Farewell to the great Hervé Léger. I wrote a brief tribute to the late designer for FASHION magazine.
To learn more about Léger’s work for Guy Laroche under the name Hervé L. Leroux, and the commercial patterns from his tenure, see my series.
Betsey Johnson turns 75 today. Four decades on, the designer’s 1970s Butterick patterns are still very popular. Here’s a look at Johnson’s early work, with an emphasis on more seldom seen archival images.
Betsey Johnson (b. 1942) has made a career of creating irreverent, youth-oriented clothes that stand a bit outside the mainstream. She learned sewing and pattern drafting while running a dance school as a teen, but got her official start in the business designing for Youthquake boutique Paraphernalia. By 1970 she was the designer for Alley Cat, a junior sportswear label. (For more see Vogue.com and Anne-Marie Schiro, “Betsey Johnson: Honor for a Life of Celebrating Youth.”)
In 1971, Johnson won a Coty Award for her work at Alley Cat (see the New York Times notice). The following year, Butterick launched its Betsey Johnson patterns in the Spring 1972 catalogue. The designs were also cross-promoted (along with Cyrus Clark cotton chintz) with a Barbara Bordnick editorial in Seventeen magazine.
The earliest of Johnson’s Butterick Young Designer patterns refer to her as Betsey Johnson of Alley Cat, and most seem to predate the founding of her company in 1978. Here’s Butterick 6979 on the cover of the March 1973 issue of Butterick’s news leaflet:
The young Patti Hansen in Alley Cat:
One of the first items I sold on Etsy was this 1975 issue of Butterick Fashion News with a Betsey Johnson cover. (Click to see inside.) The same embroidered pinafore was featured on the home catalogue cover:
The pinafore also appears in this cute advertisement with Butterick 4088:
The Spring 1976 catalogue used illustrated photographs to present this DIY series, which also included a hat and shoes (1st page, Butterick 4680; 3rd page Butterick 4681, with Joyce Walker on the right):
Another 1976 Butterick ad shows a Betsey Johnson jumper (Butterick 4956) with deep ribbon trim—perfect for a late-summer Cape Cod getaway:
Happy birthday, Betsey Johnson!
“Our Man in Leather”: Vogue Patterns introduced Bobby Breslau, one of the company’s rare designers of accessories, with a winking acknowledgement of the gay community.
Bobby Breslau (ca. 1943-1987) was a friend of Halston, Stephen Burrows, and Keith Haring; photographer Charles Tracy, who took Breslau’s portrait, was a member of the same social circle. Breslau’s training was in the garment industry, but a toy commission from Halston set him on the path of accessory and furniture design. His tactile, unstructured style of bag showed a sculptor’s eye for colour and texture; the New York Times called it “the handbag of the 1970’s.” (See Robin Givhan’s The Battle of Versailles and Suzanne Slesin, “Beyond the Fringe: A Designer’s Zany World in Leather.”) Breslau was the manager of Keith Haring’s Pop Shop until his death from complications of AIDS in early 1987.
In 1979, Breslau licensed two bag patterns with Vogue. Each design could be made in three sizes. Vogue 2153 is a “draw-stringer and scarf tie-up”:
Vogue 2184 is a saddlebag and roll pouch:
The World of Anna Sui opened at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London last weekend. It’s the museum’s first retrospective on a living American designer, with an accompanying book by Tim Blanks—out today from Abrams.
Anna Sui licensed her work with Vogue Patterns for some 16 years, from the mid-1990s to 2011. Read my series on Vogue patterns by Anna Sui:
I’ve just listed this pattern for two dresses from Sui’s Mudd Club collection:
For more on Sui and her work, see Tim Blanks’ essay for the Business of Fashion, “Anna Sui, America’s Most Underrated Fashion Designer.”
Pucci has been in the news this week with the announcement that Josephus Thimister will consult on the next collection, following the departure in April of head designer Massimo Giorgetti. (See WWD.) The house of Pucci is also celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
Before becoming a Vogue Couturier in the 1960s, Emilio Pucci designed exclusive patterns for McCall’s. Howell Conant photographed Pucci’s earliest pattern designs, including the harlequin dress above, for McCall’s Pattern Book. For more on Pucci see my Mad Men-era series post, The Europeans.
Happy 70th anniversary, Pucci!
Word is Guy Laroche patterns are set to return after a two-year hiatus. (The last Laroche, and last Paris Original, to be released was V1450 in Summer, 2015.) In anticipation, my ongoing Laroche series resumes with a look at the early 2000s designs of Mei Xiao Zhou.
Born in the Netherlands, Mei Xiao Zhou came to a career in fashion after working as a ballet dancer and video director in New York and Tokyo. He spent six years as an assistant to Thierry Mugler before he was hired as head designer at Guy Laroche. (See WWD, “Guy Laroche Taps Zhou.”)
Zhou designed two collections for Laroche, both presented in 2001.
1. Guy Laroche Prêt-à-porter Fall/Winter 2001 (shown March 2001)
Mei Xiao Zhou’s first collection for Laroche radiated energy, with vibrant colour and prints underlining the skillful cut. (See WWD, “Static State, Forties-Something, and the ‘Casino’ Factor.”) Here’s the collection image from L’Officiel 1000 modèles:
The hardest to find of Zhou’s Laroche patterns, Vogue 2650 is a bias-cut, halter-neck wrap dress that can be made in cocktail and evening length (both size ranges available in the shop):
Vogue 2668’s trouser suit includes a short jacket with three-quarter sleeves. On the runway, the revers on the red version revealed a flash of sequins:
Vogue 2689 is a sleek skirt suit with concealed closure and clavicle-framing standing collar. The skirt has a zippered side slit:
L’Officiel included one of Zhou’s op-art print pieces in the Sixties-inspired editorial “Mille neuf cent soixante-trois“:
2. Guy Laroche Prêt-à-porter Spring/Summer 2002 (shown October 2001)
For his romantic second collection for Laroche, Zhou covered the runway in water, sending out looks with an Asian influence in a palette of white, yellow, ochre, chocolate brown, and black. (See L’Officiel 1000 modèles and AP, “Louis Vuitton Show Goes Creative.”) Here’s the collection image:
Update: Getty had a few more images from the collection.
The Spring 2002 campaign echoed the runway’s aquatic motif:
Because this collection is not well documented online, it’s difficult to identify corresponding sewing patterns. Vogue 2752 looks to be one of the canary yellow suits, with flared kimono sleeves and rounded lapels that match descriptions of the show:
Although I can’t confirm it, Vogue 2736 may also be a Spring 2002 design. The jacket has a bustier-effect bias inset, and the pants have high slits in the back seams:
Mei Xiao Zhou brought the verve of Mugler to his runway shows for Laroche. Although his first collection was well received, the house was sold to a new parent company, which hired a new designer for Fall 2002 (Laetitia Hecht). Like other designer patterns of this period, Zhou’s Laroche patterns highlight the widening gulf between catwalk and sewing-editorial styling—which is ultimately the gulf between the fashion and home sewing industries.
Previous Laroche posts: