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Article

(b Paris, Jan 14, 1904; d La Clarté, Brittany, Aug 27, 1967).

French sculptor, printmaker and tapestry designer. His father was a jeweller, and after his return from World War I in 1918 Adam worked in his studio and learnt how to engrave. At the same time he studied drawing at the Ecole Germain-Pilon and read Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal, which was to have a great influence on him. In 1925 he attended evening classes at a school of drawing in Montparnasse. From 1928 to 1934 he started to produce prints and became associated with André Breton, Louis Aragon and Paul Eluard, although he was never greatly influenced by them. His early prints, reminiscent of the work of George Grosz, were mostly designed as social satire, mocking the myths surrounding patriotism, the family and religion, as in When Papa is Patriotic (1935). In 1933 he designed the costumes and scenery for Hans Schlumberg’s Miracle à Verdun performed at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris. His first exhibition of prints was held in ...

Article

Adrian  

Ann Poulson

(Gilbert) [Greenburg, Adrian Adolph]

(b Naugatuck, CT, March 3, 1903; d Los Angeles, CA, Sept 13, 1959).

American costume and fashion designer. Adrian is best known for his costume designs for Hollywood films and his signature women’s suits (see fig.). Adrian was educated at the School for Fine and Applied Arts (now Parsons School of Design) in New York and Paris. He began his career in New York by designing costumes for Irving Berlin’s Music Box Revue of 1921. It was through his work on Broadway that he met the costume designer Natacha Rambova, wife of the screen idol Rudolph Valentino, and began designing costumes for films. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1924 and by 1926 was working for the director Cecil B. DeMille, who brought him to Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) in 1928. When his contract with DeMille ended, Adrian signed with MGM, where he would remain as head costume designer until 1942. At MGM, Adrian dressed stars such as Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Norma Shearer and Jeanette McDonald. Although it was his designs for Garbo, in which he was careful not to distract from her natural beauty, that first brought him fame, it was his creations for Joan Crawford that made him a household name....

Article

Pamela Elizabeth Grimaud

(b Tunis, Feb 2, 1935).

French fashion designer, of Tunisian birth. Alaïa is renowned for his ‘second skin’ fashions and masterful cutting techniques (see fig.). Christened the ‘King of Cling’ by fashion journalists, Alaïa rose to prominence in the 1980s following years of realizing commissions for a loyal and select clientele. His designs are modern, overtly feminine in their celebration of the female form and, in Alaïa’s own words: ‘not sexy, voluptuous’. Alaïa’s sculpted fashions have been known to render other designers’ fashions unwearable—they simply feel too large in comparison.

Born in southern Tunisia, Alaïa was raised by his maternal grandparents and at the age of 15 undertook the study of sculpture. Realizing soon after that sculpture was not his calling, and serendipitously passing a dressmaker’s window on his way to classes, he saw a sign for an assistant. He was hired for the task of finishing hems at five francs apiece. Alaïa rose quickly to become a favourite of Tunisian high society, copying for the local clientele the work of the great ...

Article

Diane Maglio

(b Piacenza, July 11, 1934).

Italian fashion designer. Armani was dubbed the ‘Sexy Tailor’ by the American fashion press for sartorial innovations he introduced in menswear. He brought sensual drape to traditional suit coats by eliminating rigid interlinings that had shaped and restricted men’s clothing in the 1970s. To complement his new softly-tailored coats, he created short, supple, collared shirts and textural, patterned ties. Armani’s impact on menswear went beyond unstructured sewing techniques to include a serene colour palette inspired by the Italian artist Giorgio Morandi. The neutral earth tones included an inventive grey–beige (‘greige’), moss, mushroom and smoky grey–blue, tones not seen before in menswear. Armani claimed to be ‘the stylist without colour’. Armani also brought a feminine touch to menswear and eventually expanded his design aesthetic to women’s clothing, bringing a powerful look to women’s fashion. His minimal modernism in cut and fit, while retaining maximum impact in silhouette and colour, stimulated the fashion imagination of Hollywood, retailers, journalists and customers of both sexes....

Article

Pamela Elizabeth Grimaud

[Bernard, Augusta]

(b 1886; d 1946).

