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 mcny.com

Bonwit Teller exterior ca 1939 image courtesy of mcny.com

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 flickr.com and tumblr.com, respectively

Images of Bonwit window displays by Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali. Images courtesy of flickr.com and tumblr.com, 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 vintageadbrowser.com

Bonwit Teller Holday ad image courtesy of vintageadbrowser.com

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.”

—Staff

Fashion Flashback: Arnold Scaasi

 

Image courtesy of starbuzz.com

Image courtesy of starbuzz.com

Fashion Reverie looks back at the career of Arnold Scassi. Arnold Scassi passed away on Tuesday from cardiac arrest at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. His French couture-like sometimes heavily embellished creations adorned the likes of Barbra Streisand, Joan Rivers, Elizabeth Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Lauren Bacall, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, and Mamie Eisenhower.

Images courtesy of tumblr.com

Images courtesy of tumblr.com

Telling the Associated Press during an exhibit of his collections at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, “Fashion, it’s really about feeling good … it should be fun to get dressed. I like exciting and pretty clothes that help women feel exciting and pretty.’’

For over 50 years Scassi—his last name Issac spelled backwards—made a lot of women feel good; particularly, his celebrity and socialite client base. After training in Montreal and Paris, Scaasi worked briefly for famed American evening wear designer Charles James before launching his own ready-to-wear business in 1956.

Image courtesy of shopify.com

Image courtesy of shopify.com

Because Scaasi never designed for the ready-to-wear mass market, he was less of a household name than some of his contemporaries. Though he did sell in high-end, ready-to-wear department stores, Scaasi is best known for some of his red-carpet creations for major film stars and celebrities. Scassi most famous ensemble was the translucent black lace pantsuit worn by Barbra Streisand at the 1969 Academy Awards.

Collages285In 1996 Scassi was honored by the CFDA with a Lifetime Achievement Award. And in 2004 he published his memoir Women I Have Dressed and (Undressed). In his memoir he described some of the things he designed for Elizabeth Taylor, ‘‘a spectacular white satin ball gown with a rhinestone design of arches over the entire dress . . . a long black velvet cape to go over it—it was fab . . . a coral and turquoise petunia printed silk short dress with a cape coat in turquoise cashmere . . . a beautiful short black chiffon number that was totally covered in tiny leaves and flowers with diamante clusters.’’

Image courtesy of img.com

Image courtesy of img.com

Mr. Scassi is survived by his partner, Parker Ladd. Arnold Scaasi was 85 years old.

—Staff

Fashion Flashback: Kim Kardashian for Bebe, Sarah Jessica Parker for Halston Heritage, and Lindsay Lohan for Ungaro

Kim Kardashian image courtesy of popsugar.com, Sarah Jessica Parker and Lindsay Lohan images courtesy of nymag.com

Kim Kardashian image courtesy of zimbio.com, Sarah Jessica Parker and Lindsay Lohan images courtesy of nymag.com

Fashion Reverie looks back at fashion brands that have unwisely chosen celebrities as their creative and artistic directors and the missteps of some of these appointments. While some of these directorships actually have been fruitful, for the most part, most have been a trip to the land unbountiful.

Though she keeps her name in the press and some of her fashion collaborations have reaped big bucks and name recognition, TV reality star extraordinaire Kim Kardashian’s creative venture with moderately priced retail chain Bebe was a gloried flop. Riding high on her “Keeping up with the Kardashian” reality television fame, Kim Kardashian started her creative venture with Bebe in 2010.

Images courtesy of perezhilton.com

Images courtesy of perezhilton.com

The collection was composed mostly of tight, short, bodycon-like dresses that would only appeal to a limited audience. Bebe’s president Emilia Fabricant said it best, “The sisters do still have relevance, but at Bebe we need to move with fashion and we want to be first in the fashion world with everybody else and not fall behind. We are definitely assessing the situation.”

Kim’s role at Bebe only lasted two collections. Also, her trip to bountiful with Sears the following year wasn’t so bountiful, either. Apparently, Kim doesn’t have the Midas touch all the time.

Kim, Kim, Kim stick with what you do well. Then again, what is that?

