“You see this gate? It keeps the dogs out and the women in,” Hugh Hefner told me, ever so seriously and humorously. When I woke up this morning to news of his passing, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia, sadness, and gratitude in remembering September 2012, which marked one of the more pivotal moments in my career.
When I was younger, I went to sleep-away camp in Malibu, where I met my BFF Ali, who is a Cali native. As so many LA girls do, she knew some people who knew some people, and the next weekend, after a girls night out and an episode of Sex and The City, we found ourselves making our way over to the Playboy mansion. The staff made it clear, “Hugh is sleeping,” but gave us some swag (notepads, magazines, etc.) as a consolation prize. I laughed at the chutzpah I had, and as I walked away, something told me it wouldn’t be the last time I would pay a visit to that mansion—and I was right.
When I co-founded Coveteur with Stephanie Mark, our dream was always to feature one man: Mr. Hugh Hefner. He’s been my ultimate style icon ever since I developed a love for fashion. I look to him as the ULTIMATE entrepreneur. With the help of my right-hand wing woman and Managing Editor, Stacie Brockman, we made it our life mission to get a contact and get inside that closet. From stylists to writers to publicity, we reached out to any avenue we could think of to find the mystery man or woman who could get us behind the sacred Playboy Mansion gates. And somehow after a crazy Carmen Sandiego series of events, we did it. The instructions were explicit: Show up at 2:00PM sharp with 7 (yes, just 7 minutes) with the legendary man himself.
We pulled up at the mansion and -- boom -- there I was, back where I always knew I'd be. When we sat down with Hugh, he told us that he founded Playboy with only $600 and an epic story about the origins of his pajama dressing uniform. (Fact: Turns out his sleepless nights building Playboy Enterprises turned to early mornings and then, subsequently, late nights out partying and plugging away. Inevitably, people began to expect his signature sleep look and so he rolled with it. And the iconic outfit was born!).
When we shot at the mansion, we quickly learned that this man was ahead of the curve in so many ways. His silk robes, matching monochromatic pajamas, jodhpurs, smoking jackets, and velvet slippers continue to inspire trends today. I personally live my life according to this dress code, daily. But perhaps what I found most endearing about Hugh was his ability to dictate future trends; his house was an "Instagram Playground." His life was a curated series of share-worthy moments. From his meticulously organized, color-coordinated closet to his hotel-like abode (very Soho House vibes), the historic gothic mansion was one with such appeal and mystery. I mean, if those walls could talk... Aside from its extravagance and opulence, it truly felt like a home. And he was a visionary when it came to creating cult-status brands. The man had merch like you had never seen before. We're talking Playboy-branded video games in his on-site games room and Playboy-branded clothing for all the on-site staff who tended to his zoo. He even had a scrapbooking bedroom which, apparently he held a Guinness World Record for.
Wrapping our shoot at the mansion that day was one of the most victorious moments of my career. Stacie and I NEVER thought we would get to him, but by the end of the shoot, he casually pronounced, “You can call me Hef.” That’s it, that’s everything. At my and Stacie’s current business venture, Métier Creative—a creative advertising agency specializing in launching new brands and elevating existing brands—we are constantly inspired by Hef’s aesthetic and forward-thinking business sense, and it often weaves into our creative direction for our clients.
A while back when I had a clothing line, all of my seasons at Erin Kleinberg Inc. were inspired by Hef. I’m inspired by him every time I walk into my closet to get dressed in the morning. I’m humbled by the honor to have met and gotten to work with such an iconic man. I speak for myself and Mét when I say that Mr. Hugh Hefner will continue to be a prominent figure on our mood boards and in our hearts. May his badass legacy live on forever.
Erin Kleinberg is the co-founder of Coveteur. She is also the co-founder of Métier Creative, an advertising agency co-founded by Stacie Brockman that specializes in launching new brands and re-branding and elevating existing brands.