recruited by Russell Reynolds Associates from the Chicago Tribune. I created their research function.  I was there for 13 years. It was a very fast-paced, demanding environment. Most of us who were there in the early days, now say that having been there, we can do anything short of brain surgery.

What’s the single most important thing you learned in your career?

There is no room for anything but giving the client excellent service. That’s all.

Why’d you leave Russell Reynolds?

I got married to the man of my dreams and wanted to be more available, so I worked from a home office for 13 years.

How did you meet the love of your life?

After I left an 11-year relationship I said, “Now I’m going to get married.” I told all my friends, “You know single men, so don’t forget me.” My friend Curt introduced us.

On our first date David took me to the best restaurant in town. We hit it off from the beginning.

Why was marriage important to you at that point?

Finally, I wanted to build a home. I wanted a kind of sharing that you just don’t have when you’re not married.

There was a bench outside near the garage in the Sears Tower where he parked his car, across the street from my office. We’d always meet there on Fridays and go off to a movie and dinner and then spend the weekend together.

One Sunday night I had decided I had to move on, I said, “That’s it then, because I’m planning to be married…”

You wanted to get out because you didn’t think he’d marry you?

Yes. I thought, I’ll just start over again. That Friday I got a dozen red roses and the card said, “Meet me at the bench.” And I thought. “Well, as ever a gentleman, this is the kiss-off dinner. This will be a nice way to end it.” We went to the International Club and he made a formal proposal.

Oh Gosh!

We both wept. He said, “I cried all week long thinking of what my life would be without you.” He was at the height of his career, as was I at the time. We traveled, we entertained, we did everything! It could not have been a better 20 years.

Then he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The last three years or so of his life were very trying for him. He retained his brilliance and his sense of humor. He never once complained. It was a love affair to the end.

What did he do?

He was General Counsel for Sears, Roebuck and Company.

You miss him.

Yes. Terribly. After one year, something actually does happen though. Someone said, “You don’t get over it, you get used to it.” I miss loving somebody and being loved.

What kind of literature do you love?

Virginia Woolf is a favorite author, and then Edith Wharton is the other woman whom I am crazy about because she came from a wealthy family, but she did her own thing. She wrote constantly and made a great deal of money In House of Mirth, Edith wrote about class; how people of a certain class are snobby for no good reason. I also love anything by Henry James.

How do you define your style?

I like to buy classic clothes that I can wear over and over. I am known for not having a lot of clothes.  C.Z. Guest said, “You can only wear so many clothes.” I think that is right on.

Why do you love Maria Pinto’s clothes?

Maria is an artist. She knows how to cut for a woman’s figure. I love that everything is tailored for you. She has sportswear, daywear, cocktail dresses and her wonderful gowns… she’s selling cashmere sweaters and jewelry now. It’s one-stop shopping. I trust her and her staff—they would never sell me something that isn’t right for me.

What other designers do you wear?

I used to wear Ungaro and Valentino. I could put their clothes on and walk out the door without any adjustment. They know how to cut to fit me. I like Armani and Yves St. Laurent, but Maria is my first choice.

Who influenced your style?

My parents both loved clothes. They went dancing every Saturday night. I thought my mother was so beautiful that when I was a little girl I was certain she was a movie star. Red nails, red lipstick, very high heels… My father always bought my two sisters and me clothes for Christmas. Our best outfits were always the ones Daddy bought.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Chicago?

For casual dining I like Cafe Spiaggia. For fancier I like No Mi. I love the room. You can look out and see a wonderful view of the city and the lake. Everything is beautifully presented.

What’s your favorite secret place in Chicago?

If I’m doing errands and it’s before 2:00 PM, I slip into Spiaggia by myself and have the tuna tartar. It’s like playing hooky. In a contemplative mood, I visit the sweet, cloistered garden at Fourth Presbyterian Church.

Whose art do you like?

I love my Matisse print of a ballerina.  I collect figurative prints mostly by well-known artists I admire. Each has an unfinished look about it. I like Francine Turk. Her stuff showed up first in the movie “The Breakup”. I saw something of hers and I loved it, so I called her. She came with a basket full of drawings. I was looking at one piece and, after walking around my house, she said, “This piece does not work in your house. But this one does and this one does.” So I bought them both.

