“They said, ‘That will never work,’” Livingston says, laughing.
Boy, were they wrong. This month the appropriately dubbed Elegant Slumming celebrates its 15th year in the glitz biz.
And what a birthday it is. How many 15-year-olds do you know who are ablaze in peridots, pearls, coral, gold, rubies, sapphires and diamonds? A girl could do worse. “Elegant Slumming is an interesting shopping experience,” Livingston says. “It reflects what I’m all about: bold color. It’s a feast for the eyes.”
The store, awash in jades, reds and purples, and boasting a tented, striped ceiling, mixes highbrow Italian lines with smaller vendors out of New York while throwing in eclectic art and modern home accents. “Classic with a twist,” Livingston says. “Just like my style.”
His signature look is a basic pant with a sensationally “loud” shirt. “Gucci, Prada and Etro are my favorites,” he says. “I have a pretty expansive sneaker collection—I really am a shoe freak—so I’ll tie that together with a great belt.”
Though he counts John Varvatos and D&G among his chosen couture, he’s also a fan of sporting a fellow Delawarean’s name. “I’m just as happy wearing something I bought on Madison Avenue as I am wearing something from Spahr over on Rehoboth Avenue,” Livingston says. “He makes everything in the place. I love the little details that are his trademark.”
Livingston can’t help but be attuned to details. It’s a result of his education in art history and architecture. As a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Livingston worked as a gofer for a Philadelphia jewelry store, and fell in love with the industry.
“I think art history and architecture play key roles in good jewelry design,” he says. “Besides, it’s a happy business. Someone is always celebrating something.”
Livingston’s preference for jewelry can be summed up in one word: bold. “Over-the-top cuff bracelets, big single-stone necklaces—I love it,” he says. “I like to take my chances and throw things out there.”
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And though the eco-bust may have temporarily put the kibosh on decadence, Livingston is impressed with the industry’s ability to follow the advice fashion savant Tim Gunn doles to disciples: Make it work.
“It’s actually good for the design process, as we have to think outside of the box,” Livingston says. “Lucite studded with faux stones, wood cuffs, silver, semi-precious stones—there’s some very cool new stuff out there.”
The collector of sole is also the collector of soul—in the form of bronze and glass sculpture, murals and floor-to-ceiling paintings. He channeled his passion for art into opening the Phillip Morton Gallery, which shares a block—and a birthday—with Elegant Slumming.
“We’ve been open two years now,” he says. “This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s a great joy to me.”
And no doubt to his patrons, who he greets with a smile on his face and fabulous shoes on his feet.