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

Where to Shop: autark

Investment Piece: Autark

Last year, at Austin Fashion Week, I had the great pleasure of meeting and falling in love with autark, and it’s designer/owner Sophia McMahon. From puff sleeve dresses and tops, to the ethical and slow approach, the pieces in each collection of Autark are just dreamy, and make me feel sophisticated and the little girl in me LOVES twirling in them! Sophia is charming, and we both love our cats and “Law and Order”, and I knew that I wanted to share my love of Sophia’s autark with you!

Investment Piece: Autark
Investment Piece: Where to Shop Autark

I got the chance to sit with Sophia and learn a bit about her brand, her story, and where she wants to take us with her fashion:

IP: What drew you to fashion design? How did you get started?

I was always interested in design, but a lot more academically focussed while I was at school. After I finished school and went to university, I worked for a couple of years in a completely different career – I enjoyed it but didn’t feel challenged. After taking some time to consider my career direction, I decided to take a leap and pursue the interest I’d always had, but felt a little to afraid to chase after. I enrolled at TAFE here in South Australia, and started autark straight after graduating in 2016.

How would you describe Autark’s mission? Who do you design for?

My mission is quite lofty – it’s to change the way that consumers think about their clothing. Firstly, I want people to think differently about the clothes they buy – what clothes they purchase and how often, how they care for the clothes that they own, and what they do with them at the end of the life of the clothing. My wish for customers is that they don’t feel the pressure of purchasing more often, that they buy well made, beautiful pieces that they can wear much more frequently, but that last for a long time.

Secondly, I want people to know that slow fashion can be fun, light and fashion forward! The aim for my pieces is that they are versatile and classic, yet with a design perspective or point of interest.

I design for women of all ages, who are interested in fashion and design, ethics, and who know their own mind. I absolutely adore seeing customers in autark pieces – it really gives me a buzz like nothing else.

Investment Piece: Autark

I know that your line is Eco-friendly. What processes do you use to get your line that way?

I am so proud of our progress in the way that we approach limiting our impact in as many different areas of our process as possible.

All of our pieces are still made here in Adelaide, Australia, which is wonderful – it’s fantastic being able to build relationships with our manufacturers and see their beautiful work in real time. We are also really excited that our next collection will be made entirely from deadstock fabric, which is fabric that was not utilised by its previous owner. And of course, all fabric continues to be 100% natural fibres.

For the future we are focussing on further refining our processes particularly in regards to the sustainability of our practices, and will be exploring different ways of processing our fabric offcuts, as well as the kinds of finishings we use for our pieces. It’s something that we work to improve on a continuous basis.

Take us through the Autark process-design, manufacturing, etc.

We are currently producing one collection per year, so throughout the year I collate inspiration and design ideas. I’ll then start sourcing fabrics and try to match fabric and design ideas together. Next comes the sampling, to see how the fabrics work with the designs, which then flows on to production.

There is a lot of problem solving at every step of the way, but it keeps me on my toes!

Investment Piece: Autark

If someone was to buy just one piece from your line, what would you recommend? What would you say is your signature piece?

That’s a really tricky one to answer! Can I say an outfit? Probably the Puff Sleeve Bodice and High Waisted Pant. I just adore this outfit – to me it epitomises what I am trying to achieve with the label. Two classic pieces that can be put together as one statement outfit, which can then be broken apart to be dressed up or down. I love this outfit with heels, or sneakers, the pant with a t-shirt, and the bodice with jeans. The possibilities are practically endless!

I know the fashion community in Australia is supportive and welcoming. Is there anything you’d love people to know about it?

I’m so proud of our local industry here in Adelaide, and as a greater whole in Australia. There is so much talent here, and in my opinion a really unique, fresh and easy design perspective. The Adelaide community in particular is creative, proactive and energetic, and I feel privileged to be a part of it.

