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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 amongst 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 favour 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 ...

Article

Pamela Roskin

(b Tokyo, Oct 11, 1942).

Japanese fashion designer. Rei Kawakubo, the fashion designer and creator of Comme des Garçons (Like Some Boys), is best known for her often oversized, asymmetrical, monochromatic and deliberately imperfect clothing (see fig.).

Born during World War II, Kawakubo was the oldest of three children. She described her childhood years as comfortable and normal even though her parents divorced, which was unusual in post-war Japan. Her father was an administrator at Keio University, a prestigious college in Tokyo, and her mother taught English at a local high school. In 1964 Kawakubo graduated from Keio University with a degree in aesthetics that included coursework in Asian and Western art. That same year, Japan hosted the Olympics, signalling that the postwar reconstruction period was over. The boom years that followed allowed such designers as Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto to flourish.

After graduating, Kawakubo moved to Harajuko, a bohemian neighbourhood in Tokyo. Although she herself did not adopt an alternative lifestyle, she was attracted to her neighbours’ rejection of traditional values. Her first job was in the advertising department of Asahi Kasei, a textile manufacturer. She said of those early career years that she was not thinking of a job in fashion but rather was striving towards self-sufficiency, a goal she believed every woman should attempt and a driving philosophy behind her designs....

Article

Joan Kee

[Kim Sooja; Kim Soo-ja; Kim Soo Ja]

(b Daegu, April 24, 1957).

Korean mixed-media artist, active also in the USA. Kim studied painting at Hongik University, Seoul, graduating in 1984. That same year she received a scholarship to study art at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. During the mid-1980s Kim became interested in employing commonly used Korean textiles in her work. Distinctively patterned and coloured, the textiles offered different formal possibilities, and early works featured various swathes cut and sewn together to form large, continuous surfaces. In 1992 Kim was awarded a residency as part of the International Studio Program at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York. Inspired by the objects collected in her studio, Kim began to use the figure of the bottari, wrapped bundles used in Korea for the easy transport of goods, in installations such as Deductive Object (1994). She also began to experiment with performance and interactive works. In Sewing Into Walking...

Article

Beth Dincuff Charleston

(Richard)

(b Bronx, New York, Nov 12, 1942).

American fashion designer. Klein first found success with coats and suits, but his creative repertoire grew to encompass sophisticated American sportswear, evening wear and licensed mass market items such as jeans, fragrance and underwear. Known for using luxurious fabrics in a subdued colour palette, his signature pieces and innovations include the peacoat, day-into-night dressing, t-shirts adapted for evening wear and the slip dress. Klein himself, and many fashion journalists, have described his style as modern, clean, simple and minimalist (see fig.; see fig.). His originality extends to his advertising; campaigns produced for his company have been controversial for their portrayal of sexuality (see also Fashion photography).

Klein attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, leaving in 1962. In December 1967 he and his childhood friend Barry Schwartz founded Calvin Klein, Ltd. to produce ready-to-wear coats, suits and tailored day dresses. In 1968 Mildred Custin, president of the New York department store B. Altman’s, featured his youthful coats and dresses in the store’s fall window displays. Other fashion luminaries encouraged and enabled Klein’s initial accomplishments, including fashion editor Nicky de Gunzburg, who helped Klein attain his first ...

Article

Amy Widmayer

(Marie Marc)

(b Arles, May 16, 1951).

French fashion designer (see fig.). Lacroix was raised in Trinquetaille, a small village near the town of Arles in the south of France. He developed a preoccupation with art and fashion from a young age, through visiting the Museon Arlaten, an ethnographic museum in Arles, every Thursday, and by accompanying his father on appointments to the tailor. As the elder Lacroix was fitted for tweed jackets, suede waistcoats and checked shirts with English collars, the younger Lacroix read about the history of the traditional bespoke suit, thus igniting a love affair not only with British tweed, but also with the mystique of British tailoring.

Even as Lacroix greatly admired his father’s penchant for understated English elegance, his true fashion idol was his grandfather, a model of sophisticated chic in the manner of iconic French actor Jules Berry. Full of curiousity, Lacroix would spend afternoons at his grandparents’ home combing the attic for precious, fashionable finds, among them bound volumes of ...

Article

Amy Widmayer

(b Hamburg, Sept 10, 1933 or 1938).

French fashion designer of German birth. Lagerfeld, one of the pre-eminent designers of his generation, was born in Hamburg to an upper-middle class family. His father, a Swedish businessman who accumulated wealth by selling condensed milk, moved the family to Bad Bramstedt, a remote town in northern Germany, during Hitler’s rise to power. Despite the lack of exposure to haute couture in the countryside, Lagerfeld developed a preoccupation with fashion from an early age. A precocious child, he insisted upon wearing gold-embroidered, black suede lederhosen, and in addition to a French governess, he demanded a valet—because of his habit of changing clothes several times throughout the day.

