Designer Spolight: Todd Oldham

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Todd Oldham
It’s sometimes scary as a vintage lover to see how quickly certain eras become vintage, or collectibles. I remember (vaguely) the 90s, yet here they are–vintage. However, loves, there is something to be said for great fashion standing the test of time, and reach a new generation of lovers. And if something from the 90s is going to come back, let’s be glad it’s Todd Oldham.

Todd Oldham was a fashion designer at the height of the 90s, he had a few fans, you might have heard of one-Cindy Crawford. His pieces were fun, intricate, and are still head turners. As a New York Times piece recently put it:

“Fashion is noisy, and Mr. Oldham had a lively run with it. His clothes were inspired by pot holders or wallpaper or kitschy paint-by-numbers paintings or garage sale treasures — toasters, gilded mirrors, loopy printed upholstery — all expressed in exuberant colors on cut velvet and silks, with trompe l’oeil effects that were the result of elaborate printing techniques, intricate beading, appliqués and embroidery.
His clothes were fun, but they were also beautiful, and his shows were like dance parties, packed with the coolest kids, both on the runway and in the audience: drag performers like Billy Beyond and RuPaul; old-fashioned supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell; and actors like Susan Sarandon, Rosie O’Donnell and Christian Slater. You might hear the theme song from “The Dating Game,” or 1970s-era curiosities, like War’s “Low Rider,” and the models didn’t stalk, stone-faced, down the runway. They skipped, jogged, shimmied and grinned, just as you did, watching them.”

Investment Piece: Todd Oldham

Looking any Todd Oldham piece, it’s easy to see why the pieces are (were) cool; but loves, I have a feeling Oldham is (was) just as cool. He’s from Texas (Corpus Christi to be exact) and made his first dress at 15. His first fashion job was in the alterations department of Polo Ralph Lauren, but with a $100 loan from his parents he designed a collection that he sold to Neiman’s. The rest? Fashion History, but not the linear kind. Yes, Todd Oldham has his own line (incredibly popular) and won awards, was worn by models. He also consulted for Escada, designed a Batman line, hosted segments on MTV shows (Todd Time on House of Style and Fashaionably Loud), had a Target line, ran Old Navy and he made art and books.

In fact, while I consider his clothes works of art, he retired from fashion (unless you count his archives and museum showings) and is focused on the book and art making slowly. (The New Times piece is a great look at his goodbye to wholesale and his current endeavors, found here
Investment Piece: Todd Oldham

But loves, we haven’t really lost anything. With Todd Oldham clothes becoming a great vintage find, we can still enjoy his creations; and they are still as fun and beautiful as they were in the 90s. So where to look? 1stdibs (Look for The Timeless Vixen, Rachel Zabar, and a general search) is a great place to start, Etsy, and your local high end vintage dealer (I love me some Recess LA, The Kit Vintage, and Vintage Martini. Some prices are high (the rarity factor), but I can promise any piece is stunning.

Investment Piece: LA Walk
I was lucky enough to find these amazing bandana print pants (and yes, I’m claiming Cindy Crawford wore them) at Recess, and I want to live in them–they’re that great!

I’m a firm believer that fashion is art, fashion is supposed to be fun, and fashion is a community; and I’m just grateful Todd Oldham chose to play with us a while!

XO RA

Designer Spotlight: Madame Gres

Investment Piece: Desinger to know: Madame Gres

Loves, if you love the elegant look of Grecian Stlye pleats, cutouts, and dresses that look like sculpture, you have someone to thank: Madame Gres, the famous Couturier who dressed Grace Kelly, Greta Garbo, and Marlene Dietrich. She’s a designer to know! (Especially if you love vintage, like me!)

Madame Gres was born as Germaine Krebs in Paris, 1903. Her first aspiration was to be a sculptor, however, she was unsuccessful. This was our gain! She took her love of the Grecian like sculptures to clothes (specializing in jersey). Madame Gres got her start as a fashion designer by designing costumes for Jean Giradoux’s play, “The Trojan War Will Not Take Place”. After this, Gres started her first line Alix (she went by the name Alix Barton at the time), and this line functioned from 1934-42.

Investment Piece: Designer to know: Madame Gres

My favorite story about Madame Gres, which I think is telling, takes place during the German Occupation of Paris during WWII. Gres was commanded to quit making couture and to start making “utilitarian clothes”, as well as dress the wives of German Officers. Gres refused, and continued to make gowns in the colors of the French flag (red, white, and blue). Gres was eventually run out of Paris, and she staying in the Pyrenees till the Occupation was over. Fashion can change the world!

“Madame Gres” was officially founded in 1942, a couture house that specialized in the above mentioned pleated dresses. Each piece is a work of art, taking over 300 hours to make each dress, and with all the pleating done by hand. Gres would drape and sculpt her work on the models, and she refused to sacrifice any quality or attention to detail throughout her career. Gres was called the “Sphinx of Fashion”, and the New York Times said her house: “was the most intellectual place in Europe to buy clothes”. Gres was known as the place to go for chic, draped gowns, that looked like Greek Sculpture. (Side note: Gres is also credited with creating cutouts).

If you’re wondering how to identify a Madame Gres piece, look for these things:
-Pleats (created by hand, then sewn together)
-Lots of folds/drapes
-Bias Cut
-Greco-Roman Influence: capes, togas, wraps (Though it should be said that Gres also had some Asian and Eastern Influnces and did a line of kimonos)

Gres did some structured pieces, but they are not as well known as her “classic” pieces.

