Fashion Flashback: Imitation of Christ

Imitation of Christ spring 2002 images courtesy of

Imitation of Christ spring 2002 images courtesy of

Fashion Reverie looks back on the controversial fashion brand, Imitation of Christ. Like several popular fashion brands launched in the early 2000s—Heatherette, Cloak, Juicy Couture, Winter Kate, House of Harlow, and Baby Phat— Imitation of Christ was initially heavily associated with celebrities. Founded by art students Tara Subkoff and Matthew Damhave, Imitation of Christ evolved from an art collective in 2000 to a full-fledged fashion brand by 2001. Initially the brand was composed of recycled clothed, restructured and resewn by Subkoff and others, but transitioned into a brand that consisted of easy staple items with a bit of edge.

Former art students Matthew Damhave and Tar Subkoff launched Imitation of Christ in 2000 as a an art collective, borrowing the name from a song by the Pyschedelic Furs and the 15th century devotional text. Subkoff and Damhave transitoned their art installations to a fashion line because critics and viewers mistook the art collective as a fashion collection. While the fashion collection was highly constroversional with unorthodox themes—fashion shows were sometimes held in odd places, like a funeral parlor with models demanding money from the audience or models being topless vacuuming carpets—the brand was praised by critics for its creatively beautiful garments.


Images of Tara Subkoff and Chloe Sevigny courtesy of

Imitation of Christ, early on garnered a cult following  by those who saw the clothes as wearable art. As explained by Subkoff, “we were talking about waste, throwing things away, and taking something that’s old and making it new again, putting the human hand back into a world that wreaks of manufacturing. It felt very appropriate to do that in 2000. When we started it was such a different time. You could talk about issues like globalization; you could talk about free trade. Then, September 11th happened and the entire world changed. Everything became irrelevant. Everything we were saying and doing became so overshadowed by fear and false patriotism.”

Imitation of Christ spring 2007 courtesy of

Imitation of Christ spring 2007 courtesy of

Many celebrities were involved with the fashion brand, now operating under Opening Ceremony, with Chloe Sevigny coming on as creative director and also modeling in the shows and Scartlett Johansson also modeling the collections. With the departure of Matthew Damhave, in 2007 Subkoff sold Imitation of Christ to Josh Sparks, former CEO of  Sass and Bide for a reported $2 million dollars. “The name got so big, and it appeared to be such a giant success, but like most things that are artistic and creative and amazing, it was never this financial powerhouse. It was an art project. It was rewarding to spearhead, and it was a great collaboration with Matt Damhave and so many other amazing people, but I had to work about four or five other jobs—a shoe collaboration with Easy Spirit and consulting for Sara Lee Apparel (which owned Wonderbra, Hanes, and Playtex)—just to keep the company afloat,” explained Subkoff in a article.

Spring 2013 images courtesy of

Spring 2013 images courtesy of

However, after the brand went under financially, Subkoff relaunched the company in 2011 under the name Imitation. In relaunching the brand, Subkoff detailed, “I’m inspired by Coco Chanel and her use of jersey. I’d like to do that with Imitation. I want something as effortless as a T-shirt, but in dress, trench, and jacket shapes.”





Fashion Flashback: Sonia Rykiel

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Fashion Reverie looks back at fashion icon, Sonia Rykiel. Sonia Rykiel died on Thursday, August 25, 2016 after a long battle with Parkinson disease. With Zandra Rhodes and Vivienne Westwood, Sonia Rykiel completed the fashion triptych of European female designers who had a direct influence on how women dressed over three decades. While Rhodes and Westwood very heavily influenced by the avant garde, punk, social upheaval and rebellion, Rykiel’s design aesthetic was a modern distillation on how the modern women could be comfortable and casually chic while still breaking some of fashion’s traditional rules.

