Irene and Marina Albright, the mother-and-daughter team behind New York’s Albright Fashion Library, bring their archives and one-stop-styling shop to California.
An open secret among stylists, costume designers and the sartorially savvy since its inception in 1990, New York’s Albright Fashion Library (AFL) makes even Vogue’s mystical fashion closet pale in comparison. In a nondescript building in Manhattan’s NoHo district is a treasure trove of over 30,000 gowns, dresses, blouses, skirts, jackets, shoes, bags and pieces of jewelry culled from the collections of more than 100 designers, from Givenchy to Alexander McQueen—each hand-selected by owner and former stylist Irene Albright and her daughter, fashion editor-at-large and buyer Marina, who previously honed her eye as a fashion assistant at Glamour.
Now the duo have expanded their archives—the most comprehensive of its kind in the world—to a West Coast flagship in Beverly Hills that has already lured the likes of stylists Isabel Dupré and Elizabeth Stewart, on the hunt for respective megawatt clients Kim Kardashian and Jessica Chastain. Packed with more than 10,000 finds, the new outpost features offerings available for rent by appointment only and sourced from the archives in New York as well as newly acquired pieces from Paris.
“The L.A. scene is more about cocktail dresses than gowns,” observes Marina. “So we’ve been buying differently here: more sequins and short fringed dresses—girls are really into rock ’n’ roll.” We caught up with Irene, who, with her daughter, is now officially bicoastal: “I’ll be in L.A. in October and November,” she says. “I’m a snowbird.”
Why did you decide to hop on the Los Angeles fashion bandwagon and open an outpost here?
Irene Albright: The fashion game in L.A. is amping up—between Saint Laurent’s studio, Tom Ford’s show and Louis Vuitton’s Palm Springs [Resort presentation]—we think we have a place here. In New York, we work with many stylists based on the West Coast, like Karla Welch and Erin Walsh. Some used to fly to New York to pull clothes from us. They were the ones begging us to come.
What appealed about your new space?
IA: We found this beautiful midcentury Slim Aarons-style, six-bedroom house just off Sunset Boulevard—very ’70s sexy. It’s our showroom, but also a set for any editorial or advertising photo shoots in need of a full glamorous wardrobe, styling or consulting. It is open by appointment to fashion insiders, or to any woman eager to project a [specific] look.
Besides the obvious, what makes your service stand out?
IA: In New York, we have the last five years’ worth of collections of Azzedine Alaïa, Saint Laurent, Lanvin, Alexander McQueen, Mugler, Tom Ford, Balmain and Calvin Klein. We only buy statement pieces or great classics, nothing “commercial”—meaning boring—or über-trendy. We have a digital database of our entire New York collection, including new arrivals, that allows us to ship any piece overnight, if our 10,000-piece collection in L.A. is not sufficient.
Why is it called a library?
IA: Because we created our own Dewey Decimal System. Everything is organized and categorized with care and detail to enable editors to find their selections with ease.
The AFL has a rich history with costume design in movies and TV. Can you recount a few highlights?
IA: Patricia Field relied on the AFL from the first to the last episode of “Sex and the City,” and we also provided many of the costumes in Zoolander and The Devil Wears Prada: When Anne Hathaway gets out of the taxi for her first ball as an official fashion insider, she’s wearing a black Galliano dress pulled from us. More recently in the first season of “House of Cards,” Robin Wright wore a dramatic silver Victoria Beckham dress from AFL—we let the costume designer [Tom Broecker] take it in to fit her.
What do you buy that others don’t?
IA: A lot of runway pieces that the stores are afraid of.
608 N. Alpine Dr., B.H., 424-274-3510; albrightnyc.com.
By Carole Sabas.
Photographed by Jessica Sample.
Hair and Makeup: BeGlammed.