Designer Spotlight: Norman Norell

One thing that I absolutely love about this job is that I get to learn things, along with you. In this month’s research for designer spotlight I stumbled across this article on Norman Norell and his impact on American fashion. I was fascinated. And when I’m fascinated, I can’t help but share. So, here (originally posted on WWD) is all about Norman Norell. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Norman Norell’s Lasting Influence on American Fashion
The Illinois-born Norell began designing costumes at Paramount Pictures in Astoria, N.Y., before staking his claim in the American fashion landscape on Seventh Avenue.
By Rosemary Feitelberg and Andrew Nodell on February 1, 2018

Investment Piece: Norman Norell

NEW YORK — Like Norman Norell’s more dedicated clients, author Jeffrey Banks and WWD executive editor Bridget Foley had a lot to unpack in discussing how the son of a hatmaker became America’s first great designer.
Even the Q&A’s location — Parsons School of Design, The New School — called for footnotes. Executive Dean of Fashion Joel Towers informed the industry-heavy crowd that Norell studied there and later taught from 1948 to 1972. In advance of next week’s opening of a Norell exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Banks talked about his new Rizzoli-published book “Norell: Master of American Fashion” and the designer’s lasting influence.

The audience — which included Anna Sui, Stan Herman, Rebecca Moses and Bibhu Mohapatra — listened intently about Norell’s forays into buy-now-wear-now, cruisewear, pants and other men’s wear-inspired looks for women and black-tie runway shows with Champagne and strawberry intermissions. Unlike designers of today, Norell didn’t socialize with his customers and was more inclined to spend nonworking weekends antiquing or going to the theater. The “very shy” designer lunched at Schraft’s or Hamburger Heaven with a small coterie of other Seventh Avenue designers, and he sketched away endlessly. And retailers were always part of the equation with private clients like Lauren Bacall, whose purchases were routed through the stores that supported him throughout his 51-year career.

Banks said, “Norell was such an important person in the history of American fashion. I think he really changed the way ready-to-wear is viewed and certainly on the world stage the way American designers are viewed.”

Banks also wound up as a Parsons student, due to Norell. While working for Ralph Lauren, he was enrolled at Pratt. “One day my teacher at Pratt said, ‘I don’t know if you saw in the paper today that Norman Norell died.’ This girl raised her hand and said, ‘Who’s Norman Norell?’ I said, ‘I’m outta here.’ I literally picked up my books, went to the dean’s office and transferred to Parsons. I’d been thinking about it, but that was it,” Banks said.

Following Norell’s sudden death in 1972, the designer’s legacy largely faded. Banks’ motivation in publishing the Rizzoli title, which is the first book of its kind dedicated to Norell’s work, was to inform younger generations — “especially people in the fashion business” — of his artistry. “I don’t think you can go forward as a designer without knowing where you came from,” Banks explained. “It’s only by knowing the rules that you can then break the rules.”

In an interview with WWD, Ralph Rucci, who wrote the forward for “Master of American Fashion,” described Norell as “the American Balenciaga” in his “masterful simplicity, make, cut and fit of clothes.” Rucci went on to compare the way in which the American and Spanish designers would construct an armhole, adding, “The armhole being a symbol of such precision.”

“Norell would give a 14-inch hem on dresses for balance and weight when, say, a chiffon hem would normally just be an edge stitch.”

But it wasn’t all for looks, explained Banks, who said the generous hem was also intended for lengthening and shortening a garment by the client, who paid generously for the detailed craftsmanship. “Women bought his clothes and treated them the same way they would treat artwork they would buy,” he added.

Kenneth Pool, another designer in the audience, loaned the six Norell ensembles from his 100-piece collection that bookended the stage on mannequins. Pool’s focus is from 1960 on, after Norell “finally owned his own business and was able to buy out his investors,” Banks said. “Even though he was 60 years of age, I believe he got this incredible burst of creativity for the next 12 years of his life.”

After Foley noted how the quality designs had stood the test of time, Banks pointed out how Norell was averse to American fabrics, buying only the finest ones — including Linton (which Banks said makes Chanel tweeds to this day), Gandini and Taroni for his designs and linings. As a young man Banks was so mesmerized by one Norell dress with a fireworks-like lining in a store window that he examined it daily during its two-week display.

Referring to Norell’s 9 p.m. fashion shows in his 550 Seventh Avenue showroom, Foley said, “I must say that when I was reading this, there were two words that stuck out in my mind, ‘Black-tie — photographers included,’ and the other one — think of this in the era of the 12-minute show — ‘intermission.’”

The shows themselves were also on Norell’s own timetable. In those days, like today, collections would be shown in New York before the industry’s attention moved to Europe. But rather than show with other designers, Norell — along with James Galanos — would require buyers and editors to return to New York for their shows. “They wanted to separate themselves from the rest of American fashion,” continued Rucci. “The two of them were the closest we had to haute couture in this country. They were really mavericks.”

Banks mentioned how the routine was also to have another show “for lesser buyers” the following day. An ardent Norell client, Lauren Bacall, could be seen front-row in a lengthy video clip of a 1968 Norell show. Daytime clothes were showcased in the first half, followed by an intermission for Champagne and strawberries, before the eveningwear-centered second half.

Sixty-five to 100 looks would be modeled by his four-woman cabine of “Norell girls” who worked for him almost exclusively for runway and showroom appointments. “They literally floated down the runway, walking on tippy toe. How they changed so quickly [shoes, gloves and hats as well as clothes] is just mind-blowing to me,” said Banks.

Norell was forward-thinking when it came to selecting these recurring models, who would often have similar hairstyles to each other but would be of various body types. “He was very smart in understanding that women who wore his clothes were of different sizes, heights and ages,” added Banks.

Asked what Norell would think of the fashion shows today, Banks said, “He would be very, very disappointed. I’ve posted some pictures of the black-tie openings on Facebook and Instagram and people have said, ‘Look at how beautifully that front row is dressed. There are no sneakers, no telephones, no movie stars — they’re actually looking at the clothes.’ Look at the intimacy of the show. You could literally reach out and touch the fabric. The whole point of this was the clothes — not the girls, not the spectators, not the celebrities.”

Reminded how Norell was known to deconstruct Balenciaga designs, Banks said, “All of the designers on Seventh Avenue at that time would go to Europe. Many of them to buy things, most of them to copy things. Norell would go, and every once in a while he would buy a number from Givenchy or Balenciaga, but it wasn’t to copy them. It was to actually see the construction. He would take them apart, look inside and really see the technique. He brought couture techniques to ready-to-wear.…The prices were exorbitant for the time. A jersey dress, which was really the backbone of his collection, was $500 or $600. But women loved those clothes and knew they were an investment.”