Investment Piece: Designer to know: Madame Gres

Madame Gres resisted the transition from Couture to ready to wear, although she did start a ready to wear line in the 1980s. She hated mass production, didn’t want to sacrifice her quality or lower her price; however, costs forced her to change her business plan. Madame Gres also had a perfume house, Parfumes Gres, which she had to sell to keep her Couture House afloat.

Madame Gres died in 1993, still beloved and revered by the fashion community.

Also love these videos showcasing Madame Gres:

So, if you love Madame Gres like I do, you may be wondering where you can find a piece! Loves, it’s not always easy. These dresses are works of art (and priced accordingly), and not always on the market. However, Investment Piece Favorite Rachel Zabar Vintage has quite a few Madame Gres pieces right now! Take a look here, and let’s swoon together. A side note: I take gifts year round!

XO RA

Designer Spotlight: Galanos

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Galanos

James Galanos, who’s amazing designs were a favorite of prominent women such as Nancy Reagan is known for many things: dressing famous women, working magic with chiffon, and believing in beauty.

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Galanos
Fun Fact: Galanos’s pieces are so timeless, this dress that Nancy Reagan wore to the Ingruation was 14 years old at the time.

This is usually the part where there’s a twist, or I share new information. There’s no twist. There’s nothing shocking, just us, chatting about a great designer and amazing clothes. I still like where this is going!

James Galanos was born in 1924 to Greek immigrants (his father was a frustrated artist), in Pennsylvania. He has the average childhood, spent with his 3 sisters. James might have been far from fashion centers, though he was in awe of the beautiful women he saw at the restaurant his father managed in Southern New Jersey, he dreamed of Paris and New York. Galanos never sewed, even for his sisters, but he began sketching at a young age. He attended the Traphagen School of Design in NY, but dropped out after 8 mths (only completing General Design and Draping/Construction) as he felt like he needed practical experience, and not classes.

Galanos began his fashion career at Hattie Carnegie Emporium in NY, but as his job was more clerical, he left quickly to find a more creative position. He sold his sketches to manufactors for $10/each; until textile magnate Lawrence Lesavoy hired Galanos to help his wife launch a Ready-To-Wear line. Lesavoy and his wife divorced, causing the line to fall through, but Lesavory paid for Galanos to go to Paris where he found a position as an assistant to Robert Piguet (where Pierre Balmain and Hubert de Givenchy also started). At Piguet’s house, Galanos was resposible for sketching, draping, and working with suppiliers. After leaving Paris, Galanos returned to NY where he worked briefly for the dress making firm Davidvow, before moving to LA in 1951 to start his own line, Galanos Orginals. The rest is history.

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Galanos

Galanos sold his first collection to Saks, and then while his works were on display in a NY showroom, Galanos was discovered by a Neiman Marcus buyer. Stanley Marcus would become a huge fan and supporter of Galanos. Other influential fans? Diana Vreeland, Eleanor Lambert, and Eugenia Sheppard. Galanos quickly became well known and successful. He designed movie costumes for a time, adding Rosalind Russell and Judy Garland to his circle of supporters.

What makes Galanos different than some of the high end designers was that he never did couture, his line was always Ready-To-Wear, though his “factory” was run like a Couture house. The team of sewers and designers were true artisans; though the clothes were somewhat machine made, the sequins and chiffon edges were all done by hand. Galanos was very involved, picking out fabric and paying attention to the hidden details of his creations. While the price point (5 figures) of his dresses made Galanos out of reach for some people, his creations were timeless and classic, making them amazing vintage finds!

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Galanos
I found this Galanos at The Kit Vintage. The Pleating, the Egding, those sleeves!

Galanos was know for high quality pieces, details, and being a master of chiffon. He draped chiffon, pleated it, hand rolled it, used flower prints and metallics, and even gilded chiffon. His designs were timeless, classic, and meant to make the wearer more beautiful. The women that Galanos dressed include: Nancy Reagan, Marliyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Grace Kelly, Diana Ross, Betsy Bloomingdale, Rosalind Russell, Marlene Dietrich, Dorothy Lamar, Judy Garland, Loretta Lynn, Ali McGraw, Ivana Trump, Carolyne Roehm, Kim Bassinger, and Arianna Huffington.

Galanos retired from fashion in 1998, though he still attend his friend’s shows. He said that he was not happy with the direction that fashion was going: that the fashion at the time was only meant for young people and had lost its elegance. Galanos reinvented himself as an abstract photographer. James Galanos passed away in Los Angeles in 2016.

Galanos designs remain gorgeous, timeless, and in demand. They balance the line of modern and classic, and the details alone are stunning. If you’re hoping to add a Galanos to your collection, you can try 1stdibs, Etsy, or any high end vintage store.

To beauty!

XO RA

I did find the following Galanos pieces at TheREALREAL for you, including one of his stunning furs!

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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 Spotlight: Rei Kawakubo

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Rei Kawakubo

By now the Met Gala, theme of Rei Kawakubo, has come and gone–you probably have an opinion about the red carpet, and may agree with me that Rhianna won it (just because she stuck to the theme). 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

Shop some Comme des Garçons here:

And shop one of my fave luxury resale websites:
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Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Rei Kawakubo