Something special today, dear readers….I’m profiling an extremely fascinating and unique fashion/lifestyle personality, David Nash! David is a rare bird due to the fact he wears many hats, writer, researcher, bon vivant, and for this post, MAJOR collector of James Galanos exquisite garments! And, for your information, I have not met David nor did I know about his clothing collection, which includes other designers as well, until I got the invitation to the May 4th Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum event….I was intrigued and knew he would be perfect to answer my nenasnotes Questionnaire…I wasn’t wrong! I’m sure I’ve mentioned my time with James Galanos when he appeared with his beyond magical garments at trunk shows at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, if not I’ll do a post later. Jimmy was closer to Haute Couture than any other American designer….a true genius in creativity!
The following is David’s biography followed by the Questionnaire….I know you are going to enjoy it…so make yourself comfortable…..sit back pour yourself a glass of champagne or David’s drink of choice, iced Belvedere vodka…it is Friday afternoon after all….
“David Nash is a California-based journalist, brand writer and a regular contributor for Architectural Digest, C, ELLE Décor, Town & Countryand House Beautiful. He was a founding regional editor at DuJour, and his words have appeared in publications such as Veranda, Marie Claire,Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book, Cabana, TATLER and The London Telegraph. A collector of contemporary and vintage fashion and accessories, he has lent or donated pieces to institutions including The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, Drexel University’s Fox Historic Costume Collection, Phoenix Art Museum, the FIDM Museum, and The Museum at FIT.”
“His archive of works by James Galanos—likely the largest private collection outside the personal wardrobe of philanthropist Iris Cantor—includes examples spanning five decades, from 1951 to 1998 when the designer closed his atelier. Nash’s decade-long friendship with Galanos was the impetus for starting the collection in an effort to help preservethe legacy of “America’s Couturier”. Seminal pieces from the archive were included in Phoenix Art Museum’s A Tribute to James Galanos in 2017, and James Galanos: Design Integrity the following year at Drexel’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery.”
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB
If you’re talking my very first job right out of high school, it was as an Alley Coordinator at a Red Lobster—a front-of-the-house position that required pulling the live lobsters out of the lobby tank for the kitchen, dressing the plates, and bringing the foodout if a server was busy at another table. But, professionally, it was as the Vault Manager for LMNO Productions, a television production company in L.A. responsible for, among other reality-based shows, Cosby’s Kid’s Say the Darndest Things, Guinness World Records Primetime, and Behind Closed Doors with Joan Lunden. I oversaw all the footage library for the company. Definitely a humble beginning for someone who ended up working as one of Robert Evans’ last film development assistants at Paramount Pictures.
BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR MOST RECENT OCCUPATION
I’m a freelance contributing writer and editor for a variety of publications including Architectural Digest, ELLE Décor, Town & Country, and C Magazine, among others. And, more regularly, I work full-time as a brand writer for startups, helping to develop tones of voice, brand guidelines, and streamline communications.
WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT
As a writer—in 1986. When I was 11 years old, I went with my parents to see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and when we got home, I wrote out a [very] rudimentary version of the entire script by hand on folded sheets of typing paper and bound it like a book. I’ve always been fascinated with the art of storytelling.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN
To be honest, I’ve ‘made it’ and either given it up—or lost it—a few times. When I worked in entertainment in L.A., I ascended fairly quickly from production roles on television shows for Warner Bros. and Paramount to end up working for the infamous producer and former studio head, Bob Evans. That was major. After a little over a year with Bob, I left the industry and moved to San Francisco for something new. More recently, over the last seven years, I’ve experienced the ups and downs associated with the startup world—not every great idea succeeds, and layoffs happen. I’ve definitely lived a few lives and signed as many NDAs.
HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW
I’m a natural born researcher. I love digging into a subject and learning as much as possible. Often it leads down a series of rabbit holes that can produce so many other great ideas for [in my case] potential stories. For example, a French haute couture dress in my collection led me to write about a fascinating period in the life of Nicole Alphand, the wife of the French ambassador to the Unites States during the Kennedy administration. I contributed an excerpt of that longer tale for the recent March issue of Town & Country.
WHEN DID YOU START COLLECTING JAMES GALANOS GARMENTS….DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE(S) PIECE (CAN YOU SHARE A PHOTO OF IT)
My collecting began the year after I met Jimmy, I think, probably around 2007. The first piece I bought was a black coatdress from the mid-70s. I think I paid $50 for it at an auction. It’s not very remarkable, but I had to start somewhere.Jimmy was always forward thinking, and I never let him know I was collecting his work—he would have told me to spend my money on other things. Now I’ve amassed what is likely the largest collection of Galanos outside of a museum or Iris Cantor’s personal wardrobe.
There are favorites, of course. But I have an affinity for a particular evening dress from his spring/summer 1963 collection. It was featured full page—shot by Hiro—in Harper’s Bazaar that April with the following description: “Lightning strikes crepe. The column of crepe—cocoa brown asymmetrically printed with lightning streaks of pale beige and black—completely covering, supple, clinging. The long, slim sleeves, the narrowness of the whole covering, the most contemporary look possible.” Nobody writes descriptions like that anymore. It was also shot by Milton Green for the March 1, 1963 issue of LIFE, and by Melvin Sokolsky for another series of images for Bazaar. What’s described earlier as ‘lightning strikes’ was actually an homage to one of Jimmy’s favorite artists, Lucio Fontana. My dress, acquired from the estate of Edie Adams, was displayed at a Galanos tribute exhibition at Phoenix Art Museum in 2017. The only other version I know of is in the collection of The Met.