Lagerfeld was fascinated by the fashion photography in pre-war magazines and by photographs of his mother from the 1920s, especially of her in a Madeleine Vionnet-designed wedding dress. As a schoolboy he was extremely critical of his classmates’ attire, and that, coupled with his predilection for wearing a suit jacket, tie and three-quarter-length shorts to class, distanced him from his peers. Unfazed by his lack of friends, Lagerfeld instead devoted his time to reading a variety of works including the epic German poem ...

Article

M. B. Whitaker

(Rueben)

(b New York, Oct 14, 1939).

American fashion designer (see fig.). Lauren is the founder of Polo Ralph Lauren, a fashion company with men’s, women’s, children’s and home brand extensions. Lauren’s collections draw inspiration from romantic, vintage Americana and genteel British aristocracy. Conceptual themes that recur in his work include: equestrian and other sports, yachting, prep school style, rugged and utilitarian work clothing, cowboys, safari (see fig.), Native Americans and the Southwest, English haberdashery and vintage cars.

Born Ralph Rueben Lifshitz to an Eastern European Jewish immigrant family in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City, he changed his name to Lauren at the age of 16. As a child he enjoyed sports, films and the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Lauren, who would arguably become the most influential tastemaker of American style in the latter 20th century (see fig.), cultivated his image from an early age. While his neighbourhood friends were wearing motorcycle jackets and jeans, he preferred tweed Bermuda shorts and button-down shirts. He worked in a department store throughout high school and spent most of his $50-a-week salary on clothes....

Article

El Loko  

Christine Mullen Kreamer

(b Pedakondji, 1950).

Togolese painter, printmaker and sculptor, active in Germany. He trained as a textile designer in Accra and Tema, Ghana, before moving to Germany in the early 1970s. He studied fine arts at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie with Beuys, Crummenauer and Heerich. His work includes a number of linoleum cuts in which birds’ wings, claws and beaks are combined with masks, faces and other elements in striking compositions. More recent mixed-media paintings and prints juxtapose images and abstract shapes executed in earthen tones. In works on paper and wooden sculpture dating from the early 1990s, sand and earthen pigments are combined to create texture and a sense of movement and depth. Many of his works are abstract colour fields composed of striking red-orange, yellow ochre and slate blue tones that outline geometric forms and, at times, stylized faces of partial humans. Eyes, crown, conical human heads and projecting horns are familiar elements, as is a mottled surface pattern. These same qualities are repeated in wooden sculptures, some exploring curvilinear and geometric volumes of the human form, others creating more two-dimensional, openwork, geometric patterns in sculptures that resemble commemorative or totemic wooden posts. El Loko has had numerous one-man exhibitions, primarily in Germany, and group shows in Germany, Switzerland, England, Togo, Ghana and the USA....

Article

Călin Dan

(b Cluj-Napoca, 1940).

Romanian tapestry designer and installation artist. She studied tapestry design at the ‘Ion Andreescu’ Institute of Fine and Decorative Art in Cluj-Napoca, first exhibiting her work at the National Exhibition for Decorative Arts, Bucharest, in 1965. She evolved from a two-dimensional concept of tapestry towards an original attempt to work in a three-dimensional context. She was quickly recognized internationally as an innovative designer, whose suppleness of technique (passing from high warp to ikat, or the Oriental tassel technique) enabled her to move beyond the confines of conventional tapestry design to participate in installations and happenings. In her work the textile is set in opposition to hard elements, such as wood or stone, or unexpected ones, such as leather or fruit, forming only the ambient structure of an idea of a space. An organic and disquieting element appeared in her Flying Machines and Nests, small works that attempt a Dadaist effect by being absurd and aggressive. Lupas’s ecological concerns, which dominate much of her work, were first expressed in optimistic works made from wheat sheaves and by installations such as the one executed with the help of peasant women in a Transylvanian village, who unfolded on a hill huge rolls of white hand-woven fabric. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, she became more pessimistic about the future of mankind, expressing her more morbid attitude in photographs, videos, drawings and texts as well as further installations. The festive installation of bleached hand-woven fabric was repeated in an urban context, with tar-spread fabric and funerary symbols (Bucharest, ...

Article

Beverly Marks-Paton

(b Zululand, 1941).