Banks added, “Norell said, ‘Bust darts are the sign of a home sewer,’” adding that the designer avoided them by taking a vertical fold of fabric, have it go inside the armhole with handstitched facing to give the wearer enough ease for the bust without “that pointy, bullet-bra look that was very popular in the Fifties and Sixties.”

As a child, Norell was a fan of vaudeville’s razzle-dazzle and his first job was with Paramount Pictures in Astoria, before it moved to California. In 1921, at the age of 21, Norell designed for Rudolph Valentino and in 1923 for Gloria Swanson in “Zaza.”

Born Norman David Levinson in Noblesville, Ind., (a state that also produced Bill Blass, Halston and Stephen Sprouse), Norell decided he needed a name with more flair after moving to New York at the age of 19. “He took the ’Nor’ from Norman, the ‘el’ from Levinson and he added an extra ‘l,’ as he said, for luck,” Banks said. Norell’s former boss Hattie Carnegie took a different tack after arriving to Ellis Island from Poland, having asked officials, ‘Who is the richest man in America?’ When told that was Andrew Carnegie, she said, ‘That’s my last name.’

An entrepreneur with a great eye,” Carnegie had 12 designers working for her initially in her East 49th Street multifloor salon. She employed 1,000 people even during the Depression. Norell learned his skills there, accommodating Park Avenue ladies who would make such requests as, “‘My husband bought me an emerald necklace and I need a dress to go with it,’” Banks said. Norell started visiting Europe with Carnegie, who was known to buy 200 items during such an excursion.

On his own, Norell was inspired by men’s wear, and introduced pants before Yves Saint Laurent, and later added “what we know as culottes,” Banks said. When Foley mentioned how Norell became “the person to knock off in New York,” he knew if he was going to be knocked off, he wanted to be knocked off properly. So the designer ran an ad in WWD advising any manufacturer that wanted to knock his culottes off that he would give them the pattern, Banks said.

In 1943, Carnegie was commissioned to do the clothes for Gertrude Lawrence in the Broadway musical “Lady in the Dark,” about a fashion editor undergoing psycho analysis. “Apparently, in the Forties, if you had money that was a big deal. That was trendy thing to do and get shrunk,” Banks quipped.

Norell was tasked with sketching costumes, but Carnegie disapproved, suggesting he tone them down. Norell sidestepped his boss and showed Lawrence the originals, which she loved. That resulted in a parting of ways with Carnegie, and Norell teaming up with a financial partner, Antony Traina, in 1941 and stayed with him until 1959. During the war years, American designers had to restart their industry since they were no longer able to rely on European fabrics, Banks said. Wartime fabric restrictions prompted slimmer skirts just above-the-knee and while metals were rationed, sequins were not. “He was very smart because he could make these clothes look very dramatic, elegant and beautiful without a lot of money,” Banks said.

One turning point in his career came when Norell started buying fabric upfront for his signature dresses, which enabled seamstresses to start making them the day after his runway shows so they could be delivered months before the rest of the collection. “That was the engine that kept the business going,” Banks said. Foley noted how it was a precursor to the buy-now-wear-now shows.

She also pointed out how Norell was inspired by the Marchesa Casati in 1960, whereas only years later did designers like John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Sui and Dries van Noten look to her.

In 1972, the-then 72-year-old Norell was given his due with a one-night-only retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I was working for Ralph Lauren while I was going to school and I begged him to get tickets for this. He said, ‘Who is this Norell?’ I said, ‘He is just the greatest designer in America,’ which is not what your boss wants to hear. But he got the tickets anyway,” Banks said. “At the end of the show, the lights went out — this was a live show of his clothes from the Twenties through the Seventies — and you saw something twinkling in the dark like fireflies. When the lights came up, there were 60 girls in mermaid dresses in every color of the rainbow from every decade.”

The audience was “literally like they were at a basketball game, stamping their feet, yelling, screaming” when a man came out in a tuxedo whom guests thought was about to introduce Norell. Instead, he said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that Norman Norell had a stroke yesterday,’” Banks said. Ten days later, the designer died.

As for what Norell would have considered to be his greatest contribution to fashion, Banks said, “Making women look attractive — that is all he ever cared about — making beautifully well-made clothes.”

The orginal article has the best picture gallery. I hope you enjoyed this reposted article, and I hope that you visit the site and see the most amazing fashion!
XO RA

Designer to Know: Say it with Pins

Have you heard? Brooches are in- AGAIN! I love a great brooch, fun to put on a lapel, or a scarf. You could also- fasten your cardigan with it, put it on your purse, use it as a tie. There are so many ways to wear a brooch, and so many messages you can send with them. I love this reminder that what we wear tells a story, and when we are intentional with the stories we tell we can change the world!

Investment Piece: Designer to know: Say it with Pins

I’ve always been fascinated by those women who walk into a room and everyone notices. And I’m even more fascinated by the women who seem to get everything that they want, without having to over explain themselves. (Real talk? I’m wordy and would win a gold at over explaining myself.) So, when I had the chance to look at a way that one such powerful woman communicated, I jumped on it!

Investment Piece: Designer to Know: Say it with Pins
** Did you know that a spider represents patience and predatory behavior? I’m not the only one who suddenly wants to wear a spider on a night out, right?

***And you may have caught on, today isn’t a true “Desginer to Know”, but rather a way to wear a design. (Play on words? Maybe, but related)

Last winter at the LBJ Library in Austin, I got to go see the pin collection worn by Madeleine Albright during her time as Secretary of State. Fashion? Yes. But, Albright also used her collection of pins to communicate with other Global Leaders, and silently but clearly, make her positions and feelings known.

It’s all the best of everything I love about fashion. A personal way to say who you are, and what you’re feeling. It’s a bit cheeky. And pins are a way to stand out. Why don’t we all do this?

Some of my favorite pins from the collection:
Investment Piece: Desginer to Know: Say it with Pins

Investment Piece: Designer to Know: Say it with Pins
A broken glass ceiling

Investment Piece: Designer to Know: Say it With Pins
Investment Piece: Desginer to Know: Say it with Pins
Hear No Evil/See No Evil/Speak No Evil

Albright’s colleciton had flowers, butterflies, animals, and all sorts of patriotic symbols. She became known for her pins, and people became adept at interpreting what some of them meant. One of my favorite stories from the collection:
Investment Piece: Designer to Know: Say it with Pins
Investment Piece: Designer to Know: Say it with Pins

And I was thrilled to realize that a strong, powerful woman and I have similar tastes:

Investment Piece: Desginer to Know: Say it With Pins
Madeleine Albright’s leopard pin

Investment Piece: Designer to Know: Say it with Pins
My leopard pin from Bloomers and Frocks

I’m left with two questions: Should we bring back pins?