Collages277

Images courtesy of whatshaute.com and hotelfashionland, respectively

One of the most bizarre matchups and most disastrous was Lindsay Lohan for Ungaro. When the announcement came out that Lindsay Lohan would collaborate with Ungaro’s creative director Estrella Arch for a reported multi-year, multi-million deals, the fashion industry chuckled and scoffed. Their guffaws were well warranted. Lohan sent out sequined pasties among a number of tacky, embellished, “leave your money on the nightstand” garments. WWD called the spring 2010 collection “ an embarrassment.”

Then again, isn’t Lohan herself an embarrassment? Lohan was initially hired to inject a youthful sensibility into the embattled fashion house. All she brought quite frankly was debris. Another celeb bites the dust!!

Sarah Jessica in Heritage Halston at the 2010 Met Costume Gala. Image courtesy of popsugar.com

Sarah Jessica in Heritage Halston at the 2010 Met Costume Gala. Image courtesy of popsugar.com

“Sex and the City” made Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP) a fashion icon. That said; matching SJP up with Halston Heritage as chief creative director didn’t seem as much as a stretch as some of the other celebrity pairings. Though her tenure at Halston Heritage was short and probably ill timed, SJP lasted only a year. The marriage seemed as though it was made in heaven. Apparently, no, SJP revealed two-years after her departure that she was never paid a dime for her work at Halston Heritage.

—Staff

Fashion Flashback: Fiorucci

Image courtesy of adensya.ru

Image courtesy of adensya.ru

On the heels of Elio Fiorucci’s death, Fashion Reverie looks back at the iconic pop fashion brand, Fiorucci. Founded in 1967 by Elio Fiorucci, the Fiorucci stores were the first Italian stores that sold clothes of the Swinging Sixties style and American classic jeans and tee shirt styles in Milan.

By the late 1970s and early 80s, the Fiorucci stores were known for their daytime “Studio 54” style of Italian clothing.  The Italian party clothes attracted the likes of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, the Rolling Stones, and Madonna. Some of these pop artists even formed design collaborations with the Italian fashion brand.

Fiorucci was one of the premiere brands responsible for the globalization of mass-market fashion to ever-expanding affluent fashion market. The brand also helped to popularize leopard skin pants, stretch jeans, and camouflage prints.

Image courtesy of David Bailey/vogue.it

Image courtesy of David Bailey/vogue.it

In its early days, the Fiorucci stores sold such cutting edge British designers as Ossie Clark and Zandra Rhodes; however, by the early 70s Elio Fiorucci has switched his focus toward Brazilian thongs and monokinis, shocking the industry with its provocative add campaigns. The brands heyday was in the mid to late 70s when it opened a store in NYC introducing its trendsetting clothes to the nightlife set of the disco era. Customers in its East 59th Street store might rub shoulders with Cher, Marc Jacobs, Joey Arias, Lauren Bacall, Jackie Onassis, Calvin Klein, and Gloria Vanderbilt.

fiorucci-foto32The brand’s many licensing deals kept the brand relevant throughout the 1980s with licensing deals with Disney, Wrangler Jeans, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Vivienne Westwood. By the late 80s, the brand’s type of marketing and design aesthetic had gone out of vogue with stores closing in the NYC and the rest of the US by end of the 80s.

Fiorucci experienced a revival by in the 1990s when the company was sold to the Japanese jeans company, Edwin Co. with Elio Fiorucci retaining creative control. Though the company never regained its popularity in the US, it was maintained its notoriety in Europe up through the early 2000s.

Elio Fiorucci image courtesy of expo2015.it

Elio Fiorucci image courtesy of expo2015.it

In 2003, the flagship store in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Milan was sold. Elio Fiorucci died on July 20, 2015.

—Staff

Fashion Flashback: Ed Hardy

Downloads110In honor of the untimely death of Christian Audigier, Fashion Reverie looks back at his most famous collaboration, Ed Hardy.

Don Ed Hardy is a worldwide recognizable artist known for his tattoo art and eponymous and accessories apparel, Ed Hardy. Hardy graduated from the San Francisco Arts Institute with a degree in printmaking and through his study of tattoo art in Japan developed an original and interesting tattoo aesthetic that combined Japanese tattoo techniques with an American rock n’ roll style.

With his wife, Hardy formed Hardy Marks publications, publishing over 25 books on alternative art and tattooing. In 2000, Hardy licensed out his art to a variety of clothing and accessories companies, the most prolific being Christian Audigier who at that time was the creative director of the LA–based denim brand, Von Dutch Originals.

