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Article

Pamela Elizabeth Grimaud

(b Tunis, Feb 2, 1935).

French fashion designer, of Tunisian birth. Alaïa is renowned for his ‘second skin’ fashions and masterful cutting techniques (see fig.). Christened the ‘King of Cling’ by fashion journalists, Alaïa rose to prominence in the 1980s following years of realizing commissions for a loyal and select clientele. His designs are modern, overtly feminine in their celebration of the female form and, in Alaïa’s own words: ‘not sexy, voluptuous’. Alaïa’s sculpted fashions have been known to render other designers’ fashions unwearable—they simply feel too large in comparison.

Born in southern Tunisia, Alaïa was raised by his maternal grandparents and at the age of 15 undertook the study of sculpture. Realizing soon after that sculpture was not his calling, and serendipitously passing a dressmaker’s window on his way to classes, he saw a sign for an assistant. He was hired for the task of finishing hems at five francs apiece. Alaïa rose quickly to become a favourite of Tunisian high society, copying for the local clientele the work of the great ...

Article

Diane Maglio

(b Piacenza, July 11, 1934).

Italian fashion designer. Armani was dubbed the ‘Sexy Tailor’ by the American fashion press for sartorial innovations he introduced in menswear. He brought sensual drape to traditional suit coats by eliminating rigid interlinings that had shaped and restricted men’s clothing in the 1970s. To complement his new softly-tailored coats, he created short, supple, collared shirts and textural, patterned ties. Armani’s impact on menswear went beyond unstructured sewing techniques to include a serene colour palette inspired by the Italian artist Giorgio Morandi. The neutral earth tones included an inventive grey–beige (‘greige’), moss, mushroom and smoky grey–blue, tones not seen before in menswear. Armani claimed to be ‘the stylist without colour’. Armani also brought a feminine touch to menswear and eventually expanded his design aesthetic to women’s clothing, bringing a powerful look to women’s fashion. His minimal modernism in cut and fit, while retaining maximum impact in silhouette and colour, stimulated the fashion imagination of Hollywood, retailers, journalists and customers of both sexes....

Article

(b Leeds, W. Yorks, June 28, 1950).

English jewelleryand textile designer. She trained at Leicester School of Art (1968–9) and at the Central School of Art and Design, London (1969–72). In her early pieces she employed flexible nylon monofilament structures that could be collapsed to form a neckpiece, pulled up to form a ruff effect or even expanded to cover the face and head (e.g. neckpiece/veil, 1983; see Dormer and Turner, pl. 161). She also used multi-coloured woven flax for broad hooped necklaces and bracelets (e.g. tufted necklace, 1979; see Houston, pl. 12). The range of plain and coloured acrylic jewellery produced by C&N Buttons & Jewellery Production, a company she formed in London in 1978 with Nuala Jamison (b 1 Oct 1948), had a broader appeal. In her work Broadhead proposed new functions for materials and techniques, going beyond the idea of a unique item of value, to fuse clothing and decorative accessories in a complete and imaginative ensemble. In the 1980s she created a new mood with elusive body garments: ...

Article

Kirsta Willis

(b Newark, NJ, Sept 15, 1943).

African-American fashion designer. Burrows’s trademarks included colour blocking, asymmetry, fluid jersey separates and fluted ‘lettuce’ hems. With a youthful nonchalance and anti-establishment sensibility, Burrows clothes defined the movement and the eclecticism of New York City’s nightlife in the 1970s.

Burrows’s love affair with colour stemmed from his mother, who taught him to draw using the entire box of crayons, while from his seamstress grandmother, he learned how to sew. However, Burrows never contemplated a career in fashion until he attended the Philadelphia Museum College of Art. After graduating from Newark’s Arts High School, Burrows set out for Philadelphia, intent on becoming an art teacher. However, spurred on by a fashion exhibition he viewed, Burrows left the arts college in his second year, working briefly in the display department of Bamberger’s department store before enrolling in Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology. He graduated in 1966 and landed his first job with Weber Originals where he spent a particularly boring year designing ladies’ blouses. Burrows took his restless creativity back to New Jersey and began freelancing, mainly making clothing for his friends....

Article

Cassandra Gero

(b Venice, July 1, 1922).

