Category Archives: Archival Article

Calvin Klein, 1991

Calvin91a  Calvin91b


“Calvin Klein has put a new spin on minimalism. Everything that could possibly be distracting is pared away. Makeup is natural. So are the coiffures. So are the clothes.

‘I feel so good about the collection,’ the designer said yesterday after his spring show. ‘I feel it’s for the modern woman. It’s all about softness.’

It is also about restraint. Those who feel clothes have to be elaborately decorated and vividly colored will not find much here to admire. This is probably the coolest, most understated collection of the season.

Since it is for warm weather, the coolness is not inappropriate.

Consider the colors: parchment, platinum, celadon and, of course, white. In this company, aqua stands out as a vivid hue.

Consider the shapes: a gently cut dress, with a high round neckline, camisole straps or no straps at all, is the key to everything.

The fabrics are equally self-effacing: washed silk, silk or wool crepe, linen and cashmere.

The clothes are the kind that show off a great figure and make one not so great look better than it is. The models skim along on flat beige T-strap shoes, looking totally at ease.

While those shapely dresses are the main event, they receive support from softly tailored jackets (often the same mid-thigh length as the dresses they accompany), skinny pants and shorts. Wrapped effects maintain the soft treatment in blouses.

There are just a few variations to the dominant look: a trench coat or two to cover everything up; a shot of navy as a change from all the pale tones; some all-over beads.

But the collection has a cohesion and a directness that is rarely achieved. All the ideas have passed through the designer’s sensibility, and he has worked over them until he got them just right. If it’s flash you’re looking for, this may not be the right stop. But if it’s elegance and style, it’s a real treat.”


“French Seams”

Beretta1981Anne Marie Beretta, L’Officiel 1981

Castelbajac83Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, 1983

“Nothing Left To Achieve, Balenciaga Calls It a Day”


The great haute-couture house of Cristobal Balenciaga will close next month. A spokesman for the salon, which is on Avenue George V, finally confirmed the closing.

It was hard to understand what the woman said on the telephone for she sobbed as she spoke, breaking down into tears when she tried to talk. Private orders from the last collection, shown in February, will be filled. And then—probably in June—the doors of the house that 73-year-old Balenciaga has made the citadel of the haute couture will shut—maybe forever.

Only two weeks ago one of the designer’s employees issued a stinging denial of the closing rumors, which had been circulating both here and in New York for some time.

But it is believed that Balenciaga has perhaps nothing left to achieve professionally and is closing the house because he is bored.

His prestige with private clients has never faltered, although in the last few years American buyers have occasionally felt that his clothes looked too familiar, “too old” compared with the younger, more commercial creations that other Paris houses showed, and “too traditional.”

“We are desolated,” Jean-Claude de Givenchy said today when he heard the news, “we cannot express our distress.”

Mr. Givenchy was speaking on behalf of himself and his brother Hubert De Givenchy, the couturier. Hubert is a Balenciaga protégé and disciple.

Before his death, Christian Dior called Balenciaga “our master.” And Coco Chanel, the doyenne of Paris couturiers says:

“The others are just draftsman or copyists, or else they are inspired people or even geniuses, but Balenciaga alone is a couturier. He is the only one who can design, cut, put together, and sew a suit or a gown entirely alone.”

New York fashion leaders are equally upset.

“When history is written,” said Nancy White, editor of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, “his contribution has to be recognized as one of the greatest in fashion. We shall miss him.”

Jessica Daves, former editor of Vogue, attributes part of his success to what she calls “his Spanish way of thinking.”

“He has the best attitude towards women.” Miss Daves said. “He believes in elegance and ladies. I don’t think he ever did a vulgar thing. He doesn’t believe in sudden changes.”

Andrew Goodman, president of Bergdorf Goodman, said:

“It’s a tragic loss to the fashion world—the end of an era. He was a strong voice for elegance. He never compromised for a minute.”

- from THE NEW YORK TIMES, MAY 23, 1968


Isaac Mizrahi, 1995

Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue

Halston, 1970

Some of the clothes that stepped quietly, elegantly into Halston’s heavily curtained showroom yesterday are the kind you don’t see around much anymore. They look sculpted rather than pasted together, and they were the work of Charles James, erstwhile couturier and now “fashion consultant-engineer” to Halston Frowick.”He helped shape the collection, like Balenciaga helped Givenchy,” Halston explained.

The shebang was done in a white studio on the top floor of the building at 33 East 68th Street where Halston greets such clients as Mrs.  William S. Paley, wife of Columbia broadcasting system chairman, Mrs. Patricia Lawford Kennedy and Mrs. Clinton Murchison of oil and cattle fame. The studio looks like a cross between a doctor’s office and an artist’s workroom with anatomical drawings on the walls, some headless forms of human body and surgical white décor.

Mr. James, who Halston likens to Leonardo da Vinci, has only turned out a few styles, but then he’s only been ensconced there a few weeks. He’s working on basic shapes upon which endless variations can be played. “Once you get the structure right, the things can be reproduced quickly,” he said. “I believe in mass production.”

So far, the designer who played haute couturier to women of fashion from the 1930’s to the 1950’s (Halston produced a retrospective showing of the design’s last December) has only turned out a few things. There’s a beige jacket suede jacket shaped with a little shirring at the waist in back and one button low on the waist in front, that Halston envisions as inspiring a whole wardrobe.  “We’ll do it as a suit, as a coat, in many different fabrics,” he said.

There were some blouses also in suede, with undulating necklines that Halston describes as “pretty sculpture for a lady to wear to dinner.”The decked-out gypsy thing, Halston said, was beginning to seem too much. The mannequins seemed to get the message. Instead of swinging down the room, they moved languorously, with style. Is fashion entering a new phase?


Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, 1977


Pages scanned from W‘s 1987 The Designing Life

His round spectacles, not unlike those worn by the great Le Corbusier, speak to the designer’s own architectural sensibility: he was in fact a trained architect and made good use of that training when he decided to design clothes instead of buildings. Gianfranco Ferre emerged with his own label in the late ‘70s and offered a new perspective, not just for a burgeoning Italian ready-to-wear culture, but an international fashion movement. Speaking to the tradition of one of Italy’s greatest builders, sculpture genius Roberto Capucci, he pushed the same ideals of structure and form but in a significantly more modern and softer way. His engineered clothes, not unlike those designed by contemporary Anne Marie Beretta, and not totally foreign from those proposed by Claude Montana or Jean Charles de Castelbajac in the same era, were immense and defined the times (but never were defined by it) and by the mid ‘80s he was firmly established as both an Italian and international fashion powerhouse.

Ferre remained on top through the next decade when he and his house were hugely influential and financially successful. A recognized master in the pantheon of the great designers, since his passing in 2007 he has been all but forgotten. But the house had not exactly been on the cutting edge at the time of its founder’s death and has been on shaky ground; hiring and quickly firing Lars Nilsson as its creative director and eventually settling with designer duo Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi. Though clearly capable and talented the pair never managed to create a compelling interpretation of Ferre’s legacy, at least not for more than a season or two, often abandoning one direction for another, seemingly unsure of what exactly the tenets of the house should be amidst economic downturn and a fashion discourse focused on a newly rebranded “minimalism.”

Real trouble began in 2009 when Ferre’s owners IT Holdings S.P.A. filed for bankruptcy and the future of the house was put in dire jeopardy. On the chop block Samsung took an interest but their bid failed and eventually Paris Group, a Dubai based company specializing in retail franchises and restaurants, snapped it up. The new owners pledged to commit all necessary resources in order to restore the name to its former glory. Last year Aquilano and Rimondi quietly departed and were replaced by Stefano Citron and Federico Piaggi, both of whom, after learning their trade from Mila Schon, spent time designing with the master himself. Their first collection for Spring 2012 received positive reviews and shined a glimmer of hope. However, one must wonder in the face of so many failed revivals if more than a refresh in design perspective is needed to give the house what it truly requires if it is ever to regain the depth and breadth it commanded for so long. Once a name that the mere affected utterance of its two syllables — PHER – EY — summoned an overwhelming sophistication, intellectual rigor, a unique glamour, an aspiration, a name in the leagues of the Diors, Chanels, Cardins, Armanis, Ralph Laurens, etc, it now sits chained in limbo. It’s fate not yet pronounced. And yet, Ferre is a house with enough heritage, enough virtuosity, enough innovation that a properly executed vision; if given the right support in merchandising and marketing, could be brought back to what one can only imagine would be a thunderous awakening, back to dominating the  industry as it did so many years before, offering up its codes of enriched minimalism and high-brow glamour — so strikingly right for the moment — ripe for steering fashion in a new direction.