We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."
If based only on the fact that five of them have now been subjects of this column, it seems fair to say the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" are, collectively, the best-dressed ladies in Bravo's longstanding franchise. It's as if there's an unspoken rule that if you can't keep up with the OG cast members' designer labels and meticulous glam, you might, well, get called a "ragamuffin" or have your "ugly leather pants" decried on national television.
The latter remark was infamously delivered last season to newcomer Crystal Kung Minkoff by a riled-up Sutton Stracke. (The full line: "Jealous of what? Your ugly leather pants?") It was only Stracke's second season on the show, but the Georgia-bred socialite and business owner quickly established herself as a fashion force to be reckoned with. Not only is she the only cast member to regularly wear couture, but she also owns her own namesake boutique.
"I just buy a bunch of stuff and hope that I'm returning for the next season, because you never know," she demurs. (It makes you wonder: Are cast members axed for simply failing to bring their sartorial A-game?)
"When I moved to California, I had this idea of opening a store, just because of my travels, incorporating clothes and jewelry and furniture and all that," she tells me inside the jewel box of a West Hollywood storefront. Just a week before the premiere of the twelfth season of "RHOBH," Stracke was hosting an event to celebrate her first in-house collection, a range of luxurious (like, over-$800-for-one-piece luxurious — though she says she's working to get the price down) organic cashmere loungewear sourced from Italy and handmade in Los Angeles with sustainability in mind. Guests included co-stars Garcelle Beauvais and even Minkoff, suggesting that the leather-pants insult had been forgiven. Though, I wouldn't exactly say Stracke regrets it, since she tells me she's planning to capitalize on the viral missive.
"No, I love it," she says when I ask if she's sick of people bringing it up, "because, actually, it inspired me to carry leather in my store, and I'm gonna start carrying my own leather line. Joe from Joe's Jeans was the one who told me to do it." *Insert joke about making leather pants out of lemons here.*
Below, Stracke discusses her own personal style evolution — from a childhood obsession with nightgowns to a surprising Dead Head moment to learning to "relax" in Beverly Hills. She also confirms Kyle Richards isn't the only cast member with an Hermès bag addiction, and how all of the ladies came out of the pandemic with a different approach to style.
"My grandmother made my clothes [growing up], so I didn't shop a lot for clothes, but — and this is gonna sound a little wacky — I remember going to a store called Just Kids on Saturdays, and I loved shopping for pajamas. I loved nightgowns. What's funny is we're now in development of my own pajama line. Pajamas have always been my thing. I have a lot of pajamas and a lot of robes. I always loved dresses, too. I'm a dress girl.
"I was a ballet dancer. You're always in costumes and you're always in and out of costume fittings, so I just loved that, for some reason. You hated it, but you loved it. I just loved the detailing of all the ballet costumes. whether it was full length or a tutu.
"I was a child of the '80s, so we cut up our clothes and messed 'em up as much as we could. I was in college in the '90s, so grunge — I was kind of a little Dead Head hippie, so I didn't care. I just wore T-shirts and whatever. Then I moved to New York, and that changed my style profusely, because I had to be an adult. And then I got married and moved to London. I loved London because I liked to go to the consignment stores and just pick away. Then I moved to California, and California has its own thing. I learned a lot in California about relaxing: mentally, psychologically emotionally, and how I dress. Somehow it all mixed in together.
"My style...I'd say it's redefining elegance. You can still be put-together but have fun and be modern, and never let people tell you what you can and can't wear, and let your personality come through. I do think there are some things that shouldn't be seen on television. I've learned [shooting 'Real Housewives'] that some things are a bit much, but I still wear whatever I want to. I don't care.
"I took away a bedroom [in my new house] to make it part of my closet. I collect clothes. I don't throw them or give them away. I buy things for keeps. I'm very loyal. I'm a loyal person, to friendships and to clothes.
"Now that I have my cashmere line, I'm sleeping in my cashmere. Alexis Mabille is one of my good friends, so I have a lot of his clothes in my closet. The leather we have in the store by Sprwmn is amazing, it's so beautiful.
"I love to go to New York to shop. I love to go to Paris to shop — I'll be there this summer. I really like to find weird brands you've never heard of. If you walk in cities with smaller boutiques, like my store, where you've never heard of these brands, I think that's the coolest.
"I mean, who doesn't love an Hermès bag? Whenever I go to Paris, I always buy one. [Hermès head of external relations] Michael Coste's a good friend of mine. Maybe I'm going for Michael Coste, maybe I'm going for the bag — I don't know. It's always a memory attached to that bag because I'm attached to Michael. I don't know if it's the bag or the memory.
"I've been collecting these Suzanne Wilson [diamond] bracelets I keep in the store — there's a new one over there, and I'm like, 'No, don't even look.' But as a collector, I like to collect art, and that's about it. The art in the store is all from Paris; my daughter and I went. We shop when we're together, and she's awful. She's finicky. I don't let her borrow [clothes]; she steals them. But Porter doesn't care about labels and things like that. She really loves LoveShackFancy.
"I feel like the pandemic changed us all. Erika, her style changed completely — it's way more subtle. I gotta tell you, Garcelle looks good. My girl is looking good. We're the best-dressed [cast], for sure. We don't have to live up to it, we just get dressed. It's just what we do."