“The Dean of American Fashion”
Norman David Levinson, known professionally as Norman Norell, was an American fashion designer famed for his elegant gowns, suits, and tailored silhouettes. He studied fashion illustration and fashion design at Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute, and began his career designing costumes for silent film stars and then Broadway theatre. He spent 12 years with Hattie Carnegie before partnering with Anthony Traina and opening the Train-Norell fashion house in 1941. According to The New York Times, the Traina-Norell collection became a "status symbol among American women." He was the leading New York designer during the WWII era. He started teaching at Parsons and mentored younger designers such as Bill Blass.
He was the first recipient of the American fashion critics award. He also became the first winner of the Fashion Industry Critics' Hall of Fame award in 1956, the same year Norell designed Marilyn Monroe's wedding dress for her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.
In the 1960s, he started his own fashion house in Manhattan. He had become "the label of choice for the fashionable and the famous."
In 1968, he became the first American fashion designer to launch his own brand of perfume.
He was a founder of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and a member of Parsons School of Design board of trustees.
The director of the MET remarked that Norell was “well known for his high quality, tailored fashions. He was especially known for his sailor-inspired clothes, chemise dresses, wool jersey dresses, and Empire-line dresses, as well as culottes and sequin-covered, "mermaid" evening gowns and sheath dresses.”
In the late 1960s, during the height of his popularity, Norell's "mermaid" gowns sold for $3,000 to $4,000, "considered the most expensive dresses in America" at that time.
Norell passed away in 1972. A bronze plaque is dedicated to him on New York’s Seventh Avenue.
We have two Norman listings up for sale. A 60s 3-piece wool skirt suit and a 70s camel day dress ✨
Geoffrey Beene was born Samuel Albert Bozeman Jr. in Louisiana in 1924. He studied fashion design in California, New York and Paris. He was assistant designer at the Seventh Avenue house of Harmay and also at Teal Traina for many years. He opened his own house in 1963 offering high-quality ready-to-wear women's clothing and went on to become one of New York's most famous fashion designers.
His first collection was featured on the cover of Vogue and he was awarded his first Coty American Fashion Critics' Award in 1964.
His high-profile clients have included several First Ladies, and he designed the wedding dress of President Lyndon B. Johnson's daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson, in 1967.
He designed ballgowns using inexpensive fabrics like gray flannel, wool jersey and denim. There was a series of dresses inspired by athletic jerseys, most notably a sequined full-length football-jersey gown in 1968.
In 1976, Beene became the first American designer to show a collection in Milan, Italy. This success led to his sixth Coty Award in 1977, for giving impetus to American fashion abroad.
In 1982, Beene received his eighth Coty Award; the most awarded to any one designer.
During the 1980s, when jumpsuits began to appear frequently in his women's collection, he stated that "the jumpsuit is the ballgown of the next century."
In honour of Beene's fashion legacy, the Council of Fashion Designers of America created the annual Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement award in 1984.
In 1986, Beene was named The Council of Fashion Designers of America's Designer of the Year.
The first Geoffrey Beene retail boutique opened on Fifth Avenue in 1989.
Beene continued his innovations with fabric, treating humble textiles regally and using luxurious materials with throwaway ease. For example, a 1989 sheared mink coat for the furrier Goldin-Feldman in a bathrobe-like silhouette was created in fur dyed hot pink, edged with electric blue ribbon in a giant rickrack pattern, and lined with an abstract print in coordinating colours.
In the late 1980s he began utilizing strategically placed sheer and cutout panels, especially in his evening clothes, culminating in the matte-wool-jersey and sequins lace-insertion gowns of 1991, which exemplify the exacting cut and technical intricacy of his work.
He passed away in 2004.
We have an amazing Geoffrey Beene 1970s metallic silk wrap top and skirt set available, as well as a silk scarf.
William “Bill” Blass was an American fashion designer born in Indiana in 1922.
By age 15, he was selling evening gowns for $25 a piece to a New York manufacturer. He moved to Manhattan at 17 and studied fashion at Parsons.
He enlisted in the army in 1943 and served at major operations including the Battle of the Bulge and the Rhine river crossing.
He returned to New York after the war and was hired by Anne Klein. However, he was soon fired, with her allegedly finding him talentless.
He then started work for the Anna Miller company, which eventually became Maurice Rentner Ltd. in 1959 with Blass as head designer.
