Fashion Flashback: The 10 Most Memorable Olympic Fashion Moments

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Every other year, sports fans the world over eagerly await the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. Spectators are riveted to every aspect of the Games, from where the Olympic Games will be held to the athletes participating, and of course, how many medals their country takes home.

While the main focus is on the participants’ phenomenal athletic prowess, sometimes the outfits worn are just as memorable as the performances. Fashion Reverie enlisted some Olympic fan friends to help curate a list of the 10 most memorable outfits worn for competition and an honorable mention for a standout opening ceremony. We’ve listed our entries in chronological order to not play any favorites.

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The Summer 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea

 The Track and Field category was dominated by Florence Griffith Joyner aka “Flo-Jo,” who still holds the record for “fastest woman alive” in the 100 and 200 meters. Flo-Jo was also fiercely fashionable, delighting fashionistas who couldn’t wait to see her next signature hooded, superhero competition look. Flo-Jo was a woman who understood the power of the accessory, most especially long acrylic nails. Her gold acrylics even matched the three gold medals she took home. Over twenty years later, Flo-Jo has served as inspiration for another track and field star, Sha’Carri Richardson.

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The 1988 Winter Games, Calgary

Great Britain’s ski jumping Michael Edwards aka “Eddie the Eagle” was a phenomenon because he was the antithesis of the sleekly confident Norwegian jumpers he competed against. He was the first Brit to compete in the sport since 1928. What made Eddie a media and fan favorite however, was his hutzpah, cartoonish pink and white bottle rim glasses, and bizarre outfits that glorified Britannia. Every time he stuck a landing, the announcers screamed, “The Eagle has Landed!” Eddie got a whole new generation of fans after the film “Eddie the Eagle” came out in 2016.

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More from the 1988 winter games in Calgary. While putting this list together, it was impossible not to think of figure skating outfits. Katarina Witt skated out on the ice as a blinged-out risqué Heidi in 1984, but she was even more memorable in 1988 at the Calgary Winter Games, when she channeled Cruella De Vil in a blue getup while skating her way to a gold medal. Her skirt-less outfit upset the International Skating Union so much that they instituted “The Katarina Rule,” henceforth requiring female skaters to wear skirts while competing on the ice. 

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1992 Winter Games, Albertville

No one can pull off a glitzy, over-embellished skating outfit better than Surya Bonaly.  At the Albertville Olympics, with her huge braided hair extensions, the five-time European champion wore a green puffy skating dress designed by Christian Lacroix in the short program. And in the long program, Bonaly skated in a matador’s costume with padded shoulders, also designed by Lacroix.

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The 1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona

At the 1992 Summer Olympics, Oscar de la Hoya showed his love for Team USA with his performance in the ring, taking a gold medal in the lightweight boxing division. His Stars and Stripes entrance outfit made this tiny champ a walking statement for Team USA.  

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1994 Winter Games, Lillehammer

The 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer Norway showed the world that fashion designer Vera Wang could do more than design a beautiful wedding dress. Vera’s designs for Nancy Kerrigan were far removed from the usual Vegas showgirl style ice dancing dresses. Nancy looked every bit the Ice Princess in a tasteful cream and gold sequined halter dress before she was struck down by Tonya Harding. 

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2004 Summer Games, Athens

The 2004 Summer Games in Athens treated audiences to dazzling performances by Canadian synchronized swimmers. Fanny Letourneau and Courtenay Stewart didn’t take home medals, but they got high scores with the fashion police for their glitzy Queen of Hearts swimsuits and matching makeup.

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The 2012 London Summer Olympic Games

Rhythmic gymnasts perform on the floor using apparatus such as hoops, balls, and ribbons. Flashy outfits are an integral part of the performance, but Russian-Azerbaijani Aliya Garayevan outdid herself when it came to her competition outfit.  She wowed spectators in a neon yellow, green and orange leotard accessorized with silver lame thunderbolt detailing and flame print on her illusion bodice. Marching wristbands, bright red lips and cheeks rounded out her superhero-ninja look.

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The 2018 Winter Olympics  Pyeongchang, South Korea

Yun Sung-bin aka “South Korea’s Iron Man” wore a helmet inspired by Marvel’s superhero Iron Man, which may have helped him become the first South Korean athlete to win the gold in skeleton racing. Post-race, Sung-bin told CNN, “He’s my favorite movie character and when I first saw myself going down the track, it looked like Iron Man flying with his suit, that’s why I got the helmet.”

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More from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The Norwegian curling team riffed off artist Keith Haring’s iconic zigzag canvases as they maneuvered on ice to shoot granite stones into the “house” aka goal circle. Curling is an inclusive but relatively obscure sport. The Norwegians’ zany outfits have helped it gain more attention.

Our Olympic fan friends also pointed out a number of notable team looks at more than one opening ceremony. Top contenders over the years include Germany and Japan for honorable mentions but the top spot goes to the sign holders at the Albertville opening ceremony who posed as walking snow globes in the March of Nations. Opening ceremony looks provide enough material for a whole other article.


—Vivian Kelly

Fashion Flashback: Alber Elbaz

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It is very sad when a genius departs this life. But it is even more sad when that genius leaves us before his time. There will always be nagging thoughts and frustrated conversations around how their talent could have continued to bless us. There will also be wistful thinking of what we will never experience again and how life ended the talent far too soon.

Still, there are the memories of all the flashes of genius, the explosions of brilliance, the exploration of a particular creativity, all housed within one individual. Alber Elbaz was one such genius. And we were so blessed that he chose fashion to display his many talents.

Born in Morocco, Alber Elbaz began sketching dresses as a young child, first sketching dresses for his mother and his teachers. “For me, the sketching of dresses was about fantasy and dreams,” Elbaz told the New York Observer.

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Elbaz moved to New York City in 1985 and landed a job early on with Geoffrey Beene. After seven years with Geoffrey Beene, Elbaz became the head of ready-to-wear design of Guy Laroche.