Known as the “Queen of Knits,” Rykiel was the first designer to put seams on the outside of garments, leave hems unfinished and put slogans on her sweaters. Born to Jewish parents in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Rykiel nee Fris first job was dressing windows for a Parisian textile store. Later, she married Sam Rykiel, the owner of Laura, a chic Paris boutique. While pregnant with her first child and unable to find anything to wear that she liked, Rykiel created a practical dress and sweater, which incorporated high cut arm holes and a shrunken fit to cling to the body which became known as the “Poor Boy’s Sweater. After selling the knit ensemble to friends and Rykiel began selling the knit set at her husband’s store. In 1965, Rykiel’s “Poor Boy’s Sweater” was featured in French Elle and caught the attention of lots of celebrities, particularly Audrey Hepburn. In 1968 Rykiel opened her first boutique on the Left Bank.


Images from Sonia Rykiel’s 1988 and 1972 collections, respectively

In 1972, Rykiel was given the moniker “Queen of Knits” by Women’s Wear Daily. Rykiel began to popularize black as a color that was acceptable for women to wear at any time of the day. In 2010 Sonia Rykiel collaborated with H&M for a collection entitled Sonia Rykiel for H&M.  And in 2008, Rykiel was the subject of an exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratif in Paris.

Coco Mitchell modeling for Sonia Rykiel

Coco Mitchell modeling for Sonia Rykiel

“Sonia Rykiel was one of the go-to brands that I used when I was styling for Japanese independent films and commercials in the 80s and 90s,” explained legendary stylist Rosemary Ponzo. “Her designs were classic, but always with a twist. At times she did use a lot of bold color, but she is also known for using a lot of black. She was also the queen of embellishing clothing with brocade-like fabric, diamond-shaped designs and fur. I still have a diamond-shaped fur Rykiel vest. She was truly ahead of her time … Going to her showroom was wonderful when she had her collections in her showroom in NYC … “I pulled a lot of her garments for Japanese films because the Japanese love anything that was different and French. Although she’s known for using black, she also used bold colors like mustard, terracotta, and red when other designers stayed away from some of those colors. She was in the league of Andres Courreges and Claude Montana. At one time she had a little in-house boutique at Barneys New York and consumers in NYC loved her clothes because her clothes were cut for the American woman.”

Images from Sonia Rykiel's spring 2017 collection courtesy of styleway. net

Images from Sonia Rykiel’s spring 2017 collection courtesy of styleway. net

“ I modeled for Sonia Rykiel a lot in the 80s. And she knew exactly what she wanted and she really didn’t give a lot of direction. In fact, she was kind of quiet, which is unlike a lot of French designers that can sometimes yell a lot and be very demanding,” explained supermodel Coco Mitchell.  At the time no one was doing things like Sonia Rykiel with all her knitwear, she had her vision of Parisian style for the modern woman … “It was amazing walking in her shows because she sometimes would send out 10 models at one time wearing the same thing. It was almost like a visual tableau of models wearing the same thing, saying ‘look at us.’” “She was a light in the fashion world for me because I was a new model in Europe when I started modeling for her.”

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Flashback: “Mahogany” the Movie

 Collages820With New York Fashion Week: The Shows (NYFWS) spring 2017 less than three weeks away, Fashion Reverie looks back at one of the films that reflects the golden age of fashion. “Mahogany,” Diana Ross’ follow-up film to “Lady Sings the Blues,” centers on an African American woman who rises to fame in Rome first as a fashion model and later as an haute couture designer. “Mahogany” starred Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Perkins, Nina Foch, Merissa Mell, Beah Richards, and Jean-Pierre Aumont. “Mahogany” was also nominated for an Academy Award for the song “Do You Know Where You’re Going To.”

With a screenplay written by John Bynum, “Mahogany” tapped into the burgeoning presence of black models on runways and in some of top couture shows in Europe. (Think of supermodels Pat Cleveland and Grace Jones in Yves Saint Laurent’s runway  shows in the mid-70’, Donyale Luna on the cover of Time magazine in 1968; Beverly Johnson on the cover of American Vogue in 1974, and the 12 black models that were a significant part of the Grande Divertissement a Versailles in 1973.) It is reported that “Mahogany” was modeled on the career of African American model Naomi Sims.

