WINI BURKEMAN - LADIES IN TEES

WINI BURKEMAN - LADIES IN TEES

Brooklyn, October 2017

 

     A paragon of the New York woman, Wini is at once effortless and engaged. Her minimal approach to style and beauty enraptures. But it's her candid nature that really resonates.

     We visited Wini in the Brooklyn home she shares with her husband and children, a subway ride from the Bronx neighborhood where she was raised by Irish immigrant parents. She revealed how music has steered her life, and what it was like to watch the city contract and grow - from Studio 54 in full flight to the beginnings of hip hop and now, as her children begin to embrace a whole new kind of New York.

  

 

What inspires you?

Music and interiors.

 

Over the years, how has music impacted your life?

You can turn on a song, and it can instantly set the tone of your day. I grew up watching American Bandstand, Soul Train... and my block always had someone sitting on a stoop blasting music from a boom box. 

Going to Studio 54 and Xenon as a teenager blew my mind and changed everything for me. I was exposed to a whole world outside of the Bronx, where I grew up, and knew then that there were possibilities. When my mother died, I listened to Mary J. Blige and cried for months. My daughter's name is Eve Catherine Blige.

 

Where do you think this love of music comes from?

When I was a child, my parents who are both from Ireland would have parties - people would come over and play instruments and sing. All my memories of growing up in the '70s and '80s are centered on what I was listening to. Now that I have a 17 year-old son he turns me onto new stuff.

 

Do you see music and style as connected?

For me, yes. I still dress slightly disco-meets-hip hop.

 

And what is style, to you?

Style is natural, not forced. But I think it can be cultivated.

  

 

What did you wear today?

My white Grei Wini pants and black Balenciaga trousers, mixed with Frances de Lourdes tees.

 

How do you get dressed in the mornings?

First of all, I can never find my bra – I only own one, it's pathetic! I usually find it hanging over the downstairs bannister. I have a basic uniform composed of a white t-shirt, sweatshirt or sweater, and either white jeans, track pants or super baggy vintage trousers from Front General Store. Oh, and beat up sneakers. If I have a meeting, I'll throw on a black vintage YSL blazer or a Junya Watanabe jacket.

 

When did this uniform take shape in your wardrobe?

I guess going to Catholic School and wearing a uniform every day was my first taste of limited choices. Looking back on that I kind of appreciate it now. Once you start just grabbing the same thing day in and day out, you start to realize you don’t need much. It just simplifies everything.

 

You have a simplified beauty routine, too.

In the '90s I stopped wearing makeup, I felt I didn't need it. I moved to London in 1989 and it was the U.K.'s Second Summer of Love, and underground raves were happening. I would go out all night and party and sweat, and makeup was not an option. I was doing some modeling with an agency called Z - pronounced "Zed" - and all the London girls were so cool, and they never wore makeup. So, I stopped. It was freeing.

  

 

What was that like, living in London during that time?

It was mind-blowing. I moved over there and didn't know anyone. Ecstasy was coming into play, so everyone was loved up and happy!!! The music was British hardcore, house and techno and I was doing a lot of fun modeling throughout Europe. It was really life-changing. 

 

Was it hard to make the decision to come back to New York?

No... I needed to figure out what to do with my life. All I did in London was go clubbing, some modeling, and wait tables.

 

Tell us about life once you returned.

I came back and started working at the Royalton Hotel and then became Maître D' of Indochine. Steven Alan was just opening up his first store and started representing designers, so I became his sales person. It was really an organic and exciting time in fashion. We had brands like Bernadette Corporation, Milk Fed and Susan Cianciolo. After working with Steven, I did the same thing with Denise Williamson showroom until I got pregnant. Then I stopped working until I started my skincare line, McBride Beauty, but that's now closed.

 

 

What has been the most transformative period of fashion you've seen?

Oh, man... '70s disco, '80s hair metal, and '90s minimalism.

 

And what has come to be a staple for you?

I don't know how to dress without a t-shirt.

 

Do you and your husband share tees?

I steal his. Usually his Barry McGees, Tom Sachs, or his vintage London punk stuff.

 

And the tees you wore today, what drew you to them?

Basic shapes and beautiful fabrics.

 

These styles were actually based on vintage men's tees... 

So what are the most important characteristics in a tee?

Loose, white, soft.

 

The most important characteristics in a person?

Straightforward, funny, reliable. 

 

And the best advice you have been given?

This too shall pass.

 

  

By Neada Jane

Photography by Bec Lorrimer