In 1998 Elbaz moved on to design the Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche ready-to-wear line which should have been a dream job for Elbaz. However, Elbaz tenure at YSL was only three seasons. Elbaz’s personality didn’t match with YSL after Gucci Group acquired the brand. Gucci Group wanted more of a media personality to helm YSL’s Rive Gauche ready-to-wear, and Elbaz was shy, retiring fashion genius that didn’t meld well with Gucci Group’s idea of the celebrity fashion designer.  “Alber wasn’t comfortable being famous … He just wanted to make women clothes,” explained Betty Halbreich, author and head of the Solutions personal-shopping department at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. Tom Ford replaced Elbaz at YSL.

Alber Elbaz is best known for resurrecting the oldest fashion house in Paris, Lanvin. Once the jewel of the couture world, Lanvin had become a dusty French fashion house that appealed mostly to an older consumer. Elbaz re-invented the brand in 2001 with playfully feminine clothes garnished with bows, grosgrain belts and outsize, often surreal costume jewelry by Elie Top.

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Under Elbaz’s helm Lanvin quickly found celebrity fans in Gwyneth Paltrow, Meryl Streep, Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Kim Kardashian, Dakota Fanning, Sienna Miller, and others. Lanvin was also heralded by critics and buyers. However, in 2015 Elbaz was fired after a much controversial dispute with Lanvin’s majority shareholder.

After a five-year absence from fashion, Elbaz launched his own brand AZ Factory in 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic. The launch of AZ Factory created an enormous buzz in fashion circles. “I felt that I cannot serve you a steak if you’re a vegetarian,” Mr. Elbaz told The Wall Street Journal, explaining that women want more than pretty, impractical clothes. “I had to give women what I believe they need in this moment. Fashion is a little bit like a fruit. It has to be fresh.”

Designer Alber Elbaz walks down the runway at the Spring 2004 Lanvin show in Paris. Image courtesy of

AZ Factory combined dramatic, sophisticated, and stylish fashion with comfort and accessibility. Unfortunately, Alber Elbaz didn’t live long enough for AZ factory to take off.

“He understood …what things would make you insecure and what he could do with his clothes to hide those things in your physique. [He knew] what you needed to feel super confident,” explained famed fashion photographer Inez van Lamsweerde.

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Alber Elbaz died from COVID-19 complications on Sunday, April 25. He was 59 years old.

William S. Gooch

Fashion Flashback: Yasmeen Ghauri

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Diversity and models of color appear to be all the rage on the current fashion landscape. But that was not always the case. Though there were a few models of color—or ethnic models as they were called in the 1980s—that headlined fashion shows in the 1980s and early 1990, with the exception of Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb, Mounia, Coco Mitchell, Jenny Shimizu, Katoucha, and a few others, models with Nordic features were the order of the day.

Discovered working in MacDonald’s in Montreal when she was 17 by hairdresser Edward Zaccaria, Yasmeen Ghauri’s meteoric career as a fashion model was, perhaps, one of the most astonishing model careers of the 1990s. Yasmeen Ghauri was raised a Muslim by her Pakistani father who was not pleased that Yasmeen was pursuing a modeling career.

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Despite her parents’ disapproval, Yasmeen launched her modeling career in 1990 in Milan and Paris, later moving to New York City. Early in her career Yasmeen Ghauri had campaigns for Versace, Givenchy, Jil Sander, and Hermes, gracing the runway for Lanvin, Chanel, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Helmut Lang.

By 1991, Yasmeen Ghauri had landed her first cover of Elle magazine and become the face of Anne Klein and Christian Dior.  Yasmeen was also photographed for the cover of Italian Vogue by Steven Meisel.  Patrick Demarchelier also photographed Yasmeen for Italian Vogue in 1991, calling Yasmeen his favorite model.  

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In 1992, Yasmeen signed a contract with Victoria’s Secret. In that same year, Yasmeen became the face of Valentino couture and Versace. In 1993, Ghauri the face of Hermes and Lanvin and was photographed by Gilles Bensimon for the cover of Elle.

Yasmeen Ghauri appeared in the 1995 documentary “Unzipped by Isaac Mizrahi.” A New York Times article described Ghauri as, “coffee skinned Yasmeen Ghauri [who’s] hard to get gaze was bellied by the ball bearing swivel of her hips.”

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Yasmeen Ghauri walked in her last show—the Yves Saint Laurent—in 1997. She is married to attorney Ralph Bernstein and they have two children Maia and Victor.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Flashback: Fashion Reverie Celebrates Black Fashion Designers

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As we are solidly in Black History Month, it is no consequence that New York Fashion week (NYFW) coincides with Black History Month. And though the two celebrations may seem world’s apart, in fact they are compatible bedfellows.

African Americans have had a very important role in US fashion for over a century, if not longer. Yet, despite their contributions very few black designers have received their just desserts in the American fashion markets. Apart from a few well-known black designers—Stephen Burrows, Willi Smith, Patrick Kelly, Tracey Reese, and more recently John Cristopher Rogers—most black designers remain unsung.

The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Museum sought to rectify this exclusion by hosting an exhibit in 2016 and 2017 to black fashion designers. Many of whom were not well known to the fashion industry at large. Like most fashion designers, fashion designers of African descent do not speak with one voice, drawing inspiration from myriad cultural influences and points of view. However, the one element that rings loud and clear is their bold uses of color and embellishments, as well as their celebration of the feminine silhouette in all its variations.

This Fashion Flashback only touches on a few of the many black designers that have contributed greatly to the fashion industries.

Ann Lowe (December 14, 1898 – February 25, 1981)

For those who are unaware, black fashion designers have played a significant role in fashion for over 150 years. The breakout fashion designer in the pantheon of black fashion designers is Ann Lowe. Ann Lowe was the first black fashion designers to have a noted fashion career.

Educated at the S. T. Taylor Design School in New York City, where she attended privately because of segregation. After moving to Tampa and opening a successful dress salon, Lowe moved back to New York City and worked on commission for Henri Bendel, Chez Sonia, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Lowe designed Olivia de Haviland’s dress for her Academy Award win in the 1946 film “To Each His Own.” In 1950 Lowe with her son opened her salon, Ann Lowe Gowns, on Lexington Avenue. Her one-of-a-kind gowns made with the finest fabrics made her very successful, attracting society ladies and a wealthy clientele.