Originally slated to be directed by British director Tony Richardson of “Tom Jones,” “Charge of the Light Brigade,” and “A Delicate Balance” fame, “Mahogany” became the directorial debut of Motown founder Berry Gordy. Though panned by some critics, in 1975 “Mahogany” was a box office success, grossing more than $5 million dollars, and has become a cult classic.

 Collages819Diana Ross, known mostly a former member of the Supremes and a top-ranking solo artist, designed many of the clothes in the film. Iconic haute couturier Princess Irene Galitzine designed additional key garments in “Mahogany.”

And though Ross had had success in “Lady Sings the Blues,’ Ross had never worked as a fashion model. Supermodel Pat Cleveland was brought in to coach Diana Ross by Anthony Perkins who was married to fashion photographer Barry Berenson, sister of top model Marissa Berenson. Cleveland also appeared in the film’s opening runway scene.

Fashion_Flashback_MahoganyThere are also a few lines from “Mahogany” that have become a part of camp culture vernacular. “The men love me, the women love me, me Mahogany;” “I’m success, baby;” “Success is nothing without someone to share it with;” and “this is not politics, this is fashion.”

“Mahogany” was released on DVD in 2007.


Fashion Flashback: Katoucha


Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

As couture week takes off in Paris this weekend, Fashion Reverie looks back at one of the most recognizable models that defined French couture style in the 1980s and early 90s, Katoucha Niane. Remembered as Yves Saint Laurent’s muse in the 1980’s and as the African model who set the stage for such models as Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek, Jourdan Dunn, and Naomi Smalls, Katoucha’s—the single moniker she became known for in the 80s—auspicious fashion career didn’t start out the traditional route of runway models.

Born into an influential Guinean family—her father was the playwright/author/poet Djibril Tamsir Niane—Katoucha’s family was forced into exile after her father came into conflict with Guinean president Sekou Toure. After marrying at the early age of 17 and giving birth to her first child, Katouche with her family moved to France and began modeling for Lanvin, Thierry Mugler, Paco Rabanne, Christian Lacroix and later Yves Saint Laurent with whom she formed a special, lasting relationship.

Fashion_Flashback_Katoucha_NianeKatoucha rise to fame in the fashion industry, particularly the world of haute couture came on the heels of French couturiers being mesmerized by African American models witnessed en masse in the now famous “Divertissement de Versailles” in 1973. Some years later Hubert de Givenchy hired a contingent of African American models to showcase in collection in Paris and Martinique-born Mounia became a special muse to Yves Saint Laurent.

Katoucha reign as the “ebony princess” for Yves Saint Laurent came after paying her dues first working as a fit model at Lanvin and later gaining attention with her wide shoulders that narrowed down to a slender waist in Mugler’s early 80s power suits. Katoucha also became a particular favorite in the couture shows of Gian Franco Ferre, Chloe, Chanel, Givenchy, and Dior.  And Japanese audiences declared the queen of their catwalks in the 80s and early 90s.


After retiring from modeling full time in 1994, Katoucha dedicated her time to setting up a charity, Katoucha Pour la Lutte Contre l’Excision that campaigned against female genital circumcision. Later, in 1995 she launched her own fashion label, Katoucha. Of her failed fashion label, Katoucha said, “I’ve got long fingers to grab money and big gaps between them to let it fall through.”

After many years struggling with drugs and alcohol abuse, in 2007 Katoucha released her tall-all autobiography, and that same year Katoucha starred in Senegalese writer Abbas Ndione film adapted “Ramata.” The director, Leandre-Alain Baker, said: “She could go right from laughter to anger. But she always came back, and I attribute that to her past, what she … lived through.”

Collages747Tragically, Katoucha Niane was found dead in the Seine in 2008. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning after she fell off of her houseboat into the Seine River.


Fashion Flashback Tribute: Prince

"Purple Rain" tour images

“Purple Rain” tour images

As the world mourns the untimely death of one of the greatest musicians and fashion icons of the 20th and 21st centuries, Fashion Reverie takes a retrospective look at the fashion stylings of the peripatetic and ever-evolving Prince. No other musical and fashion icon has had the global impact over the past four decades than Prince Rogers Nelson.