Investment Piece: where to shop Autark

My favorite pieces from Autark are also the puff sleeve pieces! (You can shop the dress and top) I urge to explore all the collections at autark. The collections are so beautiful, classic, and charming! Sophia, autark, and Australia are things I love, and this month a portion of proceeds from Autark will be donated to the wildfire relief in Australia, so we can all feel great about shopping!

I hope that you love Sophia and autark as much as I do, happy shopping!
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!

90% off luxury consignment

Designer Spotlight: Madame Gres

I’ve spent some time this week thinking about fashion’s role in everything that’s happening in the world. My firm belief that fashion is a means with which to tell our stories, and our stories matter, can feel a bit small when faced with big world events. Yet- fashion is important at this time too. Be it as rebellion, support, or how we tell the stories of this moment. Look at Madame Gres- who used her fashion to stand up to the Nazis. May we all be so brave and so chic.

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 to Know: Pierre Cardin

Investment Piece: Pierra Cardin
Investment Piece: Pierre Cardin
Investment Piece: Pierre Cardin

A few weeks ago I got lucky with a vintage find. I stumbled across this darling Pierre Cardin and snapped it up, ironically the day before we lost the great designer. Fate? Luck? Good Vintage Shopping? Maybe a combo of all three. And while I love the whimsy in the pattern of this dress, the way it moves, and the neck tie- from now on I’ll always think about how lucky I was to find it, right when Pierre Cardin (a towering designer before) became an icon past.

Investment Piece: Pierre Cardin

Pierre Cardin , born Pietro Costante Cardin[a] (2 July 1922 – 29 December 2020), was an Italian-born naturalised-French fashion designer. He is known for what were his avant-garde style and Space Age designs. He preferred geometric shapes and motifs, often ignoring the female form. He advanced into unisex fashions, sometimes experimental, and not always practical. He founded his fashion house in 1950 and introduced the “bubble dress” in 1954.

Cardin is responsible for many of the trends that were popular both in the 50s-70s, as well as today. As Wikipedia tells us:

Cardin’s fashion career began in the 1940s, after WW2. Cardin moved to Paris in 1945. There, he studied architecture and worked with the fashion house of Paquin after World War II. He worked with Elsa Schiaparelli until he became head of Christian Dior’s tailleure atelier in 1947, but was denied work at Balenciaga.
Cardin founded his own fashion house in 1950. His career was launched when he designed about 30 of the costumes for a masquerade ball in Venice, hosted by Carlos de Beistegui in 1951. Cardin inaugurated his haute couture output in 1953 with his first collection of women’s clothing and became a member of the Chambre Syndicale, a French association of haute couture designers. The following year he opened his first boutique Eve, and introduced the “bubble dress”, which is a short-skirted, bubble-shaped dress made by bias-cutting over a stiffened base. He was the first couturier to turn to Japan as a high fashion market when he travelled there in 1957.

As haute couture began to decline, ready-to-wear (‘prêt-à-porter’) soared as well as Cardin’s designs. He was the first to combine the “mini” and the “maxi” skirts of the 1970s by introducing a new hemline that had long pom-pom panels or fringes.

Beginning in the 1970s, Cardin set another new trend: “mod chic”. This trend holds true for the form or for a combination of forms, which did not exist at the time. He was the first to combine extremely short and ankle-length pieces. He made dresses with slits and batwing sleeves with novel dimensions, and mixed circular movement and gypsy skirts with structured tops. These creations allowed for the geometric shapes that captivated him to be contrasted, with both circular and straight lines. Cardin became an icon for starting this popular fashion movement of the early 1970s.

Investment Piece: Pierre Cardin

Inspired by space travel and exploration, Cardin visited NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in 1970, where he tried on the original spacesuit worn by the first human to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong. Cardin designed spacesuits for NASA in 1970.

Cardin resigned from the Chambre Syndicale in 1966 and began showing his collections in his own venue. He also designed uniforms for Pakistan International Airlines, which were introduced from 1966 to 1971 and became an instant hit.

