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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

Mai Vu

(b Surrey, July 18, 1906; d New York, Sept 23, 1978).

American fashion designer of English birth. James was renowned for his unique, sculptural approach to high fashion (see fig.). He was born into a traditional upper-class family in 1906 and at 19, he started his first fashion venture with a millinery shop under the name Charles Boucheron. Although supported by friends and family, the shop was unsuccessful and in 1928 James moved to New York and started designing dresses for private clients. This business also did not last and a year later he relocated to London under the name E. Haweis James, though most people already knew him as ‘Charlie’. In an early instance of what was to become a pattern in his career, he soon went bankrupt.

After a brief stint in Paris, James returned to the States in 1939 and opened a shop on 57th Street under his own name. He soon found a financial partner in Mrs Thomas Jenkins Lewis, better known as Elizabeth Arden (...

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

Monica Bohm-Duchen

(b Banica, Transylvania [now Romania], March 21, 1907; d Zurich, June 14, 1965).

Swiss sculptor, painter and designer of Hungarian birth. He was apprenticed first to a local sign-painter (1917) and then to a cabinetmaker (1921–3), attending technical drawing classes for furniture design at the same time. Kemeny continued his studies in Budapest, at the School of Decorative Arts (1924–7) and at the School of Fine Arts (1927–30). In 1930 he moved to Paris, where he worked as a designer of wrought-iron lamps and other objects and as a fashion designer. He married the painter Madeleine Szemere in 1933. In 1940 he left Paris, settling in 1942 in Zurich, where he again worked as a fashion designer and editor but also resumed painting. His work from this period, such as Head (1946; Paris, Pompidou), reveals a somewhat selfconscious primitivism coupled with an evident debt to Surrealism. His first one-man show took place in 1945...

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

Beatrice v. Bismarck

(b Lingen, Jan 25, 1925).

German sculptor. During World War II he worked as a hairdresser and fashion-designer and in the first post-war years trained as an actor, dancer and choreographer. This training influenced his work with marionettes, the first figurines of his ‘mechanical theatre’, begun in 1951. He used the mechanically controlled puppet to clarify movement-sequences, thus combining mechanical and balletic elements and breaking with the narrative tradition of ballet. The jointed dolls and wheel-figures, based on the human body and created for 13 Scenes (1953–5), were soon replaced by self-propelled machines. Dehumanized movement took on a self-sufficient quality in this motorial dance. Kramer’s exploration of the relation between people and technology brought him into the orbit of the Zero group. After moving to Paris in 1956, he produced 12-minute films in collaboration with Wolfgang Ramsbott (e.g. Die Stadt, 1956, Défense 58–24, 1958) and his ballet Nachtimpuls (performed in Paris in ...

Article

Patrik Steorn

(b Fairfield, CT, Mar 11, 1963).

American photographer and video and film director. LaChapelle is known not only for glamorous and absurd images from the world of fashion, celebrities, and models, but also for staged photographic works that criticize contemporary civilization’s exploitation of nature, oppressive social norms, and fixation on material values, often by using motifs with roots in Western art history. He studied at the North Carolina School of the Arts and came to New York at a young age.

In the 1980s LaChapelle worked with symbol-laden motifs, often in black and white and in smaller formats. The series Angels, Saints, and Martyrs (1984) draws inspiration from Christian iconography while referencing older photographic works, such as the camp oeuvre of Wilhelm von Gloeden. In 1989 he held his first gallery exhibition of photographs in the style of these early years. In the 1990s LaChapelle turned his attention to fashion, glamour, and celebrity portraits. ...

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

Catherine Brisac

(Jules)

(b Ay, Marne, April 6, 1860; d Paris, 1945).