DO YOU PLAN TO WRITE A MONOGRAPH ON THIS UNIQUE CREATOR (WE NEED IT!)
From your mouth to God’s ear. I’ve been talking to some folks…
WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE
I often think about getting back into entertainment—television and film production or development. It was really my first love, but I couldn’t sit still that long back in my 20s. I needed to experience more, so when I mastered something, I moved on. Now I know what my passions, talents, and natural gifts are, so it’s about translating those things into whatever I do [next].
YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, LIST THE FOLLOWING, IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE…THEATER, BALLET, OPERA, SYMPHONY…TYPE OF MUSIC DO YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO…FAVORITE RESTAURANT:
Favorite book: usually the one I just read—in this case Just Passing Through: A Seven-Decade Roman Holiday: The Diaries and Photographs of Milton Gendel; favorite movie: it’s a toss-up between CLUE, Dangerous Liaisons, Gosford Park, and Rear Window; favorite Broadway show: Sunset Boulevard; favorite opera: Puccini’s Madam Butterfly; least favorite opera: Nixon in China; favorite restaurants: Cotogna, Spruce, or Zuni Café (San Francisco), Racines (Paris), La Goulue, Balthazar, or Cipriani uptown (New York); favorite music: I’m all over the map, from classic and modern rock to showtunes—did I mention I worked with Michael Feinstein for a year?
My hobbies bleed into my work. I’m always on the hunt for great vintage fashion and couture to add to my collection—whether it’s a Galanos that’s illuded me or a piece by another designer; at some point the whole of my archives will be donated to various institutions. The hunt is so much fun! I really love to travel—particularly through Europe—and usually tie a story into a trip. I love to write in general, so often I’m just translating ideas into outlines for future articles. We—my partner, Doug, and I—also have an affinity for art and vintage cars.
YOUR HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC…
We have a 1931 Tudor in the East Bay, across the bridge from San Francisco, and it’s filled with a mix of antique, contemporary, and modern pieces. The walls are covered with favorite artworks, from a surrealist oil on canvas by Italian artist Tomea Fiorenzo that was exhibited at the 1942 Venice Biennale and a largescale painting of finches by pop-artist Hunt Slonemto photographs by Slim Aarons and contemporary visual artist Danielle Mourning—and everything in between. But the pièce de resistance is the backyard, where we can spend hours and hours.
WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER (LIVING OR DEAD AND BE SURE TO INCLUDE YOURSELF!) AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE (10-12 GUESTS):
When you’ve actually been at a dinner like this—with all living guests [at the time]—that included Jane Fonda, David Hockney, Nolan Miller, Michael Feinstein, Fayard Nicholas, Doris Raymond, and Angie Dickinson, it’s hard to consider a ‘fantasy’gathering. Talk about a mixed bag! But here you go, in no particular order: Nicole Alphand, Meryl Streep, Little Edie Beale, James Galanos (of course), Truman Capote, Lynn Wyatt, Montgomery Clift, artist Mark Bradford, Stevie Nicks, and The Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Right now, I’m craving coastal Italian…so the menu would definitely include seafood and pasta.
FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON YOUR GO TO LIST
I love Corsica—Bonifacio in particular, and the all-suite hotel Cala di Greco. It’s all about relaxing and the seafood, and the incredible rosé produced there. Traveling through France in general—from Paris to Provence to the Côte d’Azur (Nice and Cannes mostly). Salers in the Cantal area is also incredible and the cheeses are amazing; we have friends who have a farmhouse there. Mexico City is also on the list—the food is incredible (as are the mezcals). We were recently in Malta for a wedding and that was a pretty spectacular place to spend a few days. Okay, one more…St. Petersburg, Russia, is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. Looking out on the Bay of Finland from Peterhof Palace—just magical. The water is a color of blue like you’ve never seen. I was there with Jimmy in 2007.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING MOST IN YOUR FREE TIME
As the New York Times bestselling author Austin Kleon said, “Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing.” My mind is always working, so sitting in the backyard feeding the squirrels or watching an old movie fort the 100th time sounds like heaven. But those distraction only lasts so long.
FAVORITE WORK OF PUBLIC ART:
If we can consider architecture a form of public art, then I’d have to say the world is filled with immense beauty right in plain sight. I can stroll the streets of New Orleans or sit outside a café in Paris and look at buildings for hours. Have you ever really looked at the details of a Pre-war apartment building in New York? They’re gloriously strong and everlasting.
A FAVORITE RECIPE
Take 2.5 ounces of Belvedere vodka and shake it with ice—in a vintage silver cocktail shaker—until your arm hurts. Strain the vodka into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon twist. Drink and repeat.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED
The things I’ve written will live forever in one form or another—thanks to the internet—and there are articles that I’m really proud of and hope are read and referenced long after I’m gone. But, in the end, it’s all about the good you’ve done and how you treated people. I think there’s an episode of Designing Women in which Dixie Carter’s character, Julia, says as much in a speech to Delta Burke’s character, Suzanne.
David, a million thanks for sharing so much of your life with us. You are a unique combination of researcher, writer and collector. To hear more about David’s Galanos collection be sure to get your ticket to the May 4th Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum event when he will be in conversation with Steven Stolman. For further information or to purchase tickets, please visit chicagohistory.org/galanos or contact Nell McKeown, development events manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-799-2112.
All photos from David Nash’s collections unless otherwise noted.