The ’80s—fashion’s latest crush—come humorously to life in Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni’s latest book, After Andy: Adventures in Warhol Land. “My goal was for it to be a really good read and very informative,” says the author, who was the last Factory employee hired before the Pop icon’s death, and thus the final “English muffin” (i.e., wellborn British girl) to toil there.
The idea for the book materialized in the summer of 2014 as Fraser-Cavassoni was finishing the manuscripts for books on Loulou de la Falaise and Monsieur Dior. Her madeleine moment was provided by a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. “Suddenly I was hit by this giant Mao,” Fraser-Cavassoni explains, “and I just stopped and I suddenly remembered everything.” To differentiate After Andy from other Warholiania, her editor suggested she add herself into the equation. “And you know, I was shocked,” recalls the author, “because I’m always documenting other people’s lives. Yet it made sense; so many people have their Warhol stories because Warhol was so omnipresent.”
Absent from Fraser-Cavassoni’s book is any reporting on ’60s-era Warhol. Readers instead get a view of the artist’s late period, after he recovered from being shot by Valerie Solanas in 1968. “You obviously change if you almost lose your life,” notes the author, “and I’m struck by the fact that Warhol really discovered Europe after the assassination attempt—thanks to [Warhol’s business manager] Fred Hughes’s contacts. And he really almost turned his back on the Nicos and the Warhol superstars. He discovered this different type of woman, if you want.”
The times were different, too. By the ’80s, Warhol was famous and New York was flush with money. “It was a very lighthearted time and carefree in many ways; I wanted to capture that,” says Fraser-Cavassoni, who recalls the dandified Hughes giving Scotch tape facelifts in the office under the guise of “Frederick of Union Square” and, some years earlier, Warhol—whom she describes as an “agent provocateur”—suggesting that she pen a Mommie Dearest–style book. (Fraser-Cavassoni is the daughter of Lady Antonia Fraser, and her stepfather is Harold Pinter.)
Fashion-wise, Fraser-Cavassoni notes, “Something about the ’80s seemed quite garish in a way, because it was all quite new and a lot of it felt very full force, and I think if something feels full force, perhaps one dismisses it for being a bit superficial. Having written the book, I’m now interested in looking at David and Elizabeth Emanuel [the designers of Princess Diana’s wedding dress] again.” Though the author would go on to work for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, in 1987, at 24, she wasn’t yet mainly wearing major labels. There’s a photo of Warhol with a 16-year-old Fraser in a poufy halter-neck dress that she remembers buying in Rome in 1979 at a boutique called Ginger for about 20 pounds. She remembers him asking her who it was by. “He was amazed it wasn’t a designer, and I was amazed he was asking me who designed it. I was 16; we didn’t buy designer clothes then. My mother wore Jean Muir Rive Gauche, but that was for older people. You wore designer clothes if you did a photo shoot.”
In 1980, Fraser-Cavassoni—who admits to romances with Mick Jagger and Malcom McLaren in the book—acquired what she dubbed her “seduction outfit” at Kensington Market. For a date with Jagger to see Stevie Wonder, she bought a white cotton sweater with abstract black squiggles and a gray camouflage skirt. “It was kind of a great look,” she says. “It sort of worked because I was so young.” Warhol, she opines, had other means of wooing. “I think he had crushes on certain women, and his mating call was showing his scar to them. He did that to my friend Geraldine Harmsworth, who was the fourth English muffin.”
Reports of such eccentricities never rattled Fraser-Cavassoni (though Jean Stein and George Plimpton’s book, Edie, gave her pause). “When I was interviewing people for the book, certain people said, ‘Well, he looked so strange.’ I really didn’t find that Andy looked strange because I was brought up among intellectuals and eccentrics. He seemed very authentic, to me, he really seemed very complete. Sometimes when you work, you talk a lot to people and you come away feeling, ‘Oh.’ [When I talked to people about Andy] I came away thinking, ‘Wow!’ ”