New York. New York. So good they named it twice. So fashionable that it’s the city that always hosts the first Fashion Week of the season. While London is heralded for its creativity, Paris for its classic brands and Milan for its glamour, it’s New York where the business of fashion really takes precedence. It’s where the likes of Marc Jacobs, Victoria Beckham and Diane von Furstenberg show off their hard work and where the big guns of the Fashion World such as Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington rub their immaculately-clad shoulders with the celebrities du jour on the Front Row. And so, to herald the start of the new season and the fact that New York Fashion Week is in mid-swing, we decided to delve a little deeper into the Big Apple’s style. Which is why we turned to Kimberly Bernhardt, an ex-pat Brit who has made both New York her home and the city’s super-groomed style her own. Kimberly who works in Public Relations and has a brilliantly curated Pinterest board (take a look and steal her style) lives in Brooklyn, works in Manhattan and after 10 years in the Big Apple knows all there is to know about how New Yorkers dress…You a an also follow Kimberly on twitter @BritMummyNYC
Why did you move to New York?
After five fantastic years in London, I was at a stage in my life where I was ready for the next adventure. I only anticipated living in New York for a couple of fun years but the moment I arrived, I knew that I would never leave. Ten years later, I have a husband and two daughters (6yrs and 2yrs) and couldn’t be happier.
Where do you live in the city?
I spent years living in Manhattan (Chelsea and the West Village) and then moved to Dumbo, Brooklyn (just over the Brooklyn Bridge), which we all love.
How would you describe New York style?
Chic. Structured. Polished. All black attire.
What differences have you noticed between the ways New Yorkers and British women dress?
British women are far more creative when it comes to celebrating their personal style. In London, women embrace being rebellious and are experimental when it comes to mixing prints, colours and accessories. In New York, women tend to be more elegant and more polished than their counterparts across the pond. Where London style is more pervasive (think a vintage plaid coat, skinny jeans, Converse and your grandmother’s broach), Manhattanites carefully pick tailored pieces and choose more muted tones (black, black and more black).
Does style change from neighbourhood to neighbourhood as it does in London?
Style does naturally change from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. There is a stark difference between the Upper East Side to downtown and then even to Brooklyn. Upper East Siders are known for their incredibly classic and elegant designer duds. I love nothing more than people watching on the Upper East Side. There’s something very charming about seeing elderly women lunching while dressed head to toe in Chanel and wearing big black sunglasses. I aspire to be them one day. The downtown ladies tend to be more trend driven whilst maintaining the New York look, which is more groomed overall. I love the hipsters in Williamsburg and Bushwick who are more disheveled (hello strategic holes in jeans and bushy beard), but it’s all part of a style that is no less polished or thoughtful.
Do you think that (in general) New Yorkers are led by trends or do they tend to have a distinct look?
New Yorkers will embrace trends from the pages of Vogue but apply them in a more classic, understated way, which is distinct to New York. Londoners tend to shop the high street every season and aren’t afraid to wear all of the latest trends. Sometimes even all at once. I can always spot a Londoner in New York before they even open their mouths.
Has your style changed since living in NY?
Absolutely. My style has evolved tremendously over the past decade, which is part maturing from my twenties to my thirties but living in New York has played a tremendous influence too.
What do you think is lacking when it comes to style/fashion in NY?
When I return to London, I am always astounded by the risk-taking when it comes to fashion. While I personally love the New York look, it would behoove us all to take the odd chance from time to time. To be honest, wearing bright colors would be a good start for me personally.
Is there more pressure to look good in NY than in London?
I feel there is more pressure in New York. Women here get dressed up for dinner on a weeknight, which I personally enjoy or even to go to the cinema with friends.
What would you wear on a typical night out?
A black dress, spiky heels and a clutch. My husband laughs because I have a hundred different takes on the LBD and just as many on the heels but I can’t stop buying them. They’re an obsession.
What would you wear on a relaxed Saturday?
In the winter I will wear a pair of black skinnies during the day with a shirt and cashmere wrap. In the summer, I love donning comfortable maxi dresses. I have two young daughters and so I can’t necessarily be running around in a pair of Louboutin heels although many mothers do.
Have you discovered any amazing local brands/labels/boutiques since living there?
More and more, smaller designers are emerging, which I love. Many of the smaller boutiques are based in Nolita or Brooklyn. Williamsburg has some amazing stores with up and coming designers and I just so happen to live opposite the best curated boutique in New York, Zoe. Even the New York Times has raved.
Where do NY women go for basics?
I tend to pop to Zoe because they sell Alexander Wang t-shirts and a selection of great jeans. Most of my friends head either to Barneys or JCrew for the basics.
Where’s your favourite shopping area in NY and why?
I love different areas. Bergdorfs and Barneys on the Upper East Side are two giant slices of heaven but I also enjoy trawling through the boutiques in Soho and Nolita. As a mum of two, I have to be quick and know exactly where I am headed and what for. I shop very quickly.
Are there any great mid-market/high street brands in NY?
J. Crew and Club Monaco are the best mid-market high street brands. Both stores have had a great resurgence over the last few years and have some lovely, lovely things. J. Crew also has a fantastic children’s collection.
Health & Beauty
Do New Yorkers place more or less emphasis on beauty than British women?
New Yorkers place a huge emphasis on their beauty routines. Every woman I know (me included) has regular manicures, pedicures, brow waxes, and even blowouts. I had never had a manicure before moving to New York a decade ago. Even my two girls’ get regular manicures, which to be honest is my way as a working mother to spend time with them while getting an essential polish. Truly, it is amazing how groomed everyone is from the top of their head (no roots here) to the bottom of their manicured toes. New York girls even shave above their knees!
I tend to have more massages than facials but most of my friends have multiple facials a year. Massages are a way for me to relax and escape technology, as well as kneed out the knots I get from the stress of trying to juggle it all. I recently had a superb massage at the Turkish Baths in Tribeca.
As a rule do New Yorkers wear more or less make-up than British women?
Women tend to wear a more natural look in New York and less make-up overall.
How about surgery? Is it fairly common?
Not many of my girlfriends have had light surgey (unless they are hiding it!) but botox is very popular amongst my gay guy friends. Strangely, a dermatologist I was speaking to recently asked when she’d last given me botox. I’ve never had botox and had never considered until that moment.
What is the general attitude to the body? Is it important to be in shape?
New Yorkers are fitness fanatics and are always surprised that I don’t work out more often, which can be quite stressful because I have neither the time nor inclination to be in the gym all of the time. I would argue that New Yorkers are in far better shape than their British counterparts (sadly, I cannot say the same for me) but definitely work hard to maintain their perfect size 2 physiques.
Are there any big fitness trends in New York at the moment?
Women here are obsessed with Soul Cycle (high-intensity spinning classes),which started in NYC and is starting to take the nation by storm. Barre (with exercises centred around a ballet barre) is also popular among my friends, as is The Class (a mind/body workout with cardio, breath work and strength training), which is also a big New York celebrity favourite.
What is the New York attitude to eating?
Let’s put it this way, you wouldn’t catch New Yorkers digging into the bread basket at a restaurant or sneaking in a few fries post drinks. There’s a big restaurant culture and New Yorkers tend to dine out almost every night but take great care to eat healthily. Fortunately, they aren’t as strict with their martini intake!
IMAGES: Vogue/Jerry Schatzberg