French couturier, ready-to-wear designer and entrepreneur. Cardin is known for space-age style fashions in the 1960s, pioneering the ready-to-wear market and extensive licensing of his name (see fig.).

Cardin was born in Italy, but his family moved to France when he was two years old. He worked as a menswear tailor in Vichy, then as an accountant for the Red Cross during World War II. He later moved to Paris, where he was employed as an assistant at the couture houses of Jeanne Paquin, Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior. Cardin helped execute Dior’s design of the famous ‘Bar’ suit for his inaugural ‘New Look’ collection in 1947. In 1950 he started his own business and designed costumes for theatre productions, including Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. In 1953, he began designing small couture collections for women. At the time his fashions were similar to those of other Paris ...

Article

Sarah Scaturro

[Çaglayan, Hüseyin]

(bNicosia, Aug 12, 1970).

British fashion designer born in Turkish Cyprus. Chalayan won the British Fashion Award for Designer of the Year in 1999 and 2000. He is best known for his cerebral designs that reference architecture, geopolitics and technology, as well as exploring the theme of transformation.

Chalayan was educated in Cyprus before moving to London to attend Central St Martins College of Art and Design, where he graduated with honours in 1993 with a BA in fashion. His innovative final year collection titled ‘The Tangent Flows’ consisted of silk and cotton garments that had been covered in iron shavings and buried for six weeks in a garden. These garments, exhumed right before his show, had developed a rusty, earthy patina that commented on the beauty of decay by echoing the process of burial and rebirth. Soon afterwards, his collection was featured in the windows of the London store Browns.

Chalayan founded his eponymous line the next year with his first commercial collection ‘Cartesia’ for Autumn/Winter ...

Article

Nele Bernheim

(b Kortrijk, Belgium, Dec 29, 1959)

Belgian fashion designer. Ann Demeulemeester studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Antwerp (1977-81). In 1982 she won the first-ever Gouden Spoel (Golden Spindle) award. She created the company bvba ‘32’ in 1985 with her photographer husband, Patrick Robyn, in Antwerp. Her breakthrough came with her first women’s collection as a member of the informal group known as ‘The Antwerp Six’ at London’s British Designer Show in 1987. Her first line of shoes and accessories followed in 1988. Demeulemeester established herself as a leading avant-garde independent designer with her first show in Paris in 1992. Her designs, chiefly executed in black and white, are typified by the union of contrasts such as elegant flowing drapery and sharp cuts.

Demeulemeester’s vocabulary consists of a poetic mix of modernism, sensuality and a spark of rebellion. Her game of contrasts—a sharp cut and flowing layers—demonstrates a gamut of emotions. The silhouettes she has been creating since the beginning of her career are innovative and modern and have proven to be strong enough to survive short-term trends. The coexistent subversive sobriety, uneasy romanticism, and rough finish of her creations earned her the label ‘deconstructivist’ in the early 1990s. However, her output has changed and evolved from one collection to the next with the distillation of her ideas. Demeulemeester works with a compelling sense of abstraction, often disrupting codes and playing with the notion of androgyny. She explores a silhouette in depth, in all its possibilities. Her creative process is almost scientific. Solving successive design problems, she arrives at new forms, and a collection is built that generates tension by means of contrasts. The search for the right cut, the right form, the right drape, the right proportion animates Demeulemeester’s love of transformable clothing. An intricate assemblage of ties and slits permits the perfect drape. Her garments suggest movement, even when the wearer is standing still. Trousers appear to slip off the hip; blouses slip off the shoulder; a dress is tight on one side of the body and loosely draped over the other (...

Article

Sarah Scaturro

Technology influences the physical manifestation of fashion, affecting a garment’s appearance and performance. Throughout history, changes in technology affecting the production of materials and the manufacture of garments and accessories have spurred changes in fashion design. In the 20th and 21st centuries, technology has affected not only the look of fashion, but how the fashion system works.

Much of the relationship between technology and fashion centres on textiles. Looms often determine the size and complexity of textiles. Fabric woven on a simple backstrap loom has inherently smaller widths in reference to the size of the human body, whereas fabric woven on the drawloom can be several feet wide and contain more complex weave structures, which translates into more sophisticated patterning options. The drawloom process (which requires two people—the weaver and a person who ‘draws’ up warps at specific points to create the pattern) was mechanized in the early 19th century with the invention of the jacquard loom and its punch card system. Lyons in France and Spitalfields in England were two of the most technologically advanced silk-weaving centres....

