In addition to its shop-in-shops, Elie Tahari has six freestanding boutiques along the East Coast and one in Las Vegas—all designed by Piero Lissoni—and leases popping up throughout Europe and Asia. In 2006 the company branched out into accessories with luxury shoe and bag collections, launched a full men’s wear line and debuted its first advertising campaign (currently shot by Terry Richardson). This past summer the Taharis cut themselves a piece of the art-fashion pie when Kenny Scharf, whom they met on one of their trips to Art Basel in Miami (Rory is a collector), created a print for caftans, pareos and surfboards. Fall marks Elie Tahari’s entrée into the increasingly important costume jewelry category.
It’s a lot of change for a company that has been around for 30 years, and Tahari is quick to point to the source. “They say that a kick in the butt is good when you’re facing the right direction,” he says. “[Rory] is the one that gave me the kick.” And she’s not quiet about her ambitions. “Obviously I want to be in all categories,” she says. “The other week I was thinking about how intimate apparel and lingerie are just such a natural evolution for us. But it’s not a single person or a single idea. I can have that idea, but most important is what’s right for the company at that moment.”
While Rory has done her part to raise the label’s hip quotient in terms of advertising, art and accessories, she champions her husband’s aesthetic instincts as the driving force behind the company’s success. In fact, it compels her to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes: “‘Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea or sensation, never regains its former dimensions.’ If you wanted to sum him up in one sentence or less, that’s Elie,” she says. “He knows how to really expand somebody’s mind.”
The example she cites: the skylight in the firm’s year-old East Hampton store. “People go to the Hamptons to be outside,” she notes. “Therefore, when someone comes into the store, they should be surrounded by natural light. Otherwise, why would they want to be shopping?”
And with that, everything is illuminated; after all, Elie Tahari knows how to sell clothes.