Images from 1991 "Diamonds and Pearls" tour

Images from 1991 “Diamonds and Pearls” tour

When it comes to finding that delicate balance between feminine and masculine silhouettes with a dose of avant-garde and a nod to vintage and the baroque, no musical has defined this mix of fashion eclecticism better than Prince. With Prince, sexy surprise is the norm. And his norm is way ahead of the fashion curve.

That said; with almost four decades in the music industry, no musical artist has made the impact Prince has made, musically or creatively. He is irreverent, rebellious, sensual, fashion forward, unpredictable, sublime, and yes, divine. In other words, Prince is in a class all of his own!!


Recent images of Prince at the Academy Awards, Grammy’s , and NAACP Image Awards

Since his musical debut in the late 70s, Prince has consistently defied the standard perception of how a male musical artist is supposed to dress on and off stage. From wearing black bikini thongs with thigh-high leg warmers and heeled boots to a pompadour coif with ruffled shirts and heavily embroidered jacquard baroque–inspired jackets to his final incarnation paying homage to Black Power in a big Afro, Prince’s fashion predilection was not only fashion forward and gender bending, but also political.

Fashion_Flashback_PrinceWhat could be more political than redefining masculinity and masculine silhouettes. Yet, Prince’s political leanings went way beyond juxtaposing feminine styles against masculine silhouettes. When Prince was not able to access his master tapes in the mid-1990s he started writing ‘slave’ on his face and used he moniker the ‘Artist Formerly Known as Prince.’ His nod to black empowerment was made evident in donning a big Afro paired with Nehru-type jackets and love beads.

Images from 1981 "Controversy" tour

Images from 1981 “Controversy” tour

Prince never tried to separate politics from life. And the real-time politics of everyday life was infused into his music, as well as his fashion choices. Think the lyrics in “Controversy,” “Annie Christian,” and “Ronnie Talk to Russia,” all from Prince’s 1981 “Controversy” album. There is also “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” and “Race” from Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls” album. Last, but not least, there is the “Emancipation” album that was heavily inspired by Prince’s battle with Warner Bros. over master tapes. This album produced the politically charged “Face Down,” “2045: Radical Man.”

Images for "Under the Cherry Moon"

Images for “Under the Cherry Moon”

Still, at times his political statements didn’t match his religious views. Some social pundits note that Prince may have been a conservative Christian that didn’t support gay marriage and his spiritual journeys which swayed from Seventh Day Adventist to Jehovah Witness were crazy quilt and uneven, at best. Perhaps, like all deep thinkers, Prince was continually searching for his truth. And his search for the Divine evolved just like his music and personal style.

Collages655That said; what cannot be denied is his style. No other pop artist celebrated bold color, and in particular the hues of purple like Prince. From sequined purple jackets, to metallic purple trench coats to tight purple, hip hugging slacks to purple heels, Prince was the ‘Emperor of Purple.’

We will never, ever forget you dear Prince. May your music and fashion style live for generations to come. Long live the Prince!!

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Flashback: Pauline Trigere


Image courtesy of Francesco Scavullo

Image courtesy of Francesco Scavullo

Fashion Reverie looks back at the life of iconic French-American designer Pauline Trigere. Pauline Trigere epitomized chic, elegant American glamour and was one of the first designers to be associated with American sophistication and elegance.

Pauline Trigere was born in the Pigalle section of Paris to Russian-Jewish parents. Her mother was a dressmaker and her father was a tailor. She learned to sew as a young, but never considered fashion design as a career until she and her husband Lazar Radley, also a Russian tailor, left Paris in the late thirties because of the rise of Nazism.

