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Luxury 101: The luxury in Netflix’s ’Inventing Anna’ is ill-gotten, but still delicious

Inventing Anna. Julia Garner as Anna Delvey in episode 102 of Inventing Anna. Cr. Aaron Epstein/Netflix © 2021

Inventing Anna. Julia Garner as Anna Delvey in episode 102 of Inventing Anna. Cr. Aaron Epstein/Netflix © 2021

Published Feb 19, 2022

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By Hannah Elliott

Inventing Anna, the much-anticipated Netflix show about the Manhattan-based socialite grifter named Anna Delvey (aka Sorokin, aka Sorokina), is a feast for the eyes – and the credit card.

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Delvey, as you may recall, was a woman of opaque European descent who swindled financiers, art patrons, Fifth Avenue grand dames, and hangers-on out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. She pulled the con by posing as a high-class “it” girl building an art foundation and social club, among other endeavours. In May 2019 she was convicted of eight white-collar felonies, including grand larceny and theft of services. She earned her release in February last year, having served nearly four years behind bars first at New York City’s Rikers Island and then at Albion Correctional Facility in upstate New York.

Now Delvey’s escapades appear anew in a nine-episode show created by Shonda Rhimes, the first show the Bridgerton producer herself has written for the platform. Julia Garner – Ozark fans will know her as the unsinkable Ruth Langmore – plays Sorokin. Anna Chlumsky (Veep) plays the intrepid reporter, Vivian Kent, pursuing Delvey's story. Laverne Cox plays a fitness-master friend Kacy Duke.

Based on original reporting by New York magazine journalist and series producer Jessica Pressler, Inventing Anna includes all you could hope for in depicting New York’s intricate social circles of the mid-2010s. There’s the clean-cut, generically handsome start-up boyfriend and his finance bros. The basic friends from Somewhere Else who mooch off the girl with the credit card. The svelte and chic fashion gays; the power circles of women executives who protect and defend each other with the ferocity of a tribe; the art world doyennes and gallerists who sell you speculative commodities with a Champagne chaser.

Inventing Anna. Julia Garner as Anna Delvey in episode 102 of Inventing Anna. Cr. Aaron Epstein/Netflix © 2021

In the middle of it all sits Anna. Dressed in Balenciaga and Chanel and “$50 panties”, dripping in designer jewellery and handbags and sunglasses, she coos her way to the top – or tries to. Part of what made her so convincing, say those who were convinced, was her look.

“Her face was basic,” says one disgruntled former friend. “Peasant face. Which is how you know she’s legitimately wealthy.”

She certainly dressed the part of what central-casting would call the Uptown Girl, maybe to counterbalance the more subtle face and hair, which Hollywood has swept up to be rather more polished than it may have been in real life. (Delvey reportedly frequented the Upper East Side's Sally Hershberger salon, where haircuts can cost $800 – about R12 000.)

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Inventing Anna. Julia Garner as Anna Delvey in episode 102 of Inventing Anna. Cr. Aaron Epstein/Netflix © 2021

In the opening credits, we see Delvey in blackout designer shades and Burberry-style trench coats, wearing starburst earrings . Throughout the nine-episode limited series she carries classic-style Chanel bags and wears large scarves from Hermès, the kind you’d find in vintage boutiques.

So do her wealthy new friends as they traipse around their $60 million-or-so Hamptons homes, complete with “sheets made from kittens and radiant floor heating.

They drive their BMW 5-Series and Land Rovers around Sag Harbor, buy $180 000-plus Cindy Sherman film stills, and view the sculptures at Storm King Art Center.

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As Kent quickly finds out, Delvey lived for months in a $1 700-a-night room at 12 George Hotel, where in real life as in fiction she gained a reputation for tipping in $100 bills. (12 George is the presumable Netflix stand-in for the real-life 11 Howard hotel, which along with the W New York Union Square and the Beekman, said Delvey owed them thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.)

11 Howard was home of the upscale the Blonde nightclub, which must have been convenient for the downtown-loving Delvey. She and her boyfriend Chase, who has a tech-start-up vaguely centred on accessing literal dreams, loved going out. At a high point in the relationship, they galavant to Ibiza on a private jet, which if it’s anything like the Gulfstream G280 (which costs $6 400 an hour to fly), cost at least $32 000 to charter. Once ensconced in Spain, they take a wooden power boat ($200 000 if you like one at Stancraft) to join friends on, presumably, $500 000-a-week yachts. Designer caftans, lobster-topped seafood platters, and Moët & Chandon abound.

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The tour through decadence continues as Delvey progresses through New York fashion photo shoots and Paris Fashion Week, on a chartered plane to a Berkshire Hathaway conference in Omaha, Nebraska, and on Bergdorf Shopping sprees totalling more than $400 000. In the Netflix version, she apologised to her friend Nora that spending oversight by sending a stuffed peacock ($3 600 if you get one here) from one of the Bergdorf displays.

By the third episode it starts to unravel; by the end it comes to a crashing halt as these things do, when a “friend”, upset about $62 000 lost on a trip to Morocco, decides to co-operate in a sting operation with police. Law enforcement arrested Delvey in July 2017.

For those who wonder, as one stylist former-friend did, Delvey spent her incarceration (in the show at least) in a jumpsuit dyed in an almost-chic prison grey, not one in harsh orange. To some in these circles, having the right look matters everywhere.

For what it’s worth, Delvey says she will not be watching Rhimes’ version of events. US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement arrested her in March 2021 for overstaying her visa in the US. She remains in custody as she awaits possible deportation to Germany.

This story first appeared in Saturday Insider, Feb 19, 2022

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