French jeweller, glassmaker and designer. He began his studies at the Lycée Turgot near Vincennes and after his father’s death (1876) he was apprenticed to the Parisian jeweller Louis Aucoq, where he learnt to mount precious stones. Unable to further his training in France, he went to London to study at Sydenham College, which specialized in the graphic arts. On his return to Paris in 1880, he found employment as a jewellery designer creating models for such firms as Cartier and Boucheron. His compositions began to acquire a reputation and in 1885 he took over the workshop of Jules d’Estape in the Rue du 4 Septembre, Paris. He rejected the current trend for diamonds in grand settings and instead used such gemstones as bloodstones, tourmalines, cornelians and chrysoberyls together with plique à jour enamelling and inexpensive metals for his creations. His jewellery, which was in the Art Nouveau style, included hair-combs, collars, brooches, necklaces and buckles (e.g. water-nymph buckle, ...

Article

Lourdes Font

(b Paris, Jan 1, 1867; d Paris, July 6, 1946).

French fashion designer. The oldest name in contemporary French fashion, Lanvin began her career in 1889 as a milliner. Her career spanned almost 60 years and ended only with her death at the age of 79. Lanvin was a designer whose talent was nourished by a rich artistic sensibility she worked hard to nurture. In her combined office and studio, she surrounded herself with works of art, books, textiles and costumes, synthesizing diverse sources of inspiration to create her own style of decorative modernism. In the 1920s she was known for full-skirted robes de style embellished with unique embroideries, in the 1930s for sophisticated evening wear, and always for the finest, painstaking workmanship. Lanvin’s reputation for ladylike refinement, epitomized by her daughter the Comtesse de Polignac, won the house many high society clients. In 1936, she was made an officer of the Légion d’Honneur.

Lanvin, the daughter of a Parisian journalist, was apprenticed at the age of 13 to a milliner or dressmaker and at 16 was trimming hats at the Maison Félix, a rival to the House of Worth. In ...

Article

Judith O’Callaghan

Australian jewellers and silversmiths. Helge Larsen (b Copenhagen, 27 Sept 1929) trained and worked as a jeweller and silversmith in Denmark and the USA before migrating to Australia in 1961. Darani Lewers (b Sydney, 4 April 1936) trained with an Estonian jeweller, Nina Ratsep, in Sydney and began working with Larsen in Copenhagen in 1959. They married in Sydney in 1961. They were prominent in the late 20th-century Australian crafts movement and exhibited their work internationally. A recurrent theme in their jewellery is the Australian environment, particularly expressed through the incorporation of objets trouvés (e.g. Headpiece, 1986; see 1986 exh. cat.). Many pieces are articulated in order to respond to body movement (e.g. Kookaburra Pendant, 1976; Sydney, Mus. Applied A. & Sci.). Their later work is based on a construction method using cut and folded sheet metal, usually anodized aluminium. Important commissions included ecclesiastical silver for the Wentworth Memorial Church in Sydney (...

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

Marvin Cohodas

[Keyser, Louisa]

(b Washoe territory, CA–NV border, c. 1850; d Carson City, NV, Dec 6, 1925).

American basket-weaver of Native American Washoe descent. She worked, originally as a laundress, for Abe Cohn (1859–1934) and Amy Cohn (1861–1919), owners of the Emporium Co. clothing store in Carson City, NV. With their encouragement, she created a fine art curio style of basketwork, imitated by most Washoe weavers, and by 1897 she had developed the coiled, spheroid degikup basket type, finely decorated with red (redbud) and black (bracken fern) designs in a scattered arrangement. She also created a collection of miniature baskets for Amy Cohn and made simpler twined basketwork souvenirs. She spent winters at the Emporium Co. in Carson City and summers at their outlet, The Bicose, at Tahoe City, Lake Tahoe, CA. In 1922 a short documentary film was made about her work, and in 1925 Edward S(heriff) Curtis photographed her at the Emporium. Amy Cohn kept a ledger of Dat So La Lee’s baskets, recording their dimensions, dates of inception and completion, along with her interpretation of the designs. The ledger is preserved in the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, which also houses over a dozen of Dat So La Lee’s major works. Most of the information promulgated by Amy Cohn about Dat So La Lee was fabricated to make her appear more traditional and less innovative, including giving her a birth date before the start of continued Euro-American influence in the region. In contrast to her treatment of other weavers, Amy Cohn referred to Dat So La Lee by her Washoe name, disregarding the weaver’s own preference to interact with Euro-American society under her English name, Louisa Keyser. Amy Cohn promoted her as an ‘Indian Princess’, claiming special family rights to basket shapes and designs. She also fabricated a ceremonial function and design vocabulary for Dat So La Lee’s baskets and interpreted them as records of Washoe history and mythology. As Abe Cohn considered her major pieces to be works of art, he demanded high prices and in ...

