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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

John-Paul Stonard

(b Sunshine, Victoria, March 26, 1961, d London, Dec 31, 1994).

Australian fashion designer and performance artist. He arrived in Britain from Australia in 1980 and set up as a fashion designer in London’s Kensington Market, selling clothes he had made with his partner. His regular and increasingly outlandish appearances on the club circuit led to his opening the club Taboo in Leicester Square in 1985, within which he developed his performing persona. In 1988 he made his first foray into the mainstream London art scene with a one-week performance at the Anthony D’Offay Gallery. Every afternoon for one week Bowery improvised a performance in front of a one-way mirror, wearing a different costume each time and accompanied by a soundtrack of traffic sounds; the narcissism of his outlandish preening and posing, exposed to the audience with a literal transparency, was all the more comical and outrageous given his large and ungainly appearance. His subsequent performances include an appearance in 1993...

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

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

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

Sharon Matt Atkins

(b Oakland, CA, Aug 26, 1925; d Tucson, AZ, June 4, 2009).

American painter, printmaker and teacher. Colescott produced highly expressive and gestural paintings that addressed a wide range of social and cultural themes and challenged stereotypes. Interested in issues of race, gender and power, his work critiqued the representation of minorities in literature, history, art and popular culture. Stylistically, his work is indebted to European modernism, particularly Cubism and Expressionism, but also makes references to African sculpture, African American art and post–World War II American styles.

Colescott was introduced to art at an early age. His mother was a pianist and his father was a classically-trained violinist and jazz musician. Through his parents’ social circles, he often found himself surrounded by creative individuals as he was growing up, like his artistic mentor, the sculptor Sargent Johnson (1888–1967). Colescott received his BA in 1949 and later his MFA in 1952 from the University of California, Berkeley. He also studied with ...

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

Amy Widmayer

[Galliano-Guillen, Juan Carlos Antonio]

(b Gibraltar, Nov 28, 1960).

British fashion designer, active also in France. Half renegade, half romantic, as a designer for Christian Dior, Galliano deftly captured Dior’s essence, creating excessively elegant garments for the modern, youthful woman unafraid of breaking fashion rules (see fig.). Known for his extravagant catwalk shows, over-the-top couture collections and knack for blending street- and high fashion, Galliano’s outrageous adaptations of iconic Dior silhouettes, master tailoring skills and penchant for theatrics, combined with a keen business sense, have earned him the distinction of being one of the most influential designers of his generation.

Born into a family of modest means in Gibraltar and raised in gritty south London, Galliano was educated at the prestigious Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, where he graduated with a first class honours degree in 1984. His final collection at Central Saint Martin’s, entitled ‘Les Incroyables’, was an irreverent nod to the tattered clothing of the French Revolutionaries, and showcased not only his flawless technical skill, but his astute attention to detail and his passion for historical research....

Article

Nancy Deihl

(b Arcueil, April 24, 1952).

French fashion designer (see figs 1 and 2). Since his début collection, Gaultier has repeatedly been called the enfant terrible of French fashion for his rejection of conventional distinctions between male and female dress, his controversial historical and global references, and an ongoing ironic evocation of the Paris of popular imagination.

Gaultier credited his early interest in fashion to the influence of his grandmother, an amateur hypnotist and fortuneteller with a colourful group of clients for whom Gaultier imagined dramatic outfits and hairstyles. His grandmother’s foundation garments were particularly important and inspired an obsession with corsets that became a recurring motif in his design career.

As a teenager, he designed fashion collections for his mother and grandmother and sent sketches to Pierre Cardin. On his 18th birthday, Gaultier was offered a job by Cardin, where he stayed for about one year. He then moved on to a short stint with the avant-garde designer Jacques Esterel (...

Article

Michael Spens

revised by Carla Tilghman

(b Toronto, Feb 28, 1929).

American architect, exhibition designer, furniture and jewlery designer, and teacher. He qualified at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in 1954 and attended the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, in 1956–7. After working in various architectural practices, from 1962 he practised independently in Venice, Los Angeles establishing the firm of Frank O. Gehry and Associates, Inc of which he remains the Design Principal. His early work focused on the potential of small-scale works to provide a succinct metaphorical statement, as with various exhibition designs for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and his designs for the Joseph Magnin Stores at Costa Mesa and San Jose (both 1968), CA. In his early works he was interested more in the manipulation of architectural form than in technical innovation, and he was concerned with the conceptual and spatial content of buildings rather than the tighter demands of the architectural brief. Seeking an ‘open-ended’ approach to architecture, he was influenced by the work of fine artists such as Constantin Brancusi and Robert Rauschenberg. But his works of the late 1970s proved that his approach could provide habitable if haphazard buildings, as in the Wagner House (...

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

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

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

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

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 ...