Nipped at the Waist

I have an image of Jane Keltner de Valle, one that’s been reliable and infallible since I first met her 12 years ago. She’s graceful, composed and socially intelligent. Her laugh sounds like a pleasant hum, her eyes are always soft and her posture is a rare version of perfection. To any outsider Jane could be pegged as nobility, a virtuous, well-educated girl, born and raised in New York to Catholic parents, whose dresses are irrevocably pristine and elegant. She doesn’t get loud; she’s sensible. And then came twitter. And Teen Vogue. And marriage. And her first pair of vintage Versace jeans.

“My closet was probably 90% black before I started at Teen Vogue,” she looks back with slight resentment. “I have definitely started wearing more color and print since then.” Jane became Senior Fashion News Director almost eight years ago and describes the magazine’s and consequently her own acquired mission as one that “celebrates personal style and expression. It’s not about a head-to-toe runway looks. The freedom to have fun with fashion and experiment, mix high and lo, vintage and new, diy, etc is what we love at Teen Vogue.” But she admits some of her old habits persist. “I went to an all-girls uniform school for 8 years, so I think there’s an element of preppy, collegiate style ingrained in me. But with a more fashion edge now.”

When I started following Jane on twitter, I noticed her personality had adopted yet another unexpected dimension. She’s not known to use exclamation marks much at the office but when it comes to social media, she’s not afraid to get boisterous. “I can’t imagine not being on twitter!” she says resolute. “If you aren’t on it, you aren’t part of the conversation. There are so many crazy things I see and do every day that don’t have a place in the magazine, so I love having a platform to share them.” To the question how she filters, she warns the twitter novice that “once you put something out there, it’s out there for everyone to see. Think before you tweet/instagram/post anything online! You have to ask yourself if this is something you are comfortable with anyone seeing— your boss, your mom, Anna Wintour, whoever it may be.”

Jane moved into her downtown 5th Avenue 1-bedroom apartment in the summer of 2008. She designed the interior together with her husband, architect Giancarlo Valle, “and by together I mean Giancarlo designed it and I bossed him around!” she laughs. “Our previous apartment was a split-level loft with floor-to-ceiling windows, so this couldn’t be more different. I love the character of a pre-war apartment—especially when you are married to an architect who can bring it up to date!” But that’s not all he managed to convert. “My husband has turned me into a Chicago Bulls fanatic. I have a Derrick Rose jersey that I wear for every game. He gave it to me for Valentine’s Day last year with a card that said “to the #1 in my life”. When I first saw the card before I opened the jersey, I thought, ‘how cliché!’ But then when I saw the Jersey with Rose and his number (1) on the back, it all made sense!”

My stubborn image of Jane Keltner de Valle continues to crumble as our interview goes on. I’m not surprised to learn that she loved Bonpoint and Laura Ashley as a little girl. ‘The poufier the sleeves, the better! My parents made me take ballroom dancing classes when I was 11, and the only reason I put up with it was because I loved getting dressed up for them.” But that all changed a year or two later when she discovered hip hop. “I lived in baggy jeans, shrunken polos from Ralph Lauren children’s department, gold door knocker earrings, and Air Jordans. I was completely fascinated by that world. I still am—I just don’t dress like I live in a hip hop video any more! It’s also changed; hip hop culture is a lot more mainstream now. I recently finished the book Decoded by Jay Z, which tells the story of the history of hip hop through his eyes and his personal experiences. It’s a fascinating read and reminds me of why I was drawn to that world in the first place. People like Dr. Dre, Biggie Smalls, Tribe Called Quest, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, and Jay Z also inspire me as a writer. They are brilliant wordsmiths.”

Finally Jane tells me she never wears pants. Which is totally in line with her signature silhouette: “a nipped waist skirt”, but completely out-of-character with the instagram I receive a few days later. It’s a picture of the crotch of a gold and black herringbone pair of 80s Versace jeans she found at Out of the Closet, the vintage store I recommended her to go in the Hamptons. “I had to try them on! They were so good. A total throwback to the Claudia, Cindy, Naomi days. They were lined with satin pantalons with lace trim. And they were only $180. Someone has to buy them!” And so the evolution of Jane Keltner de Valle marks a new beginning. One that involves covered legs and basketball jerseys. What’s next? I don’t know. Surprise us Jane!



July 12, 2012

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