Linda Rodin's Enduring Style
Linda Rodin, the most fashionable 60-something, shares the secrets of enduring style with Lisa Armstrong
It’s not just the oodles of wavy silvery hair. Winks, a 6-year-old miniature poodle with impeccable genealogy, is, like his mistress, Linda Rodin, innately stylish with seemingly minimal effort. True, Winks once had a $500 Dogue-cut, but that, intones Rodin in her Long Island twang, was a mistake. “I was recommended this dog-clipper who turned out to be a celebrity dog clipper…” she trails off, one arched brow hovering questioningly above her trademark cat eye glasses.
These days Winks makes do with what his mistress calls “the garden variety clip”. Not that this dents his swagger. Winks is a style star and so much a part of Team Rodin, that they share top billing on her Instagram feed (@lindaandwinks, 96,000 followers and counting).
Team Rodin is small, but growing. The beauty company she started from her kitchen (truly) in New York’s Chelsea in 2008, was acquired by Estee Lauder two years ago and now has more than 100 stockists. She has moved from kitchen to swish downtown offices, but home is clearly still where she is happiest.
“A new friend recently came round to my apartment and said, ‘Now I know why you don’t go to parties. All your friends are here.’” She was talking about the bits and bobs, the lovingly nurtured plants (like Prince Charles, she conducts lengthy conversations with them) and the extensive wardrobe, cultivated, but rarely culled, over decades.
Linda oozes what used to be called good taste, but is more often described now as Having An Eye. She can walk into a scrappy flea market, which she does most weekends, and find the item — be it cardigan or couch — that looks a million dollars. She is far happier bartering on 26th and Broadway (home of one of New York’s last great vintage lot) than she is in a chi-chic boutique. “Who pays those prices?” she asks of designer collections.
Er, hello? Isn’t she wearing an embroidered cardigan from Gucci? “Thirty bucks from a stall,” she replies. One or two key pieces — mixed in with her beloved jeans, simple checked shirts and delicate jewellery, customised with charms — is her general rule.
Her mother Billie, was a looker, who never had to try that hard. Her aunt, who had a nose job in the 1920s (“It was terrible, but a nose job, in the 20s, that was something”) was the one with the style. “She was quite plain but she was wearing turbans, kaftans and false eyelashes when she was 94.” Linda, an angular beauty, is a combination of the two.
As for those finds, she lovingly chronicles them along with portraits of Winks, 1950s snaps of her mother and favourite beauty products on her Instagram account. It’s a captivating, personal window on a certain kind of world, one inhabited with style rather than wads of cash and freebies. Despite her large following, she says designers rarely gift her. “I’m too elderly,” she laughs.
In the old days, she would have been at the helm of a glossy magazine, fashioned in her likeness. She has worked as a stylist for American Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Revlon and Victoria’s Secret (“all those busty models, but that was fun. And they were so nice.”)
Now she communicates through social media — and has 20-year-olds stopping her in the street to take a selfie with her. “I think they like the fact that I’m older,” she muses. “They’d like their mothers or grandmothers to dress a bit more boldly.”
Courage has never been lacking from the Rodin repertoire. “Sometimes I’m too blunt,” she says. Get her on American politics, the gentrification of New York, (“the city’s finished. No one can afford to live here. Every time I go away, another neighbourhood service shop gets turned into a Starbucks,”) or “helpful” cab drivers (“I hate it when they try to lift me out of the car. I’m 67, not an invalid”) and there’s no shortage of opinion. As she says, “wishy washy, I am not.”
“It wasn’t deliberate,” she says of her second — or is it third, given she originally studied photography — career in the beauty world.
“I was happy styling. I would mix up oils for my own dry skin — jojoba or apricot oils as the carrier, neroli and jasmine because I adore the scent and calendula, arnica and evening primrose oil because they worked. Then friends began asking about them, so I would give them as gifts, like you would bake cakes if you were a cook.”
Her nephew, a whiz in finance, caught her at it, mixing up batches in coffee cups in her bathroom and asked her how much she was selling them for. When she broke the news, he read her a few financial facts of life, ordered some measuring beakers and persuaded her, finally, to write down the formulae.
Before long, Linda’s Luxury Face Oil became one of those insider tips, discriminately shared around the industry. Until she finally found a factory in New Jersey to do it for her, she was mixing 400-500 bottles each weekend. Within months, facial oils became all the rage, though few smell as good as hers.
Her products (there are now hand creams, body oils and soaps) are remarkably good. Her perfume, Linda Rodin Bis, is a delicious blend of anise flower, bergamot, rose de mai, jasmine, musk, with a wonderful powdery base that gives it an almost 1950s elegance. Inspired by her mother, it’s much more sophisticated than the synthetic smelling compounds pumped out by many larger brands. She has also just launched a collection of lipsticks in searingly chic, trademark shades. Long-lasting, intensely pigmented and super-moisturising, they too are outstanding.
Disarmingly, she makes no great claims for her products, although others do. “There’s so much bull**** talked about beauty,” she says. “But this makes you feel good and that’s the root of looking good.” That and a daily bath.
Her low-maintenance approach speaks of old-fashioned values, albeit in a strikingly modern package. Not that she’s immune to contemporary neuroses. When a Californian friend who hadn’t seen her in a while asked why she hadn’t had a face-lift, she had a wobble, albeit brief. “I never had a problem when I went grey at 35,” she says. “I never felt I looked old until I hit 60 … but it’s hard sometimes in this youth-fixated culture, to resist the tide.”
Luckily she was born with independence of mind. Her father, “the only poor Jewish dentist on Long Island,” was an artist manque and her mother was also “very creative”. It was sunny, suburban 1950s America. There were animals galore — chickens hatching in the cellar, her brother’s pet snakes, dogs, rescued birds. At 16 she was in a serious car crash. At 17 she used the $1000 compensation to go to Italy — a big deal for a young American girl in the 1960s.
She never married, or had children and never regretted it. She’s close to her nieces and nephews and was very attached to her late sister, Christine, a “hippie who wasn’t remotely impressed by fashion labels.” And now she’s having the biggest renaissance of her life. “Me, a Luddite. Isn’t it ironic? There are young women who know me from social media.” She pauses to take in the wonder. “At my age that’s quite something — especially as some of them have never heard of Madonna”.
— The Daily Telegraph
• Rodin Olio Lusso is available at Mecca Cosmetica, visit meccacosmetica.co.nz