Article

Sarah Scaturro

(b Paris, 1889; d Anglet, 1958).

French fashion designer. From 1918 to 1948, Lelong was a couturier and pioneering ready-to-wear designer, known for his modern designs executed with understated elegance and fine workmanship. As president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne (Association of Paris Couturiers) during World War II, Lelong is also remembered for helping to ensure the survival of the industry during the German Occupation of Paris.

Lelong’s parents, Arthur and Eleanore Lelong, owned a small couture house in Paris. Lelong joined his parents’ business after graduating from an élite French business school, but enlisted in the French Army during World War I. Wounded during the war, he returned in 1918 to take over his parents’ fashion house, continuing their tradition of luxury materials and quality workmanship. Lelong’s business expertise, strong leadership skills, impeccable taste and network of artistic and wealthy acquaintances ensured that the house of Lelong became one of the most successful in Paris....

Article

Judith O’Callaghan

(b London, June 14, 1869; d Perth, Aug 29, 1947).

Australian silversmith, jeweller, woodworker and painter of English birth. His father was the watercolourist Sir James Dromgole Linton (1840–1916). Having trained as a painter and architect in London, he travelled to Western Australia in 1896 and began practising metalwork after settling in Perth; he was appointed head of the art department of Perth Technical School in 1902. Following a trip to London in 1907, when he attended classes at the Sir John Cass Technical Institute under Harold Stabler, he concentrated on producing metalwork. Working in partnership with Arthur Cross, William Andrews and his own son Jamie Linton (1904–80), he produced ecclesiastical and domestic wares, presentation pieces and jewellery. His designs were influenced by British Arts and Crafts metalwork and were bold and simple, with decoration generally confined to hammered surfaces, twisted wire, hardstones and enamels. A highly influential figure in Perth’s artistic community and an energetic teacher, Linton played an important role in the promotion of crafts in Western Australia....

Article

Pamela Elizabeth Grimaud

[née Melinotte, Louise; Boulanger, Louise]

(b 1878; d 1950)

French fashion designer. Louiseboulanger is credited with introducing a number of innovations, such as longer hemlines in 1927, and is recognized as one of the leading couturières of the late 1920s and 1930s. At age 13 she was apprenticed to a dressmaker, later becoming a première at the House of Chéruit. In 1927 she married Louis Boulanger and opened her own house at 3 Rue de Berri. She closed it in 1933, after which she briefly designed for Callot Soeurs until re-establishing her own house in 1934 at 6, Rue Royale. A stylish woman who utilized exquisite colour-sense and deft cutting, she created clothes for a sophisticated clientele, including the actresses Spinelly, the milliner Agnès and the socialites Mrs Reginald (Daisy) Fellowes and the duchesse de Gramont.

In February 1927, Louiseboulanger announced the opening of her house and the showing of her first collection with a full-page advertisement in L’Officiel de la Couture...

Article

Lucile  

Molly Sorkin

[Sutherland, Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon]

(b London, June 13, 1863; d London, April 20, 1935).

English fashion designer, active also in Paris and the USA. Lucile was the professional name of Lady Duff Gordon, who began her career as a London dressmaker and achieved success as an international couturière. Lucile believed in fashion as self-expression. She was gifted with an artist’s sense of colour and designed in a broad range of styles, creating clothing that was romantic, exotic and modern (see fig.). An innovative entrepreneur, she pioneered modern business practices and used her own fame to promote her couture house. She also played a critical role in the development of the fashion show and the profession of fashion model.

Lucile’s artistic talent was evident early in life and realized in the clothes she made for herself and her younger sister, who would later become the romantic novelist Elinor Glyn. Lucy married James Wallace in 1884 and the following year gave birth to her only child, Esmé. By ...