(Answer: I’m game. I loved that not all of Albright’s pins were designer. Which means-yes, if you can, start collecting Cartier and high end pins. But it also means, Etsy, any jewelry or vintage shop, and any market can provide you with a pin to say something with. )

Do you have to use pins to make a statement?

(Answer: No. Let’s use all of our fashion, accessories, and personality to say what we need to say.)

Which leaves the question: What are you communicating?

I’m off to make statements with my fashion. Join me?
XO RA

Investment Piece: Designer to Know: Say it with Pins

Designer Spotlight: Ossie Clark

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Ossie Clark

There are certain designers so infamous that they have their own cult following, on top of the fame that the brand demands. Ossie Clark is one of them; I have a girlfriend and we spend a good chunk of our weeks DMing Ossie Clark pictures to each other on Instagram. His designs are that iconic, swoon worthy, and shareable.

What should you know about Ossie Clark? That he designed for the rich and famous? That he’s considered responsible for “bohemian” dresses? The Swinging Sixties? That he’s the English answer to YSL? Yes, all of that, and more.
Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Ossie Clark

Ossie was born Raymond Clark in England, 1942. He began making clothes for dolls and the neighborhood girls before he was 10. Through the encouragement of the art teacher at this school, Ossie found fashion; and poured over the Vogue and Bazaar his teacher gave him. Ossie also studied architecture, and the fundamentals of proportion, height, and volume would become paramount to his career as a fashion designer. After his basic schooling, Ossie studied at the Regional College of Art in Manchester. (Note, Ossie’s commute to school was so long his mother gave him pills to stay awake, beginning Ossie’s life long struggle with drug use). During his college days at Manchester, he met and fell in love with Celia Birtwell, and became great friends with David Hockney. Both relationships would be profoundly important in Ossie’s life.

After completing school in Manchester, Ossie attended the Royal College of Art in London. Here, Ossie used the influences of pop art and Hollywood Glamour to design a line (first carried by Woodlands 21). Ossie’s career was then on the fast track, he got his first feature in Vogue in August of 65; and was asked by Alice Pollock to be the co-designer at Quorum. Ossie partnered with his muse, and future wife, Celia Birtwell, who did the prints/fabrics while Ossie did the designing/cutting/patterns. Ossie Clark became synonymous with free following, prints, muted colors, crepe fabrics, snakeskin jackets; as well as the celebrities he dressed: Bianca Jagger (her wedding dress), the Beatles, Marianne Faithful, Liza Minnelli, among others.

When you think of Sixities Fashion you may think mod-the miniskirts, the shifts, the go-go boots. Ossie changed that. He designed to flatter a woman’s body. As the Telegraph put it:
“The square cut, mini shift dresses that projected an adolescent, coltish figure, all knees and elbows, gave way to a sinuous shape lines that celebrated women’s curves. The typical Clark gown boasted the sensuousness of the female form: the arched small of the back, the rounded haunch, an impossibly long neck, a rangy thigh, all slip sliding against satin or matte jersey.”

What I think of when I think of an Ossie Clark piece are the details: buttons, sleeves that puff or flare, the illusion of floating but the impeccable tailoring, the feel that the piece could be from the 40s, 70s, or today. Ossie Clark designs are a true collectors item, and make the woman wearing it look exquisite.

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Ossie Clark
Investemnt Piece: Designer Spotlight: Ossie Clark

Ossie Clark was a “true” artist and creative: obsessed with art and music, not great at business ends, and he was given to bouts of depression (made worse by his drug use). His clothes and line were groundbreaking in many ways: they changed the shape of fashion, his was the first line to feature black models in their runway shows (in the UK), and his love life was the source of great joy and sorrow. Ossie married Celia Birtwell (they would have 2 kids, which by all accounts were the loves of his life), and when they divorced it ruined Ossie in many ways. His line went in and out of bankruptcy; the 70s gave way to Punk Rock and Vivenne Westwood, making Ossie obsolete. He had love affairs with both men and women, and finally seemed to be pulling himself together cutting patterns for Ghost Label, when he was stabbed to death by an ex-lover in 1996.

While his life read like the Hollywoof movies he so loved, what we should take away from Ossie Clark is the love and joy that he put into his collections. You can find Ossie Clark on Etsy, 1stDibs and many high end vintage dealers. The price may be high, but if you get an Ossie, you’re getting a true work of art!

XO RA

Designer to Know: Rudy Gernreich

Investment Piece: Rudy Gernreich

A while ago, I posted a knit dress that I couldn’t help but feel was perfect for the end of summer/beginning of fall, or the end of winter and beginning of spring:

Investment Piece: End of summer

See the full post here

This dress was a Rudy Gernreich. He was one of the first designers to use cutouts, vinyl, and plastic in clothing. He’s infamous for his monokini.

Investment Piece: Rudy Gernreich

I fell in love with these knit dresses (once loved by Goldie Hawn!) through a vintage friend who loved the recent museum showing she saw of his work. Rudy was considered unconventional and trendsetting in his day, and while he may not be the name you think of when you think of 1960s fashion, Gernreich was a driving force in many ways and a designer you should know.

Investment Piece: Rudy Gernreich

Rudy Gernreich (originally spelled Rudi) was born in Vienna, Austria to a manufacturing family (an only child, his father died by suicide when Rudy was 8); but Rudy “stayed” in the family business and learned high end fashion and fabrics at his aunt’s dress shop. He did all the sketches for her clients, and was even offered a fashion apprenticeship in London at 12, which he turned down as his mom thought he was too young to leave home.

In 1938, Hilter and the Nazis took over Austria and Rudy and his mother fled for the safety of America. They settled in Los Angeles, where Rudy sold his mother’s pastries door to door, worked at the morgue, and after attending both Los Angeles City College and Los Angeles Art Center School returned to his first love, clothes.