 Christian_AudigerAudigier licensed the worldwide rights to the Ed Hardy brand in 2005 through his holding company, Nervous Tattoo, and attempted to replicate the marketing techniques employed by Von Dutch Originals, marketing directly to celebrity clients and by opening stores in high profile fashion districts. Ed Hardy stores were located in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis, Honolulu, Scottsdale, Tucson, Vancouver, Dubai, Johannesburg, Kuwait, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Gurgaon, Delhi, Mumbai, and Qatar. At its peak in 2009, the Ed Hardy brand under Audigier was grossing more than $700 million dollars with fashion shows during New York Fashion Week and LA Fashion Week. And many of the accessories and clothing were worn by countless celebrities.

Ed Don Hardy image courtesy of onmilwaukee.com

Ed Don Hardy image courtesy of onmilwaukee.com

In 2010 many of the Ed Hardy stores closed causing and huge devaluation in the brand. Don Ed Hardy blamed Audigier for the collapse due in part to creative and marketing decisions by Audigier. In May 2009, Iconix Brand Group announced it had acquired a 50 percent interest in Hardy Way, LLC, the owner of the Ed Hardy brand and trademarks, which it increased to 85% in 2011. Hardy retains a 15% minority stake.

—Staff

Fashion Flashback: Heatherette

Heatherette_01In the wake of several well-known fashion brands closing shop in the past few months, Fashion Reverie takes a fashion  glimpse back at one of the rowdiest, irreverent brands to ever obtain a significant fashion audience.

Founded in 1999 by Club Kid Richie Rich and Travis Rains, Heatherette started out as tee shirt and leather goods line. Encouraged by a buyer from Patrica Fields who bought 20 leather tops based on a leather top Richie Rich wore to a party, in its heyday Heatherette boasted in major celebrities from Paris Hilton, Ellen Degeneris,  Pamela Anderson, Lydia Hearst, Anna Nicole Smith, Boy George and Jenna Jameson to drag artists Amanda Lepore and Jujubee, to supermodels Karolina Kurkova and Naomi Campbell appearing in their runway shows. As one of the most talked about and sought after shows during New York Fashion Week, everyone from major celebrities to nightlife club kids vied for front row seats at their fashion shows.

Heatherette_05“I was living in the club scene with all my friends. It came purely from a place of designing what we wanted to wear—we weren’t following the fashion world,” explained Richie Rich in a 2008 Paper magazine article. Patricia Fields and photographer David Chapelle really helped put Heatherette on the fashion map.

Naomi Campbell in a Heatherette fashion show. Image courtesy of Paper magazine

Naomi Campbell in a Heatherette fashion show. Image courtesy of Paper magazine

“The clothes were attention getting and fun,” Heatherette’s longtime friend and muse Amanda Lepore remembers. “They had a distinct look, which at that time— everyone wanted it. David was using it. All the celebrities wanted it. It was in demand.”  “I think their shows were the most fun New York had,” Lepore continues. “All the big models wanted to do it. All the celebrities and everyone wanted to be apart of it. To this day I haven’t seen anything like it. Whenever I go to things that are kind of like that now, it’s not the same. It’s always more serious. Heatherette was wild and fun. You always want a party like a Heatherette party.”

Though the brand was wildly popular among club kids and the underground nightlife scene, fashion cognoscenti always questioned if there was real fashion design or retail value in the clothes. And although Daymond John Lesson of FUBU fame sank $6 million dollars into Heatherette, the influx of cash was not enough to rescue the fledging brand from extinction due to bad management.

Nicole Richie and Naomi Campbell in a Heatherette show

Nicole Richie and Naomi Campbell in a Heatherette show

“Six million dollars later, we didn’t have a business,” Daymond John Lesson says in a businessinsider.com article. The designers indulged in extravagant costume clothing for the runway but failed to develop a hot ready-to-wear retail line.”We thought we could just throw people at it, throw money at advertising, [but it] didn’t move the needle. It was just us lying to ourselves,” John says. “Not that we were lazy. We tried to put in the work. But the money never made the difference.”

Heatherette_04Still, Heatherette was significant of a fashion house that was representative of a period in the late 90s when fashion meets celebrity culminating in the pop fashion phenomenon that still exist in a lesser more nuanced form.