In 1971, Cardin redesigned the Barong Tagalog, a national costume of the Philippines, by opening the front, removing the cuffs that needed cufflinks, flaring the sleeves, and minimizing the embroidery. It was also tapered to the body, in contrast with the traditional loose-fitting design, and it also had a thicker collar with sharp and pointed cuffs. A straight-cut design was favored by President Ferdinand Marcos.

In 1975, Cardin opened his first furniture boutique on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. In 1977, 1979, and 1983, he was awarded the Cartier Golden Thimble by French haute couture for the most creative collection of the season. He was a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Prêt-à-Porter from 1953 to 1993.

Like many other designers today, Cardin decided in 1994 to show his collection only to a small circle of selected clients and journalists. After a break of 15 years, he showed a new collection to a group of 150 journalists at his bubble home in Cannes.

Pierre Cardin designed everything from swim to bags to clothes. He sought to sell his brand in the late 1990s, but no sale ever went through. You can still shop his designs in vintage stores, and you can read more about his iconic career (and see his designs!) here, here, here, and here.

Investment Piece: Pierre Cardin

I don’t need all the history to know that I love this dress. But I love getting to know designers, recognizing their works, seeing how much of what I wear has been inspired by and affected by those who came before me. On Etsy (and other vintage sellers) you can find so many Pierre Cardin pieces- from very mod skirts with cutouts to swim to bags to dresses like this one. I’ve linked some of my faves below.

I’d love to know: are you a Pierre Cardin fan? Love knowing about designers?
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: Pierre Cardin

Designer to Know: Say it with Pins

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 to Know: Rudy Gernreich

Investment Piece: Rudy Gernreich

A few weeks ago, I posted a knit dress that I couldn’t help but feel was perfect for the end of summer/beginning of fall:

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 Spotlight: Janice Wainwright

Investment Piece: Designer Spotlight: Janice Wainwright

There are certain designers whose work is a definition of a time, whose work is amazing, and yet who still aren’t as well known as some of their peers. Janice Wainwright is one of these designers, but loves, let me tell you: her work is well worth a designer spotlight, and this appearing slight actually makes these stunning vintage pieces more affordable to own.

Janice Wainwright was born in Chesterfield in 1940. She studied at the Wimbledon School of Art, Kingston School of Art, and the Royal School of Art in London. From 1965-69 she worked for the “Simon Massey” Label, where Wainwright defined her work as “youthful, bright, and feminine”. Wainwright went on to open her own label, “Janice Wainwrightat Forty Seven Poland Street”, in 1970; in 1974 the label became “Janice Wainwright”. Her work was a definition of the late 60s/70s.

Investment Piece: Deisgner Spotlight: Janice Wainwright

While Wainwright honed her signature style at her own labels, she is collectively known for:
*the use of fine jerseys and chiffons
*Bias cut dresses
*tailored suits
*tops and skirt sets
*extensive use of embroidery, including Art Deco motifs and birds/flowers
*Long and lean shapes

Investment Piece: Seeing Stars
The above is the Janice Wainwright that’s in my collection. Long, lean, and amazing details and embroidery? I couldn’t resist it when I got it from my love RecessLa, though (funny story), I didn’t realize it was a Wainwright when I fell in love with it! (You can get all the details and pics from this amazing shoot here)

Janice Wainwright was a contemporary of Ossie Clark, a designer that he respected greatly, and the only designer besides Ossie allowed to use Celia Birtwell’s textiles. (Need a refresher on Ossie Clark? I got you covered here). And while there are obvious parallels between the two designers, Wainwright’s cult following is a bit smaller than Clark’s. However, loves, this is not a bad thing. What this means is that the amazing pieces with a Wainwright label are a bit more affordable to collect! With any vintage designer, it’s never really promised to be available, but if you’re interested in shopping Wainwright a great place to start is your local, high end vintage shop. And online: 1stdibs, Shrimpton Couture, and Etsy.

Happy Shopping! XO RA

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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 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

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Investment Piece: Vintage and Pops