Tuleh’s sunny creative director loves getting dressed! Our Ms. Brooks! Socialite, supermom and new fashion pioneer
Amanda Brooks, 29, formerly the muse of the beloved society clothing line Tuleh, has schmoozed or oozed her way into the position of its creative director, without any formal fashion training. It’s a sweet three-day-per-week gig whose responsibilities include choosing fabrics, giving opinions on proposed designs and a lot of going out and- oops! -winding up in party pages. Ms. Brooks, a golden-haired, blue-eyed mother of two, maintains a sort of innocent “who, me?” attitude about the latter pastime. “I don’t think about being photographed when I go out,” she said the other day at Café Lebowitz. “It really never occurs to me.”
She was wearing a delicate black-and-white, hyacinth-patterned blouse made of the same fabric as the jacket’s lining-Tuleh, of course. When not wearing the house label, Ms. Brooks favors Chanel and Marc by Marc Jacobs. “It’s like the Gap for me,” she said.
“I love getting dressed,” she added. “As vain as that sounds.”
Ms. Brooks, née Cutter, was born in Palm Beach (her parents were introduced by legendary WASP designer Lilly Pulitzer, whose splashy prints she credits as a major style inspiration) and raised in Bronxville. She attended Horace Mann, Deerfield and then Brown, where she roomed with designer Carolina Herrera’s daughter Patricia, double-majoring in art history and the visual arts. Young Amanda was ostracized by the collegiate upper-crust after a freshman fling with fellow undergrad Alexandre von Furstenberg; he was dating future ex-wife Alexandra Miller at the time. Ms. Brooks refused to comment on l’affaire Alexandra to The Observer , but last year told W magazine (where her sister Kimberly is West Coast editor): “It’s taken me 10 years to be able to stand in the same room with those girls.”
She has gone slightly against the grosgrain of Manhattan society ever since. “I don’t feel like I’m part of any group,” Ms. Brooks said. “I maintain my individuality. I don’t feel like part of a set group that I’ll eternally be a part of, and I really enjoy that.”
After college, she worked briefly as an assistant at the Gagosian Gallery. “It’s shocking and humbling to be thrust into New York City at the bottom of the totem pole,” she said. Soon after Chanel bought the hair stylist Frédéric Fekkai’s company in 1995, Vogue writer Plum Sykes-whom she’d met while interning for the photographer Patrick Demarchelier as an undergrad-suggested Ms. Brooks for the job of reinventing the brand of accessories.
In 2000, she cracked Vogue’s list of “100 Women of Style.” Editor at large André Leon Talley dressed her in a huge black Tuleh ball gown. Ms. Brooks kept the dress, storing it on her couch, Holly Golightly style, when it didn’t fit in her closet. A few months later, Tuleh designers Bryan Bradley and Josh Patner called to retrieve it, and she started hanging out in their living room, helping them “edit” their shows, and wearing their clothes to parties. They stayed up all night to finish the dress for her wedding to artist Christopher Brooks in 2001. The clothing “really struck a chord,” she said. “They needed a cheerleader out there in the world wearing it and loving it and getting other people to wear it, and I loved doing it.”
When Mr. Patner and Mr. Bradley broke up (both romantically and professionally) last year, Mr. Bradley asked Ms. Brooks to step in as creative director. This caused some off-the-record grumbling among Tuleh loyalists, who include the Lauders, Anh Duong and Tamara Mellon of Jimmy Choo. A few voiced concern that a feminine eye would change the label (me- ow! ). Others groused when Ms. Brooks moved Tuleh’s base of operations from Mr. Bradley’s intimate uptown apartment to a larger studio downtown, near her apartment on the Lower East Side (hello, have you people ever heard of the F train?).
But Ms. Brooks kept her cool. “I still socialize on the Upper East Side, and I have friends uptown and I love going there, but I’m really grateful to live down here,” she said. “I guess that’s how I socialize-a little bit uptown and a little bit downtown.”
She was excited about the Neue Gallery benefit with the Lauders on the following night. “I have a great dress,” she said. “But the next night, I might be at a movie or home with the kids or eating here.” Inside her strappy red Chloé bag, a cell phone rang, and the new-millennial supermommy took a quick call about breast-feeding her newborn.
-Anna Jane Grossman