Tag Archives: interview

Interview with Illustrator Kasia Charko

The logo above was drawn by my latest blog discovery, Kasia Charko.  Her name may not be familiar, but I’m betting that you will recognize the work she did for Biba, the London store and mail order company owned by Barbara Hulanicki in the 1960s and 70s.  What makes Kasia’s blog so good is that she is telling the story of the early 1970s fashion scene in the UK as only an insider could tell it.

Kasia graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me.


1.  Tell us about your training as an artist.

  I trained in graphic design at Leicester College of Art,  England from 1969 -1972.   All commercial art was taught, editorial illustration for magazines and book publishing,  typography and some photography, illustration for advertising e.g. posters and ad campaigns.

2.  How did you land the position at Biba?

One of my tutors was Adrianne Le Man who was the Art Director for The Illustrated London News at the time .   She taught us one day a week, and when I moved to London we kept in touch and she alerted me to the fact that the Biba graphics team  was  looking for an illustrator as the one they had was not working out.   I was already working for various magazines doing fashion illustration  and other drawings in an Art Deco style.   Much to my surprise I got the job.

3.  What were your responsibilities there?

The design team was Whitmore Thomas;  they designed the interiors of the new store and Steve Thomas led  the graphics team as well.  The day I started he gave me the brief which was to come up with ideas and drawings for all logos for each department that was going to be in the new Big Biba store.   He then went to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks. It was nerve wracking to say the least , but when he came back he liked what he saw and took the drawings to a meeting with Barbara Hulanicki who made the final approvals  and we were on our way .  Now we had the look , Steve and I expanded the work to include all kinds of  things like postcards, badges, food packaging – it was never-ending.  I did not really deal with Barbara, I hardly ever saw her, but she gave final approval of all work.

4.  How did Art Deco become so much a part of the imaging of Biba?

  I think that is explained better in Barbara Hulanicki’s autobiography ‘ From A to Biba’.   In the early 70’s in Britain there was a great nostalgia for old things from Victorian right through to the 1940’s. This was seen in fashion , graphics, music.  I think it was in America too.   I touch on this in some of my blogs.  Also old clothes , furniture, etc. was still available very cheaply  and clothes in particular were much sought after.  Biba clothes had that old glamorous look.

5.  How were you personally influenced by the Art Deco movement?

   I was influenced unconsciously at first by an old Art Deco cinema around the corner from my house when I was a kid.  You can see a photo of the interior on my first blog.    Those three Art Deco ladies certainly made an imprint on me.   I did not know what Art Deco was but I loved it. Also we were exposed to an enormous amount of old Hollywood  movies on the T.V. as kids in the 60’s.  At college I studied all aspects of Art Deco and loved it, still do.

6.  After your work at Biba was finished, did you continue to work as an artist?

When Biba ended it was very strange because a door had definitely closed on that style of work, there was a lot of change in the air.  I still got work but felt a bit typecast.      The situation in Britain was very bad , very gloomy so my husband and I had a break and went to Canada . We worked mostly in advertising,  I got into childrens’ book     illustration in the early 90’s which I am still doing today.
Many thanks to Kasia for taking the time to tell us about her experiences at Biba.  And to read more, be sure to visit her blog, Kasia Charko.

9 Comments

Filed under Designers, First Person Stories, Vintage Clothing

Enid Collins: An Interview with her Son, Jeep

I’m very pleased to be able to share with you an interview with Jeep Collins, the son of famed handbag designer and maker, Enid Collins.

*  How did Collins of Texas get its start?

Soon after World War II Frederic and Enid Collins came to Texas  and bought a small ranch close to the town of Medina.   Struggling to make a living as ranchers they began to use their talents and training to make things they could sell.  Enid studied fashion design and fine art at Texas Woman’s University and Frederic studied engineering at the University of Michigan and was also a sculptor.  Together they began to make leather handbags which she designed and he built on their kitchen table.  Frederic sculpted brass ornaments for the handbags.