Do you have a favorite perfume?

Opium by Yves St. Laurent. I can’t live without it.

Tell me your favorite wine.

I like Santa Margherita and Prosecco Brut sparkling wine.

What about your facial routine, cleansing?

I wash my face with Dove soap. L’Oreal moisturizer, Neutrogena sun block. I wear Bobbi Brown lipstick and Estee Lauder blush and foundation.

What do you do to rejuvenate?

I take a nap.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Bernardaud, the fine china shop, sells tins of almonds and hazelnuts dusted with bittersweet chocolate. I buy a dozen cans at a time. I put them in a far corner so that I don’t eat too many.

What about a passion project?

My family. We really work together, nurture one another, look after one another, especially when my husband was dying—they adored David. I could never even tell you all they did for me and for him. I am a devoted sister and adoring auntie. I am fortunate to have a core group of loyal friends who are like family and who truly support one another. I have a new project in mind that I am not yet ready to reveal.

How do you define style?

To me style includes your life choices, your surroundings, the way you entertain. It includes your interests, the kinds of friendships you develop. I believe you must treat everyone with dignity and respect. Your choices of how you live and travel, find intellectual stimulation, all of those choices make up your style.

Has your style changed over the years?

An old friend, once said, “When you’re young, you can wear anything and look good and as you get older you need to buy more expensive clothes to achieve the same end.” And I think he’s right.

What important thing you have learned about money?

Never count on anyone to support you financially after you have graduated from college. It gives you power. I have always been financially independent. I think few people know that about me.

Meet Linda Rodin

Location: New York, NY
Age: 61
Marital Status: Single
Education: Bachelor’s Degree, NYU

Linda Rodin has been a stunning fixture in the world of fashion since she started modeling in Italy in the 1960s. When she returned to New York City in the 70s, she fell in with the crowd who launched Bendel’s. “I styled their first catalogs,” she explains. “I didn’t even know you could have a career in stylin—back then, who knew?” Since then she’s owned a wildly influential clothing boutique, Linda Hopp, edited Harper’s Bazaar, and become one of New York’s most sought-after stylists…

But this indie pioneer would rather discuss her latest venture—a patented face oil called Olio Usso that she launched 2 years ago. The blend of eleven essential oils has a cultish following among makeup artists, models and other industry insiders. Most recently, she’s converted her own dermatologist and added a body oil and lip balm to the line.

“Trying a new business at my age—a bit of a folly—but very exciting,” she says. “Never too old for anything!”

How do you define your personal style?

Classically simple with a twist—like, a tailored men’s shirt with hot pink polka dots. I like to mix it up—be eclectic.

Do you have a signature look?

Dark navy jeans, some kind of top or sweater, and a little black coat. Lately, it’s this great Prada that’s cinched at the waist. And flat motorcycle boots.

Favorite designers?

I can’t always afford to buy designers—unless they’re on sale. But, I love Prada, Miu Miu, Roland Mouret, Vera Wang (sometimes) and Burberry. But I won’t buy a $2,000 Prada cashmere sweater—I only buy designers for very special things and for handbags and shoes. I’d buy a lot more Lanvin if I could.

Do you have any non-designer staples?

I buy jeans in bulk at Uniqlo for $39 and at Urban Outfitters (they’re called Cheap Mondays). And I like vintage white t-shirts. A white shirt shouldn’t be stylish, it should be like you’re boyfriend’s shirt that fits a little better.

How has your style evolved?

In the late 60s I wore hot pants and mini skirts. Then I did the hippy thing—long hair and big hoop earrings. I’m much less affected by trends now. If they say that red is out this month, I say, who cares. I always wore a lot of black, but then in the early 90s I started wearing hot pink and turquoise blue. Now I’m back to black, but I’ll wear touches of those two colors. They are my favorites.

Any style no-nos?

Why would anyone wear cropped pants? They make you look shorter and fatter. They don’t even look good on the runway!

And I personally won’t wear high heals anymore—except maybe once a year—because I’m not comfortable. I love ballet slippers and Mary Janes and lace-up men’s shoes. Louboutin does a great 2-inch heel with a Mary Jane strap.

