Robert Rufino: I started working at Henri Bendel in my early 20s. They started this catalog division and this character, Linda, came along, and our friendship grew.
Linda Rodin: Yeah, I was a buyer for the catalog, and I just remember your magical, magical office.
Well you would always come in and be like whoa! What is that?
It was just the most beautiful, and the smallest office, in history…wall to wall treasures.
We were working at Bendels and working under Geraldine Stutz. She was fearless. She had the philosophy if you’re going to do it, do it once, don’t do it a 100 times.
She taught us everything. She was the one.
She was a powerhouse – a unique and elegant person.
Yeah, talk about confidence. She was the original, just my way or the highway.
My quote from her was “live life large.” And I do it everyday. Whether I’m up or down. You have to pick up the pieces and say, “Hey, here I am, let’s do it.” I was friendly with Geraldine Stutz for 33 years, until the day she died. She was basically my second mother. She knew I was impossible, she knew I had a temper…
So did she…
Yeah, but you know, it was always about her fearlessness. Don’t be afraid. Just do it. You’re going to learn. And she gave me a chance, and that gave me confidence. I didn’t know what Henri Bendel was. People came into our lives at Henri Bendel and we’ve all been friends for 40 years. But you know, Geraldine was the conduit for all of us. She believed in us all, and allowed us to shine.
She was something. Whenever I was in her presence, I felt her strength.
One thing, she never said ‘me’ she always said ‘we.’
Yeah, that was her thing. She always wanted everybody to be embraced, and one big team.
Some people stay with you forever.
That’s true. There are a handful of them – a small handful.
I can count my real friends on my fingers, but the biggest draw for me is seeing my friends, like you, succeed and shine.
It’s crazy you know, isn’t it? That here we are!
We’ve stayed in close touch for all of these years. People go away, people drift apart, people come in and out, but some people stay with you. You don’t have to see someone all the time, but they stay with you. And you know, through notes, or emails, texts, and now Instagram.
But you’re still a writer. I must have over a hundred notes and postcards from you. I have your confirmation card on my bulletin board! You haven’t changed a bit.
Oh my god.
I do! And I have all of your letters. Every single one of them.
Well you can’t understand my handwriting but…
Well that’s true, but I get the drift every time.
I love cards. I have boxes of them.
Every day you’d send a card to somebody, sometimes two a day. And my sister started making postcards. Her photographs were made into postcards. I have a lot of her postcards. It was the texting of the day, yet it was so much more creative and beautiful and special.
Such a beautiful ritual. I miss it terribly.
A dying art.
I want some yellow onion skin paper embossed with an eggplant monogram. I don’t know why but it’s got to be yellow and eggplant. I have this fantasy of my stationery being like that. Nancy Sharon Collins made stationery for me when I had my basset hound. It’s pale turquoise on onion skin and a perfect image of my basset hound. I have a few sheets left.
You should frame one. I think our pets are a great part of what we are and who we are.
I should. I should frame one.
You have to remember who you are, where you came from, and what you do, and giving back. But, you know, you’ve always been an icon, and a pioneer, from being a model, to a fashion editor, to having your first store, and then such a long and successful styling career. It’s just style and elegance without trying, you know, with you it’s always I am who I am, and without trying…
Well, thank you. I feel we both share the style part for sure.
Well I mean I look at you today…most people would’ve had things done…you’ve got good genes, baby!
Well I’m melting like a candle, but for me it’s the only way. And you’ve never changed your way…You’ve always known what you were going to get with you, and in the best way, it’s never been you’re going to get that Robert today, and another Robert tomorrow. It’s always Robert. And that’s a rare gift. Your authenticity and honesty have always been tried and true.
In this business it’s hard being real, and we love what we do, and we’re crazy and we’re workaholics…our names are on it, and we care about what we do…we could do a lot of different things, but at the end of the day there’s heart and soul and we’ve been through ups and downs, sad times and happy times. Starting out in my career and doing windows was a way to give back to the city. And what I do now, it’s a gift back. It’s like creating beautiful products – spreading the beauty.
Yeah, there is something nice about that, because you’re sharing it. I mean it’s selfish in the best ways. You want to share what you love with others.
Yes, when you use a beautiful soap, or a fragrance, or a lipstick – not that I’m using lipstick yet! – It’s sharing this feeling, you feel good. And I love the soap! And the candle! I have the candle at home, but I keep the box by my desk because the box still has the scent. It’s like whoa!
Jasmine & Neroli! Nothing better.
And the oil. When I go on shoots, and when I see it, I’m like this is great. Yeah, you know, I love the whole concept and the packaging. And the creator!
And I love seeing ELLE Decor every month!
You are a powerhouse. You are timeless, bold, and original. Everything you touch. You walk into your apartment and you’re like where am I?
I’m not sure! When we all are at my place – it’s my fantasyland.
It’s your eye and what you collect, and how it all works together so uniquely.
You haven’t been there lately! You think that this flower shop is a jungle, come over to my jungle!
And your philosophy… you can be whatever you want to be but this is my palace.
Yeah! I can’t even walk in my apartment because of all the plants.
You’ve become the botanical garden?
Kind of! I must have over 100 plants!
Are they all alive and well? I would kill every plant. I used to.
I take care of them diligently. They’re all living – for over two years now.
I couldn’t take care of them.
I couldn’t either! And then all of a sudden I figured it out. I don’t know what I’m doing now. I do have a few that don’t make it. I adore each one of them. I talk to them and spend a lot of time nurturing them.
Yeah it’s shocking. I can’t believe it. Never in my life have I kept any plant alive. I do have this memory from when I had the studio in 5F, when we worked at Bendels….I thought of it last night…and it has nothing to do with Bendels, but I bought these chairs and I asked you to come over and help me sand them…
They were Russell Wright chairs, which I didn’t know anything about at the time, and you spent an entire Saturday sanding them. You sat on the floor sanding those chairs. I have a picture of it.
I wouldn’t do it for myself, but for somebody else (nods to Linda) I would do it.
And they were these intricate chairs, with the woven wooden back.
And where are they now?
Who knows! And, those were very good chairs. But I remember you sitting there working on them all day. I have pictures of us at my apartment, when I had just moved in – of you and Jeff McKay….
Oh yeah, we were sitting on the floor drinking wine….that we were good at!
You really are one of my original, original friends. And true to your skin and what you’re all about, not what is current or trendy.
Nothing changes. I would say the same thing about you! Just reflect that same exact thing.
But you know, we’re driven, the two of us.
But on our own road! Or in our own lane, as they say.
If you love what you do, then you’re driven. I don’t think I really work, I just adore what I do.
We’ve both been true to ourselves. We haven’t changed. Rolled with the punches…
I mean I’m stubborn. So are you. And that’s what makes it…
Yeah, it’s hard for us to give in.
You make mistakes, and you learn.
Yeah, you win some and you lose some.
I just think we keep doing what we do, and we live our lives. And live well. And as long as you’re healthy. I don’t want to go on and on, but you just have to enjoy it.
Health is wealth. That’s my end of story!