Portions taken from SouthPark Magazine, originally written by Whitley Adkins. Photography by Amy Kolo.
Alaska native Bob Tapp has lived all over, from Japan to Long Island to Charlotte. His career path has been just as varied: An investment banker for 10 years, he designed a women’s clothing line, Tapp New York, which was sold in Bergdorf Goodman and Henri Bendel, for 13 years. “Then I was a self-taught landscape designer,” says the Duke University and Harvard Business School alum. “I have done interior design for people, and I’ve also rehabbed real estate, improving properties.” Tapp, 68, considers himself an aestheticist — a lover of all things beautiful. “I’m consumed with making a space beautiful,” he says. During the pandemic, Tapp and his husband, Charlton, launched Tapp Beautiful, a line of “elegant, spirited women’s wear” that’s sold at Tapp Beauty in Eastover. “Everything is one of a kind.”
I feel like I am walking into the most wonderful seance here. What is going on in this incredible space?
It’s multifunctional: It’s a closet. It’s a decorative space. It’s a meditative space. It is a library.
It feels a little bit spiritual.
There are icons of all faiths represented. I’m Libra — my decorative style is altarlike. To me, that means there is a center point and a balance on both sides. Nothing is purchased for the space, and there is a story behind every single piece. I would call it kitsch; campy, taken to the extreme, a little bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s a spoof. It is also, importantly, an example that you don’t need an expensive wardrobe to look good and be stylish. This is my entire wardrobe, except for outdoor wear.
That is very interesting for a maximalist like yourself.
There are 30 long-sleeve shirts in there, and that’s all I wear. How could I ever want more than 30 shirts when others have none?
How is the space arranged?
All the shirts are hanging on slim velvet hangers, which take up no space. All the pants are folded in one drawer. The shelf liners are from a vintage book of perforated pages intended for use as gift wrap.
You have a lot of dice in here.
Everything in here is intentionally placed. These are 11s, which is an angel number of mine. Angel numbers, for me, are affirmations from angels who have predeceased us that we are on the right path. I started seeing 11s the day after my first partner died, and they haven’t stopped.
There are so many neat mementos in this room.
There are pictures of family and other people close to my heart… The decor in my closet is like whiskers on kittens — my favorite things.
Do you have any favorite wardrobe items?
The suit that I got married in, and my father’s robe. It’s from Japan in the ’60s, and I wore it in the ambulance when I broke my leg.
Do you have any closet design tips?
I always keep one shelf empty and some empty boxes. This way I always have space to bring in something new.
THIS OR THAT
Color or pattern: Pattern
Vintage or contemporary: Contemporary
Sneaker or dress shoe: As I age, sneakers, but I love dress shoes
Novelty socks or novelty tie: Novelty tie — I’ve just been able to put on my socks from having a broken leg last year. I had to improvise — it was a bare ankle!
Sweater or jacket: Jacket
Tie or pocket square: Both, at the same time
Hat or sunglasses: Sunglasses
Black or brown: Brown
Toile or floral: Toile
Tucked or untucked: Untucked — it adds visual length and elongates
Beauty or practicality: Beauty dictates
On creating a look:
I start with pants. I have like 10 pairs, and they are usually plaid. Then I come up with a contrasting shirt. After the shirt, I accessorize, like with a scarf. I love an Hermes scarf — I think they are beautiful, but I use them for practical reasons. … It’s all about the fit. If it doesn’t fit, you’re never going to look good. Sunglasses cover the wrinkles around my eyes, and I tell people that style compensates for age. I have a wardrobe of sunglasses.
Where he shops:
Dillard’s Murano private label is a hip, updated, elevated line of men’s clothing —it fits great. Also, Zara, H&M, Nordstrom. We mostly shop when we go out of town — I love to shop in LA and Las Vegas. I tend not to spend a lot of money on clothes, to tell you the truth. All of those Hermes scarves are secondhand.
We’ve all heard it before, but accentuate the positive. Similarly, hide your worst areas like I do with my elbows by wearing only long-sleeve shirts. Mix, don’t match.
Jackie O for her elegance. Thurston Howell III (from Gilligan’s Island) for dressing like a baller. [Actor] Billy Porter, for his independence. For this year’s Dancing With The Stars [local fundraiser for Carolina Breast Friends], I wore a hit-the-floor, purple Asian cloak that would be very Billy Porter.
Favorite fashion era:
I’m good at moving with progress, so I would say now. SP