—Staff

Fashion Flashback: Madame Carven

Image courtesy of marieclaire.uk.co

Image courtesy of marieclaire.uk.co

Fashion Reverie looks back at one of the pioneers of French pret-a-porter, Madame Carven. Madame Carven died on June 8, 2015. She was 105 years of age.

Born Marie-Louise Carven, Madame Carven founded her fashion house in 1945 to fill the void of the few couture houses left in Paris after the ravages of World War II.  A petite woman—she barely stood 5 feet tall—Madame Carven also sought to make clothes that looked good on smaller frames. Though there were few luxurious fabrics available in Europe immediately after World War II, Madame Carven managed to scramble enough fabric together to present her first collection in 1945. “Young women,” she remembered, “had nothing to wear and even less to eat.”

Images courtesy of telegraph.uk.co and hypotheses.org, respectively

Images courtesy of telegraph.uk.co and hypotheses.org, respectively

The standout garment in her first collection was a skirted summer dress, created from a roll of cotton, striped mint-green and white, found in the attic of a chateau, and most probably purchased before World War I for the summer uniforms of servants. This garment, known as “La Griffe,” became Madame Carven’s signature silhouette.

Madame Carven immediately found a French client in actresses Leslie Caron, Edith Piaf, Zizi Jeanmaire, and Martine Carol, actresses and dancers who had a diminutive frame similar to hers. Madame Carven unlike her French contemporaries, Christian Dior and Balmain, shied away from using expensive fabrics. Instead, Madame Carven chose to use the less luxurious fabrics of pink gingham, broderie anglaise, Indian and Asian cottons.

Image courtesy of coutureallure.com

Image courtesy of coutureallure.com

Because Madame Carven used fabrics that were thought of as fabric for the masses, her transition into pret-a-porter in the early 1950s was an easy transition. In the late 1940s Madame Carven toured Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, and Brazil with her collections modeled on petite models. By displaying her collections on shorter models, Madame Carven developed a loyal following in Asia, particularly in Japan, that stayed faithful for several decades.

1995 image courtesy of culturebox.francetvino.fr

1995 image courtesy of culturebox.francetvino.fr

Madame Carven designed the French Olympic team’s uniforms for the 1976 Olympics, uniforms for Air France and the Eurostar Staff. In the 1980s Madame Carven’s petite, polite fashion aesthetic went out of vogue, but saw a revival in 2009 with the appointment of Guillaume Henry as creative director.

Madame Carven produced several perfumes, of which La Griffe is her most famous. She was also awarded France’s Legion of Honor in 2009.

—Staff

Fashion Flashback: Iris Apfel

 

Image courtesy of seattlemag.com

Image courtesy of seattlemag.com

Fashion Reverie looks at the life and career of businesswoman and fashion icon Iris Apfel. Often we like to call these articles fashion flashbacks; however, in Iris Apfel’s case Fashion Reverie is not looking back, but reflecting on her unusual and phenomenal fashion life. At age 93, Iris Apfel is still going strong and a recent Albert Maysles documentary on her, “Iris,” is a testimony that she is still living a rich, stylish life and making grand entrances.

Born in Queens, NY, Iris Apfel (born Barrel) studied art history at New York University and the University of Wisconsin. She worked at Women’s Wear Daily and for interior designer Elinor Johnson before opening a textile/interior design firm, Old World Weavers, with her husband Carl Apfel in 1948. From 1952 to 1992, Iris Apfel was involved in several restoration projects for the White House that included the presidencies of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

Image courtesy of glamazonsblog.com

Image courtesy of glamazonsblog.com

Never considered a great beauty. She was told by Frieda Loehmann, founder of the famed Loehmann’s department store, “You’re not pretty and you’ll never be pretty, but if doesn’t matter. You have something better. You have style.” Iris took this somber advice to heart and become known for wearing large-rimmed glasses, lots of bracelets and necklaces and crazy quilt color combinations that when mixed together seemed to work for her.

Though Iris has been known in fashion circles for several decades, she didn’t become an “It” fashion icon until there was an exhibition of her inimitable style at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005, Now, Iris has a jewelry line on HSN and as spring 2015 Kate Spade campaign with Supermodel Karlie Kloss.

Image courtesy of furinsider.com

Image courtesy of furinsider.com

At 93, this grande dame of fashion is getting her just desserts; still, modesty and wisdom prevail. “Real fashion isn’t about pleasing people around you, but about pleasing yourself… It is better to be happy than to be well-dressed.” Aptly put, Iris.

—Staff

Fashion Flashback: Brad Gooch

Brad_gooch_09Fashion Reverie looks back at the career of novelist Brad Gooch. With the 1988 publication of Brad Gooch’s bestselling Scary Kisses, a fictional novel that examined the drug-infested terrain of 80s New York City from fashion runways to the latter-day art world of Andy Warhol, Gooch established himself as a writer that his pulse on the gritty underbelly of the New York Arts world that was previously seen as glamorous.

Images courtesy of nytimes.com

Images courtesy of nytimes.com

Next week, Brad Gooch’s book Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art and the 70s and the 80s will hit bookstands. Smash Cut details Brad Gooch’s libertine life in the late70s and into the 80s with his boyfriend Howard Brookner and his life as a fashion model with Wilhelmina. “Gooch richly recollects his experiences as a model in Italy—describing his time in Milan as “feeling blindfolded and spun about three times”—and Paris, though the bulk of the narrative revolves around Gooch’s decade-long relationship with Brookner, a filmmaker, explains the Publishers Weekly in a recent article.

Image courtesy of parfumdepub.com

Image courtesy of parfumdepub.com

Brad Gooch now holds a doctorate degree in literature from Columbia University and teaches English at William Paterson University. However, prior to his academic career Gooch was a male model with editorial campaigns with Chanel’s men’s fragrance, Allure, as well as walking in major shows in Paris, Milan, and New York

Toward the end of his modeling career, Gooch penned Scary Kisses. Scary Kisses was the first book of its kind that looked at the world of male modeling with all its glamour juxtaposed against drugs, sex, and exploitation.

Brad_Gooch_06Brad Gooch’s other books have included Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, Hall and Oates, Billy Idol, Zombie 00, Dating the Greek Gods, Finding the Boyfriend Within, Jailbait and Other Stories, The Golden Age of Promiscuity, and City Poet: The Life of Times of Frank O’Hara.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Flashback: John Fairchild

Image courtesy of fashiontimes.com

Image courtesy of fashiontimes.com

Fashion Reverie looks back at John Fairchild. John Fairchild transitioned yesterday after a long illness. Credited for transforming Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) from a dusty trade publication to lively go-fashion publication that helped launch and support the careers of Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent, and Bill Blass.

Known for his acerbic wit and lashing tongue, Fairchild was not shy when it came to expressing his opinions about fashion designers and the fashion industry. In the 1960s Fairchild was banned from Balenciaga shows after calling Hubert de Givenchy and Cristobal Balenciaga “the Dullsville Boys,” commenting that their collections were “Flop art.”

Image courtesy of deadline.com

Image courtesy of deadline.com

When John Fairchild took over WWD in the early 60’s, the publication was a family trade publication that covered the garment industry. Under John Fairchild’s helm, WWD became a publication that covered celebrities, socialites, the glamorous side of the fashion industry.

“He made WWD into a paper that the media as well as socials and celebrities and everyone else read to find out what was going on,” expressed Calvin Klein. And Patrick McCarthy, his successor at W and WWD stated in a New York Times article that, “ [Fairchild] realized that printing cotton prices every day and which buyer was coming from Detroit to New York was not the publication he wanted to run. He was interested in the glamour and the fun and the bitchiness.”

And Fairchild’s version of bitchiness isolated several designers including Valentino and Geoffrey Beene, leaving them off his list for several years. Still, Fairchild’s support could launch careers. The Fairchild list includes Andre Leon Talley, Bill Cunningham, Steve Meisel, Bonnie Fuller, and New York Times fashion critic Amy Spindler.

Image courtesy of vanityfair.com

Image courtesy of vanityfair.com

Realizing that fashion publishing was started to embrace celebrities as fashion icons, moving away from socialites and models, in 1997 John Fairchild retired from his posts at WWD and W magazine. “And [Fairchild] realized that at a certain point they didn’t sell the clothes, and that a TV actress of no import did. He didn’t like it,” states McCarthy in a New York Times article.

John Fairchild is survived by his wife, Jill; his sons John, James and Stephen; his daughter, who is also named Jill; and eight grandchildren,

—William S. Gooch

*Slideshow image courtesy of abc.go.com

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