Article

Sarah Scaturro

Since the late 20th century, there have been significant changes in the ecological concerns of fashion designers, clothing manufacturers and consumers. There is a growing awareness of the limited natural resources available for clothing production and the polluting, often toxic, by-products produced in the manufacturing process. Both problems are compounded by ever-increasing rates of clothing consumption and disposal. There are several key phrases that are often used interchangeably (although there are slight distinctions) in describing fashion that attempts to address these concerns: ‘eco-fashion’, ‘sustainable fashion’, ‘fair-trade fashion’ and ‘green fashion’. There is no single answer or best practice for creating or participating in environmentally sustainable fashion; a participant in the fashion system might focus on just one aspect, seeking to make a small, but hopefully effective change to the current fashion paradigm. Although as recently as the late 1990s, environmentally minded fashion was associated with an unsophisticated, oversimplified and so-called ‘natural’ style, the early 20th century has seen a rise in sustainable clothing of high-quality fabrication and fashionable design....

Article

Meghan E. Grossman

Fashion photography is the use of photography to communicate the latest trends in clothing. It acts as a representation of popular taste and is created to serve a commercial industry, yet it has also served as an avenue for change, pushing the boundaries of acceptability with innovations in style, technique, and the portrayal of fashion. Fashion photography was a democratizing force in the acceptance of photography, as it brought the new form of expression to an audience of every social level, rich or poor, urban or suburban. Via mass media, photography serves to relate changes in fashion over long distances and many cultures, primarily disseminating the styles of high fashion in Paris, Milan, or New York to the rest of the world.

Fashion photography as it exists today falls into three main categories: editorial, advertising, and documentary. In the first category, photographs are commissioned by a publication to provide the “news” in fashion to its audience. These photographs are intended to feature the best designs of the current season, without monetary compensation from the companies whose products are included. Editorial photographs are often tied together by theme or narrative, to create a coherent multi-page spread featuring several different designs. Advertising photographs are commissioned by the design house, manufacturer, or retailer to feature a product or brand identity. The company pays for the space in which the advertising photograph appears. Finally, fashion design companies often commission photographers to document their collections; these photographs can be used in-house for documentary purposes or published in the form of a catalog, which serves as additional advertising. Depending on the purpose of the assignment, the photographer may choose to feature the clothes on a model, or hide fashion pieces amongst a jumble of unrelated objects. The goal of the photographer is to elevate the clothing to its highest status, the “fashion object,” through visual cues, lighting, composition, and creativity. Photography has served to add prestige to fashionable clothes since its introduction....

Article

Lourdes Font, Beth McMahon, Cassandra Gero, Ann Poulson, Nancy Deihl, Lourdes M. Font, Deirdre Clemente and Clare Sauro

This article defines, describes and traces the history of the major categories of Western fashion design, with an emphasis on women’s high fashion.

The term ‘underwear’ refers to several different types of garment worn under outer layers of clothing. The first type is the basic undergarment worn next to the skin, historically made of washable linen or cotton. The English term ‘linen’ and the French term ‘lingerie’ (Fr. linge: ‘linen’) are synonyms for basic undergarments. The second type of underwear is a foundation garment worn to alter the shape of the body. The term ‘understructure’ also applies to these garments, which create or support the silhouette demanded by fashion at a given time. Although at various times it has been fashionable to reveal underwear at the neckline, sleeve or hemline, both basic undergarments and the foundation garments worn over them are usually invisible under the outer layers of clothing. Finally, there is a type of lingerie identified as undress; clothing that is worn only in private situations in the home. Although not considered acceptable public attire, over time undress frequently develops into fashionable outerwear....

Article

(b Brussels, Dec 31, 1947).

American fashion designer of Belgian birth. Von Furstenberg is best known for her sexy, printed jersey wrap dresses. Von Furstenberg credits her work ethic and determination to her mother Lily, the survivor of a Nazi concentration camp. In 1966 at the University of Geneva, she met Austro-Italian Prince Edward Egon von Furstenberg, heir to the Fiat fortune. The two married in Paris in 1969. Von Furstenberg’s career as a fashion designer began that same year with a short apprenticeship to Angelo Ferretti, an Italian textile manufacturer. Despite having no formal design training, she put together a small collection of shirtwaist dresses inspired by Ferretti’s silk jersey prints. In 1970 she arrived in New York to show them to the editor of Vogue, Diana Vreeland, who was impressed by them. Von Furstenberg officially launched her company two years later with the slogan, ‘Feel like a woman, wear a dress’. Von Furstenberg was designing for herself—a working woman in her late 20s or early 30s who was successful, free-spirited, confident and sensual. Her dresses were a feminine and flirty alternative to the androgynous trouser suits of the 1970s....