Investment Piece: Rudy Gernreich

Even though Gernreich loved clothes, he took a round about way to designing his own looks. He started as a dancer and costume designer, when his dreams of becoming a choreographer was dashed he was a fabric salesman for a while, then finally began designing clothes. In the 1940s and 50s fashion was dominated by Paris and the looks that Dior, Balenciaga, etc were producing-Gernreich hated these looks and felt very pressured to stay close to these styles. (Fun Fact! Gernreich refused to show in Paris throughout his long career!) Gernreich began designing his own clothes (avant-garde) and signed a deal with William Bass, INc and JAX boutiques. (He also began designing swimwear for Genesco Corp).

Rudy founded his own firm in 1960. Some things Rudi Gernreich, INC is known for? The first fashion video (Basic Black in 1966), knit wear (from dresses to more experimental garments to unisex clothes), one of the first brands to sell directly to chain stores (a contract with Montgomery Ward), seasonless fashion, the first swimsuits with built in bras (and the removing of boning and a more clinging fabric), the non-sexualization of clothes (as an old dancer, Rudy believed in function and movement, not the sexulization of the body), the first thong bathing suit, and innovative design.

From topless swimsuits to knit dresses that stand the test of time, you may not know Gernreich or own one of his pieces, but his work has influenced everything you put on.

Investment Piece: Rudy Gernreich

During his life, Rudy was inducted into the Coty American Fashion Hall of Fame, won multiple design awards from Sports Illustrated, Coty American Fashion Critics, Council of Fashion Designers of America, and more. He was admired by his peers as being innovative, avant-garde, and putting the clothes first. Since his death, his works have been featured in exhibits in multiple museums and books.

Gernreich died in 1985 of lung cancer, surrounded by his life partner, Oreste Puccinani. (Gernreich never made his religion or his sexuality a focus point as he felt that both were obvious)

You can read more about Rudy Gernriech (and I hope you come to admire him like I do!)
here
here
here

And you can search his works at museums from the Met to the Skirball.
You can also visit his website here

Xo RA

Investment Piece: End of Summer

Designer to Know: Diane Freis

Investment Piece: Diane Freis

My first memory of a Diane Freis dress involves my mother. I knew nothing of Diane Freis, and though I loved dresses you couldn’t yet call me a fashionista; I was little and knew that there was this patterned dress that my mommy looked pretty in- that was it. Somewhere I hope there’s a picture of my mom in that dress, as I can see her clearly in my mind, but I haven’t found one.

Now that I’m older I have a different appreciation of Diane Freis. As these dresses began popping up for me, I couldn’t help but be charmed by the pattern mixing, the smocked waists, the chic modernity. There are so many that I’ve fallen in love with researching this piece. And yes, now that I am a fashionista, when I see a pretty dress, I also see a story. I want to know where a piece comes from, what it says, who wears them, and if we should know about the designer. And loves, Diane Freis is a designer to know!

Investment Piece: Vintage and Pops

Begin looking and there are fascinating stories to tell about Freis, an LA girl. Who made it in Hong Kong. From FashionDesignerEncyclopedia:

Diane Freis is one of the few Hong Kong-based designers to have gained an international reputation. Hers is a typical Hong Kong success story, based on hard work and determination. Since arriving in the territory in 1973, she built a commercially successful brand name that became a role model for Hong Kong manufacturing.

The Freis signature is represented by multicolored prints applied to one-size, easy-care dresses, primarily designed in polyester georgette. Noncrushable and easy-to-pack, they have presented a travel solution for higher income, more mature women in search of a glamorous and feminine look. The fashion philosophy is pragmatic: Freis stresses the importance “of making a one-size dress that allows the freedom of fit in our daily schedules of health programmes one day and over-indulgence the next.” With their hallmark elasticated waists and shirring, the dresses covered imperfections but would never be called dowdy. The prints were usually exotic, the designs included pretty florals, dramatic geometrics, bold stripes, and plaids, with embroidery and beading as particular features of the look. Besides her traditional georgette, Freis has used silk, cotton, and wool coordinates, hand-knits for casual daywear, and chiffon and taffeta for grand evening ensembles.

Freis’ eye for color and design can be attributed to her fine arts education at the University of California in her native Los Angeles. While a student, her sideline was to create elaborately beaded jackets, which she sold to celebrities such as Diana Ross. It was a search for new, exotic materials and skilled embroiderers that first attracted her to the Far East. In Hong Kong she found the fabrics and workmanship that contributed to her distinctive fashion identity.

Investment Piece: Diane Freis

In 1978 Freis opened her first fashion boutique in Hong Kong; by 1986 she had six more. But her influence did not remain in the local market. International buyers from Europe and the United States soon took her work overseas. In the U.S., her dresses came to adorn the bodies of society women who shopped at the likes of Neiman Marcus in Dallas or Bergdorf Goodman in New York. Suited more to the European figure than to the Asian, today the label can be found in over 20 countries. Her success has been based on locating a market niche, not by following international fashion trends. Falling somewhere between haute couture and prêt-á-porter, the designs have been produced in limited editions: no more than 10 of any one design are distributed around the world. Basic shapes remain consistent; the variety is provided by new fabric designs and combinations. To retain exclusivity, the company set up its own print design studio and manufacturing base in 1982. In recognition of her commercial achievement for Hong Kong, Freis was awarded the Governor’s award for Industry for Export in 1993.

Despite its established success, the company continued to develop new ranges and to target new markets. Freis’ easy-flowing garments have gradually gained some structure via shoulder pads, more tucking, and fitted pleat detail. In recognition of changing lifestyles, Freis Spirit was launched in spring 1994 as a diffusion line aimed mainly in the Southeast Asian market. Featuring a pared-down silhouette and more subdued designs, the collection offered mix-and-match coordinates in quality fabrics to a younger market.

Headquartered in Hong Kong, Freis continues to focus on her trademark polyester georgette dresses in bright patterns and solids. She has expanded from a focus on dresses and skirts to a broader line comprising suits and eveningwear. She is now able to clothe a woman during her workday career, at night in formal attire, or in casual situations, although she remains best known for her flexible, easy-fit, all-over-printed dresses. The designer’s daywear business is divided into knitwear, classic polyester silk dresses and blouses, basic coordinates, and printed stretch tops, and her eveningwear line consists of beaded gowns, special occasion wear, beaded and embroidered jackets, camisoles, and scarves.

Investment Piece: Diane Freis

Freis has traditionally appealed to a more mature consumer but has extended her market into more youthful customers with her “young classics” line, consisting of tanks, chemise-and-jacket combinations and coverups, which Women’s Wear Daily described as “sleek” in August 1999. A line of all-black polyester and silk tanks, dresses, and pants coordinate with all the products in her daywear and eveningwear lines, from beaded jackets to printed skirts.

