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Article

Molly Sorkin

[Bocher, Main Rousseau]

(b Chicago, IL, Oct 24, 1890; d Munich, Dec 27, 1976).

American fashion designer and editor, active also in France (see fig.). For 50 years Mainbocher defined and promoted the elegance and exclusivity associated with haute couture. As an American working in the rarefied world of Paris fashion, his early careers as editor and couturier were groundbreaking. He later became New York’s most exclusive couturier, eschewing trends in favour of a timeless style that was treasured by the fashion élite.

Born Main Rousseau Bocher, he combined his first and last names into Mainbocher when he opened his couture house in Paris. As a young man he studied art in Chicago and New York and eventually moved to Europe. After military service during World War I, he settled in Paris. An unsuccessful attempt at becoming an opera singer led him to work full time in fashion and in 1921 he became an illustrator for Harper’s Bazaar. His friend, the Vogue...

Article

[Oury, Jules]

(b Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne, May 12, 1872; d Montricoux, Tarn-et-Garonne, Sept 7, 1931).

French painter, printmaker and poet. He was the son of a jeweller and at an early age learnt how to produce lithographs and etchings. He quickly established a reputation as a creator of illuminated Symbolist works such as the gouache The Monster (1897; Paris, Flamand-Charbonnier priv. col.; see 1972 exh. cat., p. 64). This was executed in an Art Nouveau style and depicted the common Symbolist theme of woman as the destructive temptress of man. Four works, including this, were shown at the sixth Salon de la Rose + Croix at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris (1897), and he had similar works published in periodicals such as L’Estampe moderne, L’Aube and Le Courrier français.

Marcel-Lenoir’s first paintings were produced with a palette knife or by using paint straight from the tube, as in A Review in the Cours Foucault in Montauban (1907; Toulouse, Mus. Augustins). He produced other townscapes also, such as ...

Article

Judith O’Callaghan

(b Scarsdale, Victoria, June 12, 1868; d Melbourne, Oct 7, 1956).

Australian enamellist, jeweller and silversmith. He trained in Melbourne under J. R. Rowland and in the late 1890s travelled to England, where he worked for a time in the London workshop of Nelson Dawson (1859–1942). By the end of 1900 he had joined C. R. Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft, and he subsequently moved with the Guild to Chipping Campden, Glos. Though an accomplished silversmith and jeweller, Mark’s skill lay in enamelwork. He and F. C. Varley were largely responsible for the fine painted enamels produced by the Guild. He worked independently in Chipping Campden after the Guild failed in 1907 and eventually returned to Australia in 1920. He established a studio at his home in Melbourne, where he stayed until his death. The greater part of his production comprised ecclesiastical commissions, notably the silver and enamel processional cross (designed by Louis Williams; c. 1931) of St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, and the plate and fittings (...

Article

(b New York, April 22, 1901; d Rincón, Jan 15, 1995).

American fashion designer. One of the pioneers of American women’s sportswear, Maxwell tailored her timelessly tasteful clothes to the average woman. Influenced by Coco Chanel, Maxwell rose to fame in the 1950s with effortless suits and dresses that merged style with practicality (see fig.).

When leading Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova toured America in 1910, she inspired a young Vera von Huppé, who attended a New York performance with her Austrian parents, to take up dancing. By the age of 15 she was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, where she stayed until her marriage to Raymond Maxwell in 1924. Her dance training taught her how to carry herself and a few years later Maxwell found herself in the centre of New York City’s Garment District modelling ski clothes and riding habits. However, Maxwell decided she would rather join the rank of Seventh Avenue’s anonymous patternmakers and designers. This was the era before designer-driven labels, when wholesale manufacturers dominated the market. For the next 18 years, Maxwell designed for Adler & Adler, Max Milstein, Glenhurst and Linker & Klein. However, through such innovations as the cotton jumpsuit for the women workers of Sperry Gyroscope Corporation, Maxwell was able to transcend obscurity. Subsequently, she independently established Vera Maxwell Originals in ...