French fashion designer. Augustabernard is known for her understated, elegant garments, whose subtlety belies a mastery of technique. Hailed as a ‘sculptor of cloth’ and a ‘classic modern’, Augustabernard was considered among the most innovative and skilled couturières of her generation.

Augustabernard was born in Provence in the south of France and began her fashion career by creating reproductions of designs by the leading couturiers of the day. In 1919 she opened her Paris salon in the Rue de Rivoli. At that time there were two competing houses using the name Bernard, and it is likely that because of this Augustabernard joined her first name and surname together, creating a griffe or signature label synonymous with exclusivity. In 1928 she moved to 3, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, bringing with her a selective and devoted clientele. By the early 1930s Augustabernard was receiving coverage in the French and international fashion press, achieving success with her simple, yet innovative designs....

Article

Molly Sorkin

(b Getaria, Jan 21, 1895; d Valencia, March 24, 1972).

Spanish fashion designer, active in Paris. Based in Paris from 1937 to 1968, Balenciaga was a modernist couturier whose designs ranged from the austere to the romantic. His uncompromising vision was defined by his quest for perfection in cut, proportion and construction. Influenced in part by the historical art and culture of his native Spain, Balenciaga’s style was often ahead of its time even as it slowly evolved over more than 40 years. Balenciaga dressed an élite group of women who understood and appreciated how his designs took shape on the body (see fig.). He used minimal understructure, instead relying on the fabric, manipulating it into streamlined suits or voluminous evening dresses. Even the most abstract silhouettes retained a soft quality that was flattering to many figures. Like his friends and fellow couturiers Madeleine Vionnet and Coco Chanel, his work has had a profound influence on 20th and 21st century fashion....

Article

Lourdes Font

(Alexandre)

(b Saint–Jean-de-Maurienne, May 18, 1914; d Paris, June 29, 1982).

French fashion designer (see fig.). Balmain was born in the Savoie region of France to a family engaged in various branches of the fashion industry. His father, who died when he was seven, was a wholesale textile merchant and his mother and aunts kept a fashion boutique. Although he was always drawn to a career in fashion, his mother hoped that he would enter another field, and allowed him to study architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1932.

In Paris, Balmain sketched original fashion designs and offered them for sale to couture houses, hoping to be hired. In 1934 he was hired by Edward Molyneux, the couturier he most admired. Balmain claimed that from Molyneux he learned to strip designs down to their essentials. However, he was not given much opportunity to contribute to the house’s collections. The talented but inexperienced Balmain was in need of training, but Molyneux, who already had John Cavanagh and Mitzah Bricard as assistant designers, did not have much need for him. Late in ...

Article

Melissa Marra

(b Haynesville, LA, Aug 30, 1927; d New York, Sept 28, 2004).

American fashion designer. A modernist, Beene’s inventive geometric cuts and in-depth understanding of the human body made him one of the most innovative designers of the 20th century.

In deference to a family tradition, Beene enrolled as a pre-med student at Tulane University in 1943, despite his childhood penchant for fashion. While at Tulane, Beene was notoriously caught sketching the gowns designed by Hollywood costumer Adrian in his anatomy book. Three years later, he withdrew from Tulane University and moved to Los Angeles, where he became employed in the display department of the store I. Magnin. In 1947, he moved to New York to study at the Traphagen School of Fashion, but having concluded that the focus of postwar fashion had shifted to France, Beene transferred to Paris’s Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne the following year. During his two years at that institution, he also studied life drawing at Académie Julian, and in the evenings was apprenticed to a master tailor for the ...

Article

Kristen Shirts

(Ralph) [William]

(b Fort Wayne, IN, June 22, 1922; d New York, June 12, 2002,.

American fashion designer. Blass is known for his ready-to-wear apparel and sportswear. He cultivated a high-society personal image to complement his upper-class clientele and is often credited with promoting a distinctly American look that incorporated simplicity, practicality and casual luxury. He is also known for his shrewd business practices, including product licensing and making personal appearances at ‘trunk shows’ across the country.