Where do you shop in NYC?

Everywhere—because I’m a stylist. I like Barneys, and recently I’ve been going to The Dressing Room on the Lower East Side. I mean, that’s a store for 20-year olds, but if you really know what looks good on you, you can shop anywhere.

Oh, and I love the Albright Fashion Library. Everyone from a Meryl Streep to a runway model goes there to get clothes for events. If you have your eye on a $20,000 designer dress, you can rent it at Albright for $2,000 a night. Or rent a Hermes handbag if you want to look groovy for a weekend.

What’s your beauty routine?

I wear my grey hair in a ponytail every day; and no makeup, except for a dark rosy pink lipstick from Shu Uemura. I used to play with makeup—now I wear glasses instead of mascara.

The one thing I do is go to Dr David Colbert. Everyone over 50 should be in his office. He does the best non-invasive skin treatments. You’ll glow for weeks. He recommends Retin-A to his patients to smooth out wrinkles, but it can be drying, so now he recommends it in combination with my face oil, Olio Lusso.

Who inspires you?

Past boyfriends. One was a great writer, one a pianist and one a cook.

Are you married?

I’m single now. I have never wanted to be married, but I was engaged 4 times. I couldn’t have children so I thought, why get married? I could never bear to be with anyone I wasn’t completely in love with.

Do you have a signature item?

My jewelry. I wear two bracelets from Finn< that I never take off. Angelina Jolie also wears her stuff. And my tattoo bracelet from Aurora Lopez. I have two gold bracelets and a set of grey pearls from Soraya that I wear every day. They all sell in Barneys.

Signature perfume?

I wore LE by Givenchy for decades, but a few years ago I decided to mix things up. Now I’m wearing Chanel #19. Scent is very important to me.

Favorite restaurants in New York?

Little Owl in the West Village, Hasaki (a Japanese restaurant on east 9th) and Le Pain Quotidian. I don’t cook, so I literally go to LPQ three times a day.

Last great book?

I love to read the classics—lately, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. There are so many gorgeous books that reading new bestsellers makes me ill.

Favorite wine/drink?

White wine from Australia. Right now I’m buying one called White Haven from New Zealand.

Favorite spot in NYC?

The flea market on 25th and Broadway. I never go home empty handed. My apartment is filled with items I picked up there.

Greatest indulgence?

My dog. He’s a Bassett Hound—a gift from my friend Laetitia Casta. I give him whatever dog treats he wants and tons of peanut butter and bananas. I love and adore this 70 pound creature.

And food. If I really want to buy food, I never look at the price. I bring home tuna from Paris, incredible smoked salmon from Sable’s on 2nd avenue, and every kind of cheese from Murray’s.

What do you do to rejuvenate?

Sleep a lot. Sleep is the key to everything.

Recently I developed vertigo and I couldn’t get out of bed. I went to an acupuncturist, Dr. Steven Schramm, and he was incredible. He looks like Woody Allen, and he’s completely intuitive and smart. He cured my vertigo and diagnosed my anemia and insomnia. He prescribed a really great organic steak once a week, and now I’m in heaven.

Do you have a cause or an interest that you’re passionate about?

I’m very passionate about the war because my nephew is in the army. But I always give very privately. Charity begins at home for me. I’m not a group person—I’d rather do everything on my own.

I’m also a passionate shell collector. Give me a beach and bucket and I’ll never pick my head up from the sand.

Meet Wendy Foster

Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Age: 69
Marital Status: Married
Education: My real education was traveling around the world by myself for 10 years, where I learned different languages and cultures. It was amazing. I always have a big dictionary next to my bed, and I still LOVE to learn!

Wendy Foster “brought style to Santa Barbara,” declared the Santa Barbara Independent in 2008. Foster spent her 20s and 30s traveling the world, supporting herself every which way, including as a UNESCO ambassador in Paris and a chef in Israel. It wasn’t until she was almost 40 that she started her fashion career, opening her first boutique in Santa Barbara and modeling it on her own closet…

Today she owns four trendsetting clothing stores in the city: Wendy Fosterand Sportswear in Montecito’s Upper Village, Angel on Coast Village Road, and Wendy Foster on State Street.  But, “I’m still off what the normal person wears in Santa Barbara, I think,” says Foster. “Some of my favorite designers won’t sell here!”Foster’s local empire also includes husband Pierre Lafond’s two vineyards, a bistro, a gourmet market, and a home accessories store.