Article

Amy Widmayer

(b Frederick, MD, May 24, 1905; d New York, March 22, 1958).

American fashion designer (see figs 1 and 2). Often referred to as the founder of democratic fashion, her revolutionary and stylish, yet simple, designs made her an undisputed leader in American ready-to-wear. She was named one of the 100 Most Important Americans by Life magazine in 1990.

The only girl of four children born to Maryland State Senator Adrian Leroy McCardell and his wife Eleanor, McCardell exhibited her flair for fashion at an early age. As a child she cut paper dolls out of her mother’s old fashion magazines, and when the family seamstress visited the house, McCardell observed her every stitch. During McCardell’s adolescence she began making her own clothes, sometimes inspired by the theatrical costumes she saw during performances at Washington’s National Theater.

At 18 she enrolled in Hood College in Frederick, MD, leaving after her second year to pursue fashion illustration at Parsons School of Design in New York City. While living in Manhattan, McCardell stayed at the Three Arts Club on West 85th Street, attending its frequent rummage sales for discarded couture garments that she could study, dissect, alter and wear. In ...

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

Ticio Escobar

(b Asunción, Jan 6, 1948).

Paraguayan painter. He studied in the studio of the painter Cira Moscarda but was basically self-taught and gained his formative experience in various Latin American countries working as a designer of theatre costumes and scenery. His early work, biting and irreverent in style, and with psychedelic and Pop art elements, created a considerable stir in Paraguay’s artistic community. Much of this work was in the form of drawings and paintings, but he also devised environments, happenings, audio-visual experiences and montages (see Escobar, 1984, pp. 172, 194). His subject-matter comprised unrealistic hybrid characters, animals and objects from Classical mythology, popular Latin American subjects, kitsch opera, circus and cabaret, television and gossip columns, portrayed in a style linked to Latin American Magic Realism and to expressionist caricature. Humour, eroticism and the absurd animate his work, giving it a flavour of hallucination and nightmare.

O. Blinder and others: Arte actual del Paraguay (Asunción, 1983), pp. 47, 48, 49, 162, 173, 174, 192...

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

Molly Sorkin

(Henry)

(b London, Sept 5, 1891; d Monte Carlo, March 23, 1974).

English fashion designer, active also in France. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Molyneux’s elegant and often understated designs helped define multiple eras in fashion as he influenced a generation of designers including his great admirer, Christian Dior. A successful businessman, painter and collector of fine art, Molyneux embodied the sophisticated lifestyle of the women he dressed.

While still in his teens, Molyneux worked as a fashion illustrator. By 1910 he was employed by the couturière Lucile and his early illustrations reveal the confident hand of a skilled artist. As an assistant designer, Molyneux’s talent was encouraged and his original designs were included in Lucile’s seasonal collections. His nascent career was interrupted in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I. He joined the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, eventually becoming a Captain, a title he would use throughout his life. Molyneux returned to work for Lucile but left in ...

Article

Nancy Deihl

(b Abbiategrasso, Feb 27, 1950; d Annone, Sept 18, 1994).

Italian fashion designer (see fig.). Moschino is known for an irreverent, humorous approach to fashion. At various times in his short career, Moschino declared that fashion was ‘ill’, ‘fascist’ and ‘the stupidest, most absurd and amusing thing around. Or it should be’. With a notable lack of respect for buyers, press and other designers, and a portfolio of looks that included a suit with knives, forks and spoons for buttons; plush teddy bears forming a ‘fur’ collar on a well-tailored coat; and a man’s shirt, shaped like a straitjacket, with the slogan ‘For fashion victims only’ written boldly on the back, Moschino was known as fashion’s ‘bad boy’.

Moschino was born in the industrial town of Abbiategrasso, near Milan, where his family had an iron foundry. His father died when Moschino was seven. After a childhood in which he felt isolated from his peers and drew incessantly, he attended the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan from ...

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

John E. Bowlt

(Ignat’yevna)

(b Riga, June 19, 1889; d Moscow, Oct 6, 1953).

Russian sculptor and decorative artist of Latvian birth. From the mid-1900s until 1912 she attended various private art schools in Moscow, including that of Il’ya Mashkov, but her real training as a sculptor began in 1912, when she travelled to Paris. Until 1914 she took an active part in the artistic life of Paris, attending the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, taking lessons from Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, and making many acquaintances, among them Ossip Zadkine, Jacques Lipchitz, and also Lyubov’ Popova, with whom she travelled to Italy in 1914. After returning to Moscow following the outbreak of World War I, Mukhina worked for a time as scenographic assistant to Alexandra Exter in the Kamerny Theatre of Aleksandr Tairov (1885–1950) and also designed costumes independently for a number of plays, none of which was produced. Mukhina again joined forces with Exter in 1923, when both women worked on fabric and dress designs for the newly opened Atel’ye Mody (Atelier of Fashion) in Moscow; she also helped Exter with the costumes for the film ...

Article

Christine Robinson

[Ingrid Mwangi Robert Hutter]

(b Nairobi, 1975).

Kenyan and German performance artist, installation artist, photographer, and video artist. Mwangi’s work addresses notions of cultural difference, social conventions, racial categories, and national identity, primarily through an autobiographical lens. She has often utilized her body as a subject and engaged with questions related to her own African-European heritage. In 2005 Mwangi shifted from a mostly solo practice to a collaborative partnership with her husband, German artist Robert Hutter (b 1964). From that time, the pair has worked and exhibited exclusively under the name IngridMwangiRobertHutter. Together they have explored larger human experiences and universal issues of stereotypes, fear and negotiations between different cultures, genders, nationalities, and religions through multimedia works that have produced cross-cultural dialogues.

Mwangi was raised in Nairobi by a German mother and a Kenyan father. In 1990, as a teenager, she moved with her family to Germany and studied at the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste Saar in Saarbrücken from ...

Article

John Steen

[Jacob]

(b Winschoten, Nov 19, 1904; d The Hague, Jan 6, 1962).

Dutch painter. He studied at the Vrije Academie in Groningen (1929), where he had contact with members of De Ploeg (The Plough). He made a living as a painter–decorator, window-dresser and cartoonist. After travelling in Germany and Poland (1937–8), he moved to The Hague (1938), where he trained at the Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten (1939–44). His first exhibition took place in a private gallery, Les Beaux-Arts, The Hague, in March 1946. At that time his work comprised picturesque scenes in soft colours. He travelled to Paris and the south of France, where he began to appreciate the work of Georges Braque, Marc Chagall, Georges Rouault and Vincent van Gogh. He produced his first abstract canvases from 1948. Initially he painted triangles and circles, but later, influenced by primitive and non-Western art, totems and signs. From 1950 he made spontaneous drawings, in which the influence of Corneille and Karel Appel is evident. He also designed tapestries and stained-glass windows. A retrospective of his work was held at the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, in ...

Article

Peter Bermingham

(b Richmond, VA, Nov 10, 1827; d New York, March 31, 1912).

American painter and stained-glass designer. He grew up in Clarksville, TN, where his stepfather was a tailor and his mother a milliner. In 1846 his request to be accepted as Asher B. Durand’s pupil was turned down, but Newman managed three years later to exhibit in the American Art-Union in New York. In 1850 he studied with Thomas Couture in Paris for five months. On a second trip to Paris in 1854, he visited Jean-François Millet in Barbizon. He worked as a portrait painter and occasional teacher of drawing, before serving briefly as an artillery lieutenant in the Confederate Army. After the Civil War, he apparently remained in New York, apart from a trip to Barbizon in 1882 and to Paris in 1908.

Although in 1872–3 he advertised himself as a portrait painter in Nashville, TN, and in the 1870s worked briefly as a stained-glass designer, Newman was primarily a painter of small compositions with a few figures, usually with a well-known religious, literary, or secular theme. One of his favourite subjects was the Virgin and Child (e.g. ...