Freis has also expanded geographically from her roots in the Asian market. She maintains a distribution network not only in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Australia, but in the U.S., South Africa, and the Middle East. In 1999 Freis signed a licensing agreement with Guryich International, a Canadian company, for distribution in North America of a broad collection imported from Hong Kong. The line incorporates the one-size-fits-all polyester print dresses for which she is still best known but also includes 50 items from all facets of her line.

—HazelClark;

updated by KarenRaugust.

There are so many more articles out there, are you as fascinated as I am? All of a sudden I want to know what it was like to move to Hong Kong, and what drew her there. I’d even love to know how they mixed patterns. What kind of stories can we tell in these dresses? (Which by the way are easy to find on eBay, Etsy, etc. I’ve linked some of my faves for you below!)

Me, I’m off in my Diane Freis
XO RA

Note: this post does contain affiliate links. While that does not affect the price for you, I may earn commission from them. Thank you for your support!

Investment Piece: Vintage and Pops

Designer to Know: Ted Tinling

Cuthbert Collingwood “Ted” Tinling (23 June 1910 – 23 May 1990), sometimes known as Teddy Tinling, was an English fashion designer, spy and author. He was a firm fixture on the professional tennis tour for over 60 years and is considered the foremost designer of tennis dresses of the 20th century

It’s a month where not everything is as it seems- from bumps in the night to ghosts who end up being shadows. So a designer who was also a spy who was also a tennis champion? I can’t resist! Ted Tinling first came to my attention in the movie Battle of the Sexes (about that infamous tennis match with Billie King!) but I completely forgot about him till in passing I read about the tennis designer who was a spy. Fashion and spies being 2 of my most favorite things I had to know more. So, Designer to Know: Ted Tinling!

Ted Tinling in a low cut purple shirt and white pants stands between two women in tennis dresses

Tinling was born in Eastbourne, on the south coast of England, the son of James Alexander Tinling, a chartered accountant. In 1923, suffering from bronchial asthma, his parents sent him to the French Riviera on doctor’s orders. It was there he began playing tennis, particularly at the Nice Tennis Club where Suzanne Lenglen practiced.

Despite Tinling’s youth, Lenglen’s father asked him if he would umpire one of her upcoming matches. He became her personal umpire for two years in between a short career as a player himself. This friendship with Lenglen led him to his first Wimbledon Championships in 1927, where he became player liaison until 1949. Ted kept a relationship with Wimbledon for years. Tinling’s status at Wimbledon was ever-present, serving as Master of Ceremonies and escorting players onto court for their matches.

Tinling was a brilliant tennis historian, umpire, consultant, confidant, and chief of protocol. He had as distinguished and all-encompassing career as anyone in history. Tinling also became the revered Chief of Protocol for the International Tennis Federation and a Director of International Liaison for the women’s pro tour.

Interesting here? World War II brought a brief career interruption. During the Second World War, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Intelligence Corps in Algiers and Germany. After his death in 1990, it was revealed that Ted Tinling was a spy for the Allies. I’ll be honest I did search after search for details and came up with nothing! I’ll keep looking for all of us!

2 women in tennis dresses stand by a mad in tennis shorts and sweater with a boy on a bench in the background

Though he was a tennis champion, design and fashion were always in Ted Tinling’s blood. Ted began sketching designs as a child, and before WWII was working in custom gowns, most famously designing a wedding gown for fellow tennis champ Dorothy Round in 1937. But as the 30s gave way to the 40s Tinling left behind dresses to focus on women’s sportswear, especially Tennis, and he completely changed the way we dress for tennis.

Tinling’s first tennis design was created for Joy Gannon’s 1947 appearance at Wimbledon, for which he incorporated a pink-and-blue hem that sent the All England Club into a state of shock since its rules were — and remain — that a player’s outfit must be predominantly white.

His breakout moment came at 1949’s Wimbledon, for which Tinling added lace trim to the hem of Gussie Moran’s undershorts — creating a scandalous moment that has become tennis legend.This also led to Tinling being banned from Wimbledon for years!
Tinling designed dresses for a slew of the greatest tennis players in history, including Maureen Connolly, Maria Bueno, Billie Jean King, Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, and Martina Navratilova, to name a few. His tennis apparel adorned female players throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and his dresses were worn by the Wimbledon ladies’ champion in 1959, 1960, 1961, 1964, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1978 and 1979. Perhaps his most famous outfit was displayed by King in her famous Battle of the Sexes tennis match against Bobby Riggs in 1973. It was a menthol-green and sky blue dress with a color scheme that was a tribute to the Virginia Slims women’s tour. “It felt absolutely perfect when I put it on,” King said.

Tinling’s creations were alluring and colorful and revolutionary. They ranged from the Technicolor outfits sported by Bueno to the glittery models worn by King to the black three pieces of Rosie Casals. “Confidence is probably what makes the difference between a victory and a defeat,” Tinling said. “If a woman feels that she is prettier or better dressed than her opponent, nothing can stop her.”

From there, Tinling enjoyed a steady stream of Grand Slam-bound ladies pining for his designs. In the Seventies, he was employed by the Virginia Slims Circuit (an early predecessor to today’s Women’s Tennis Association) to create designs for the tour’s players.

In his career’s later years, the lanky, outspoken and totally bald Tinling shared a close relationship with teenage sensation Tracy Austin, who wore Tinling designs to capture U.S. Open titles in 1979 and 1981.

The two first met in 1977, after Austin won a custom Tinling jacket as part of her prize package for a title in Philadelphia. The two became constant collaborators thereafter, with Tinling even bequeathing Austin his single pearl earring after his death in 1990.

“Ted was a character with stories galore — we had a great relationship,” Austin said. “I was always a very curious young lady, I would ask a million questions about the history, all the champions, and he loved to talk about his craft….He tried to make women understand that they were athletes but tried to make them feel beautiful on the court.”

Austin would commission up to seven dresses at a time, and unlike in today’s tennis world, would wear a different dress in each stage of a tournament. “I would never have thought of wearing the same outfit twice. It’s a different thought process now that they are selling product,” she said. “Now a player will get an outfit and they wear it for an entire tournament, they are getting paid millions of dollars. I paid for every one of those dresses. Not only was I not paid, I was paying for them.”

