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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....


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....


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....


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....


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....


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....


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 ...


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....


Andrew Cross

revised by Mary Chou

(b London Aug 9, 1962).

British sculptor, painter and installation artist. Born to Nigerian parents, he grew up in Nigeria before returning to England to study Fine Art in London at Byam Shaw School of Art and Goldsmiths’ College where he completed his MFA. Shonibare’s West African heritage has been at the heart of his work since he started exhibiting in 1988, when he began using ‘Dutch-wax’ dyed fabrics, commonly found in Western Africa, both for wall-mounted works (as pseudo paintings) and for sculpted figures. Generally perceived as ‘authentic’African cloth, the tradition of Batik originated in Indonesia, and was appropriated by the Dutch who colonized the country. Manufactured in Holland and Britain, the cloth was then shipped to West Africa where it became the dress of the working class in nations such as Nigeria. Shonibare used the material as a way of deconstructing the more complex histories that determine these and other images of ethnicity. As such, he has been described as a ‘post-cultural hybrid’ or the ‘quintessential postcolonial artist’ by critics as well as the artist himself....


Beth Dincuff Charleston

(b Ohio; Sept 12, 1953, d March 4, 2004, New York).

American fashion and textile designer ( see fig. ). Sprouse was democratic in his design references but esoterically concerned with the quality of his creations. He drew inspiration from many different forms of art and popular culture. He is best remembered for his association with Andy Warhol , his collaborations with Keith Haring and other artists on textile designs, and his translation of rock and roll, particularly punk, to fashion. These interpretive designs bridged the Pop art of the 1960s with the Post-modernism of the 1980s.

Dressed all in black with either a bandanna or knit cap on his head, Sprouse’s appearance belied his middle American upbringing. Born to an insurance salesman father and a stay-at-home mother, Sprouse showed an early talent for drawing and design. At the age of 14 his father arranged a summer internship for him at Bill Blass . After briefly studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, Sprouse began working with leading American fashion designer ...


Kristen E. Stewart

(b Dearborn Heights, MI, c. 1955).

American fashion designer. Sui’s approach exemplifies the Post-modernist spirit of American fashion design that surfaced in the late 20th century. Sui achieved the quirky femininity and kitschy romance associated with her house through an unorthodox appropriation and layering of iconic elements drawn from the history of both fashion and anti-fashion. A connoisseur of cool, Sui and her designs have gained a following among rock stars, models and movie stars with a glamorous but edgy aesthetic.

Sui was the second of three children born to middle-class Chinese immigrant parents. In interviews, she often recalls the moment when she knew that she wanted to design clothes for stars. Playing with her brother’s toy soldiers, Sui dressed them in tissue-paper gowns and staged them in a mock Academy Awards ceremony. Experimenting with her style from a very young age, Sui made her own clothes and appliquéd her accessories with swatches to create the matched sets that would later become a trademark. As a teenager, Sui cut out and saved inspiring images from magazines. Now part of a lifelong archive and dubbed her Genius Files, these images are available on her website as emblems of her aesthetic. Growing up in suburban Detroit, Sui was also enthralled by the thriving local music scene, which was to later influence her designs....


Derek Schulz

(b Wellington, NZ, Feb 4, 1943).

New Zealand Maori weaver and fibre artist. In 1961–2 she studied at the Wellington School of Design. With the flowering of interest in Maori culture that took place in the late 1960s, she became deeply involved in Maori arts and crafts. Tahiwi began full-time teaching in Raranga (traditional Maori weaving) at the Institute of Maori Arts and Craft, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua, and subsequently played a leading role in the revival of flax weaving through her involvement in teaching at polytechnics throughout New Zealand. In 1986 she travelled to the Commonwealth Institute in London to demonstrate Maori weaving in association with the exhibition Amokura O te maori (The art of Maori weaving). In the late 1980s she began to change direction, inaugurating the development of contemporary Maori weaving. Tahiwi referred to her later work in terms of the Maori proverb Ka hao te rangatahi (the new net goes fishing). Yet while she used contemporary dyes and a range of new materials, flax and traditional knotting techniques still formed the basis of her art. A major work ...