Blass is one of the designers credited with creating quintessential ‘American Style’- the relaxed, elegant look of the late 20th century. He prioritized comfort while still maintaining a sense of glamour. He created sportswear out of luxury fabrics and often incorporated feminine ruffles in his work. He favoured sharp, simple silhouettes and introduced menswear fabrics such as pinstripe and houndstooth into womenswear.
Blass was one of the first designers bold enough and recognizable enough to star in his own advertisements. In one such campaign launched during the 1960's, Blass was pictured alongside two models wielding machine guns. Text proclaiming "They can't knock off Bill Blass" was emblazoned across the image. Employing witty slogans such as ''Positively Blassphemous", Bill Blass became a celebrity in his own right.
In 1967, he was the first American Couturier to start a menswear line.
He amassed huge fame and fortune throughout the 60s and bought Maurice Rentner in 1970, renaming it Bill Blass Ltd.
In 1973, Blass was one of the five American designers to take part in the legendary battle of Versailles against French designers.
Between 1975 and 1992, he designed cars for the Ford company. He did not know how to drive.
By the mid 90s, his RTW business grossed $9 million annually and his 97 licensing agreements had retail sales of more than $700 million a year.
He is the recipient of 3 COTY awards is one of 28 American designers featured on Seventh Avenue’s fashion walk of fame.
He retired in 1999 and was diagnosed with cancer in 2000. After completion of his memoir, he passed away 6 days later in 2002. He bequeathed his $52 million estate to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
We have a beautiful 60s 2 piece Bill Blass set available, as well as a silk scarf.
Costa, a Texas native, attended the École d'Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris. On his return to America, he sold his fashion sketches to designers like Oleg Cassini and worked for the house of Suzy Perette in the 60s. He then moved to Dallas in the 70s, bought a fashion house and started manufacturing his own designs. By 1988, the company was grossing $50 million annually. His presence was huge in 1980s pop culture, with the stars of Dynasty wearing his designs, and Joan Collins wearing them outside of the show too! He was also a favourite of celebs like Brooke Shields, Joan Rivers and Betsy Bloomingdale.
In 1987, the New York Times reported that, along with Christian Lacroix and Arnold Scaasi, Costa "is widely recognized... as a significant contributor to the current vogue for flamboyant, super-feminine dresses that bare the shoulders, hug the waistline and billow and swirl over the hips."
We have an amazing 80s metallic party dress available.
Koos Van Den Akker
Koos was born in The Hague and started sewing at a young age. He bypassed the 18 year old requirement age when he was 15 to attend the Royal Academy of Art to study fashion. He had to spend two years in the Dutch army when he turned 18 and even there, he ended up making clothing for officers’ wives and daughters.
After the army, he went to Paris and designed window displays for the Galeries Lafayette.
In 1961, he enrolled in the L’Ecole Guerre Lavigne, located in the same building as the Dior workrooms. Every year, Christian Dior picked the most gifted student for an apprenticeship and Koos was picked in 1963. After 3 years in the apprenticeship, he moved back to The Hague and opened up his first store, where he slept in a room in the back. The window displays were lavish and theatrical, inspired by American movies like Carousel and stars like Audrey Hepburn.
His father died in 1968 and he decided to close his store and move to New York. There, he set up his KOOS label and established a string of stores across the country. He also sold wholesale to upscale department stores. He soon had a host of celebrity clientele such as Cher, Elizabeth Taylor and Barbara Walters to name a few.
His label featured flamboyant idiosyncratic garments adorned with unique collage work and cuts.
He became a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Actress and singer Josephine Premice, a good friend of Koos', asked him to make a sweater as a present for Bill Cosby. She took it to the set of The Cosby Show where Bill immediately put it on and wore it for the taping. It was an instantaneous hit. Cosby then began giving his friends presents made by Koos. Cosby invited friends to New York for a weekend and he asked Koos to open the store on a Sunday especially for his guests and told them to choose something they liked. This further promoted Koos with the rich and famous and demand grew.
He had a label and show on the QVC channel between 1998 and 2006.
In 2002, Van den Akker was awarded an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Academy of Art College as a Doctor of Humane Letters.
In the summer of 2008 he became an artist in residence and gave a masterclass for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and in April 2009 also gave a masterclass for Vogue Patterns in Canada.
In 2014, he was one of fourteen designers chosen to be in the exhibition "Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art" at the American Folk Museum.
He passed away from cancer in 2015 at age 75.
he Museum of Arts and Design in New York hailed him as “the master of couture collage,” adding, “A rich panoply of colour and pattern painstakingly pieced together, his designs have provided inspiration for fashion tastemakers like Nicolas Ghesquière.”
We have a 1970s silk and lace windowpane print dress available.