Category Archives: Designers

Vera Neumann for Brighton

Saturday I was in a strange environment – a modern shopping mall.  It’s not that I never go to the mall, I do, but it’s usually when I need something specific that I know can be found there.  In this instance, I was in need of a skinny latte from Starbucks, and the only one to be found for miles was in this mall.

So I was making my way to Starbucks when I stopped dead in my tracks. There, on a shop window, was a ladybug and the Vera signature.  I was intrigued to see that the store was Brighton.  I had to go in and check it out.

Brighton is primarily a maker of leather goods, and they also make other accessories like jewelry and sunglasses.  The business dates back to the late 1960s when Jerry and Terri Kohl bought a business that made men’s belts.  In 1985 they formed Brighton as part of the company, and in 1990 started making items for women.

As I was looking at the Vera items, the sales associate came over and asked if I knew about Vera Neumann.  I resisted the urge to be Ms. Know-it-all-smarty-pants and said that I remembered her from the 1970s.  That gave her the chance to practice what she’d learned about Vera.  I was impressed.  Tonya knew all about Vera, and how important she was as an artist and as a producer of scarves and household textiles.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I fell victim to the sales pitch.  Actually, I was already in love with the nautical themed line before the pitch even started.  I was a goner at “red, white, and blue fish print.”

Like the original, vintage Vera products, all the Brighton accessories are based on a Vera scarf.  I was given their spring brochure that showed the original scarf along with the products that are based on it.  And all through the brochure are photos and information about Vera herself.

I didn’t get a photo, but there is a tote bag based on this scarf, which is in my own collection.   You can see it on the Brighton website, which is well worth a look because they have a great little video about Vera, that includes some terrific archival footage of her.

Not all the Vera items are nautical, as you can tell from the photo of the Brighton window.  There are, of course, butterflies and ladybugs as well.  One of the best adaptations was the black and white butterfly pouch bag that you can see in the window.  The motif was actually embroidered onto the canvas.

Here’s the set that I bought.  I’d been looking for some good zippered bags to organize my larger travel handbag, and these were perfect.

They are even lined in a Vera design.

I liked everything about this collaboration except for one thing – the items are made in China.  I decided to overlook this because Brighton continues to manufacture their leather goods in the USA.  Hopefully they will bring back more of their production to the States in the future.

I know that there are many vintage fans who do not like modern use of vintage designs.  I’m of the opinion that good design is good design, period.  There is some concern that these modern uses tend to muddy the waters and that in years down the road the newer designs will be confused with the originals.  It may be true, but that is a small price to pay for having access to great design.

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A Pucci for the Californians

I was all ready to leave the topic of Pucci behind and move on when a set of photos appeared in my inbox.  Sent by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous, they are of another early Pucci, this one a blouse made from Pucci fabric with a California theme.

The style of the blouse is very much like the last one I posted.  I can picture either of them worn over a pair of capris accessorized with sandals and a big sun hat. Both blouses have the same label, though with a different color printing.  As I pointed out in my earlier post, this is the second Pucci label, after he expanded to Florence, but before he added “Pucci”  to the label.

There is also an I. Magnin label.  I. Magnin was a San Francisco based department store that carried luxury lines and high fashion clothing.  Not only was this blouse sold at I. Magnin, it was specially designed for the store.

I think it is interesting that the blouse is signed Emilio of Capri, while the label is the later Capri/Florence one.

There is also something else interesting about this blouse, and the other two early Pucci pieces that I showed before.  One clue that people use to help identify an authentic Pucci is the squiggly “Emilio” signature found scattered within the print.  But none of these early examples have the signature.  It was not until the 1960s when Pucci turned to more abstract designs that were very easy to copy  that the signature was added.  Upon the advice of his buyer at Lord & Taylor, Marjorie Griswold, the signature was added in the mid 1960s.

I hate to think that vintage buyers might have passed on unsigned pieces because they suspected that they might be fakes.

As for the design of the print, does anyone have a clue as to the possible meaning behind those mermaid Indian girls?

If you want to know more about Emilio Pucci, tomorrow I’ll have a link to the best article on his life that I’ve ever read.