Blass was the only son of a hardware salesman and a dressmaker. The modesty of his life in the Midwest during the Depression, particularly after his father’s suicide when Blass was five, made him determined to get away from small-town America. As a child, he sketched Manhattan society women in penthouse apartments and, before he entered high school, he began selling sketches of evening dresses to New York clothing manufacturer Kalmour. After high school, he moved to New York and took a job as a sketch artist at David Crystal, a sportswear firm, while attending fashion design classes. He soon enlisted in the US Army and spent the years from ...

Article

(b Leeds, W. Yorks, June 28, 1950).

English jewelleryand textile designer. She trained at Leicester School of Art (1968–9) and at the Central School of Art and Design, London (1969–72). In her early pieces she employed flexible nylon monofilament structures that could be collapsed to form a neckpiece, pulled up to form a ruff effect or even expanded to cover the face and head (e.g. neckpiece/veil, 1983; see Dormer and Turner, pl. 161). She also used multi-coloured woven flax for broad hooped necklaces and bracelets (e.g. tufted necklace, 1979; see Houston, pl. 12). The range of plain and coloured acrylic jewellery produced by C&N Buttons & Jewellery Production, a company she formed in London in 1978 with Nuala Jamison (b 1 Oct 1948), had a broader appeal. In her work Broadhead proposed new functions for materials and techniques, going beyond the idea of a unique item of value, to fuse clothing and decorative accessories in a complete and imaginative ensemble. In the 1980s she created a new mood with elusive body garments: ...

Article

Kirsta Willis

(b Newark, NJ, Sept 15, 1943).

African-American fashion designer. Burrows’s trademarks included colour blocking, asymmetry, fluid jersey separates and fluted ‘lettuce’ hems. With a youthful nonchalance and anti-establishment sensibility, Burrows clothes defined the movement and the eclecticism of New York City’s nightlife in the 1970s.

Burrows’s love affair with colour stemmed from his mother, who taught him to draw using the entire box of crayons, while from his seamstress grandmother, he learned how to sew. However, Burrows never contemplated a career in fashion until he attended the Philadelphia Museum College of Art. After graduating from Newark’s Arts High School, Burrows set out for Philadelphia, intent on becoming an art teacher. However, spurred on by a fashion exhibition he viewed, Burrows left the arts college in his second year, working briefly in the display department of Bamberger’s department store before enrolling in Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology. He graduated in 1966 and landed his first job with Weber Originals where he spent a particularly boring year designing ladies’ blouses. Burrows took his restless creativity back to New Jersey and began freelancing, mainly making clothing for his friends....

Article

Jan Glier Reeder

French couture house. Established at 24, Rue Thaitbout by three sisters, Marie Callot Gerber, Marthe Callot Bertrand and Regine Callot Tennyson-Chantrelle. The sisters shared an artistic heritage; their mother was a lacemaker and their father an artist and professor who was descended from the master draftsman and etcher Jacques Callot.

Maison Callot Soeurs rapidly became a principal couture house, along with the other great names of the period such as Jacques(-Antoine) Doucet, Jeanne Paquin, Charles Frederick Worth, Rouff and Raudnitz. By 1900 the sisters were already employing 600 workers and had participated in the Parisian couturiers’ famed first joint fashion display at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. In 1914 they moved address to 9–11, Avenue Matignon and again in 1932, to 41, Avenue Montaigne. In 1917, they opened a London branch at 7 Buckingham Gate. The London branch was closed in 1935 and the business was absorbed into Calvet in ...

Article

Cassandra Gero

(b Venice, July 1, 1922).

French couturier, ready-to-wear designer and entrepreneur. Cardin is known for space-age style fashions in the 1960s, pioneering the ready-to-wear market and extensive licensing of his name (see fig.).

Cardin was born in Italy, but his family moved to France when he was two years old. He worked as a menswear tailor in Vichy, then as an accountant for the Red Cross during World War II. He later moved to Paris, where he was employed as an assistant at the couture houses of Jeanne Paquin, Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior. Cardin helped execute Dior’s design of the famous ‘Bar’ suit for his inaugural ‘New Look’ collection in 1947. In 1950 he started his own business and designed costumes for theatre productions, including Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. In 1953, he began designing small couture collections for women. At the time his fashions were similar to those of other Paris ...

Article

Kristen Shirts

(b Fresno, CA, Sept 28, 1908; d New York, Feb 3, 2000.