Britta Erickson

(b Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, Nov 27, 1961).

Chinese installation artist. Lin studied art at Capital Normal University, Beijing in 1984. In 1987 she and her husband, the video artist Wang Gongxin (b 1960), moved to New York where, in 1989, she took courses at the Art Students League. In 1995 they returned to Beijing, where the dearth of venues receptive to mixed-media installation art led the couple to stage exhibitions in their home. Lin became one of the most notable Chinese artists creating mixed-media installation art, then a fledgling format in China. In 2001 Lin and Wang established China’s first public venue dedicated to new media art, Loft New Media Art Center, in Beijing.

1995 marked a breakthrough for Lin when she began working with white cotton thread. Her first major work in this signature material, The Proliferation of Thread-Winding (1995; for illustration see 1998 exh. cat.) was exhibited in her home. Lin’s best-known early work, ...


Teresa del Conde

(b Juchitán, Oaxaca, July 17, 1940).

Mexican painter, sculptor, textile designer, printmaker and collector. He grew up in an area that was rich in legends, rites and beliefs springing from a strong rural tradition predating the Spanish conquest of Mexico. He began to draw and paint at a very early age, studying first in Oaxaca, where he produced linocuts in the graphic workshop run by Arturo García Bustos (b 1926). In 1957 he moved to Mexico City to attend the Escuela de Diseño y Artesanía of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. After holding his first one-man shows of gouaches and prints in 1959 in Fort Worth, TX, and Mexico City, he moved in 1960 to Paris, where until 1963 he studied printmaking under Stanley William Hayter. While continuing to work within western traditions, he became interested in the art of oriental cultures and in ancient Mexican art, especially in those forms that were not officially sanctioned. In his attitude towards the sustaining inspiration of traditions he was particularly close to Paul Klee....


Cassandra Gero

(b Aix-en-Provence, Feb 13, 1933).

French couturier and ready-to-wear designer. Ungaro evolved from designing radical fashions to creating sensual yet empowering clothing for women.

Ungaro was born in France to Italian immigrants; his father was a men’s tailor in Aix-en-Provence and taught Ungaro the trade from the age of 11. As the son of hard-working immigrants, Ungaro was always determined to prove himself. In his early 20s he moved to Paris to become a fashion designer. For six years, beginning in 1958, he worked as an assistant for Cristobal Balenciaga . Ungaro had great respect for ‘the Master’ and learnt a great deal from him. He then worked for his friend and fellow former Balenciaga apprentice André Courrèges for two seasons.

In 1965, Ungaro opened his own couture house with his girlfriend, the graphic artist Sonja Knapp. At this time, Paris couture was under attack as a relic of the past, and ready-to-wear was far more appealing to the younger generation. Ungaro was a pioneer of the new couture; he was anti-establishment, wanting to ‘kill the couture’ as it existed at the time. His early collections were extremely avant-garde and he was often associated with other forward-looking ‘space age’ designers, such as ...


Meghan E. Grossman

[ Garavani, Valentino Clemente Ludovico ]

(b Voghera, May 11, 1932).

Italian fashion designer , active in Rome, Florence and Paris ( see fig. ). Valentino Garavani, known professionally as Valentino, is remembered for clothing that emphasized the elegance and femininity of women. The timelessness of his designs allowed his career to flourish from 1960 until 2007, in both Italy and France. He was schooled in fashion illustration at the Istituto Santa Marta in Milan (1937–49) and in fashion design at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale in Paris (1950–52). He worked as an assistant designer for the House of Jean Dessès , then left with his colleague Guy Laroche (b 1921) to assist at the newly formed House of Laroche (1957–9). With his father’s backing, Valentino opened his own couture house in Rome on Via Condotti in 1959. Soon after he designed his first collections, he met Giancarlo Giametti, who became his business partner in ...