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Filed under Curiosities, Designers, Novelty Prints

Emilio Pucci for Formfit Rogers

Not long ago I spotted the half slip pictured above in my not-so-secret shopping place.  My first thought was that it was an Emilio Pucci for Formfit Rogers so I started looking for the evidence:  the initials EPFR printed within the print.  I was just about to give up and call it a good copy when I spotted them.

In 1959 Pucci decided that he wanted to expand into lingerie.  Rather than do the production in-house, he was advised to look for an established lingerie company that would handle production.  Pucci came to the United States, and signed a deal with Formfit Rogers, a Chicago company.  Pucci provided the designs which were printed onto nylon tricot.   Much of the production took place in a factory in Tennessee.

I’ve seen the uncut fabric.  They printed it in big squares, about 72 inches, with an overall print surrounded by a small , about three inches, border.  The pieces were cut, using the border at the hem.  Sometime the border was cut and sewn, for a detail like a V-neckline.

We tend to think of designer “collaborations” as being a new scheme, but this is a good example of how even in the 1960s designers were finding ways to get their designs into the hands of people who could not afford their regular designs.  In 1969, a Pucci for Formfit half slip was priced at $9, or about $55 today.  Years ago I bought a bra and matching slip from a woman in Asheville.  She told me that she was living in New York City in 1969, working at her first job.  When she got that first paycheck she wanted to go out and splurge, and she ended up buying the Pucci set.

The line was quite successful, and lasted into the 1970s.  Still, the pieces are relatively hard to find, probably because people recognize them for what they are and snap them up.

In the early days of ebay, these Pucci Formfit pieces were very inexpensive.  I once bought a lot of six pieces for around $30.  Then the fabrics in modern ready-to-wear got thinner and thinner, and people started buying the lingerie to wear as outerwear.  They are no longer a bargain.

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Filed under Designers, Made in the USA, Southern Textiles

This Is Not a Schiaparelli But…

In 1928 the great Elsa Schiaparelli designed knit bathing suits which were based on her famous trompe l’oeil sweaters.  These were imported into the USA by Saks Fifth Avenue.  This suit, while not made by Schiaparelli, was certainly inspired by her designs.  It was probably made in the US, and was sold by Saks Fifth Avenue’s lower-cost cousin, Saks and Co.

The above photos and text are from my long-neglected website, Fuzzylizzie.com.   I have a page that shows off some of the swimsuits in my collection, including this one.  I bought this suit because it was so clearly influenced by the Schiaparelli bow sweaters.  Had it been a real Schiaparelli, I’d have never been able to afford it.

While browsing Pinterest today, I found my photo with the caption Elsa Schiaparelli Swimsuit.  I knew the pinner – she’s a good vintage friend – and knew she’d never have misconstrued my writing in such a way.  Sure enough, she had found my photo on another blog, with the caption, Elsa Schiaparelli Swimsuit.  And to make matters worse, lots of other people have pinned it from that site.

So now the misinformation is out there, and there is no way to get it back.  I did ask the blogger to make the correction on her blog, but the damage has been done.

I know that people love Pinterest.  I’ll admit to wasting a bit of time on the site now and then.  But there are some huge problems as far as photos getting separated from their context.   Not only is my photo all over Pinterest with no mention of my site, but now people are seeing the photo and are giving it an attribution it does not deserve.

Was my original paragraph so long and involved that people can’t read past the first sentence?  Perhaps I should change the beginning to read, “This is not a Schiaparelli but…”

I want to make it clear that I do not have a problem with the blogger taking the photos from my site.  Under the rules of Fair Use, I feel she has the right to use them.  It would have been nice had she asked first.  And it would have been really nice had she read what I actually wrote about the swimsuit.

On a lighter note, is it not just the best swimsuit ever?

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Currently Reading: Christian Dior and I

I keep an ongoing list of vintage books that I want to acquire, and this one, Christian Dior and I, has been on it for a while.  The book was actually reprinted several years ago (and in the UK as Dior by Dior), but I was hoping to find a reasonably priced copy of the original.  And I did.

The book is marketed as Dior’s autobiography, but it really is not so much the story of his life as it is the story of the House of Dior.  He does tell bits about his childhood, and about how he became a designer, but the bulk of the book is concerned with telling how a couture house operates.  It’s a fascinating and personal look inside fashion at the highest level.