American fashion designer. Active from the late 1930s through to the mid-1980s, Cashin designed clothing for women with busy, modern lifestyles. She took design inspiration from a wide variety of sources, including nature, travel and sports. Her signature style included layered clothing, inventive pockets and the liberal use of leathers (see fig.). Her ideal client was a woman like herself, active and interested in the world around her and unwilling to sacrifice comfort or function for fashion.

Cashin was raised in California by a dressmaker mother and a photographer-inventor father. She spent her childhood drawing fashion illustrations and playing with scraps of fabric from her mother’s shop. After graduating from high school in 1931, she was hired to design costumes for a local dance troupe. In 1934, the troupe’s manager moved to the Roxy Theater in New York, and Cashin spent the next several years designing costumes for the Roxyettes. Cashin credited her stage career with teaching her how to design clothes that would accommodate a moving body, a skill she later used for designing sportswear....

Article

Sarah Scaturro

[Çaglayan, Hüseyin]

(bNicosia, Aug 12, 1970).

British fashion designer born in Turkish Cyprus. Chalayan won the British Fashion Award for Designer of the Year in 1999 and 2000. He is best known for his cerebral designs that reference architecture, geopolitics and technology, as well as exploring the theme of transformation.

Chalayan was educated in Cyprus before moving to London to attend Central St Martins College of Art and Design, where he graduated with honours in 1993 with a BA in fashion. His innovative final year collection titled ‘The Tangent Flows’ consisted of silk and cotton garments that had been covered in iron shavings and buried for six weeks in a garden. These garments, exhumed right before his show, had developed a rusty, earthy patina that commented on the beauty of decay by echoing the process of burial and rebirth. Soon afterwards, his collection was featured in the windows of the London store Browns.

Chalayan founded his eponymous line the next year with his first commercial collection ‘Cartesia’ for Autumn/Winter ...

Article

Lourdes Font

[Gabrielle Bonheur]

(b Saumur, Aug 19, 1883; d Paris, Jan 10, 1971).

French fashion designer (see fig.). Chanel was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. Of the modernists who dominated the inter-war period, only Chanel was still active through the 1960s. She began her career as a milliner c. 1909; as a couturière she had two careers, from 1915 to September 1939, when she closed her house at the outbreak of war, and from February 1954 through 1970. Her longevity allowed her to claim or accept responsibility for such milestones as the elimination of the corset and the emergence of the ‘little black dress’, which actually resulted from many factors including the contributions of other designers. Her real achievement was the creation of a personal style that she shared with other women.

Chanel was the daughter of itinerant market peddlers from southern France. Her parents were based in the Loire valley town of Saumur when she was born. When she was 11 years old, her mother died and her father abandoned her and her two sisters at the nearest orphanage. At 18, Chanel became a charity student at a boarding school in the garrison town of Moulins. At 20, she worked ten hours a day as a seamstress at a shop that sold lingerie and linens. Like other Frenchwomen of her age and class, she dreamed of fame and fortune as a music hall star, but when she made her début at the café La Rotonde in Moulins in ...

Article

M. B. Whitaker

[Raymond Oswald]

(b Liverpool, June 9, 1942; d London, Aug 8, 1996).

English fashion designer. Clark revolutionized London fashion for young women during the pivotal transition from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, embracing the youth movement of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ and the raucous and reckless spirit of the drug-riddled 1970s. He and his wife, textile designer Celia Birtwell (b 1941), collaborated to create boldly printed, sexy evening wear and well-tailored yet feminine sportswear (see fig.). Their work was sold at the London boutique Quorum until its close in 1975.

Born Raymond Oswald Clark to a working-class family in Liverpool, Clark was raised in northern England in Oswaldtwistle—his family’s ancestral village, to which he owed his middle name. Granted a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London, Clark was a star fashion design student. British Vogue featured the young mastermind in August 1965 at the age of 23. He entered into a business partnership with Alice Pollock and they opened the boutique Quorum, which was distinctive for its range of products: dresses, trousers, suits, coats, sweaters, stockings and accessories. That Clark was designing much of what the boutique sold speaks to his vast skill set and artistic vision. His innovative cutting and draping techniques and experimental use of different fabrics made him capable of producing slinky, often bias-cut, jersey gowns with plunging necklines but also expertly tailored suits. The contribution of his talented wife’s textiles added to the depth of his opus. Birtwell’s nature-inspired prints were both striking and romantic (...

