Q&A: Derek Blasberg on BlackBerry etiquette, holding the door, and his mini boleros

Derek Blasberg poses with...himself at The Room. Photo courtesy of HBC
Derek Blasberg poses with...himself at The Room. Photo courtesy of HBC

Writer and gent-about-town, Derek Blasberg, gives a tongue-in-cheek etiquette lesson (no sexting please!) in his book Classy: Exceptional Advice for the Extremely Modern Lady. We caught up with Blasberg recently as he swung through Toronto for his book launch, thrown at The Room at the Bay’s Queen Street store.

What’s the rule regarding BlackBerry etiquette these days? Is it considered rude to e-chat at a dinner party?

“I don’t think we live in a world where it’s unacceptable to keep in touch with someone who is not present at an event. The point that I try to make in the book is that there’s nothing as important as speaking to someone in person. I think sometimes we forget that when we’re at dinner with a friend and you’re on your phone the whole time. Why don’t you just either have dinner with the person on the phone that you’re obviously more interested in or go home and hang out by yourself and keep in touch on the phone.”

What is your personal deal breaker? You talk a lot in the book about deal breakers, bad manners, things like that.  What are your personal deal breakers in relationships?

“I can’t stand dishonesty, I can’t stand superficiality.  I make it a point in my life, and in this book, to really drive home the point that a well rounded lady knows how to work a pencil skirt and walk in high heels but also knows who Van Gogh is and the difference between a Monet and a Manet.”

Growing up in the Midwestern U.S., what were some of the Blasberg values instilled in you at a young age?

Hold the door, [say] please and thank you, be nice. You know it was a completely traditional Midwestern moral code that I was raised with.

And obviously this is something you still subscribe to today?

Yeah, I do. And…you know not to toot my own horn but one often meets a person that grew up in one part of the world and has moved to another and their lives change, their morals change, their priorities change, the way they speak changes. I still say “y’all,” I like to think I’m still the same person I was ten years ago when I graduated from high school and moved out. I just have better shoes. [laughs]

We haven’t gotten to shoes. Do you have a signature look for yourself or are you constantly changing and evolving who Derek Blasberg is?

In a way that I think only a man can do it, I’ve gotten more lazy and more classic and sophisticated in my dress.

Because it’s easier?

When you’re younger I think you try to be more plain-edge. And I used to wear mini fedoras, bell bottom jeans and mini bolero jackets. I mean some of the stuff I whipped out…

Where are all these fabulous items hiding now?

God knows. I remember once I wore–to a very sophisticated dinner party–I wore just a waistcoat, just a vest and nothing underneath it.

Who are some of your favourite designers?

I wear a lot of Burberry, Ralph Lauren, a lot of Calvin Klein…And there’s a shop in New York called Opening Ceremony. I wish I wore more Tom Ford.

Let’s talk real friendship versus fashion friendships—are they different for you?

A lot of people think I hang out with people because of the way they look or what they do and I’ve been really fortunate that all of my good girl friends even if they’re sample size, blonde or gorgeous, they’re all loyal, smart, respectful women. And I also know a lot of really rich, sample size assholes.

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