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Hermès  

M. B. Whitaker

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

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

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

Article

Rebecca Arnold

[née Pacanins y Nino, Maria Carolina Josefina]

(b Caracas, Jan 8, 1939).

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

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

Article

David M. Sokol

(b Russian Poland, April 10, 1872; d New York, July 26, 1946).

American painter of Russian-Polish origin. He claimed to have carved wooden ceremonial objects as a young boy, but ceased to create until he retired from his clothing manufacturing concern and began to paint. When Sidney Janis was arranging an exhibition of American folk art for the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York, in 1939, he saw Hirshfield’s naive works in a gallery in New York. He exhibited two in the show and organized a one-man show for the artist in 1943; he also purchased two works, including Beach Girl (1937; New York, MOMA). In such paintings Hirshfield based large areas of the overall design on the fabrics with which he worked during his years in business, and his outlined forms on the art of patternmaking. In this and slightly later works, such as Inseparable Friends (1941; New York, MOMA), an ambiguous treatment of young female sexuality is played off against the patterns and the repetition of forms....

Article

Gordon Campbell

(b 1883; d 1935).

Basque–French cartoonist, interior decorator and designer, notably of furniture but also of wallpaper, textiles and jewellery. His early work is in an Art Nouveau idiom, but he gradually became a pioneering exponent of Art Deco. Pierre(-Emile) Legrain was initially his employee and later his collaborator. In 1914 Inbe moved to America, where he worked as a set designer, and in ...

Article

Pauline Antrobus

(b Lima, 1889; d Lima, 1970).

Peruvian designer, painter and teacher. She taught drawing in local schools before entering the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in Lima in 1919. Inspired by Peru’s indigenous heritage and the love of her country, Izcue often depicted Indian and Inca themes in her paintings (e.g. Untitled, 1924; Lima, Palacio de Gobierno). With her twin sister Victoria, she created the ‘Incaic decorative art’ style of interior design in the early 1920s. She illustrated the children’s book Manco Capac: Leyenda nacional (1923) at the request of Rafael Larco Herrera. He covered the publication costs of Izcue’s El arte peruano en la escuela (Paris, 1926), which showed children how indigenous motifs could be used to decorate various handicrafts. After graduating in 1926, Izcue received a grant to travel to Paris, where she attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and studied with Fernand Léger and Marcel Gromaire. To finance living in Paris, she produced Peruvian-influenced fashion accessories, and in ...

Article

Gordon Campbell

American jewellers and silversmiths founded in Philadelphia in 1839, when James Emott Caldwell, a watchmaker from Poughkeepsie, opened a workshop and retail outlet on Chestnut Street. The company’s fourth Chestnut Street shop was the Widener Building, which it occupied for 87 years until it closed in 2003; it now operates in six suburban locations. In the 19th century the company made silver plate, but in the 20th century it became primarily a retail outlet....

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

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

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

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

(b Keighley, W. Yorks, March 28, 1834; d Paterson, NJ, Feb 15, 1923).

American manufacturer and collector. He came to Boston in 1851 and began his career as a bookkeeper with the firm of Tilt & Dexter, manufacturers of silk goods and dress trimmings. In 1855 he became a partner and head of the New York branch. In 1858 he bought out Dexter and became head of the company known as Dexter, Lambert & Co., moving the factory from Boston to Paterson, NJ. He built a home, Belle-Vista Castle, in Paterson, which became the showplace of the city, especially for his large and diverse art collection of more than 600 paintings. He was a patron of Ralph Albert Blakelock and owned 11 of his paintings (e.g. Sunset; Trenton, NJ State Mus.). In 1899 he sold Monet’s Chrysanthemums (1882) and Renoir’s By the Seashore (1883) to Durand-Ruel’s gallery in New York: these were acquired by Henry Osborne Havemeyer (1848–1907...

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 ...