Nele Bernheim

[ Andries ]

(b Schoten, May 12, 1958).

Belgian fashion designer. Born into a family of tailors spanning three generations, Van Noten studied fashion design at the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp (1977–81), while working as a freelance designer for Belgian and Italian labels. In 1985, Van Noten launched his own menswear label and the following year made an international breakthrough at London’s British Designer Show alongside the other members of the group known as the ‘Antwerp Six’: Walter Van Beirendonck (b 1957), Ann Demeulemeester , Dirk Van Saene (b 1959), Dirk Bikkembergs (b 1959) and Marina Yee (b 1958). In 1987 he expanded his range to include womenswear and two years later opened his flagship store in Antwerp. In 1991, he staged the first of his memorable fashion shows in Paris. Van Noten is the most versatile, accessible and commercially successful of the Belgian fashion designers, equally recognized for both his men’s and women’s collections. He is known for his eclectic style, his use of original fabrics, especially unorthodox prints and embroideries, a wide spectrum of colours and widely varied sources of inspiration. His silhouettes range from the historic to the exotic to the modern, sometimes within a single collection....


Mai Vu

Dutch fashion house. Founded in Amsterdam in 1993, Viktor & Rolf is the fashion house created by Viktor Horsting (b 27 May 1969) and Rolf Snoeren (b 19 Dec 1969). The two met while studying fashion design at the Hogeschool voor de kunsten Arnhem (HkA). Upon graduation in 1992, they moved to Paris to take part in the fashion world but quickly found themselves alone and unemployed, with few opportunities in the major fashion houses they had dreamed of working for. As a side project, the two turned their humble apartment into a design studio and created a few garments as a means to exert their creative forces. As they became more involved, their side project turned into a full-time partnership and resulted in a collection of ten ‘reconstructed’ garments. The designers took apart used suits and shirts and reassembled them into looks reminiscent of 19th-century riding habits. The idea was to layer materials and morph the body into something unrecognizable in order to parallel their sentiments of being outsiders of Paris fashion. They presented this collection at the Festival International de Mode et de Photographie in Hyères and gained coverage by the French fashion media....


( Isabel )

(b Glossopdale, Derbs, April 8, 1941).

English fashion designer. The early phase of her career was closely affiliated with contemporary music, including costume design for the rock band the New York Dolls. Over the course of more than 30 years in fashion, Westwood became known for her use of historical sources and her enthusiasm for British dress and textile traditions ( see fig. ).

Westwood grew up in Derbyshire, where her parents managed a post office. The family moved to north-west London when she was 17. After her grammar school education, Westwood attended Harrow Art College, where she studied fashion and silversmithing, but left after one term. She trained to become a primary school teacher, married Derek Westwood in 1962 and had a son, Benjamin, one year later.

Westwood had a subsequent relationship with Malcolm McLaren (1946–2010), whom she met in 1965 after her divorce from her first husband. They had a son, Joseph Ferdinand Corré, in ...


Geraldine Craig

(b Detroit, MI, April 16, 1949).

American sculptor, animation, performance, and installation artist. Wilson was a leading figure among artists who began working in the progressive contemporary craft movement of the 1970s and1980s and gained prominence in the art mainstream by the 1990s. Influenced by the alignment of textiles with feminist art that emerged in the 1970s, Wilson employed the cultural associations of diverse source materials (table linens, bed sheets, human hair, lace, thread, wire, glass) to interrogate how craft and context can define a feminist position in art by subverting the boundaries of middle-class propriety and social values.

An early favoured subject and material for Wilson was human hair. Her internet-based project hairinquiry (1996–9) solicited responses to the questions: ‘How does it feel to lose your hair?’ and ‘What does it mean to cut your hair?’, returned through e-mail, fax, and conventional mail. Her sculptural work Lost (1998) was made by embroidering black human hair onto a used white linen tablecloth that was draped over a chair – the discarded hair treated with transgressive care suggests a powerful residue of memory and life lost. With her installation ...