Dior starts with how he conceives the ideas for a collection.  A collection’s development began the day after the first showing of the last collection.  Dior would leave Paris for his country home where he would try to not even think of fashion for several weeks.  After that, he began the process by doodling, scribbling, drawing on individual sheets of paper which he kept stacked.  From these sketches, his ideas for the new collection emerged.

The finished sketches then went to the premiere of the atelier, where she and Dior would analyze and discuss the designs.  Then the workshops went to work on the toiles, or muslin patterns.  Dior and the head of each workroom would then tweak the design, and sometimes discard the idea completely.  Fabrics were chosen for the successful designs, and the work began on the models.

Over the next weeks, Dior would study each dress, and make changes, and then the day came when all the finished work was viewed, studied, analyzed, and altered.  No wonder Monsieur Dior did not want to look at the dresses after the first official showing!

Dior also explained how sales operated in his house.  He actually had nothing at all to do with the sales, and usually was not there when women came in to view the collection (which was done in the form of a show every afternoon).  A couture customer would pick out the models she wanted, and then the workshops would make the dress to her measurements.  A retail customer, like Neiman Marcus, would buy the toile so that the dress could be reproduced for sale in the US.

I read this book slowly, as to absorb the details of the workings of the House of Dior, but there is a lot of material, and I’ll be rereading this one very soon.

The book was published in 1957.  In the last lines of the book Dior talked about how he hoped to someday retire to his home in Provence.  “I think of this house as my real home, the home to which, God willing, I shall one day retire…”  But it was not to be.  That same year, Dior died of a heart attack.

Click

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Key West Hand Prints: When It Looks Like a Lilly, But It’s Not

When I spotted this 1970s knit shirt recently, I immediately thought it was a Lilly Pulitzer.  But then I looked at the label and found that instead it was made by  Key West Hand Prints.

That was not surprising because Key West was the company that designed and screen-printed the fabrics for the Lilly Pulitzer company.

This print is so Lilly-like that I actually looked for the trademark “Lilly” that was contained within the prints designed for Pulitzer.   In a Lilly Pulitzer print the signature can often be found in flower pistils and stamens.  Many of the Lilly Pulitzer prints were designed by artist Suzie Zuzek Depoo, and it is likely that she designed the print for this shirt.

Prints like these, especially in such a simple style, can be hard to date.  It could be that this blouse is from the early 1980s, soon after Lisa Birnbach’s Official Preppy Handbook declared that pink and green was the prep color combo of choice.

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Interview With Naomi Jackson of Vested Gentress

Courtesy and copyright of Club Vintage Fashions

About a month ago I got an email from John Fibbi in Florida.  Seems as if he was sitting with Naomi Jackson, who had been along with her husband Bud, the owner of Vested Gentress.  They were searching the internet looking for references to her company and came across an old post here at The Vintage Traveler.  He got in touch, and she agreed to answer a few questions about the company.

This was very exciting to me because despite the fact that vintage Vested Gentress clothing is pretty common and some pieces are highly collectible, there just wasn’t much about the company to be found.   Now, thanks to John and Naomi, and Naomi’s son, Dan Jackson, I can tell the story behind this whimsical label.

Copyright and courtesy of GailDavid’s Memory Lane

1.  How did Vested Gentry get started?

Fritz, or “Bud”,  Jackson Jr.  Naomi’s husband,  was good at doodling, and was in advertising for a while and good at casual art.  Around 1960 he had two comics or cartoons published; one in Look and a short time later one in Playboy.  

The first products Bud created were men’s woolen vests that were also screen printed with cocktail-themed designs and sports cars, thus the name Vested Gentry.  Ads were placed in The New Yorker magazine and orders were taken.  Bud actually hand screened the first articles at home in the bedroom on a flush door. Orders from individuals and Ambercrombie & Fitch were filled as they were received.  They also made some men’s hand screened shirts.

The label for Vested Gentry was a stoic guy, dressed in black, wearing a top hat.

2.  Is there a special significance to the name Vested Gentress?

That was the name the Bud created when he began the woman’s line in 1961 and began phasing out the men’s wear.

