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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...

Article

Amy Widmayer

[Maria Bianchi]

(b Milan, May 10, 1949).

Italian fashion and accessory designer for the Prada and Miu Miu labels. Prada is considered one of the most influential tastemakers in the world, as well as one of the most powerful businesswomen in Europe. Her ability to create clothes that distill the essence of vintage styles, while at the same time being thoroughly modern, has earned her the reputation as one of fashion’s undisputed trendsetters. Often referred to as ‘the thinking woman’s designer’, Prada has long rejected the traditional ideals of beauty and—through her clothes—has built an empire based on what the New York Times referred to as ‘intellectualized dressing that became chic by being anti-chic’.

Prada’s paternal grandfather Mario Prada founded Fratelli Prada, a leather-goods company, opening his first shop in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan in 1913. The company, which specialized in oggetti di lusso, or luxury objects, became known for an expensive leather travel case fitted with crystal vessels. Before long, the name Prada had become synonymous with luxury and, within five years of opening his shop, Mario Prada was appointed by the Italian royal family to make valises, trunks and cases from leather, walrus, alligator and other exotic materials. As a tribute to the family’s legacy of luxury craftsmanship, the first shop is now the flagship Prada store—where such vintage items as ivory-handled walking sticks, tortoiseshell brushes and beauty cases made from elephant skins are proudly displayed as reminders of the company’s illustrious past....

Article

Cassandra Gero

[ Rabaneda y Cuervo, Francisco ]

(b Pasagés de San Pedro, Feb 18, 1934).

Spanish-born, Paris-based fashion designer. Along with Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges , Rabanne was considered one of the Futurists in Paris fashion in the mid-1960s who revolutionized and challenged the haute couture fashion. He experimented with new materials, making dresses from plastic discs and wire.

Rabanne was born in the Basque region of Spain. His mother had worked for Cristobal Balenciaga in the 1920s. Rabanne originally trained as an architect at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, but he admired the freedom that designing fashion allowed. In the 1950s, he began to design buttons, embroideries and fashion accessories for couture houses, eventually making jewellery for Christian Dior and metal belts and headpieces for Hubert de Givenchy .

Rabanne’s first fashion collection, entitled ‘12 Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials’, premiered in Paris on 1 February 1966. The dresses were made from Rhodoid plastic discs held together by metal links. The models walked barefoot, since Rabanne could not afford to provide them with shoes. Critics in Paris, the centre of couture, were appalled by the show. However, the collection was received quite well by American journalists and buyers, and Rabanne quickly became a media darling in the United States....

Article

Paula J. Birnbaum

(b Brooklyn, NY, April 30, 1943).

American conceptual artist. Reichek earned a BFA from Yale University and a BA from Brooklyn College, where she studied painting with Ad Reinhardt. Well versed in the traditions of modernist painting, Reichek began critiquing those traditions in the 1970s by making art using the vehicles of embroidery, knitting, and weaving. She then engaged in a range of large-scale installation projects that retool domestic media and formats to analyse the patriarchal and modernist assumptions of American culture. In her series of samplers, including Sampler (Kruger/Holzer) (1998; priv. col.), Reichek placed post-modern media-related art within a long history of alphabetic Samplers, a decorative form of needlework long practised by American and European women to demonstrate skill as well as exercise instructional aphorisms. Reichek’s samplers also strategically reference the rectilinear grid as structuring principle in abstract painting, revealing the artist’s interest in recurring patterns of representation of both image and text....

Article

Kristen E. Stewart

(b Santo Domingo, Jul 22, 1932; d Kent, CT, Oct 20, 2014).

Dominican-born American fashion designer. De la Renta’s illustrious career spans nearly six decades and is part of the canon of American fashion design (see fig.). Known for flattering, highly wearable designs characterized by sophisticated femininity and romantic details, de la Renta made a name for himself both as a designer and as a man of style at the centre of prominent social circles.

Oscar de la Renta was born the youngest child and only boy in a family of six sisters, to a Dominican mother, Maria Fiallo, and a Puerto Rican father, Oscar Ortiz de la Renta. Raised under the matriarchal rule of his maternal grandmother, de la Renta’s childhood experiences in the lushly tropical community surrounded by grand and proper women in crisply starched ruffles shaped his perception of femininity as strength. The regalia of the Catholic Church and the aristocratic European glamour of an uncle’s Russian mistress supplied his romantic nature with an exotic aesthetic vocabulary....