Article

Molly Sorkin

(b Pau, March 9, 1923).

French fashion designer. Courrèges is credited with introducing a youthful, unadorned and undeniably modern style to couture in the mid-1960s (see fig.). His radical views on the way women should dress, though considered shocking in some quarters, were enthusiastically adopted by socialites and pop stars alike, including Princess Lee Radziwill and the French singer Françoise Hardy. The Courrèges style helped define a generation of women who were youthful, active and receptive to designs influenced by such seemingly disparate elements as technology, sex, childhood and architecture. Courrèges’s sleek, futuristic designs earned him such nicknames as the Le Corbusier of fashion and the space-age couturier.

Courrèges was born in Pau in the Basque region of France and received training as an engineer. In 1950, he began working for the Spanish couturier based in Paris, Cristobal Balenciaga. The two men shared their Basque heritage and a design philosophy that was ruled by proportion and the architecture of tailoring. In ...

Article

Nele Bernheim

(b Kortrijk, Belgium, Dec 29, 1959)

Belgian fashion designer. Ann Demeulemeester studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Antwerp (1977-81). In 1982 she won the first-ever Gouden Spoel (Golden Spindle) award. She created the company bvba ‘32’ in 1985 with her photographer husband, Patrick Robyn, in Antwerp. Her breakthrough came with her first women’s collection as a member of the informal group known as ‘The Antwerp Six’ at London’s British Designer Show in 1987. Her first line of shoes and accessories followed in 1988. Demeulemeester established herself as a leading avant-garde independent designer with her first show in Paris in 1992. Her designs, chiefly executed in black and white, are typified by the union of contrasts such as elegant flowing drapery and sharp cuts.

Demeulemeester’s vocabulary consists of a poetic mix of modernism, sensuality and a spark of rebellion. Her game of contrasts—a sharp cut and flowing layers—demonstrates a gamut of emotions. The silhouettes she has been creating since the beginning of her career are innovative and modern and have proven to be strong enough to survive short-term trends. The coexistent subversive sobriety, uneasy romanticism, and rough finish of her creations earned her the label ‘deconstructivist’ in the early 1990s. However, her output has changed and evolved from one collection to the next with the distillation of her ideas. Demeulemeester works with a compelling sense of abstraction, often disrupting codes and playing with the notion of androgyny. She explores a silhouette in depth, in all its possibilities. Her creative process is almost scientific. Solving successive design problems, she arrives at new forms, and a collection is built that generates tension by means of contrasts. The search for the right cut, the right form, the right drape, the right proportion animates Demeulemeester’s love of transformable clothing. An intricate assemblage of ties and slits permits the perfect drape. Her garments suggest movement, even when the wearer is standing still. Trousers appear to slip off the hip; blouses slip off the shoulder; a dress is tight on one side of the body and loosely draped over the other (...

Article

Ann Poulson

[Verginie, Jean Dimitre]

(b Alexandria, Aug 6, 1904; d Athens, Aug 2, 1970).

Greek fashion designer based in Paris. Dessès was born in Egypt to Greek parents and arrived in Paris in the 1920s to study law and diplomacy. By 1925 he had changed his mind and was employed as a designer for Maison Jane. He left Maison Jane to open his own couture house in 1937 at 37, Avenue George V, eventually moving to 17, Avenue Matignon. Dessès is best known for his silk chiffon evening gowns draped asymmetrically in a Neo-classical style.

Though Dessès was raised in Egypt, he considered Greece his native land and the influence of Greek antiquity is clearly seen in his signature draped evening gowns. In appearance they resembled garments represented in ancient sculpture, but in construction they were more closely allied to the moulded and heavily structured gowns of the 19th century, being mounted on corseted bodices and stiffened petticoats. Over this foundation he skilfully manouevered the fabric into pleats and twists, bunches and braids, occasionally releasing it into a flowing scarf. When Dessès used materials stiffer than his favourite silk chiffon, he would often incorporate similar techniques, using sunray pleating or knotting the material, sometimes gathering it at the hips to suggest paniers....