Article

Amy Widmayer

[Galliano-Guillen, Juan Carlos Antonio]

(b Gibraltar, Nov 28, 1960).

British fashion designer, active also in France. Half renegade, half romantic, as a designer for Christian Dior, Galliano deftly captured Dior’s essence, creating excessively elegant garments for the modern, youthful woman unafraid of breaking fashion rules (see fig.). Known for his extravagant catwalk shows, over-the-top couture collections and knack for blending street- and high fashion, Galliano’s outrageous adaptations of iconic Dior silhouettes, master tailoring skills and penchant for theatrics, combined with a keen business sense, have earned him the distinction of being one of the most influential designers of his generation.

Born into a family of modest means in Gibraltar and raised in gritty south London, Galliano was educated at the prestigious Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, where he graduated with a first class honours degree in 1984. His final collection at Central Saint Martin’s, entitled ‘Les Incroyables’, was an irreverent nod to the tattered clothing of the French Revolutionaries, and showcased not only his flawless technical skill, but his astute attention to detail and his passion for historical research....

Article

Nancy Deihl

(b Arcueil, April 24, 1952).

French fashion designer (see figs 1 and 2). Since his début collection, Gaultier has repeatedly been called the enfant terrible of French fashion for his rejection of conventional distinctions between male and female dress, his controversial historical and global references, and an ongoing ironic evocation of the Paris of popular imagination.

Gaultier credited his early interest in fashion to the influence of his grandmother, an amateur hypnotist and fortuneteller with a colourful group of clients for whom Gaultier imagined dramatic outfits and hairstyles. His grandmother’s foundation garments were particularly important and inspired an obsession with corsets that became a recurring motif in his design career.

As a teenager, he designed fashion collections for his mother and grandmother and sent sketches to Pierre Cardin. On his 18th birthday, Gaultier was offered a job by Cardin, where he stayed for about one year. He then moved on to a short stint with the avant-garde designer Jacques Esterel (...

Article

Hermès  

M. B. Whitaker

French luxury goods and fashion house. Thierry Hermès (1801–78), a fine craftsman and artisan, opened a harness and saddle-making shop in Paris in 1837. It evolved into the House of Hermès, a world-renowned supplier of luxury leather goods, fashion apparel and accessories, fragrance, jewellery and gifts (see fig.).

Thierry Hermès’ dedication to quality, fine workmanship, and superior materials gained him a reputation as the most superb maker of harnesses in Paris. In 1879 the success of Thierry’s shop enabled his son, Emile-Charles (1835–1919), to expand the business and relocate to its present headquarters at 24, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The house supplied riding equipment to the best stables throughout Europe, including those belonging to royalty, such as the Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, and Tsar Nicholas II.

Adolphe and Emile-Maurice (1871–1951), grandsons of Thierry, vigorously spearheaded the diversification of Hermès products when the introduction of motor vehicles began to threaten business. Hermès expanded their offering to include luggage, handbags and sporting equipment. Until then no fancy leatherwork had been done by saddle-makers and the Hermès saddle stitch style was an instant success. Furthermore, the fittings of their leather accessories inspired the vogue for harness motifs and hardware in sportswear....

Article

Rebecca Arnold

[née Pacanins y Nino, Maria Carolina Josefina]

(b Caracas, Jan 8, 1939).

Venezuelan fashion designer, active also in the USA (see fig.). While Herrera’s designs always contain elements of current fashion, her work is more about the cultivation of a sleek international style that is classically feminine. Her upbringing among the élite, leisured classes of South America encouraged her to view clothing as a visual expression of good taste and ease. Rather than following trends, her designs tend to favor clean lines, with a focus on detail.

