If you have yet to check out Derek Blasberg’s widely adored how-to tome, Classy, bust out your reading glasses—you know, the cat-eye shaped ones that are just for looks—because he has just released an extended version, Very Classy. Needless to say, it is classier than ever! To commemorate the launch of Blasberg’s updated manual, we had the privilege of sitting down with the etiquette coach ourselves for an exclusive interview. Enjoy and stay classy!
TZ: As big fans of your first book, Classy, we can’t wait to get our hands on the sequel! What can readers expect from Very Classy?
DB: It’s funny: When I wrote Classy, I thought I had all my bases covered and it was everything a girl needed to know to be a lady in a trampy world. But, as my friends and colleagues and random people I met in the past year and a half who had read the first Classy pointed out, a lady is always learning! So this book has a lot of the same information as Classy, but nearly 100 entirely new pages, two brand new chapters (on interior decorating and general health), and everything has been revamped and updated, complete with new pictures and new illustrations. Most of all, what I loved about doing this second book was getting back into that head space of a dispenser of good advice. Apparently I like to tell people what to do! Ha!
TZ: What inspired you to write two books about defining chic behavior?
DB: To be completely honest, these books sort of found me. I never thought I was in a place to be an authority on appropriate behavior (c’mon, we’ve all had our trampy moments!), but I guess one needs to see both sides of the argument to know what they’re talking about! A few years ago, I worked for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen on their book, Influence, and I was continually impressed with how smart, hardworking and diligent those girls are, and they introduced me to a publisher. I looked around me, and at all these women in my life who are serious, successful and intelligent. So I said, Why is there not a modern book aimed at the girls who look up to them? Don’t get me wrong: I love Snooki as much as the next guy. But when I think of how a young woman should act and hold herself, I think there are quite a few things a girl can learn, and that’s what I try to present in a comedic format in my book.
TZ: Who in your opinion defines the epitome of “class” — did you have a certain person in mind while penning your books?
DB: I’ve been asked this question a few times, and I’m actually relieved to say there are lots of Very Classy women in the world—they’re not just always on the cover of a tabloid. The first person I think of is Emma Watson, who is sweet, smart, considerate and always dresses stylishly and—just as important—age appropriate. But the list goes on: I adore Karlie Kloss, who is a model from the same small town in St. Louis as I am, who started modeling at 15 and quickly became the face of a bunch of high fashion brands yet retained her Midwest charm and elegance. I’ve always admired how chic Danielle Steele is, and her three daughters—Samantha, Victoria and Vanessa—have inherited her elegance. (For a few more girls, check out this video I did for Harper’s Bazaar when I cast Very Classy girls in their Fabulous at Every Age portfolio).
TZ: Can a lady who is already sophisticated benefit from reading Classy and Very Classy?
DB: Of course she can! I always think, “Even if you’ve already eaten dinner you should still look at a menu.” Ha! And I must say that some of my friends, who I consider to be Classy, are always coming back to me and say they’ve learned something new from the book. Like, how to put on perfume? Or how to quickly and cheaply pep up a room? How to pack a bag? Why designer imposters are terrible for the fashion industry, and for a girl to wear? If I may say so myself, it’s chock full of important information; the entire back of the book is reference materials of books, artists and movies that every woman should know. But if nothing else, even if a girl thinks she’s Very Classy, I like that the book can reinforce what they already know—and at the same time make them laugh.
TZ: Being a successful fashion journalist in a tough industry, what advice would you give to aspiring young writers determined to make their mark?
DB: In my book, I have an entire essays devoted to what it takes to make it in any industry. But particular to fashion, it’s pretty simple: Work hard, be nice and do your best. I started on the bottom of this industry like so many others, interning and assisting and getting coffee and picking up garment bags. But if you love fashion, you love doing it. Another good tip? Don’t be mean. To anybody. My mom once told me: Be careful not to step on anybody’s toes today—they may be connected to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.