Linda Rodin

photography ARI SETH COHEN

“Nowadays you have to go to school for this and that. I couldn’t have gone to school for one thing I’ve done. I just put one foot in front of the other and it worked out. I’ve worked very hard for it. I would never have thought I’d be sitting here today talking to you about my life.” 

Maybe you’ve seen the elegant glass bottles of Olio Lusso floating around seductively at Barneys or Bergdorf’s. Perhaps you’ve even gotten a little bold and tried a drop of the luxurious skincare oil. The subtle scent of jasmine might have taken you on an intoxicating journey.
Linda Rodin, much like her remarkable beauty products, is mesmerizing and leaves a lasting impression. A renaissance woman par excellence, Rodin has set the pace and the standard in the fashion industry, beginning with a modeling career which led to her successful stint as a fashion stylist, followed by a leap into curation and design with her groundbreaking store in the 1970s, culminating with her current empire in cosmetics, perfumes and beauty products. What sets Rodin leagues above the fray isn’t just what she does, but the extraordinary integrity with which she does it. For a fashion world mired in cultural hype, corporate greed, and collective apathy, Linda Rodin is a ray of hope: she is the Real Thing, reminding us with everything she does that it’s still worth believing in. 
A few years ago, I was flipping through a magazine and saw a photograph of her. It was a thumbnail image, and even though it was tiny, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Rodin was standing in the middle of the street in New York with her cute grey poodle, Winky. She’s been on my mind ever since, and on a short trip to New York, I was fortuitously given the chance to interview her.

As I was getting ready this morning to interview you for Grey Magazine, I was struck by the word “grey.” It seems to be such a powerful linguistic monolith. I remembered how I read that your hair started to go grey at the age of 35. I’m well on my way there and actually seem to glean some strength from it. It seems like a strange gift at such a young age since I’m already pretty grey at the age of 26. What’s your approach to having grey hair? Does it tie into your overall feelings of beauty, age and style?

It never even occurred to me to dye my hair. When I was 35 and started turning grey I wasn’t really thinking about it as aging me. I just thought, “Oh this is kind of fun, lets see what this looks like.” Interestingly enough, I guess it’s 31 years later – I’m 66, I won’t have a face-lift or anything like that. I’m consciously aware of trying to be natural. The alternative scares me to death; I just couldn’t do it.

I’m so intrigued by the thought of a store curated by you. Can you walk me through what it felt like to be in your boutique [called Linda Hopp] in Soho in 1979?

I have to say it was exciting. It was 1979, so there was nothing there. I think there was one vintage clothing store way up on Houston and West Broadway. And my store was by Spring, on West Broadway. I guess you could say it was like a concept store. I had about 10 different designers and I designed a lot of the clothes myself. My brother, an architect, Bob Rodin, designed the space. It was very Bauhaus. I have a lot of pictures of it actually. It was great, but it was very short lived and only lasted a year--but that’s a whole different story [laughs]. I just did it. I had no fear. I never really think about the big picture. Like with my oils, I didn’t think about making a business and I had no idea what the store would do.

You’ve made a lot of transitions in your life, from stylist, to store owner, to skincare guru, to founder of a beauty brand. Do you think that each experience has serendipitously led you to the next, or have these shifts come from a feeling of restlessness?

I think it was serendipity. I never planned anything. I was just very lucky and I pursued things that I enjoyed. Nowadays you have to go to school for this and that. I couldn’t have gone to school for one thing I’ve done. I just put one foot in front of the other and it worked out.  I’ve worked very hard for it. I would never have thought I’d be sitting here today talking to you about my life.

Well I’m glad you are. I’m sure you have some amazing stories from working as a stylist in the ‘80s. Is there a trip or experience that stands out?

I did go to Venice to work with Bob Dylan. It was a very crazy thing. That was definitely a highlight. It was incredible meeting Bob Dylan. He was very charming; very quiet. He’s my idol anyways. 

Can you tell me about some of the things you’re working on and what you’re most excited about?

I’m working on a lipstick. I want to do a bright orange and a bright pink, because that’s all I wear. I mix and blend a lot of things together. So I want to make exactly the color I’d wear. Everything I’ve made, all my products, are things that I want. I needed a hand cream so I made a hand cream. I take a bath every night so I made a nice bar of soap. I just do what appeals to me. It’s on a need-to-have basis.

That sounds like the dream.

Yeah it is, that’s the beauty of it. I wouldn’t make something that I wouldn’t use. I wanted to have a perfume that reminded me of my mom and it came out on Mother’s Day. I worked with the great perfumers behind D.S. & Durga, David Moltz and his wife Kavi. I didn’t know the scent my mother wore, but I remembered what it smelled like. So we smelled a lot of things and they got exactly what I wanted. It’s very different than the first perfume, which has jasmine and neroli and really reflects the way Olio Lusso smells. The only scent the two perfumes share is a little bit of jasmine.

I really wanted to come visit your home today because in the photographs I’ve seen your place is packed full of special items you’ve collected. Do you draw inspiration from your home?

My mother had an antique shop and she was an interior decorator. So we always went antiquing. I still go to the flea market every weekend. I’m not a minimalist obviously, except that my products are very minimal. I’m very simple in my person and I dress simply. And I wanted the products to reflect that. It’s interesting; people laugh when they come here. They think that I’d live in a white loft with no furniture and I’m so the opposite personally. I could leave and go somewhere and just bring my oils and another shirt. I’m not all over the place, except at home. I have stuff all over and every single thing I have I like. And just looking at things does inspire me. I just love beautiful things; I go to the flea market every weekend.