After two weeks of shows in Milano and Paris and two weeks of showrooms where I must look closely at the dresses, coats, trousers, and blouses, I realize that there are two ways I could feel, very tired or very enthusiastic at what I have seen. Clearly after spending over two decades in fashion I do enjoy every second, but at the end I am always left with one regret. I wish I could sew. I would love to know the secrets of patterns and try it myself…a small dream for the future.
Merchant & Mills are every draper’s dream. They have sought out the best scissors from Sheffield, the best needles and pins, and they make patterns and kits, and bone china and stationary – “all the tools for life”. They come in the most beautiful packaging so a pleasure for the eyes too. Their book on sewing covers everything you would need – except talent, this you cannot find between the pages unfortunately!
These bone china cups with their eye chart graphics remind the seamstress to take care of her eyes – great items to buy from Merchant & Mills for the British tea pause.
One important tool a designer must have is scissors. The other is pressing. How a fabric will respond to heat, to moisture, and how to apply these to either create or retain a certain shape in the fabric is an art and is as old as cloth itself. Here, an iron from 1800 weighing about four pounds and the perfect triangle shape for the master or mistress of the wardrobe. Today ironing is thought easy, but with ironing, clothing shapes can change and the most sophisticated industrial machines won’t change the fact that it is all in the hands of the person ironing, and not in the tool.
Here, a Man Ray with a macabre sense of humor. A replica of a lost 1921 original. Man Ray made it for his first solo exhibition in Paris and made the sculpture the very afternoon of the show. He glued a row of fourteen nails to the bottom of an iron and gave it as a gift to the Gallery owner, the poet Philippe Soupault. The name of the scupture was Gift, and it disappeared before the end of the day.
Before her death in 1991, his widow Juliet created the Man Ray Trust with her brothers. While a large number of pieces went to the Pompidou center , the bulk of the estate was shipped to New York where the Trust is hoping that a museum will be able to purchase the entire collection to keep it intact. It is now housed in an auto parts garage, and somehow this is ok. As Man Ray had said, “the most successful art for me involves humor.”
Man Ray, recognized for his wonderfully bizarre and sensual fashion photographs and “built objects”, saw himself as a Parisian and is buried with his wife Juliet in Montparnasse. But he was born in Brooklyn and his parents were both tailors so even in his photographs and all his paintings and collages, many times the tools and skills of the tailor were there. While this is an ancient technique for making images, Man Ray’s use of emulsions and papers was as always eccentric and personal. Here the tailor’s scissors and cut film, 1924. He called it a Rayograph.
By taking a series of images on light sensitive emulsions and exposing objects on them, he made motion pictures. A sequence of images of salt and pepper, tacks and pins. He also was a filmmaker and The Return to Reason of 1923, was one of the first Dadaist films. It was a two minute silent movie where animated textures, rayographs of pins and Kiki of Montparnasse’s torso all combine into surrealist images.
The most beautiful woman in the world, the most acclaimed, most elegant. THE woman, THE actress – Garbo. Garbo was in touch with all that was great. Here, in a hat by Mr. John and a Chinese jacket. It has been over 70 years since she last starred in a film and yet she is still the pinnacle of glamour, so it will be sad to see all her belongings in auction in Beverly Hills in December. It is unsettling to know that this can happen to a name so valiant. I wish that one person could purchase the whole collection for a museum.
Mr. John changed his name twice. His mother ran a millinery shop under the name of Madame Laurel in Manhattan and Mr. John stayed in New York his entire career and was one of the greatest structuralists in millinery during the 40’s and 50’s. His first store was with a partner and when that ended, he became John Fredericks but was always called Mr. John and even when his store on 57th Street off 5th Avenue closed in the 1970’s because, as he said, women were wearing “orthopedic hairdos and french fried curls”
Greta Garbo would secretly go to fittings at Alaia’s atelier in Rue Bellechasse for her trousers, coats and jackets. Here a coat he made for her in early 80’s. In fact, her closet at auction reveals that she not only wore her best friend Valentina, but Pucci, Vuitton, Gucci, Ferragamo and Givenchy and of course, the famous slouch hat she would wear on 57th Street was by Mr. John. For someone who avoided being seen, her wardrobe was truly amazing.
Only One Master is the title Azzedine Alaia has been given for one of his collections by an important journalist. And this is the truth. No one else I know now working in fashion spends the nights and days with a ruler, chalk, pins and scissors to bring the process of creativity to design and to perfection.