Article

Mai Vu

(b Chatham, Kent, Sept 19, 1940).

English textile and fashion designer. Zandra Rhodes was born into a working-class family. Her mother, whom she considers to be one of her greatest influences, had worked as a fitter for the House of Worth and taught fashion at Medway College of Art (now University for the Creative Arts, Rochester). Rhodes attended Medway, where she realized her passion for textile design as well as its artistic and technical challenges. She went on to study textile design at the Royal College of Art in London. At the time, most serious designers were steered towards the creation of patterns for decorative arts and furnishings. Rhodes however, dedicated her skills to the traditionally less prestigious area of fabrics for dress and fashion; possibly an influence from her mother. She created patterns under the notion that they would be cut and sewn to form garments; they would not forever remain flat on the printing table as a painting would, but rather become a part of the body of the wearer....

Article

Lourdes Font

[ Mathieu-Saint-Laurent, Yves Henri Donat ]

(b Oran, Algeria, Aug 1, 1936; d Paris, June 1, 2008).

French fashion designer ( see fig. ). In the late 20th century, few fashion designers could match Saint Laurent’s versatility, flawless sense of proportion and painterly gift for colour. From his six seasons as head designer at the house of Dior to his forty-year career at his own house, Saint Laurent safeguarded the standards of the Paris couture. Beginning in 1966, he and his partner Pierre Bergé also created an international network of ready-to-wear boutiques, launched fragrance, cosmetics and menswear subsidiaries and supervised the production of licensed products. The basis for Saint Laurent’s success was a talent nurtured by a deep knowledge of art and literature and a love for the theatre. He began his career as an innovator, able to synthesize the legacies of earlier couturiers while keeping a discerning eye on the contemporary street. In 1976, Saint Laurent demonstrated that, like Dior, he was capable of transforming the fashionable woman with a single collection. Having created a style of his own, Saint Laurent ended his career as the standard-bearer of French modern Classicism....

Article

Frederick J. Dockstader

(b Albuquerque, NM, May 25, 1948).

Native American Hopi weaver and painter. The daughter of an Anglo mother and a Hopi father, she is one of the most complicated personalities in contemporary Native American art. She attended Santa Fe School and Verde Valley School but did not enter the world of art until 1982. Her interest in exploring ancient as well as modern techniques has led her into the intricacies of a turkey feather cape and of an Inca shawl. In company with the few other weavers deeply concerned with their craft, she valued the involvement of the preparation of the handspun and dyed yarn as much as the execution of the weaving. She adopted the horizontal loom in order to facilitate her experimental work. She has also taught and lectured on various facets of textile art. A commission to turn the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright into textiles was echoed in her own Wright series, although the two are from totally different generations. Many of her designs combine Modernist elements with traditional motifs, as in ...

Article

dele jegede

[ Prince Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale-Toyeje Oyekale Osuntoki ]

(b Ibadan, May 1944; d Ibadan, June 16, 2011).

Nigerian painter, draughtsman, printmaker and textile designer. In 1964, while working as a dancer for a herbalist, he participated in the Mbari Mbayo Workshop in Oshogbo, producing drawings and prints. After Ulli Beier left Oshogbo, Twins Seven Seven switched to oils as a preferred medium. He drew illustrations for Amos Tutuola’s Palmwine Drinkard and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. In pen and ink drawings, etchings and paintings he created highly patterned representations of Yoruba life, populated by figures both natural and supernatural. A compulsive artist, Twins Seven Seven allowed his pieces to ‘unfold’ as they were created. His compositions are dense with overlapping figures, and every space of the pictorial plane is filled with some decorative or integral detail, as in his Baptist Church of Bush of Ghost (etching, 375 × 305 mm, c. 1969; Oxford, priv. col.). His paintings of the 1970s are covered with a luminous varnish, and it was during this time that he developed a layered style on plywood, a palette of earth tones sprinkled with bright greens and yellows, and a pictorial field in which figures are delineated in dark hues....