Side note- all of the players that Tinling dressed paid for his designs. There was no giveaways, no endorsements. Tinling made one of a kind couture for players- and they paid him. He in turn made the stars of the court a form of a fashion show.

a woman in tennis shorts and smock

Tinling was a brilliant tennis historian, umpire, consultant, confidant, and chief of protocol. He had as distinguished and all-encompassing career as anyone in history. Tinling also became the revered Chief of Protocol for the International Tennis Federation and a Director of International Liaison for the women’s pro tour.

Tinling authored two books on tennis, the most notable being, Love and Faults: Personalities Who Have Changed the History of Tennis. He was burdened with respiratory problems throughout the 1980s and passed away in May 1990.

Will we ever know all of his spy secrets? Will we ever wear couture for sport again?

I don’t know- but I’m grateful that Ted Tinling came along and showed us all it’s done.

This is just a brief overview of Ted Tinling’s life. So much more can be learned with a quick google search, by reading the books and articles about and by him, or by a dive into the Tennis Archives.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, will I’m not great at Tennis- I might be a fashion of fashion on the court!

A woman in a white corset top, a printed tennis skirt and nude heels on a tennis court

Designer Spotlight: Rei Kawakubo

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Rei Kawakubo

By now the Met Gala, theme of Rei Kawakubo, has come and long gone–you probably had an opinion about the red carpet, and may agree with me that Rhianna won it (just because she stuck to the theme). Or it may be a faint memory (in all of the Met Galas since). While we could chat Met Gala, themes, red carpets and Rhianna’s style, you may have a great grasp on those. What you may not have is a wide understanding of Rei Kawakubo, her designs, and her label Comme des Garçons. Loves, you should know. Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons are fashion in its highest form, and I don’t mean that you’ll find the perfect LBD; but in the sense that clothing will be playful, fantastical, experiment with shape, form, and gender roles, push boundaries, and be a calling to something higher.

Comme des Garçons and Kawakubo are known for original designs, big shapes, non-genderconforming designs, and mixing tailored pieces with corsets. The first few collections were done in only black, white and gray; and the runway shows to this day are more performance art than collection presentation. Comme des Garçons were the first to present designs that seem conventional now: unfinished hems, asymmetry, black, overblown and deconstructed silhouettes; what we wear today holds a debt of gratitude to these collections that read more like poetry than a standard runway. Kawakubo is known for playing with these themes:
-absence/presence
-design/not design
-fashion/anti-fashion
-model/multiple
-high/low
-then/now
-self/other
-object/subject
-clothes/not clothes
These these run through every collection and are on view in the 150 outfits on view at the Met.
Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Rei Kawakubo

Rei Kawakubo was born in Tokyo in 1942, the oldest of 3 and the only girl.After college she took a job in advertising/textiles, but also worked as a freelance stylist. With no design background, Kawakubo started her line in 1973, opening her first boutique in Toyko in 75. Comme des Garçons grew, adding a men’s line in 78, presenting in Paris in 81, and opening a Paris boutique in 82. Kawakubo now splits time between Paris and Toyko. Known for powerful and directional design that’s been called “radical abandonment of conventions” and “stunningly audacious”. Kawakubo not only dares to rework the relationship of clothes to the body, she involves herself in all business aspects from graphic design to advertising to shop interiors. However, Rei Kawakubo is till thought of as a recluse, an extreme introvert who keeps to herself; even though she is a fashion icon, she doesn’t think of herself that way.
Investment Piece: Designer Spoltight: Rei Kawakubo

Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons have inspired all aspects of fashion, as well as sub labels such as Junya Watanbe, Tao Kurihara, and Comme des Garçons Tricot. There are also several collaborations Comme des Garçons participated in including ones with :Fred Perry, Converse, Speedo, Nike, Moncler, Lacoste, Cutler and Gross, Chrome Hearts, Louis Vuitton, H&M, and Supreme (all of which might be found on a luxury resale site or eBay). Much of what we wear or think is cool is owed to Kawakubo.

Shocked that someone who is a self admitted shy girl can design clothes that make such loud statements? I’m not. Isn’t that part of the fun of fashion? It speaks for us, when we can’t? In fact my favorite quote about Kawakubo comes from Paul Gaultier, who said:
“I believe that Kawakubo is a woman with extreme courage. She is a person with exceptional strength. Moreover, she has a poetic spirit. When I see her creations, I feel the spirit of a young girl. A young girl who still has innocence and is a bit romantic. Yet she also has an aspect of a fighting woman, one who fears nothing as she thrusts forward.”
If your clothes can say all that, what else is left to say?

I’d love to know: what are your thoughts on Rei Kawakubo and the Met Gala?

XO

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Rei Kawakubo

Designer SpotLight: Kate Spade

with yet another high profile suicide in the news I can’t help but be reminded by this. I won’t tell us to check on our friends- because sometimes our friends will also put up a front for us. I will say life is tough. And sometimes our feelings are bigger than us. So here’s my tribute to Kate Spade. Let us fill our life with color and playfulness and joy! And yes- check on your friends. But also be ok with your friends maybe keep that part of them secret?

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Kate Spade

In the past week there has been a lot written about Kate Spade. About how her iconic handbag, bright and preppy aesthetic, and affordable pieces made women feel grown up. About her battles, and how she worried that her issues would negatively affect her brand. About how much she was loved.

I can relate to all of that. Like Kate Spade, I want my fashion and shopping to inspire you and make you feel like your best self. And, like Kate Spade, I worry that any personal issues I have might negatively affect my brand. Knowing how much to admit about what you struggle with is difficult in any setting, but especially so when you worry about how it might affect your business. This is the part where I let you know that I’m no expert. There has been so much written about how to reach out if you’re struggling, that you should reach out if someone you love is struggling, and how we should all be a little more compassionate. I wholeheartedly agree with all of that. And know it’s complicated. So, my take is that we all suffer a bit. We should all love each other a little bit harder, and maybe be a little more honest. And, maybe most important, maybe we should do a lot more of what brings us joy-be it having a bag that makes you feel like a grown up or something else.

Kate Spade was so much more than a bag designer and there have been wonderful pieces written about her brand, attention to detail, and how her bag changed “the game”. I hope you’ve read them and come to admire Kate for all that she was. Below is a short recap of Kate Spade’s career:

Investment Piece: Designer to know: Kate Spade

Katherine Noel Brosnahan (December 24, 1962 – June 5, 2018), known professionally as Kate Spade and Kate Valentine,was an American fashion designer and businesswoman. She was the founder and former co-owner of the designer brand Kate Spade New York.