Article

Kirsta Willis

[Levinson, Norman David]

(b Noblesville, IN, April 20, 1900; d New York, Oct 25, 1972).

American fashion designer (see fig.). Norell is credited with combining the spirit of Paris couture with Seventh Avenue manufacturing. When World War II forced the American fashion industry to develop its own style, Norell rose to prominence with wholesale collections known for superb tailoring, timeless elegance and a respect for materials.

As a sickly child growing up in Indianapolis, Norman David Levinson spent his early years shopping with his brazenly stylish mother, poring through French fashion magazines and cultivating a passion for theatre. He chose artistry over academia and at the age of 19 he enrolled in the fashion illustration programme at Parsons School of Design in New York City. However, after one year—in which more time was spent in the theatre than in the classroom—his attention turned towards patternmaking at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. While there, he won a $100 prize for a blouse design, a considerable sum for the early 1920s and the mark of a burgeoning career in fashion. However, Levinson felt he needed a flashier moniker and at a friend’s urging fabricated a more theatrical sounding surname. Neither predicted that the chosen pseudonym Norell would later epitomize couture-quality ready-to-wear....

Article

Jorge Luján-Muñoz

(b Guatemala City, March 4, 1951).

Guatemalan painter, sculptor and designer. He trained first as an architect from 1969 to 1972 at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura of the Universidad Complutense in Madrid. In 1972 he attended the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, where he studied mural painting and ceramics. On his return to Guatemala in 1972 he continued his architectural studies at the Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala City from 1973 to 1974 and also became interested in the ethnological study of the Indians of the country, especially in their textiles.

In his paintings Ordóñez combined acrylic paint, sometimes with textured surfaces or luminous varnishes, with superimpositions of fine lines, vivid colour and screenprinting. Executed in editions of 12, each with individual finishing touches, they portray such subjects as the natives of Guatemala and landscapes. He also made sculptures, especially in clay, designed clothing and served as consultant to the Museo Ixchel del Traje Indígena in Guatemala City....

Article

Jan Glier Reeder

(Marie Charlotte)

(b Paris, June 23, 1869; d Paris, 1936).

French fashion designer. Head designer and director of the House of Paquin, Jeanne Paquin was the first woman to gain international success and celebrity in the fashion business. Beautiful, chic, intelligent and charismatic, Mme Paquin, as she was always known, was widely admired by the French public not only for her creative talents but also for her physical and managerial attributes. Always attired in her own designs, she predated Coco Chanel as the first designer to be a fashion icon in her own right.

Born into humble circumstances, Jeanne Marie Charlotte Beckers was as a young girl employed at a local dressmaker’s shop. She subsequently became a seamstress at Maison Rouff, a distinguished Parisian firm. In February 1891 she married Isidore René Jacob, known as Paquin, a businessman, who had a month earlier opened a couture house at 3, Rue de la Paix, next door to the august House of Worth. Together they built a couture business whose worldwide scope and stylistic influence were unparalleled during the early years of the 20th century....

Article

Molly Sorkin

(b Normandy, 1880; d Paris, March 7, 1936).

French fashion designer. Patou’s designs captured the fashion essence of sophisticated, modern society in the 1920s and 1930s (see fig.). He created contemporary wardrobes for women’s active and social lives, dressing them for every occasion, and from the tennis court to the nightclub. His clientele was a cross-section of international socialites and entertainers including Lady Diana Cooper, Barbara Hutton and the Dolly Sisters. A consummate showman, he promoted his work through his own fast-living lifestyle and innovative marketing techniques.

Patou’s father owned a successful tannery and provided his family with a very comfortable lifestyle. Patou rejected a role in the family business to follow his interest in fashion and around 1907 began working with an uncle who was a furrier. He soon branched out on his own, with two attempts to establish tailoring and dressmaking businesses. By 1912 he established the Maison Parry in Paris. The success of this venture prompted him to turn it into a full-fledged couture house and in ...