In 1953, Janet Lee Auchincloss hired Lowe to design a wedding dress for her daughter, the future First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier, and the dresses for her bridal attendants for her September wedding to then-Senator John F. Kennedy. In 1961, Lowe won the Couturier of the Year Award. She retired in 1972.

Zelda Wynn Valdes (June 28, 1905 – September 26, 2001)

Zelda Wynn Valdes has been chronicled mostly for designing eveningwear for many black female celebrities and the celebrity wives of black entertainers. However, it should be noted that “Miss Wynn,” as she liked to be called, should be acknowledged on many fashion fronts.

Reared in Charlotte, North Carolina, Miss Wynn created garments for Josephine Baker, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Dorothy Dandridge, Marian Anderson, Jessye Norman, and the wife of Duke Ellington. In the 1950s, she moved her dressmaking business from Washington Heights to West 57th Street.

Miss Wynn later caught attention of Playboy’s Hugh Hefner and was commissioned to create the original Play Bunny costumes. She was one of the founders of the National Association of Fashion Accessory Designers, an industry group intended to promote black talent in the fashion industry. This group was established with the sponsorship of the National Council of Negro Women.

In 1970, Arthur Mitchell hired Miss Wynn to create costumes for the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Miss Wynn created costumes for over 85 Dance Theatre of Harlem productions. She continued to work with the Dance of Theatre of Harlem until right before her death in 2001 at the age of 97.

Stephen Burrows (September 15, 1943)

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Stephen Burrows has been heralded as one of the greatest American designers of his generation. Burrows studied at the FIT and later sold his designs to small shops in New York City. Eventually, Burrows began working with Andy Warhol and the club crowd that populated Max’s Kansas City. After Burrows experienced modest success selling his garments at the O Boutique, which was across the street from Max’s Kansas City, Burrows’ collection was picked up by Bendel’s with his own shop within the store. And in 1973, his lingerie/sleepwear line was picked up by Bonwit Teller, Lord & Taylor, and Bloomingdales.

Burrows has won many Coty Awards, which was predecessor of the CFDA Awards. He has dressed Brooke Shields, Farah Fawcett, Diana Ross, Cher, Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand, and First Lady Michelle Obama. It has been said the Burrows’ collections were the embodiment of the frenzied sexuality of the 1970s.

Stephen Burrows was one of the five designers that were invited to showcase their collections at the iconic Battle of Versailles. In May 2006, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honored Burrows with “The Board of Directors Special Tribute. Around the same time, Burrows was invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Mode to return to Paris to present his spring/summer 2007 Collection in the Carousel de Louvre.

In 2010 Burrows opened his new showroom and workspace in New York City’s Garment District.

Ola Hudson (October 12, 1946 – June 5, 2009)

Though Ola Hudson may not be on the radar of black fashion designers that have had a significant impact on the fashion industry, Fashion Reverie believes that her contributions are worth noting.

Hudson is documented as having a fashion career mostly in London; however, her roots go back to the US where she pursued a career as modern dancer studying with the famed Lester Horton Dance Company in the 1960s. After continuing her dance studies in Paris, Switzerland, and London, Hudson settled in London and began designing stage costumes for David Bowie, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon.

After moving back to the states, Hudson designed stage costumes for the Pointer Sisters, Diana Ross, and Janet Jackson. She established her fashion design company Ola Hudson Enterprises, Incorporated in Los Angeles, making special collections for Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, Maxfield Blu in Los Angeles, Henri Bendel, and Right Bank Clothing.

Hudson’s design aesthetic focused on minimalism with a retrospective look back to the 1940s. Hudson designed clothing for “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and for “Station to Station.” She also created the black pants and waistcoat for David Bowie’s Thin White Duke look in 1976. Some of the items she designed for Bowie are part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Ola Hudson is also the mother of Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash.

Patrick Kelly (September 24, 1954 – January 1, 1990) 

Fashion Reverie has a special connection to the late Patrick Kelly. Former Fashion Reverie advisor and friend to the site Supermodel Coco Mitchell was one of Kelly’s model muses.

Though Patrick Kelly’s fame was centered mostly in Paris, his collections embody a strong American sportswear aesthetic. Kelly was the first American to be admitted to the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode, the prestigious governing body of the French ready-to-wear industry.

Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Patrick Kelly started his career working in a thrift shop in Atlanta. Kelly would take garments from thrift stores and repurpose the garments, selling them alongside his original designs in a beauty salon.

A chance meeting with Supermodel Pat Cleveland in 1979 convinced Kelly that he should move to New York City to advance his career. After an uneventful year in New York City, at the suggestion of Pat Cleveland, Kelly moved to Paris.

In Paris, Patrick Kelly experienced immediate success with his buttons and pins that were parodies of African American culture adorning slinky bright-colored jersey dresses. After his designs were picked up by the trendsetting Paris boutique, Victoire, Kelly began attracting a celebrity clientele that included Bette Davis, Paloma Picasso, Cicely Tyson, Goldie Hawn, and Grace Jones. Around the same time, Kelly was feature in a six-page spread in French edition of Elle Magazine.

Bette Davis helped introduce Kelly to executives at Warnaco, the American textile company. In 1987, Warnaco offered to manufacture Kelly’s garments and with their support Kelly’s collections could be found in major department stores around the world. Patrick Kelly told People Magazine in 1987, “I design for fat women, skinny women, all kinds of women. My message is, you’re beautiful just the way you are.”

Just as Kelly was about to launch into fragrances, cosmetics, and menswear, he was crippled by opportunistic infections due to his HIV infection. Patrick Kelly died in 1990. An exhibit of his work “Patrick Kelly, Runway of Love” was seen at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2014.

Byron Lars (January 19, 1965)

Byron Lars is another unsung African American fashion designer. After studying at FIT, Lars briefly worked as a freelance designer for Kevan Hall, Gary Gatyas, Nancy Crystal Blouse Co., and others.

In 1990, Lars sold some of his designs to Henri Bendel and in 1991 he received orders from Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and other high-end retailers. His collections won widespread acclaim, and Lars was named Women’s Wear Daily’s Rookie of the Year.

Lars’ 15 minutes of fame lasted more than an actual 15 minutes. However, staying power has been a challenge for Lars. After staging themed fashion shows during NYFW that got him good press and having pop-ups stores in Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales, Lars’ rising star started to fade, hitting the proverbial fashion wall.

“Byron had the support of the stores,” Ms. Wheaton said who ran Byron Lars at one time, as reported in The New York Times. “They all respected him because his clothes sold, even before he had a financial backer. But we couldn’t get Vogue to come up to the showroom. He got mentions from time to time but no steady coverage like the others.”

Lars explains further, “It’s evident that the playing field isn’t level. It’s not that there was a lack of Black talent. It’s just that few of us have ever been seen. Something is amiss. By the law of averages, there should have been more Black designers up there than there have been. That’s all I will say.”

In the 2000s, Lars continued his brand by selling to Anthropologie. His dress, Carissima, sold 60,000 units. Lars has dressed former First Lady Michelle Obama and in 2011 forged a relationship with Xiaochong who sells his new brand Byron Lars Beauty Mark online and in China. In 2018, 5,500 pieces—seven styles of dresses, skirts, blouses, and jackets—sold out, Xiaochong confirmed. Eight minutes later, another 4,000 garments had been spoken for, prepaid to be delivered in June.

Christopher John Rogers (1994)

If you watched President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ inauguration, you would have noticed VP Kamala Harris wearing Rogers’ purple coat. Never one to shy away from bold color, Rogers told NPR, “I don’t think that wearing hot pink and ruffles or bright yellow, or a really intense blue in shapes that take up space make you any less intelligent.” He continued, “I don’t think that the way that you dress should make you sacrifice your personality, or your point of view, or necessarily say anything about your intelligence.”

A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Christopher John Rogers studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2016 Christopher John Rogers sold his  made-to-order garments from his studio in Brooklyn.

 Rogers has come a long way from selling from his studio in Brooklyn. He has dressed former First Lady Michelle Obama, Lizzo, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cardi B., Tracee Ellis Ross, Priyanka Chopra, Gabrielle Union, Karlie Kloss, Zendaya, and Rihanna. And in 2019 Rogers won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, and his runway shows are some of the coveted fashion shows during NYFW.

What makes Christopher John Rogers so special? Rogers is special because he is not afraid to use bold color and fabrics that reflect the light. His garments flow effortlessly, giving the illusion of floating around the body.

In a September 2020, Vanity Fair interview, Rogers explained, “I love fabrics that play with light—anything iridescent or metallic or shiny; sequined—but anything that plays with light is associated with having money.  Some of my white professors in art school saw my work and thought it was tacky. They wrote it off as out of touch and too tailored.” Hmm, they probably are eating their words now!!

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Flashback: Stella Tennant

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When most people think about fashion models, particularly supermodels, the reflection always centers around those supermodels that are exquisitely beautiful, even if they obtain their loveliness with the help of a lot of makeup. Our minds go almost immediately to those traditional beauties like Dorian Leigh, Dovima, Donyale Luna, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Beverly Johnson, Naomi Sims, Alva Chinn, Claudia Schiffer, Liya Kebede, Coco Mitchell, Wanakee, Veronica Webb, Shalom Harlow, just to name a few. And more recently Joan Smalls, Karlie Kloss, Chanel Iman, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Jasmine Tookes, Cara Delevinge, and Maria Borges come to mind.

Though these models had great beauty, it is just as important to include in this fashion pantheon, fashion models that challenged the standard ideas of beauty. And in retrospect, these non-traditional beauties expanded the fashion industry’s concept of what was beautiful and fashionable.

To this list of unusual beauties, you can add the names of Suzy Parker, Pat Cleveland, Twiggy, Verushka, Lauren Hutton, Marissa Berenson, Grace Jones, Donna Jordan, Kristen McMenamy, Alek Wek, Jenny Shimizu, Stacey McKenzie, Agyness Deyn, Diandra Forrest, Grace Bol, Winnie Harlow, and several others. You can also add to that list Stella Tennant.

Interestingly, these non-traditional models helped revolutionized the fashion industry. And no fashion model did more to project a new fashion image of femininity than Stella Tennant.

Stella Tennant with Kristen McMenamy changed the global look of Chanel. Though reluctant, at first, to pursue a career as a fashion model, British-born Tennant’s career as a fashion model was meteoric, to say the least.

Discovered by iconic fashion photographer Steven Meisel, in her first week as a fashion model Tennant was whisked off to Italy for a fashion shoot for Italian Vogue. In her first few months as a fashion model, Tennant walked in Paris, London, and Milan, as well as shooting editorials for Elle, and American Vogue.  “When jobs come up, I’m still … Wow! Weird!” she said. “Sometimes I see myself and I have no idea why they booked me.”

Karl Lagerfeld spotted Stella Tennant and very quickly she became the face of Chanel, with an exclusive contract replacing Claudia Schiffer. “Stella is more in tune with modern fashion trends than Claudia,” Lagerfeld told an interviewer.

Throughout her modeling career, Stella Tennant has had campaigns for Chanel, Calvin Klein, Hermes, Moschino, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Pringle of Scotland, L. K. Bennet, Saint Laurent, Holland & Holland, Oscar de la Renta, Versace, Dior, Tom Ford, Hugo Boss, and Burberry. And she has walked in runway shows for Michael Kors, Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Victoria Beckham, Salvatore Ferragamo, Loewe, Zara Denim, Ralph Lauren, Schiaparelli Haute Couture, and Givenchy.

Known for her boyish look and serious demeanor, Stella Tennant bridged that intersection in 90s fashion that started to move toward an expanded vision of femininity, ushering in such models as Alek Wek, Agyness Deyn, Jenny Shimizu, Daria Webowy, and Julia Nobis.

Stella Tennant announced her retirement in 1998, later marrying French photographer turned osteopath David Lasnet and together they have four children. And though Tennant announced her retirement in 1998, she has repeatedly returned to fashion modeling, walking in the Valentino show in 2020 and modeling for the Chanel look book in November of this year.

William S. Gooch

Can American Malls Make a Comeback?

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The American mall was once one of the bedrocks of leisure time. People could go shopping with friends, enjoy dining, and catch a movie. However, once online shopping came into play, American malls began a slow and steady decline. Rather than shopping in person, consumers began shopping from the comfort of their own home via the internet. It was convenient, clothes could come to you, and you could mail back something if it wasn’t what you expected.

As America’s economy took a hit, particularly during the 2008 recession, people had less discretionary income to shop for clothes and other discretionary items. Once the economy rebounded, the incremental shift to online shopping began to have more of an effect. With the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and many major American cities on lockdown, there was more of a shift to online shopping Though many brick-and-mortar stores and malls have reopened, customers are still preferring to shop online for health and safety reasons.

So, where does that leave the American mall? Malls are stuck asking themselves how, and if, they can manage to make a comeback.

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For starters, mall owners will have to reevaluate what to do about tenants and mall anchors. The number of American retailers who have recently filed bankruptcy is staggering. Modell’s Sporting Goods, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, J.C. Penney, Brooks Brothers True Religion, GNC Holdings, Lucky Brand, and Ascena Retail Group (the parent company of Lane Bryant and Ann Taylor) have all filed bankruptcies this year and have shuttered many of their stores. This has of course reduced the number of malls tenants, and with months of shutdowns, tenants also haven’t paid rent, leaving mall owners cash strapped.

What should have been the cornerstone of the next phase of the American mall has found its dreams deferred, and that is a quite literal assessment. The supersized American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, NJ was seen as the next frontier for the American mall. The American Dream mall was in development for a decade and was a 5-billion-dollar project.  The mall was set to boast entertainment offerings, which included an indoor water park, an amusement park, an NHL regulation size ice rink, an indoor snow park, with around 450 retailers were set to open by spring 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic put a dent in the American Dream mall’s plans.

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The hope for the American Dream Mall is that it is an A class mall. An A class malls houses luxury brands–Bulgari, car dealerships like Tesla, and tech stores like Apple. B class malls are run-of-the-mill types mall that would be anchored by stores like Sears, J.C. Penney, and Macy’s, and C and D type malls that are on the lower end of the economic spectrum. They were already struggling before coronavirus and shuttering their stores for months did not help. And the devolution of the middle class in the US is also not doing C and D malls any favors.

“Most C and D type malls were built when the middle class in America had the preponderance of spending power,” said Lee Holman, lead retail analyst at IHL Group, a global research and advisory firm for the retail industry. “We are talking about the 1960s through the early ‘90s. Any teen movie you saw coming out of the ‘80s and ‘90s was typically based in a shopping mall. What has happened is the transition within society where the middle class has shrunk. The people in the middle class who were diligent were moving into the upper middle class and upper class, and the diligent people in the lower class were trying to move into the middle class and work their way up, but those malls were built where the middle class worked, played, and lived. As the middle class shrunk, so did the traffic in these malls. With the advent of Walmart, Target, and other big box retailers along with Amazon, people didn’t have to go to malls to do shopping, and things got tough for C and D type malls.”

As malls try to reinvent themselves, it is possible that some C and D malls could become dark stores. A dark store is a store where customers do not come in and do actual physical shopping, but, rather, they are in a sense distribution centers that only deal with online orders for delivery. Customers aren’t coming in, but products are going out.

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The anchors for many of these malls, like Sears and J.C. Penney, are shrinking their fleet of stores and finding other large department store retailers to take their place seems impractical. Of course, there are options to use these spaces for other things.

Some malls have tried moving toward more experiential retail but have struggled in their ability to present customers with new experiences. However, experiential retail formats and turning malls into more community type centers could be a way for malls to rebound in the long-term. Malls have been hurt by the rise in e-commerce as more and more consumers are shopping from their laptops and handheld devices. Customers who still prefer in-store experiences rather than online shopping tend to be older. Millennials (born from 1981-1996) and Gen Z (born from 1997-2015) will shop more online, because, compared to previous generations, they socialize online, rather than socialize at a mall. For malls to survive, they must adapt to the way shoppers are living today.

“Malls have to reinvent themselves and repurpose mall space,” said Shawn Grain Carter, professor of fashion business management at FIT. “Malls need more restaurants. Millennials and Gen Z love to eat out. Malls need to become shopping centers and look at adding things like concert halls, spaces for art installations, and exercise studios. This will bring more customers inside the mall. If you want to think of the mall as a new 21st century public square, they need to find ways to appeal to the new generation as well as the older generation who might not be as tech savvy, and another way to do that would be adding health clinics inside of malls. All these things would create a multigenerational public square that would change the way people shop. Malls can become public squares for the community and it’s a thing malls need to think about as they ask why they still exist, and go beyond just shopping.”

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Despite consumers shift toward more online shopping, Grain Carter believes that in a world with a COVID-19 vaccine, people will want to go back to malls because there is pent up demand for in-person human interaction. Because the right to in-person interaction was taken away from people in such a stark way, people now love the idea of doing things in-person. Retailers will still have to look at integrating their omnichannel strategy more successfully. One of the most successful pivots that has come out of the pandemic is curbside pick-up. Customers could order things online, and if it was available at a local retailer, they could pick up there in-person. This became a key revenue driver for retailers during the early reopening phases before they could let customers inside stores once again.

“Malls will have to completely reinvent themselves, offer real reasons to come, entertainment, other services, anything but what they are doing now,” he said. “Also, well over 50 percent of them will not survive the next six months, and that is all depending on a vaccine.  Without a vaccine, then maybe 25 percent will survive. People have tried more online shopping, and are discovering just like with offices, you really don’t have to be physically present. Amazon is getting so good at reverse logistics that even returns are a joy. This makes it easy to compete with a boring retail store, which is what most have become.”

Robert Conrad, the Associate Chair of Fashion Merchandising at LIM College, believes that it was long overdue that malls began rethinking how they use some of their space. Customers want more experiences rather than things, and malls that have or can figure out how to make retail more experiential are poised to survive. According to Conrad, “It’s very easy to imagine a future where 1/3 of the number of malls in America go away. This country has too much space devoted to retail, and mall owners will have to think about how to utilize this space into other things.”

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While middle market retailers are struggling to comeback, the luxury sector is still going strong. According to Conrad that is because, “The stock market is doing well, despite the tumult of this past year. The people who make their living in the ‘work from home’ economy, they might’ve been inconvenienced, but they are still making a good living and shop at luxury stores.”

Although Conrad believes people will return to malls, he doesn’t see mall traffic ever returning to late nineties levels when they were at their peak. Malls that survive can still evolve and thrive, but many will be left looking like “Scooby Doo” ghost towns.

Leslie Ghize, vice president of Tobe The Donneger Group, a retail a consulting and strategy firm, is also in agreement that the market for malls was over saturated. “We have been and are oversaturated in retail, especially in the United States,” Ghize said. “Even before coronavirus, there needed to be an adjustment to that. Coronavirus just pushed the situation further. We have a lot of real estate in retail and it was too heavy to hold itself up.”

Ghize believes that malls will go in two different directions. First, most malls won’t make it. Some malls will transform into real estate players for businesses that need a lot space, like wellness businesses, fitness centers, and food concept stores. High-end stores could start creating elevated types of concepts, like live events and experiences, that are more exclusive and aspirational than a classic US mall.

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Secondly, for malls to help turn themselves around, Ghize believes mall owners need to get more creative and flexible in their lease agreements. “For the smaller, direct-to-consumer, and boutique brands that are on the come up, leasing retail space in a mall under the traditional lease structure is a big commitment, and not one young brands would want to make,” she said. “Mall owners need to give opportunities to smaller, up-and-coming brands that don’t have a lot of brick-and-mortar space yet. Outdoor malls and open-air malls will be better off in the short-term, but in general malls aren’t as appealing a concept anymore.”

Ghize also said that for malls to be at their best operational capacity, at least one third of the malls currently in the US would have to close. While the idea that malls are just dreary and dead is an over exaggeration, there is no question that malls will never return to their former glory. However, through downsizing, experiential retail, and getting younger, boutique style brands as tenants, there is still hope for malls. The start of a real comeback will probably take a COVID-19 vaccine. Let’s keep fingers crossed for 2021.

—Kristopher Fraser

Fashion Flashback: Kenzo Takada

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Before Kenzo Takada, luxury fashion was mostly about French, Italian, British, and a few American luxury brands. Kenzo Takada changes all that, bringing a much-needed exuberance to Paris fashion, evidenced in his bold prints and floral designs. Kenzo’s East meets West design aesthetic set a standard for fashion brands looking to the Far East for inspiration and helped stimulate European designers’ taste for Asian design fusion aesthetics.

KENZO campaigns

Born in Himeji, near the city of Osaka, Japan, Kenzo came to Paris in 1965 to have a career in fashion, hardly speaking a word of English. In order to survive in this brave new world, Kenzo sold sketches to fashion houses. He later struck out on his own and opened a small boutique, Jungle Jap, with garments that were inspired by his Japanese heritage.

“I decorated the shop myself with little money,” Takada told the South China Morning Post newspaper recently, in what was one of his last media interviews. “One of the first paintings I saw in Paris and fell in love with was a jungle painting … and that was the inspiration for the shop.”

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“His native Japan remained [the] source of inspiration for every collection he did. He kept the use of vibrant colours and volumes present at all times,” said Circe Henestrosa, head of the school of fashion at Singapore’s Lasalle College of the Arts.

“I think he was ahead of his time and was one of the first designers to experiment with the idea of genderless fashion. He would never conform to the stereotypical idea of masculine and feminine fashion,” said  Henestrosa.

Referring to his initial fashion line as Jungle Jap, was as a pejorative and later Kenzo gave his fashion line the eponymous first name KENZO. “I knew it had a pejorative meaning, “Kenzo told the New York Times in a 1972 interview. “But I thought if I did something good, I would change the meaning.”

KENZO in the 1980s

Kenzo later became a very popular ready-to-wear line in Paris with a menswear spinoff in 1983, and later fragrances, eyewear, and a jeans line. At the height the brand’s popularity, Kenzo sold the company to LVMH in the 1990s. “The hardest year of my life was 1990, when my life partner Xavier died and my business partner had a stroke,” he told SCMP. “That’s why I sold the company to LVMH [in 1993]. I felt I couldn’t do it on my own.”

Kenzo retired from his company in 1999; however, he continued to design costumes for operas. His clothing brand Kenzo had a terrific collaboration with fast fashion mega clothing company H&M in 2016, selling out the entire KENZO x H&M collection within days.

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“What I am most proud of is I opened the roads for much younger people from around the world,” Kenzo said in a WWD article, “who probably think they can be a hit in fashion in Paris or London. They can come and try to do that.”

Kenzo died from complications due to COVID-19 on October 4, five days after his eponymous brand showed in Paris. Kenzo Takada was 81 years old.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Flashback: The Evolution of New York Fashion Week

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New York Fashion Week (NYFW) needs a do-over. Once the go-to fashion week of all the major global fashion weeks, NYFW now pales in comparison to London, Milan, Paris, and even Tokyo. Not long ago, NYFW was the most glamorous and sought-after fashion week with a bevy of top celebrities and athletes vying for front row seats. Crashers and fashionista wannabees would stand outside of NYFW venues begging approved industry professionals for assistance in getting into top fashion shows. There was also major media from top global publications and media outlets. At some of the fashion shows—Oscar de la Renta, Anna Sui, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Rucci, Heatherette, Betsey Johnson, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Rodarte, Carolina Herrera—fashion photographers were sometimes stacked seven to eight risers thick.

All that has now changed with many of the top fashion editors only go to about 12 of the top shows. And the presence of international is a thing of the past with US television networks hardly mentioning the event.

With the introduction of virtual fashion shows because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is speculation that this could be the final nail in the coffin for NYFW. Only time will tell.

That said; NYFW didn’t start out as a glamorous assemblage of fashion from top global designers. Its origins are quite humble, the result of restrictive access to the European fashion market.

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Started in 1944 by the first American fashion publicist, Eleanor Lambert, NYFW—then called Press Week—was a reaction to American press and buyers not having access to the European couture shows due to World War II. Without access to the European couture shows, the American press would have no fashion coverage of current collections in their American fashion magazines and newspapers. “The occupation of Paris by the Nazis meant that all the Allied countries were cut off from fashion news for really the first time in centuries,” explains Valerie Steele, curator of the FIT Fashion Museum.

Lambert came up with the idea to produce a fashion week for American designers. At that time Paris fashion was all the rage and homegrown American fashion talent received very little press in American fashion magazines and newspapers. Lambert saw this lack of access to the European couture shows as an opening for her American fashion clients, and she grabbed the opportunity.

For the most part, Press Week was limited to press and a few fashion buyers. There were no celebrities, no fashion parties, and believe it or not, no fashion photographers. “It was so exciting; I ran to work every day,” explained Polly Mellen, former Vogue fashion editor in an article. It was a whole different way of dressing,” less fancy. Less uptight. Much more exciting to a young person. I think it started Europe looking at us, the American fashion market.”

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Not only did Press Week help spawn a vibrant ready-to-wear market in the US and later in Europe, but Press Week helped solidify Eleanor Lambert’s status in the fashion industry. Lambert later forming the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), the International Best Dressed List, and the Coty Awards. And Lambert’s coterie of fashion clients included Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Anne Klein, Bill Blass, Oleg Cassini, Hattie Carnegie, Claire McCardell, Bonnie, Cashin, Norman Norrell, and many others. Also, over time, Press Week helped turn American fashion designers into celebrities. Unlike the couture houses of Europe, most ready-to-wear clothing in the US carried the name of the manufacturer not the designer or design house. Lambert helped change all of that.

After WW II, Paris made a fashion comeback with the cinched waist and wide skirt silhouettes of Christian Dior. Still, American fashion was gaining momentum, setting a ready-to-wear standard.

Within fashion circles, Press Week became so esteemed and well-loved that other global fashion weeks followed suit. By the mid-1950s Press Week had been renamed New York Press Week, and unlike the current NYFW, not held every year.

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Eventually, New York Press Week would be a bi-annual fashion event, using such venues as a large movie theater in the garment district and later a hotel auditorium uptown. Though industry professionals still had to crisscross Manhattan for some shows, it wasn’t until the ceiling of a loft space hit noted Chicago Tribune fashion editor Suzy Menkes on the head that the CFDA realized that something had to be done.

Fern Mallis, the former executive director of the CFDA, understood that New York Press Week, now called New York Fashion Week, needed a centralized location. Through her event management company, 7th on Sixth, Mallis centralized NYFW at Bryant Park in 1993. Though NYFW was not officially named NYFW at that time—originally fashion week at Bryant Park was called 7th on Sixth, or whoever was sponsoring that year, Olympus, Mercedes-Benz—by the mid-90s NYFW has become an international fashion phenomenon with celebrities, star athletes, and even political figures in attendance.

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NYFW resided at Bryant Park for 17 years, later moving to Lincoln Center in September of 2010. NYFW at Lincoln Center saw the introduction of streaming videos of the fashion shows in real time and a new category of fashion experts, fashion influencers. Though NYFW tenure at Lincoln Center was auspicious, in five years NYFW would again be decentralized and without a permanent home.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, NYFW was held between two main venues Spring Studios and Pier 59. For the spring 2021 season, NYFW will be mostly a virtual experience. And though some fashion pundits scoff at the idea of a virtual week, this maybe a wave of the future.

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New York Fashion Week will take place virtually from September 13 through September 17.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Flashback: Social Protests Through the Lens of Fashion

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It is a hard to consider in these uncertain times of social protests and a health pandemic flaunting your personal style and any new fashion trends. Uncertain times causes most folks to hunker down and hope for the best. Fashion is not on the menu. Or is it?

If you carefully consider some of the social movements over the past 60 years, fashion and social movements are often compatible bed fellows.  You cannot think of the tumultuous 1960s without reflecting on bell bottoms, tie-dyed shirts, flower power, frayed jeans, granny skirts, long hair on men, and even miniskirts. Most of the 60s fashion evolved out of a growing youth movement and protesting the establishment. Remember, fashion often reflects the times we are living in!!

Fashion Reverie looks back at how fashion over the last six decades has been influenced by political protests and cultural upheaval. You may be surprised to discover that some social protest-induced fashion survives to present time!!

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The Black Power Movement Style

“We want the power for the people
That’s all we ask in our country, dear
The sick and the hungry are unable
Protect them and those who may live in fear”

—Curtis Mayfield

No other 60s social movement organization represented power to the people more than the Black Panther Party. With their black berets and leather jackets, the Black Panther Party not only fought against a corrupt racist, capitalistic system, the Black Panther Party also instilled a sense a pride and the virtues of black empowerment.

While some Americans were terrified of empowered African Americans boldly brandishing firearms—which was their constitutional right—others were inspired by the Panthers’ militancy and incredible sense of style. Young African Americans who never joined the ranks of the Black Panther Party adopted the Panthers bold, big naturals, black berets, and black leather jackets. This defiant look also carried over to films of the late 60s and early 1970s.   

In the blaxploitation films of the early 1970s, black anti-heroes were militant, defiant, and kick-ass.  You have the character of John Shaft from the 1970 movie “Shaft” in his hip-level black jacket with black turtleneck. Tamara Dobson in “Cleopatra Jones,” though glamorous, was a badass brandishing firearms and karate kicks in sexy militant garb. And who can forget “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” starring Melvin Van Peebles as a black vigilante out to get corrupt cops; also in black jacket with black hat tipped to the side!! The dude had serious ‘Power to the People’ swag.

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Flower Power Style

“War, huh, good god
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing, listen to me”

—Edwin Starr

The 1960s was a hotbed of social change.  Vietnam War protests and an anti-establishment cultural shift prompted a re-examination of cultural norms, political points of view, and racial injustice. All these cultural and political shifts were not only reflected in political marches on the ground but also in music, film, theatre, and fashion. Remember, the 1960s produced such counterculture watershed theatrical and musical experiences like the musicals “Hair,” “Tommy,” and “Godspell,” and such rock n’ roll acts as Sly and the Family Stone, The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airship, The Doors, The Velvet Underground, and Janis Joplin.

All this political unrest and cultural shifts were fodder for a youth culture that was set against making war and America’s imperial aspirations. Instead of strength through the military industrial complex, youth culture wanted to make love, not war. Flower power and a peaceful existence replaced macho expansion.

Many fashion designers of that era took up the clarion call. Betsey Johnson, Paco Rabanne, Mary Quant, and Barbara Hulanicki tapped into this anti-establishment thrust and created garments that reflected the love and peace mood of the hippies and drew inspiration from musical groups of that time, even dressing many of them.

Punks hanging out on the Kings Road, London 1983

“When they kick at your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun?”

—The Clash

The Punk Revolution

If you are old enough, you probably remember The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, The Clash, The New York Dolls, and The Damned. What you may not know is that Punk music developed out a British music scene and in many ways was an anti-establishment response to the austerity of Margaret Thatcher’s government.

When Margaret Thatcher came to power in the late 1970s as Great Britain’s first female prime minister, one of the first things she did was open Great Britain to free markets. She also marginalized trade unions, cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and cut government spending. These measures hurt the working class in Great Britain and helped fuel the existing Punk movement. (One of the themes of the musical and movie Billy Elliot was Britain’s coalminer’s strike of the early 80s.)

The Punk movement expressed itself in loud, cacophonous music and clothes that were anti-establishment. Instead of buttoned-down shirts and smart suits, punk rockers donned torn tee shirts safety pin-embellished clothing, tartan kilts, combat boots, tight leather clothes, mohawks, shaved heads or hair dyed in bright colors.

British fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes were early Punk devotees with Jean-Paul Gaultier and Versace making Punk fashion more commercially viable. And you could not watch any MTV videos in the 80s without seeing Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles, the Go-Go’s, Adam Ant, and Billy Idol in Punk garb.

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“Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under”

—Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five

Rap, in-your-face swag

Though more of a cultural phenomenon than a political expression, rap and later hip-hop music does have its roots in political unrest. If you lived in most US urban cities in the mid to late 1970s, you were surrounded by poverty and a failing political infrastructure. There were failing public schools, high unemployment, burned-out buildings, and New York City was flat broke.

This almost-dystopian culture caused many young MCs to write about the failing infrastructure of American urban cities. While some early rap gave voice to partying and feeling good—the Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, and DJ Kool Herc—other rappers like KRS One, Kool Moe Dee, and Grandmaster Flash rapped about urban decay and self-empowerment. And as with all political and cultural shifts, fashion soon appropriated the swag style associated with rap music.

Early fashion designers that capitalized on rap music’s urban swag were Dapper Dan, Cross Colors, Joanne Berman, and Karl Kani. In the 1990s Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Sean John followed suit, making rap and later hip-hop fashion a commercial success.

Now you see rap/hip hop fashion everywhere. From Timbaland boots to oversized jeans to doorknocker earrings to graffiti-painted jackets; all still done with great swag and style.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Flashback: Supermodel Suzy Parker

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The downtime facilitated by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many of us to reflect on and be nostalgic for times that were less challenging and uncertain. With global fashion industry in a state of unparalleled disruption and turmoil, it is difficult to imagine what the outcome of this shakeup will produce.

That said; one thing is certain. The fashion industry will never be the same. And this unexpected evolution causes one to look back at an era in the fashion industry where photographers like Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn where changing the way fashion was marketed to a post-WWII consumer.

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The moldable piece of clay that wholeheartedly expressed this post-WWII global fashion was Suzy Parker. As the American consumer emerged out of a wartime economy, female consumers were looking for an image that expressed their desire for glamour, luxury,and style. Susie Parker was that image. 

Parker became Richard Avedon’s first muse and in the 1950s became the face of Chanel, counting the legendary Coco Chanel as a close friend.

Parker’s older sister, Dorian Leigh, also an iconic fashion model, realized her sister model potential—at the tender age of 15—and sent her sister to Eileen Ford at the Ford Modeling Agency. Unlike her sister Dorian, Suzy Parker was 5`10 inches tall and big boned—Dorian was 5`5 and delicate looking. Suzy, over time, became more famous than her sister Dorian.

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Suzy Parker was first photographed for Life magazine. And later that year she became the face of Delarosa Jewelry. Soon after, Suzy was introduced to esteemed fashion photographers John Rawlings, Horst P. Horst, Irving Penn, and a young Richard Avedon by her sister Dorian. Later, Suzy became one of Avedon’s favorite models and a great inspiration for him. “The only joy I ever got out of modeling was working with Dick Avedon,” detailed Suzy Parker.

Declared the face of post-WWII confident American woman by Vogue magazine, Parker was the first model to earn $200 an hour and $100,000 a year. Suzy Parker graced the cover of over 70 magazine including Vogue, Elle, Life, Look, McCall’s, Redbook, and Paris Match.

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In the late 1950s, Parker sequed into acting, appearing in several Hollywood films—“Funny Face,” “Ten North Frederick,”, “The Best of Everything,” “A Circle of Deception,” and “Chamber of Horrors.” The Beatles even penned a song “Suzy Parker” after her.

Parker married three times, first as a teenager to Ronald Stanton. Here second husband was French fashion photographer Pierre de la Salle. In 1963, Suzy Parker married her third and last husband, actor Bradford Dillman. She had three children with Dillman.

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In 2003 Suzy Parker died from complications due to diabetes. She was survived by her husband Bradford Dillman and her children.

—William S. Gooch

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