South African printmaker and textile designer. His interest in art and design was fostered when he was in Ceza Mission Hospital with tuberculosis in the early 1960s. The Swedish textile designer Peder Gowenius was teaching art and craft at the hospital as a therapy for the patients; he taught Mbatha the technique of linocut. In 1962 Mbatha began to study art at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art and Craft Centre at Umpumulo in Natal, later moving with the centre to Rorke’s Drift, Natal. There he expressed an interest in drawing, which was discouraged because, unlike printmaking, it was not considered an economically ‘useful’ technique; instead great emphasis was placed on the translation of the narratives and oral history of rural Zululand into the design of prints for textiles and illustrations. Mbatha established a personal style of dividing the format of his prints into a series of tableaux making up a complete narrative dealing with biblical subjects, as in the ...

Article

Pamela Elizabeth Grimaud

(b London, March 17, 1969; d London, Feb 11, 2010).

Engish fashion designer. Self-styled ‘electric, eccentric’ McQueen is known for his impeccable tailoring techniques and fantastical fashion shows. One of six children born to a cab driver and a social history teacher in London’s East End, McQueen owed his success to an innate genius for fashion design and execution as a whole, as well as remarkable perseverance. McQueen dropped out of school at the age of 16 and, although having few qualifications, soon landed an apprenticeship at Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard, spending two years there before moving to Gieves & Hawkes. Departing Savile Row, he joined theatrical costumiers Bermans & Nathans. Through his apprenticeships, he mastered traditional tailoring techniques, which are evidenced in his fashions and cutting-edge collections that frequently reference such historical elements as corsetry.

At the age of 20, McQueen began working for Romeo Gigli (b 1949), having booked a one-way ticket to Milan with the sole purpose of working for the designer. Within the year McQueen had returned to London, applying for a position teaching pattern-cutting at the renowned Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Instead, he was offered a spot in the school’s graduate design programme, where he excelled. His entire ...

Article

Missoni  

Diane Maglio

Italian fashion design partnership. Tai [Ottavio] Missoni (b Ragusa, 11 Feb 1921) and Rosita Missoni [née Jelmini] (b Golasecco, 20 Nov 1931) occupy a unique position as high fashion artisans. Their daring fusion of multi-hued space-dyed yarns with kaleidoscopic patterns layered within each ensemble became their signature look (see fig.). For more than 50 years the Missonis have flawlessly merged creativity and technology, designing distinctive fabrics in flame stitches and chevrons, patchwork mélange and tartans for women, men, children and household products. Considered one of the most successful family-managed companies in Italy, the company continued after the original Missonis’ retirement under the direction of their three children Angela, Luca and Vittorio at their headquarters in Sumirago.

Rosita and Tai each had fashion backgrounds before they met. Rosita’s fashion ‘school’ was her grandmother’s business in the province of Varese making quality nightwear and Venetian shawls. Tai, a teenage champion runner, formed a small knitwear business in Trieste with his partner Giorgio Otberweger (...

Article

Mai Vu

(b Hiroshima, April 22, 1938).

Japanese fashion designer, active in Tokyo and Paris (see fig.). For his Autumn/Winter 1998 collection, Issey Miyake sent all his models down the Paris catwalk in a single stream of red, knitted tubing. Unlike the typical fashion show where the season’s look is unveiled in its finalized form, Miyake’s show was a presentation of his process. In collaboration with designer Dai Fujiwara, Miyake developed a radical approach to fashion design. Utilizing technological advances in fibre, fabric and computer science, he created a system to manufacture individual garments from a single thread. The method, known as A-POC, an acronym for ‘A Piece of Cloth’, is Miyake’s solution to the complicated manufacturing methods of traditional cut-and-sew garments.

Miyake was born in Hiroshima 1938 and witnessed the destruction and devastation of his country during World War II, but also saw its rise and redemption in the following years. This strength imbued in him allowed his artistry and discipline to grow. In ...

Article

Amy Widmayer

(b Strasbourg, 1948).

French fashion designer. A daring, avant-garde designer, Mugler is best known for his futuristic, body-conscious and sexually charged collections, his theatrical catwalk shows and his popular fragrance, Angel. Born in the Alsace-Lorraine region of eastern France, as a child he studied at the Ecole supérieure des Arts décoratifs de Strasbourg and, at the age of 14, while still a student, joined the corps de ballet of the Opéra National du Rhin. Mugler’s experience as a dancer taught him about the importance of the body in relation to clothing, in particular the shoulders and legs.

In 1968, at the age of 20, Mugler moved to Paris, first taking a job as a window-dresser and shortly afterward as the assistant designer at Gudule, a trendy boutique on the Rue de Buci. Wanting to explore other opportunities, he moved to London the following year where he designed for André Peters and between 1970...