What type of garment is key to your personal style?

Bow ties. Although the occasions when I would wear bow ties are rather limited and specific, they are indispensable to my wardrobe and define my personal (evening) style.

How many different bow ties do you have in your wardrobe?

100+. I’m a compulsive collector (ok, hoarder). I don’t wear all of them, I rotate probably 10 to 15 regularly. I have some amazing one-of-a-kind and vintage pieces from various eras and cultures that would probably look too costume-y otherwise.

What is it specifically about them that you love?

I’ve always liked accessories that accentuate the neck: scarves, ties, bow ties, etcetera. I used to collect neck ties in my early 20s, I had probably close to 500 ties. Then I stopped wearing ties altogether and moved onto scarves and bow ties. I think a big part of the interest also came from studying art history, and specifically military and aristocratic portraits throughout the centuries. I think I was more interested in how these dead men looked than most men of my generation.

How do you feel when you see other men wearing bow ties? Are you happy for the whole world to wear them or do you prefer to stand out?

I like to think it’s my thing. I sort of hate when other men wear bow ties, unless they wear it well and at an appropriate event, which rarely happens. I think most men today look pretty awful in bow ties and should never wear them. There’s definitely a right and wrong way and specific time and place to wear a bow tie. It’s not like wearing a tie, which is more versatile and democratic. You should not wear a bow tie at 10am on your way to get coffee. There are some conservative pundits (TUCKER CARLSON, GEORGE WILL, LOUIS FARRAKHAN, among others) who wear them. It’s a confused militant look. I also hate when men wear bow ties for comic effect, or paired with shorts, like they’re too self-conscious to commit to the look, or it’s a bizarre little-boy cutesy thing that’s gross (PEE-WEE HERMAN or CHIPPENDALES). No one wore a bow tie better than KARL MARX or WINSTON CHURCHILL, except maybe JAMES BOND.

Do you know where your attachment to bow ties comes from? Is it something from your youth, or something you picked up from a specific person? When, who?

It’s definitely not about youth in my case, but it is probably in some way a reaction against my generation’s obsession with casual sportswear and normcore. I feel like men my age and younger think dressing is a chore. I definitely feel more comfortable in black tie than in gym clothes. It’s also a reaction against my upbringing in the Soviet Union, where clothes were considered too extravagant and superfluous. You were supposed to blend in through clothes, not stand out, and men especially were not supposed to care about how they dressed.

Who or what do you look at for style inspiration?

The mirror. Style is such a personal thing. You can copy specific fashions, or emulate looks if you want, but style is more ingrained. I also follow a few collections every season and designers that I buy consistently, but it’s not always a direct correlation. It maybe infers a more general sensibility. The curse of being sample-size is that I used to love wearing a runway look head to toe! It was cute when I was 22. It’s not very cute anymore.

Can you describe the state of your closet? Is it tidy, messy, super organised, folded, boxed, grouped by colour or season, etcetera?

It’s very organised, down to the uniform mahogany hangers. My husband ZALDY and I have a dressing room with separate wardrobes for shirts, blazers, pants, etcetera. I have a separate closet for white shirts. Everything is rotated seasonally and accessories (sunglasses, belts, bow ties, scarves, hats, bags) are all separated accordingly in drawers and boxes. There is also a separate wardrobe for eveningwear and a closet for winter coats, and a separate shoe closet.

Is there a garment that you used to dislike but ended up loving and wearing? When or why did your aversion to it turn to fondness? What changed your mind?

Denim. I used to hate it as a “democratic” fabric that was destroying the environment – it was too ridiculous. I’ve since eased up and embraced it, probably because I used to hate it so much. Same with fur. Growing up in Russia, I really hated seeing fur after I left; I didn’t understand why people would wear it if they didn’t have to. I guess everything I like now started from some form of aversion.

Have you ever made a radical change in your ‘look’? Have you ever been tempted to get rid of all your clothes and start again from scratch?

It’s more an evolution than anything else. I edit and purge every season, but I wouldn’t want to get rid of everything. I’m too attached! Except, maybe skinny jeans. And no camouflage ever.

Have you ever considered settling on a strict uniform and what would it be? Would you consider it a relief, or a loss of options?

It’s not for me. I wore a uniform in school, so I equate it with children and prisons. Of course it depends on how militant you get about it, but ultimately I don’t think it’s very interesting and pretty counterintuitive and narcissistic: so you want to adopt a uniform and become less individualised, but then it invariably becomes all about you, and you become synonymous with one look that becomes your “signature.” In the art world there’s already an unspoken “art fair uniform” amongst male dealers: dark blue denim, crisp white shirt, navy blazer, white sneakers. Pretty exciting, isn’t it? I try to steer away from that, unless I’m doing it on purpose.

Does your work influence what you wear?

I definitely dress more conservatively for work (at David Lewis gallery), even though the gallery atmosphere is very relaxed and not corporate. I have to travel and interact with a lot of different people regularly, and it’s all about them, not me, so I don’t want the focus to be on my look. I tend to save all the fun looks for my off-time.

What do you wear to look sexy? Do you have a pick up look?

My DRIES VAN NOTEN silk suits. I don’t know if they look sexy, but they definitely feel sexy. I feel sexier in long flowy silky things these days. It’s not about showing skin. I used to wear a lot of tailored short shorts in my 20s, but sleeveless is probably as “sexy” as I get now. If I’m going out dancing, maybe a mesh T-shirt.

Who do you talk to when you want to talk about clothes?

The husband. Most of my friends don’t care, and honestly I’d rather talk about something else.

What underwear do you wear?

Cotton.

Do you choose your outfits in advance? Like, the night before?

Definitely not. Usually five minutes before I have to run out the door, whether it is for work or a black-tie event – I’m always impulsive. Sometimes I’ll have an idea, like I’ll want to wear a pair of shoes, or a specific pin, and I’ll just pick things randomly around that piece.

What amazing tip for wardrobe management or maintenance can you share?

Hand-washing and/or dry cleaning immediately after wearing something is important, or the oils will destroy your clothes over time, especially in between seasons. I don’t think I’ve ever ruined any clothes in twenty years; I still have shirts I wear that are from high school.

What ultimately signifies your style of dressing?

For me it’s all about the details and paying attention to fit and style: whether it’s a mix of fabric and pattern, a specific colour block, button, seam, etcetera. I tend to like a clean, classic, elegant look that’s somehow a bit off.