Herrera was brought up in an environment where clothes were bought from Parisian couturiers, such as Cristobal Balenciaga, or made by skilled local dressmakers. In each case, craftsmanship and structure were important, combined with a desire to acknowledge wealthy women’s lifestyles within the design of each garment. Herrera therefore developed an appreciation for refined design skills and good fit early in her life, which was to prove crucial to her own evolution as a designer. Combined with this awareness of fashion’s central role in the life of wealthy women was her cosmopolitan outlook. This was nurtured by regular trips to Europe and North America, which provided inspiration through visits to galleries and museums, and gave her an understanding of the international lifestyle of many women of her class. The need of these women to be dressed stylishly and appropriately for diverse events from tennis matches to cocktail parties or office work in a city shaped Herrera’s outlook, as much as her appreciation of art and culture....

Article

Amy Widmayer

(b New York, April 9, 1963).

American fashion and accessories designer. He is often regarded as the most talented and influential American designer of his generation, due in part to his uncanny understanding of how the perception of fashion’s past and the definition of beauty and glamour change with the passage of time (see fig.). Jacobs has garnered an almost cult-like following designing clothes that mirror major moments in modern pop culture—glamorizing grunge, pairing fashion with anime and drawing inspiration from imperfect and less-than-glamorous tabloid celebrities.

His father, a talent agent at the William Morris Agency, died when Jacobs was seven and his mother remarried several times, uprooting her son with each new relationship. As a result, he was eventually raised by his paternal grandmother—whom he calls his biggest influence—on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, in an apartment at 72nd Street and Central Park West. Jacobs attended the High School of Art and Design and worked as a stock boy at the trendy Charivari boutique, where he was introduced to designer ...

Article

Melissa Marra

(b Wethersfield, CT, Aug 10, 1942).

American fashion designer. Known for her exuberant, colourful designs, in the 1960s Johnson emerged as the most prominent designer in New York City’s pop scene—her use of unorthodox material was kindred to the Pop art mentality. Her designs project a sense of unabashed levity and humour that has endured.

Johnson fostered childhood aspirations of becoming a dancer, which produced an enthusiasm for costume and inspired her creativity in fashion. After one year of study at New York’s Pratt Institute, Johnson transferred to Syracuse University where, as an art major and drama minor, she took classes in fabric design. After graduating in 1964, she won Mademoiselle’s Guest College Editor contest, which garnered her an internship as assistant to the magazine’s fabric editor. During this time, she was introduced to the unconventional materials she would later use in her own designs, such as vinyl, foils, and even the industrial insulation used for space vehicles. The internship led to a position as an illustrator in ...

Article

Beth Dincuff Charleston

(b New York, June 27, 1945).

American fashion designer. Few designers have managed to be as influential as Norma Kamali without extensive press coverage. Specializing in ready-to-wear garments, Kamali introduced the world to the concepts of high-heeled sneakers and mix-and-match bikinis, originated the ‘sleeping bag’ coat and was the first designer to see the wide sartorial possibilities of both sweatshirt jersey and parachute silk (see fig.).

Kamali received her training at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, graduating in 1964 with a degree in fashion illustration. Kamali then worked as an airline employee, a job that introduced her to the pleasures of transatlantic shopping. In 1968, inspired by the fashions she saw in ‘swinging’ London, Kamali opened a boutique on 53rd Street in Manhattan. Mixed in with her British finds were her original designs, featuring appliqués of lizard, leather and snakeskin and rhinestone-studded t-shirts. When she moved to Madison Avenue in 1973, a ...

Article

Beth Dincuff Charleston

(b Forest Hills, New York, Oct 2, 1948).

American fashion designer. Karan’s standing as one of the most successful fashion designers in the United States rests upon her understanding of the needs of the modern woman. Karan is known for using sensuoups, soft fabrics in muted colour schemes, especially black, in layered ensembles that are as flattering as they are practical. As both creator and businesswoman Karan is the true heir of American sportswear designers such as Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin and her mentor, Anne Klein (1923–74).

Karan’s mother was a former fitting model and her stepfather was also in the fashion industry. After graduating from secondary school, she attended Parsons School of Design in New York and while still a student was hired by sportswear designer Anne Klein. By 1971 she was Klein’s assistant. Karan presented her first full solo collection in May 1974, just two months after Klein’s death, and less than one month after giving birth to a daughter. The collection featured her concept of layering skirts, trousers and jackets over a ‘bodysuit’ or leotard. In ...