Courtesy and copyright of pinky-a-gogo

3.  How was the logo of the equestrienne chosen?

This was a creation of Bud’s, who felt that the logo fit the name.

Courtesy and copyright of Metro Retro Vintage

4.  What can you tell me about the fabric designs?

In the beginning all of the designs were the personal work of Bud.   He really most enjoyed drawing the animals.  Most of the floral prints were purchased as Bud did not enjoy drawing the florals.

Courtesy and copyright of Better Dresses Vintage

   Did you employ an artist? 

In the later days an artist was hired, mostly for the florals.

Courtesy and copyright of Metro Retro Vintage

5.  Was the screen printing done in your own factory?

Yes it was done in the factory, in a large room with many screeners. We could handle a ten color process.  At the factory there were approximately thirty-five employees: screeners, designers and sample makers.

Courtesy and copyright of Northstar Vintage

What about the sewing?

The sewing was contracted out.  In the beginning it was tough, as we did not have large orders.   Articles were screened and cut in the factory, and samples were sewn there. The cut pieces were then sent out for sewing.

Courtesy and copyright of Second Looks

6.  I’ve noticed that many of the designs incorporate a big, friendly dog.  Was he based on an actual dog?  Did he have a name?

The dog logo was based completely on a family pet and member of the family, a 200 pound Newfoundland hound named Briney Bear.  He was the chairman of the board and had his own stationery.  The hang tag, also designed by Bud was based on a drawing of Briney Bear.  The hang tag logo can also be found on Bud’s headstone.

Courtesy and copyright of Hatfeathers Vintage

7.  Was Vested Gentress marketed as an active sports line?  So much of it seems to be appropriate for golf and tennis.

There was a pro line, that was sold exclusively in country club pro shops.  This was late in the life of the line.

Vested Gentress had four of their own retail stores, Rehoboth, Deleware, Stone Harbor, New Jersey,  and Jupiter and Clearwater, Florida.  Florida was the largest sales area.

Courtesy and copyright of Northstar Vintage

8.  Which of the print motifs were the most popular?

Heads and Tails which is the horse with the bows, and one with a parrot.  The parrot was also based on an actual creature.  He was positioned outside a barber shop in Florida, and when they went by him the parrot would bother Briney Bear.

Copyright and courtesy of joulesvintage

9.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad for Vested Gentress in vintage magazines.  Did the company advertise on a national level?

Yes, mostly through The New Yorker.

Courtesy and copyright of Hatfeathers Vintage

10.  How and when did the business close?

Naomi  remembers that Lilly Pulitzer folded (1984)  prior to her husband’s passing in 1985 and Vested Gentress closed sometime after he died.  Dan said that they kept the business going for a while after his father died, but that Vested Gentress was Bud’s passion, and it was too hard to continue without his guiding force.

Naomi stated that they were surprised at Lilly Pulitzer’s closing as they had three items in Town & Country that year.

Courtesy and copyright of pinky-a-gogo

Vested Gentress was a true family company, with Bud and Naomi running the company and the children working there as well.  Dan said that his first job was sweeping the factory floor on Saturdays.  He was able to work his way up.

Many thanks to John Fibbi, who found me and who transcribed Naomi’s story.  And thanks to Naomi and Dan for answering all my questions.  Also thanks to members of the Vintage Fashion Guild for providing so many great illustrations of Bud’s work.

Courtesy and copyright of Viva Vintage Clothing

A few words about the label:

Vested Gentress was started in 1961, and in 1966 the  equestrienne trademark was registered.  The version on the trademark site shows the woman without a riding crop in her hand, and I’ve seen labels that do not have the crop.  I assume thay are older than the much more commonly found woman with a crop.  The Jacksons had no recollection of the change in the label.  If you find a label with no crop and no R (registered) symbol, I think you can safely assume it is from before 1966.

Courtesy and copyright of Viva Vintage Clothing

Courtesy and copyright of Club Vintage Fashions

Courtesy and copyright of Northstar Vintage

To see even more, here is an old blog post at the Vintage Fashion Guild blog.

Edited to correct the name of The New Yorker

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