Farewell, My Friend
Saying Goodbye to The Aesthete's Style editor, Annabel Tollman
by Adrian Mainella photograph by Stefani Pappas
I first met Annabel in 2007 when I was the host of Fashion File, a fashion television program covering international runway shows and its myriad of power players. Always camera-ready, Annabel, who never shied away from the opportunity to add insight and luster to any atmosphere, was the one pundit I could count on to add brains and beauty to my segments. She was the stylist to the stars with a bona fide background in publishing—all essential ingredients for any strong style editor. A few years later, in 2010, I asked a mutual friend to put me in contact with Annabel to discuss a digital magazine project I was working on called The Aesthete. Over the course of the meeting that ensued, Annabel enthusiastically agreed to be the site’s style editor, which gave me the additional confidence I needed to move forward building The Aesthete.
Right from the start Annabel brought great energy to our publication, not to mention a roster of style mavens that helped to boost our profile considerably. Annabel’s monthly feature, In:Vestiary, featured shoe designers and fashion directors, jewelers and artistic muses from Michelle Harper to Charlotte Ronson, Dani Stahl to Tabitha Simmons. Annabel not only gave us an intimate look inside the closets of these stylish women, she also wrote about their individual sense of style in a way that ultimately told us why it mattered.
I wish there was video footage of what a creative meeting at The Aesthete with Annabel Tollman was like—it would lend great insight into just what made her so special. In our last meeting, two months back, Annabel arrived dressed like a modern version of Tippi Hedren in The Birds. With her sleek blonde hair drawn back into a loose updo, she wore a black mid-calf pencil skirt and a fur-collared charcoal grey blouson jacket that framed her delicate alabaster face, made complete by a vintage black Hermes Kelly bag that she could have taken from Tippi herself. Her unmistakable beauty and reprised old world glamour never felt vintage or costume like, but, rather, appeared as a perfect second skin.
Annabel would greet the room with a certain charm and personality that immediately put everyone at ease, only to then switch gears and direct our focus to the task at hand—she was never interested in wasting her time, or anyone else’s for that matter. As an editor, she loved being unconventional with both story ideas and profile subjects, which sometimes made for very amicable disagreements between us. If Annabel didn’t agree with you, she always managed to be simultaneously diplomatic and clear about her discontent. A puzzled look with those sharp blue eyes, and a well-phrased question in her sonorous English accent, and you knew exactly how she felt.
Annabel typically preferred to cover subjects she felt had a more legitimate sense of style, rather than the high profile names we in publishing often seek out. Perhaps she had her fill of celebrities when she was working strictly as a stylist—and who could blame her, since she knew better than anyone that a celebrity is only as put together as the packaging needed to sell a product. In the end, we always found common ground and when her stories were laid out, I often found myself thinking she was right.
During the time we worked together at The Aesthete, Annabel and I became good friends, and there were many times when I would happily await her arrival at one of the various fashionable events we attended. I always loved that moment when she walked into a room, and boy, did she know how to walk into a room. Annabel understood the importance of an entrance—she made a successful career out of creating them for others—but her own entrances were less a creation and more a legacy.
In 2012, when we hosted The Aesthete launch party with Joe Mimran at The Mark restaurant honoring former Vogue editor-in-chief, Grace Mirabella, the star-studded guest list included Isabella Rosselini, Patti Smith, Vera Wang, Brigitte Lacombe, Carlie Cushnie, Marjorie Gubelmann and many other industry newbies and veterans. It also included the artist and legendary tastemaker Gray Foy, who along with Annabel, was seated at my table. Even with the alluring crowd of young fashion faces, Annabel was content to focus her attention on Foy, an 89-year-old man with great tales of the city. On that evening, it became clear to me that Annabel and I shared a genuine interest in listening to the life stories of one great man over hearing the latest shoptalk being dispersed among the younger set, and it brought us closer.
Today, the day of her memorial service, I write this farewell to my friend and loyal colleague with a heavy heart, but with gratitude to Annabel for having impressed such wonderful memories on my life.
Body image courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency.