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Man of Style

Culture Watch

By Tali Jaffe

"Gary Cooper: Enduring Style," published by PowerHouse Books, is the first ever monograph focused on the timeless fashion and allure of this leading man who was a fashion inspiration to his Hollywood peers, clothing designers then and now, and generations of stylish men across the globe. Compiled of unpublished, never-before-seen personal photographs, shot primarily by his wife, Rocky, Gary Cooper captures the cars, the mansions and ranches, the guns and gear, and of course the endless outfits for every occasion that this Hollywood icon ensconced himself in throughout the years.

The book's art director, Ruth Ansel, is one of the most legendary designers and has collaborated with with photographers, illustrators, and artists such as Richard Avedon, Andy Warhol, Peter Beard, Bruce Weber and Annie Leibovitz over the last 40 years at her posts at Harper's Bazaar, The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair and House & Garden. Here we caught up with Ansel to discuss her latest work.

How did you become involved in the project?
The PowerHouse guys, Craig Cohen and Wes del Val, called me and came to visit, hoping I'd accept designing this book. I have always been drawn to family snapshots—especially the snapshots of well known figures whose real life we know little about.

Cooper's daughter was very involved in the project, right? Does she own all of the images that appear in the book?
She owns the original family's red leather scrapbooks that belonged to her parents and that her mother, Rocky, maintained. The scrapbooks travelled from their various Hollywood homes to eventually end up in Maria's [Cooper's daughter] New York apartment. I'm not sure if she owns all of the images, but most of them that appear in the book were either given to her parents or to her. Some were even hanging on Maria's walls.

Most of the photography is quite personal—which is perhaps less of a rarity these days with all-access media. But what was it like for you to edit through such a personal catalogue of images of such an iconic star?
The first edit was done by Craig and Wes. When I was brought on to the project, I went back several times to see if there were other snapshots that might've been overlooked. I found little treasures that I felt belonged in the book—a couple of sailboat photos and the series of the champion Sealingham dogs.

Did you draw on elements from Cooper's style—which is of course what's celebrated with this title—in designing the book?
When I went to the movies as a young girl, I never realized how sophisticated and worldly Cooper was. I just loved his boyish Western style good lucks and his great sex appeal in The Fountainhead. I discovered only recently that he came from an educated English family of some means who relocated to Montana. He was sent to an English boarding school when he was quite young and then became one of the most accomplished riders in Montana when he returned. He was equally at home wearing a custom tux as he was wearing western chaps.

Why do you think Ralph Lauren was asked to write the foreword?
Cooper fits the perfect Ralph Lauren ideal. An iconic Hollywood figure—tall, slim and athletic whose appeal was equally irrisistable to both men and women.

Available at Ralph Lauren Bal Harbour.

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