• 12 December 1904
  •  Paris, France

Julian West


The French-born scion to a wealthy Russian-Jewish family, Nicolas, the 5th Baron de Gunzburg was known in Paris for his lavish costume balls and was popular with the artistic and social elite of the 20s and 30s. He yearned to become an actor and financed Dreyer's now-classic Vampyr in exchange for landing the lead role, using the screen name "Julian West." Not long after the film was released, though, Nicolas' father passed away, and Nicolas himself was left with little money. He threw one last lavish costume party, then took off for America to seek his fortune in the summer of 1934. Attempts at reviving his screen career didn't pan out, and he never made any more movies. He moved to New York in the 1940s and eventually became editor-in-chief of Town & Country magazine, and became a friend of such luminaries as Noel Coward, Lauren Bacall, Cole Porter, Coco Chanel, and Cecil Beaton. He later became the senior fashion editor of Vogue, remaining there during the 50s and 60s, then becoming fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar. By the 1970s his personal style became a legend and he was universally regarded as one of the best-dressed men in America. While openly gay, his romantic life was discreet. He also mentored three up-and-coming fashion designers: Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, and Calvin Klein, all of whom became legends. De Gunzberg, though, remained known only to the literary and social set of New York, London, and Paris. He died at the age of 76, mourned by his many friends and proteges. Ironically, although he is remembered today for his one film role, his influence on the fashion world has continued long after his death.