After settling in New York City, Trigere’s husband opened a small tailoring business with Pauline’s brother Robert with Pauline working for Ben Gershal and Hattie Carnegie.  In 1942, Lazar Radley suddenly walked out on Pauline and her two small children, leaving Pauline to be the sole provider. In just one year after her husband departure, Pauline Trigere had developed a collection with 12 styles and in just three years she had become a well-known name in American fashion selling to Filene’s Basement, Neiman Marcus, and Bloomingdales.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

In 1952, Trigere received the first of three Coty Awards. And Trigere is credited as being one of the first American designers to use black models. Most film buffs will recognized her clothes worn by Patricia Neal in “Breakfast at Tiffanys.”

Trigere had one of the longest careers in American fashion, spanning almost six decades. In 1992 she was honored for fifty years in the industry by Fashion Institute of Technology. And in 1993 Trigere received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the CFDA.


Images courtesy of,, and, respectively

Unlike many designers of her era, Trigere did not sketch, but draped material on body forms. She once said ”Fashion is what people tell you to wear,” she often said. ”Style is what comes from your own inner thing.”

Trigere’s gaments have been worn by such women as Mrs. John Hay Whitney, Beverly Sills, Evelyn Lauder, Rita Gam, and Dina Merrill, and more recently Sarah Jessica Parker. In recent years, vintage aficionados seek out many of Trigere’s iconic designs.


Images courtesy of

Images courtesy of and, respectively

Pauline Trigere passed away in 2002.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Flashback: David Bowie

Collages520Fashion Reverie looks back at British pop icon David Bowie after his untimely death on January 10. No other pop icon whose career spanned five decades has had such a pivotal effect on different music genres from Glam Rock and rock n’ roll to pop music, dance music, and new wave music than David Bowie. Bowie was also an arbiter of fashion and style and pushed the envelope on what is now defined as gender neutrality, causing the music industry and society at large to re-examine notions of masculinity and redefine masculine silhouettes in fashion.

Before Sylvester, Grace Jones, Michael Jackson, Adam Ant, Madonna, Boy George, Adam Lambert, and Lady Gaga, there was David Bowie. From his Glam Rock stage persona ‘Ziggy Stardust’ to Bowie’s embrace of a super thin silhouette to his inclusion of Versace monochromatic pastel suits in the late 1970s and early 80s, Bowie has consistently been of the cutting edge of fashion and style.

Collages519Born David Jones in Brixton, south London, Bowie’s early musical influences were Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Bowie musical acuity became evident while learning to play the recorder. Later he moved on to the saxophone, performing in teen rock n’ roll and skittle bands.

In the mid-60s David Jones changed his name to David Bowie so that he would not be confused with Davy Jones of Monkees’ fame. Singles and most of his albums in this period failed to chart well. Not until Bowie met his future wife Angie Barnett in 1969—who heavily influenced his introduction to the bohemian musical movement in the UK—and he delved into psychedelic rock buttressed by his on-stage androgyny, did his musical career start to get some traction.

Fashion_Flashback_David_BowieAll these influences culminated in his stage creation, ‘Ziggy Stardust.’ Ziggy Stardust was a combination of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop mixed in with Bowie’s unique take on androgyny and fashion. With Ziggy’s shock of red hair, glitter bodysuits and emaciated svelteness, Bowie ushered in a new era of pop music melded with an unusual blend of glam fashion, gender bending sentimentality, and sexual freedom. All this culminated in a cult symbol status that boosted album sales and sellout live performances.


Images courtesy of and, respectively

Images courtesy of and, respectively

By the late 70s, Bowie replaced Ziggy’s androgynous leanings with blond slicked back hair and pastel monochrome Armani suits and his musical stylings had fused R&B with dance music and early Punk influences. Though his physique remained dangerously thin, Bowie proved that there could be a masculine beauty in a slim silhouette, particularly when immaculately dressed.

Throughout the 80s and the 90s, Bowie continued to shift shape in musical taste, as well as fashion style. However, by the early 80s, many performance artists like Adam Ant, Boy George, Billy Idol, Prince, and even Michael Jackson were able to take advantage of grounds Bowie had made in melding masculine and feminine performance styles and skills to woe audiences.

From left: Jacques Brinon/Associated Press, Valerio Mezzanotti/Nowfashion, Francois Guillot/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

From left: Jean-Paul Gaultier spring 2013: Jacques Brinon/Associated Press, Haider Ackermann spring 2016: Valerio Mezzanotti/Nowfashion, Dries Van Noten men’s fall 2011: Francois Guillot/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images/

In 2003 David Bowie fronted a campaign for Louis Vuitton. And in the last few years designers have been inspired by Bowie’s style and Bowie references have popped in the both men’s and women’s wear collection of Dries Van Noten, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Haider Ackermann.

“When I go out onto a stage, I try to make the performance as good and as interesting as possible, and I don’t just mean singing my songs and moving off. I think if you’re really going to entertain an audience then you have to look the part, too,” Bowie told Cameron Crowe in a 1976 Playboy article.

And entertain and mesmerize, he did!!

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Flashback: Mariuccia Marinelli

Image courtesy of zimbio

Image courtesy of zimbio

Fashion Reverie looks back at Mariuccia Mandelli, founder of the Italian ready-to-wear brand Krizia. Mariuccia Mandelli is credited for inventing hot pants died at the age of 90 on December 7 at her home.

A former schoolteacher and self-taught designer, Mariuccia Mandelli founded Krizia in the mid-1950s and according to Newsweek “reigned for decades as the godmother of Milanese fashion.” Krizia was one of the first Italian ready-to-wear houses and at its peak in the mid-1990s its revenue topped over $500 million a year.

Krizia fall 2011 images courtesy of

Krizia fall 2011 images courtesy of

Krizia’s design aesthetic included structured sculptured shoulders, pleating, looser fits, and unconventional materials like rubber, eel skin, metallics, cork, and snakeskin. In 1971, Krizia revealed some short shorts on the island of Capri and the shorts were dubbed “hot pants,” initiating the hot pant craze of the early 70s.

Krizia spring 2012 image courtesy of

Krizia spring 2012 image courtesy of

Mariuccia Mandelli started her fashion empire in the early 50s selling her designs out of the trunk of back of her Fiat 500. The brand had its first breakthrough in 1964 when its black and white collection won an Italian Fashion Critics award. By the 90s, Krizia had become a global fashion brand with a particularly strong presence in Japan. In 2014 the brand was sold to Chinese designer and entrepreneur Zhu Shenzhen for $35 million due to declining retail sales and the declining health of Mandelli and her husband Aldo Pinto, the company chairman.

Krizia spring 2015 by

Krizia spring 2015 by Zhu Shenzhen

“She was a leading figure in the fashion world and in “Made-in-Italy” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said. “Creativity and the celebration of colour alongside a very Milanese sobriety – that was the mark of Krizia.”





Fashion Flashback: Adrian

Collages473Fashion Reverie looks back at the Hollywood’s famed fashion designer and costumer Adrian. Among the many fashion designers that costumed some of Hollywood’s leading ladies of the 1930s and 1940s, Adrian Adolf Greenberg, professionally known as Adrian, was, perhaps, the most esteemed. He was best known for his costumes designs in such classic films as the Wizard of Oz, Letty Leyton, The Women, Anna Karenina, Marie Antoinette, Grand Hotel, Pride and Prejudice, The Philadelphia Story, and Woman of the Year.

Adrian's costume designs from "The Women" and "Letty

Adrian’s costume designs from “The Women” and “Letty Leyton”

After studying fashion design at the New York School of Design and Fine Art (now known as Parsons School of Design), Adrian got his first design job for Irving Berlin’s The Music Box Revue. Later, Adrian design costumes for George White’s Scandals on Broadway.

One of his first assignments in Hollywood was designing costumes in 1924 for Natacha Rambova’s, Rudolf Valentino’s wife, film A Sainted Devil. In 1928, Adrian was hired to design costumes for MGM. And according to Margaret Bailey in Those Glorious Glamour Years “… Adrian was not afraid to test surprising new styles or have a bit of fun with a design. He maintained it would either be fashionable by the time the movie was reviewed or be so unusual that it was exempt from fashion.”

