Issue 3 Out Now!
Category Archives: Archival Article
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
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?
BERNADINE MORRIS in AT HALSTON, A NEW FASHION TEAM for the NYT, June 16,, 1970
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.
Fashion took some odd turns in the spring ready-to-wear shows Tuesday night. First Gianfranco Ferre, who doubles as the designer of Christian Dior’s couture collection in Paris, showed styles of such surpassing opulence that they reminded old-timers of overdone fancy-dress balls in Venice and Biarritz in the 1950′s. Among the astonishing sights were enormous puffs of pink taffeta for skirts with taut black tops.
Brown leather swimsuits were another arresting series. They were accompanied either by brown leather stoles or matching terrycloth wraps with thick jeweled borders. Swimming, anyone?
Nudity was a problem, though not in swimsuits. A stretch jump suit with jeweled straps had a decolletage that opened to the waistline; the model kept her arms folded across her bare chest the whole length of the runway. Ball gowns with billowing skirts had tops as sheer as stockings decorated with a few strategically placed jewels. A bikini bottom had no top at all, just a separate collar.
from ITALIAN DESIGNS TAKE SOME OFF TURNS by BERNADINE MORRIS NYT, October 11, 1990
It’s not just the radical shift in proportion, from pipe-cleaner to Oxford bags. Something of greater significance seems to be changing for Hedi Slimane. Following his show, he admitted to a new mood of melancholy. The staging certainly supported such a notion. His boys—all thin as usual, some now fearfully attenuated—walked in shadows, illuminated by a pillar of fire that burned biblically at the end of the runway throughout the presentation.
Whatever the deeper symbolism, Slimane is certainly in a reflective frame of mind. He talked about a return to the couture concept with which he launched his career (phoenix to the flame?), and the precision and detailing of his clothes were a tribute to the handiwork of his atelier. Nothing displays such skills better than eveningwear; was that why Slimane’s collection was dominated by variations on Le Smoking? It made for an intriguing tip of the cap to Yves Saint Laurent, the master in whose footsteps he once followed.
Such clothes also seemed designed to appeal to Hedi’s female clientele, most obviously items like a beaded bolero, a tiny gilet with kimono sleeves, or a jacket that turned to reveal a beaded, ruched back. Perhaps that’s his way of announcing he’s ready to stretch a little. Still, there were plenty of items that were unmistakably from a man’s wardrobe: a tweed topcoat, a duffel with braided closings, a pinstriped suit, a black leather blouson. Meanwhile, the formal details—the satin waistband on a pair of trousers, pearl buttons on a shirt, the ribbons tied at the throat—were balanced by the waistband of old jeans worn as a grunge cummerbund.
by TIM BLANKS for STYLE.COM January 31, 2006
Ralph Lauren apparently thought he was opening up new vistas when he chose the Seventh Regiment Armory as the site of his fall fashion show, and certainly its vast space could accommodate the crowds. But you couldn’t reach out and touch the clothes or even tell for sure what they were made of. It wasn’t a cozy atmosphere and probably neither Christian Dior’s New Look collection nor Yves Saint Laurent’s rich peasant clothes could have survived this arena.
But Mr. Lauren certainly tried. He sent out on the runway what some spectators felt were three different collections, not counting the men’s clothes, which were interspersed with the women’s fashions.
The first scene was a family affair and the liveliest. It consisted of ski clothes for a family in which everybody goes to the slopes. The most interesting designs were the hand-knit sweaters with colorful cartoons of skiers decorating the fronts.
After that initial exuberance, the mannequins affected a slouchy, casual stance well suited to the understated clothes that seemed directed at the horsy set. Except for a few long pleated skirts that looked attractive with navy Shaker-knit pullovers and tweed jackets, pants were worn with everything, including good-looking casual double-breasted coats.
The tailored coat-dresses that Mr. Lauren pioneered are back in single-and double-breasted versions in gray flannel and brown tweed. The tailored clothes were followed by playful brightly colored ponchos over hooded tops and jersey pants and by equally bright suede tunics. Then came the evening clothes.
from FALL FASHION: SERIOUS ABOUT SPORTSWEAR by BERNADINE MORRIS for NYT April 27, 1983
Not since the days of Courr eges and the miniskirt has an idea taken such a firm hold on the fashion world. The idea – for fall and winter – is men’s clothes for women, and it looks like one whose time has come. It emerged full blown in the collection of Calvin Klein early in the week, and subsequent showings have proved how suitable it is for sportswear today.
The only problem is that perhaps there should be more than one concept going. Nothing has yet appeared that is nearly as forceful. Designers have adapted the men’s concept in different ways, with varying success. But it is quite clear that the essential fashion for the cool-weather months is a big coat with broad shoulders, one that resembles a man’s overcoat.
Ralph Lauren has his share of these coats, some of them more slender and graceful than most of the genre. There is a gentle quality to Mr. Lauren’s styles, signaled by the antique diamante pins and the lace edges on the sweaters, another ubiquitous contemporary fashion. Still, his jackets are oversize, his trousers cuffed, like anyone else’s.
- By BERNADINE MORRIS in THE MANNISH LOOK TAKES OVER for the NYT, May 4, 1984