How do you define your personal style?

Strong and soft. I’m thin, but tall—5’9”—so I have a strong look about me. I wear strong things but I soften it by wearing subdued neutrals.

Do you have a signature look?

I mostly always wear Sofie D’Hoore cotton pants and a Johnny Farah belt and t-shirt with a sweater. I don’t have a lot of clothes. The less you have, the more creative you can be.

Who are your favorite designers?

Dries Van Noten, Sofie D’Hoor and Yojhi Yamomoto—although I can’t fit into Yamomoto because it’s made for smaller women. Dries has always been my favorite because his clothes are inspired by different cultures. He’s been a bit off his mark the past few seasons, but this year he’s gone to Japan and India so I can’t wait to see what he does.

Peachoo and Krejberg is a new love—they’re from Paris and they remind me of Ann Demulemeester. I could never sell her here—she was too edgy for Santa Barbara.

Any style no-nos?

A Dirndl miniskirt, a baby doll top or an Orlon poncho. Dirndl skirts make you look fat unless you’re bone thin. And baby doll tops are always pushed on older women, even though they’re for babies. I encourage my customers to take chances and not get stuck in one style. Just because you’re an old lady, doesn’t mean you have to dress like one.

What has influenced your style most?

Living in Israel, Paris and England. I lived on a Kibbutz in Israel and actually had a restaurant in Tel Aviv in the 1970s. Arab culture taught me take chances in my life and my style. I love British style for the knits and handmade quality. I subscribe to Selvedge—a British magazine that teaches you how to craft and where to buy fabrics.

Who inspires you?

Christina Kim—a clothing and housewares designer with a little store in New York called Dosa. She’s a fabric nut and a color genius. She travels all over the far east discovering beautiful things and then helps set up local women in business making them. She pays a fair wage and makes sure everything is produced “green.” I just love her.

Favorite/signature shoes?

Boots from Prada and Ann Demulemeester.

What is your beauty routine?

Lemon Verbena soap and lots of sunscreen.

Signature lipstick?

Fire Down Below by Nars. I like it because of the name, which is fun, and because it is a dry sort of lipstick, and it doesn’t run into the lines on my lips as easily as a softer lipstick.

What’s the last great book you read and want to recommend?

Alice Monroe’s Too Much Happiness. A FABULOUS book of short stories. Oh, My God. What a wonderful writer. I got it for a gift, and I had never read her before. Now I think of all the old ones just waiting for me. Oh Boy!

Favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara?

I have two favorite restaurants. The first one is an old fashioned luncheonette which has been in Montecito as long as I can remember. It has wonderful food, and is frequented by the locals. It has plain old good American food. A BLT to die for, and wonderful Cole slaw.

My REAL favorite restaurant is my husband’s in downtown Santa Barbara: Pierre Lafond’s Bistro. They have fresh baked whole wheat bread and flat breads, which are topped with pesto, tomatoes—things like that—plus a lot of great vegetarian star dishes, as Pierre is a complete vegetarian.

Favorite wine/drink?

My husband’s wine! We’ve been married since 1973, and he owns the first wineries in Santa Barbara since prohibition. It’s the only serious winery in Santa Barbara.

What are you most passionate about.

My garden. I bought a parking lot in downtown Santa Barbara thirty years ago, and now I travel all over California collecting oddball plants to grow there.

Greatest indulgence?

Playing the piano. I’ve been taking lessons for 40 years.

Favorite secret spot in SB?

The Frog Theatre on the Riviera. It’s a super secret place where people leave little frog statues all over a stone wall—sort of like a shrine. It’s glorious, and only the locals know about it.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?

If I worked harder than anyone thought was possible, then I MIGHT succeed. And if I LOVED what I was doing at the same time, it doubled my chances.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about money?

It is very hard to come by, and very easy to spend. You have to watch your costs like a hawk.

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