The Aesthete

Charlotte's Web

Downtown style icon Charlotte Ronson proves that you're never underdressed when sporting a sense of whimsy

by Annabel Tollman Photographer Grant Thomas

The first thing that strikes you upon meeting Charlotte Ronson is that she’s very cool. Not in an annoying way, but in a genuine, seeping-from-the-pores kind of manner. The second thing is that she is very understated. Not stylistically, per se, but in a quiet, almost shy, way; a refreshing antithesis of the current reality TV-inspired all-about-me hyperbole. The third thing you notice is that you unfailingly want whatever she is wearing.

Charlotte Julia Ronson is one of the quite famous, ridiculously talented and uber-successful Ronson progeny. Mark Ronson, her elder brother, and Samantha, her twin sister, are musicians and DJs. Dad is real estate developer Laurence Ronson, step-dad is Foreigner’s Mick Ronson and her mum is lady-about-town and jewelry designer Ann Dexter-Jones. Being born of fabulous parents has its advantages, of course, but the Ronson offspring have made their own marks on the world in their various fields, something they were always encouraged to do.

“We were always pushed to find something that we loved to do. If we were grounded or in trouble we would have to find something cultural to do instead, like going to the MET or taking life drawing classes at the Art Students League, and we’d do that for seven weekends straight,” she says. “Once we were there, of course, we actually enjoyed it, and we always made the choice about what we were doing. And we were always in trouble.”

I always design with friends and family in mind. I’m always thinking, 'Would Samantha wear any of this?'

“It’s so important having your own identity because you’re dressed identically for so long. You don’t even have a name, you’re just called ‘The Twins.’ It’s hard to have your own sense of style when all your friends go to the same stores, and everyone dresses the same. When I was growing up, I would go and visit my dad in London. I would get to go to Ken[sington] Market where I discovered vintage.” Although the two have very different styles, Samantha is her ultimate muse. “I always design with friends and family in mind. I’m always thinking, “Would Samantha wear any of this?” Their mother was, as Charlotte puts it,  “A real clothes horse. She would show up at parent-teacher meetings late, wearing a leather skirt and getting dirty looks from the other parents or for sure the other mothers. We were proud of having a stylish, hot mother.”

Charlotte’s official start in fashion was a seamless morphing of hobby to career. “I always loved clothes and drawing and was always picking out clothes for my mother and myself. As I was graduating college – an art major at NYU –  I started customizing clothes without really knowing what I was doing and making them my own, mostly working with different vintage t-shirts. I started interning at Harper’s Bazaar.”

Charlotte’s line started as C. Ronson 2000. Then she opened a boutique in NoLiTa in 2002 and in 2005 the line became Charlotte Ronson. She also currently has Charlotte Ronson Beauty with Sephora (her lipsticks and eye shadow palettes have names like Dani, Minnie, Annabelle and Henrietta after Charlotte’s friends and sisters), a handbag line and I (Heart) Ronson with JC Penney. “This business is so challenging. It’s hard to start a line as one concept and then become another and evolve. When I started, my line was all flip-flops and tank tops. Now I get to push the Charlotte Ronson label a little more.” And that personal, wearable approach to fashion hasn’t changed.  “I’m not very high-fashion. My line is very me, it’s very wearable pieces. Obviously I like high fashion, too, but that’s more like playing dress-up.”

"This business is so challenging. It’s hard to start a line as one concept and then become another and evolve."

Despite Charlotte’s protestations of not being high fashion, she has an enviable style. We go into her closet to pick the next look for the shoot and in amongst a plethora of white lace, crochet, dizzy florals, denim, military, lots of really good shoes and several tiny Celine bags are the Maison Michel lace bunny ears. The earrings we pick are Delfina Delettrez with pearls and red lips and Charlotte wears a red enamel Solange Azagury-Partridge lips ring on her pointer finger. It’s girly and campy and fun. “I’m not very practical. I don’t have nude shoes. I don’t have the proper basics to go to dressy events.”

And therein lies the beauty of Charlotte’s style; it’s far more fun to have the wacky bunny ears than the little black dress and to wear it all with a healthy dose of casual. Charlotte always finds a way of making it all look informal and spontaneous, listing her favorite piece of clothing as a hoodie. “I have to stop buying T-shirts. I have three drawers full of vintage ones. I tend to like things that even if they are new, they feel like they have been worn-in forever. They have been worn-in with love.”

And if I’ve gleaned one thing from spending the afternoon in Charlotte’s closet, it’s the recipe: Take one pair of bunny ears, add some lips jewelry, some non-basic footwear, a hoodie and one crucial piece of advice: “I guess I’d rather be underdressed than overdressed. I like to feel like me or else I’m totally uncomfortable all night.”