Collages471Many of the costumes designs by Adrian were repurposed and adapted for retail and sold in New York City department stores. As detailed in, Adrian’s work for Greta Garbo starting with A Woman of Affairs was noticed by Seventh Ave., and featured in Women’s Wear Daily. Garbo’s slouch hat and trench coat were sold cross country, as well as her little pill box hats from As You Desire Me and her “Eugenie” hat from Romance. His work for Joan Crawford was copied extensively as well, especially her organdy dress from Letty Lynton. His costume sketches were often published in Vogue. Adrian left MGM in 1942, and returned only once, 10 years later for Lovely to Look At in 1952.

Images courtesy of

Images courtesy of

In 1942, Adrian opened his own boutique, Adrian, Ltd in Beverly Hills with his designs appearing in Bonwit Teller, Garfinckle’s, Marshall Fields, and Stanley Marcus. “During the decade of Adrian Ltd., particularly during the war years, he was one of the American designers capable of making an individual statement. His influence was felt in every showroom and store in the country; his trim jackets and slinky crepe dresses were reproduced in every price bracket. To judge by his imitators, he was the most influential designer in their copybooks. For them he took the place of Paris”, posits Robert Riles in American Fashion.

A serious heart attack forced the prolific designer to retire to Brazil and after a brief return to design costumes for Broadway, Adrian died of a massive heart attack in 1959.





Fashion Flashback: Bonwit Teller

Downloads171As we move into the holiday season, Fashion Reverie looks back at Bonwit Teller, one of the largest department stores that specialized in high-end women’s clothing. In its heyday, Bonwit Teller had stores in Palm Beach, Miami Beach, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, White Plains, Syracuse, Buffalo, Manhasset, Kansas City, Philadelphia (three stores), Palm Desert, Beverly Hills, Short Hills, New Jersey, and Columbia, South Carolina.

Bonwit Teller exterior ca 1939 image courtesy of

Bonwit Teller exterior ca 1939 image courtesy of

Founded in 1895 by Paul Bonwit, Bonwit bought out his former business partner and opened up a new store in 1898 on 23rd Street between 6th and 7th Avenues with Edmund D. Teller. Later the store was relocated to Fifth Avenue and 38th Street and became known for the high quality of its merchandise and the above-average salaries paid to its executives and buyers.

Throughout most of the 20th Century, Bonwit Teller was a part of a group of upscale department stores on Fifth Avenue that catered to was originally known as “the carriage trade.” Among its New York City peers were Saks Fifth Avenue, B. Altman & Company, and Peck & Peck.

Images of Bonwit window displays by Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali. Images courtesy of and, respectively

Images of Bonwit window displays by Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali. Images courtesy of and, respectively

From the 1930s onward, Bonwit Teller was acquired several times by different acquisition companies. The Hoving Corporation was the most significant acquisition company and helped establish Bonwit Teller as one of the go-to, high-end stores on Fifth Avenue. Under this acquisition, Bonwit Teller experienced its most significant growth. It’s historic location of Fifth Avenue—originally built by the Stewart Company for a high-end retail store—was bought by Donald Trump and demolished in 1980. Trump Towers now sits on the historic Bonwit Teller flagship store location.

After the demolition of its historic flagship store, Bonwit Teller relocated around the corner to Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, attached to Trump Tower’s indoor mall. The Hooker Corporation, an Australian company that purchased the stores for $101 million dollars in 1987, would place the Bonwit Teller stores in bankruptcy proceedings in 1989.

Bonwit Teller Holday ad image courtesy of

Bonwit Teller Holday ad image courtesy of

Though many corporations tried to bring Bonwit Teller back in the 90s, even as recently as 2007, the recession of 2008 prevented the projected return of Bonwit Teller from happening. Still, Bonwit Teller represents Americas’ golden age of upscale luxury stores in the 1940s and 1950s, evidenced in its place in popular culture in such films as “Rocky II” and “Oliver’s Story.”


Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterCheck Our FeedVisit Us On Pinterest
Copyright © 2012-2017 | Fashion Reverie Publications, LLC - All Rights Reserved