After working in the accessories department at the fashion magazine Mademoiselle, Brosnahan and her husband Andy Spade founded the business in 1993, identifying a market for quality stylish handbags. The handbags that she designed and produced quickly became popular due to their sophistication and affordability; they have been described as a symbol of 1990s New York City.

The company expanded into other product lines. In 1999, she sold a 56 percent stake in Kate Spade New York to Neiman Marcus Group; in 2006 she sold the rest of her shares.[4] In 2016, she and partners launched a new fashion brand called Frances Valentine.

Early Life
Spade was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the daughter of June (Mullen) and Earl Francis Brosnahan,[5] who owned a road construction company.Her ancestry was mostly Irish. After graduating from St. Teresa’s Academy, an all-girl Catholic high school, she attended the University of Kansas. Later she transferred to Arizona State University, where she joined Kappa Kappa Gamma, and graduated with a journalism degree in 1985.

Fashion was a love, she recalled later, but not an obsession. Her original goal was to become a television producer, and she cited the example of Holly Hunter’s character in the 1987 film Broadcast News as her inspiration.

Mademoiselle
In 1986, Spade worked in the accessories department at Mademoiselle magainze in Manhattan, where she was credited by her maiden name, Katy Brosnahan. While at Mademoiselle, she started living with Andy Spade, a native of Scottsdale, Arizona. The two had worked side-by-side as salespeople in a men’s clothing store, Carter’s Men Shop, back when Spade was still in Phoenix.

She left Mademoiselle in 1991, with the title of Senior Fashion Editor/Head of Accessories. While working for Mademoiselle, she had noticed that the market lacked stylish and sensible handbags, and decided to create her own.

Kate Spade NewYork
Kate and Andy Spade launched the New York–based design company “kate spade handbags” in January 1993. “I wanted a functional bag that was sophisticated and had some style,” Spade would later recall. She made six prototypes with Scotch Tape and paper, and found a manufacturer in East New York willing to work with a startup to turn them into actual bags. To finance the company, Andy, who had worked as a copywriter, withdrew his 401(k) pension plan, and sometimes paid employees with personal checks. The couple spent their shipping season living at friends’ apartments, since their own was filled with boxed handbags.

Kate was undecided as to what name to give the company, because she and Spade had not yet married, and “Kate Brosnahan” did not sound like an ideal name for a fashion label. She considered a number of names, but agreed when Andy suggested “Kate Spade” — a combination of their names that he found euphonious. After an early show at the Javits Center at which the department-store chain Barneys ordered a few bags, Kate decided to put the bag’s labels on the outside, a change that took her all night to make, but established the brand.

The bags, priced in the $150 to $450 range, quickly became popular, particularly in New York. Teenage girls with disposable income appreciated that the bags at the lower end of the price range were affordable. That was “a real shift” in fashion, said Fern Mallis, director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) during the 1990s. “Everybody had Kate Spade bags. You could afford them, and happily buy more than one.”

Young American women at the time also liked the sophisticated look. One woman recalled to Sarah Maslin Nir in The New York Times later that the Kate Spade bags looked mature, without being too adult for a teenager as a Burberry bag would have been seen. “At the turn of the last century,” Nir wrote, “her bag came to encapsulate a decidedly Manhattan moment in time”, a moment when Vogue editor Anna Wintour recalled that it was impossible to walk a block in the city without seeing one.

The company sold mainly handbags at first, but soon extended to clothing, jewelry, shoes, stationery, eyewear, baby items, fragrances, tabletop, bedding and gifts. In 1996, the Kate Spade brand opened its first boutique, a 400-square-foot shop located in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo district, and moved its headquarters into a 10,000-square-foot space in West 25th Street.

In 2004, “Kate Spade at home” was launched as a home collection brand. It featured bedding, bath items, china, wallpaper and various items for the home. Later in 2004, Spade also published three books on the subjects of etiquette, entertainment, and fashion—Manners, Occasions, and Style. That same year, a Kate Spade store was opened in Aoyama, Tokyo in Japan.

Neiman Marcus Group purchased 56 percent of the Kate Spade brand in 1999, and the remaining 44 percent in 2006. The Group sold the label in 2006 to Liz Claiborne Inc., for $124 million; it was later renamed Fifth & Pacific. The company was purchased by Coach, Inc. in May 2017; both Coach and Kate Spade are now part of Tapestry, Inc.

France Valentine
After selling the remaining portion of her ownership stake in the Kate Spade brand in 2006, Spade took time off to raise her daughter. In 2016, she and her business partners launched a new collection of luxury footwear and handbags under the brand name Frances Valentine. The name Frances is a family name on Spade’s paternal side; her daughter is named Frances, as were her grandfather, father, and brother. “Valentine” came from Spade’s maternal side; it was her grandfather’s middle name, given because he was born on Valentine’s Day. In 2016, Spade legally changed her surname to Valentine.

There are so many personal details -her husband, her daughter, and we know more about details of her death than maybe we should. My heart breaks for the loved ones she leaves. But, as much as I believe in love and honesty, I think that there are some stories that are only your families to tell. So,I’m not addressing her personal life. Her creations brough me joy, I understand her struggles, and so I’m chosing to love hard and wear great shoes as my homage to Kate Spade.

What is your favorite Kate Spade bag?
XO RA

Dora Maar Muse

a woman in a pink dress and black heels leans against a wall covered in greenery

Beloveds, I’m so thrilled to announce that I’ve been chosen as a Muse for the amazing curated luxury fashion site Dora Maar. What this means is that there is a new way for you to shop my picks- as in literally my closet (shop here) and that there’s another way for us to tell our stories, both together and apart. Dora Maar was referred to me (or perhaps I should say that she referred me to them!) by my love PhoebePhiloFan (who may be more chic than me!)

A Few things I love about Dora Maar: they’re white glove service. Every item is inspected and researched. It’s a community of fashion lovers. Truly. Every person -muse and non-muse-I’ve met have spanned ages and styles and yet have come together to truly appreciate fashion- and the stories it tells. Dora Maar wants you to be happy. So many sites just want to make a sale, and yet I truly believe in the work being done at Dora Maar. Not only because of all the questions that they asked me:

a woman in a lilac one shoulder dress sits on a bike where in the basket a Gucci clutch sits
a woman in a black sequin cape and black heels
a woman in a red wrap dress with blue and white striped platform heels

I love that they care about our stories, I love that Dora Maar is doing the work, and I love that they care about the pieces that they accept and sell:

a woman in a pink wool skirt and white tee with white and black sock boots
a close up of a woman in a black maxi dress with a low cut neckline

I can’t say enough about how excited I am to be a part of this community and how I think you might like it too!

My closet (again) is here

So many other muses and shopping can be found here.

I hope you love Dora Maar as much as I do!
XO RA

Designer to Know: Mary Quant

a woman in a mini dress kneels on the floor in front of pictures
As you may have heard, legendary UK designer Mary Quant passed last week at 93 years young. Quant was known (predominantly in the 1960s) for her use of color blocking, championing the mini skirt, and styling with patterned tights. Mary Quant dressed Twiggy and other “mod” models and stars- as well as everyone in the 1960s and beyond that were ready for “new” and “modern”!

models in mini skirts and knee high boots in bright colors

Every time there is a designer who has affected how I dress (and I have been known to rock color blocking and mini skirts!) I love knowing about them-so here is all about Mary Quant, and how she still inspires how we dress today.

Dame Barbara Mary Quant (11 February 1930 – 13 April 2023) was a British fashion designer and fashion icon. She became an instrumental figure in the 1960s London-based Mod and youth fashion movements, and played a prominent role in London’s Swinging Sixties culture. She was one of the designers who took credit for the miniskirt and hotpants. Ernestine Carter wrote: “It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion there are three: Chanel, Dior, and Mary Quant.”

Mary Quant was born to school teachers, who originally dissuaded her love of fashion and pursuing that career. Quant studied illustration and art education at Goldsmiths College for which she received a degree in 1953. In pursuit of her love for fashion, after finishing her degree, she was apprenticed to Erik Braagaard, a high-class Mayfair milliner on Brook Street next door to Claridge’s hotel. “Good taste is death,” Mary Quant once famously said. “Vulgarity is life.”

Quant did not like clothes as they were in the 1950s. She saw the tight, corseted silhouettes popularized by high fashion houses like Dior as too limiting. They didn’t make sense for young women coming of age in the second wave of feminism. Instead, Quant wanted clothes that reflected the pleasure of being alive. When she couldn’t find that in stores, she decided to make it herself with fabrics bought from Harrods.

Quant initially sold clothing sourced from wholesalers in her new boutique in the Kings Road named Bazaar. The bolder pieces in her collection started garnering more attention from media like Harper’s Bazaar, and an American manufacturer purchased some of her dress designs. Because of this attention and her personal love for these bolder styles, she decided to take designs into her own hands. Initially working solo, she was soon employing a handful of machinists; by 1966 she was working with a total of 18 manufacturers. A self-taught designer inspired by the culture-forward “Chelsea Set” of artists and socialites, Quant’s designs were riskier than standard styles of the time. Quant’s designs revolutionised fashion from the utilitarian wartime standard of the late 1940s to the energy of the 1950s and 1960s’ cultural shifts. She stocked her own original items in an array of colours and patterns, such as colourful tights.

Quant’s impact did not just come from her unique designs; in her boutique she created a special environment, including music, drinks, and long hours that appealed to young adults. This environment was unique for the industry, as it differentiated from the stale department stores and inaccessible high-class designer store environments that had a hold of the fashion market. Her window displays with models in quirky poses brought a lot of attention to her boutique, where people would often stop to stare at the eccentric displays. She stated that “Within 10 days, we hardly had a piece of the original merchandise left.”

For a while in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Quant was one of only two London-based high-class designers consistently offering youthful clothes for young people. The other was Kiki Byrne, who opened her boutique on the King’s Road in direct competition with Quant.

In 1966, Quant was named one of the “fashion revolutionaries” in New York by Women’s Wear Daily, alongside Edie Sedgwick, Tiger Morse, Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne, Rudi Gernreich, André Courrèges, Emanuel Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent and Baby Jane Holzer.

a woman in a mini dress and white knee high boots fitting a mini dress on another woman

Quant can be seen as an early example of turning a fashion label into a brand. She designed her logo, a black and white daisy, in the 1950s, which went on to appear on packaging for her clothes. A cheaper line, the Ginger Group, launched in 1963, as well as tights and a successful makeup line. Mary Quant Cosmetics, launched in 1966, was her calling card even as attention on her clothes waned. The cosmetics line remains in existence.

In recent years, the designer has appeared on the radar of a younger generation. A 2019 exhibition at the V&A was the first in 50 years and included 35 pieces sourced from a public call-out. This was followed in 2021 with a documentary, Quant, directed by Sadie Frost, featuring names including Vivienne Westwood, Kate Moss and Edward Enninful. Her friend Jasper Conran summed up her legacy best: “Mary Quant is, without a doubt, one of the most important British designers ever.”

a line of mini dresses on mannequins

When learning about her death, several stars of the 19060s had this to say about Mary Quant:
1960s fashion icon Twiggy, whose real name is Lesley Lawson posted on Instagram: “Mary Quant was such an influence on young girls in the late 50s early 60s. She revolutionised fashion and was a brilliant female entrepreneur.
“The 1960s would have never been the same without her.
Fellow fashion designer Sir Paul Smith said she was a “brave innovator who was constantly modern, willing to shock and blessed with a business and personal partner [Greene] who could help turn her ideas into reality.”
Photographer and model Pattie Boyd tweeted that Dame Mary had made her and her first husband George Harrison’s coats when they wed in 1966. “A true icon,” she said as she shared a photo of the wedding day.

I can look at my closet and see the mini skirts, the patterned tights, and color blocking. And upon reading about Mary Quant (not just knowing about her fashion), and seeing how her philosophy and attitudes towards fashion are so similar to my own, and it made me love her.

One of my favorite quotes? In the 1985 Thames TV interview, Quant also mused, “Fashion is about life. It’s about everything…I think fashion anticipates. It seems to get there first and everything unravels behind it.” Quant was also there first, and the viral mini skirts of today certainly wouldn’t have been possible without her.

Here’s to mini skirts, to loving what you’re wearing and marking your own path! And to Mary Quant!

More reading can be done here, here, and here.

When any designer I loves passes, I have a (I refuse to feel guilty for my pleasures) pleasure of looking up their designs that I can buy. Below I’ve linked a few Mary Quant pieces that I love- from tights to outfits. You can find so so many more on the GEM app (I get no commission from that, it’s just a great resource for any and all vintage shopping!). I would love to know about your Mary Quant fashion stories!
XO RA

Note: The following are affiliate links. That does not increase the price for you, but I may earn commission from them. Thank you for your support!

a woman in a brown leather mini skirt, a brown suede jacket and knee high boots in front of a brick wall