* How were ideas for new designs developed?  Did Enid work as the sole designer?

She was the primary designer but Fred was also creative and had input especially in the ornaments.  He was good at figuring out how to make things, first by hand and later when he built the factory he invented various jigs to make production easier.  His father’s father was in the carriage building business in Michigan and his father invented things used in the early auto industry.

* My favorites are the box bags.  Did Collins of Texas make the wooden boxes used as the handbag base?

At first they had someone make the boxes.  When suddenly that source dried up Fred quickly acquired a large tent, until he could build a workshop, bought  woodworking equipment and began producing them himself.  The stock number prefix for the box bags was HH which stood for “high hopes.”  The success of the box bags was a major step in the growth of the company.

* I know Collins was a family business.  How were the Collins children involved in it?

Cynthia and I both worked summers in production.  Later Cynthia modeled for a series of ads run in The New Yorker.  She later went to Puerto Rico to train workers there in the factory.

*  What were some of the most unusual bags produced?

The early leather ones were very unusual.

* What were some of the most popular designs?

“Money Tree” comes to mind.  Enid did so many designs.  Every season she would have new ones ready to come out.

*  Over the years I’ve found some unusual Collins of Texas items.  What are some of the things, other than handbags, that the company produced?

Early on they made whatever they could sell.  Frederic made bronze horse sculptures, bronze ashtrays (I have one of these from his maternal grandfather’s business, Alamo Explosives), and other bronze items.  They also made leather belts with brass ornaments, leather sandals, papier mache mirror frames, paperie mache waste baskets, and papier mache broches.

*  How big a problem were knock-offs and copycats?  Did Collins of Texas ever try to take action against any of these copiers?

There was always much business discussion at home and I remember my mother especially discussing it but I do not think there was ever any action taken.  Their philosophy was to always stay ahead with new things coming out constantly.

*  Did the company copyright the designs?  I know there is a copyright symbol on some bags under the “ec” signature.

Yes

*  I’ve read that the business was sold to Tandy in 1970, with Enid continuing to work for them for a short while.  What happened to end this arrangement?

The company took a new direction not wanting to be dependant on any one designer.  This was difficult for her as a person because she built the company and now had to let others run it a different way.  Being semi-retired she then began to use her artistic talents in other things: ceramics, painting, stitchery, and other media.

* And, most importantly, was a bag with a Scotty dog motif ever produced (please say yes!)?

Quite possibly, but I can’t say for sure.

A very big thank you to Jeep, and to his son Christian Collins for arranging the interview.  Jeep is a jewelry designer and maker.  Christian has a website dedicated to all things Enid Collins. 

And I’m still looking for that Collins of Texas Scotty bag!

Photo of Enid Collins in her studio courtesy of Christian Collins.

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Filed under Designers, First Person Stories

An interview with Me

Glamoursplash

Pam at GlamourSplash has interviewed me for her blog and I tell all about my collecting and love of fashion history.

Thanks so much, Pam!

5 Comments

Filed under Curiosities

Vera Neumann, Woman of Many Scarves

 

I’ve written another guest blog for Collectors Weekly, this time on Vera Neumann. I know I’ve talked on and on about Vera until you kind and patient readers are sick of her, but what about all those people out there who have not discovered The Vintage Traveler?  I *must* help them, and you can help too by going to the Collectors Weekly site and “Liking” or Tweeting the post.  It’s the least we can do to further the knowledge of art!

4 Comments

Filed under Designers, Vintage Clothing

Interview: Designer Deanna Littell


I’ve long been a fan of the design work of Deanna Littell, and so I was so pleased when she commented on a post here several months ago.  She had found the webpage where I’ve been collecting Young Designer Butterick patterns, including those of Deanna.

She very graciously agreed to an interview, which we conducted over the phone.  I wrote her responses in the third person just because I could not possibly capture the charming quality of her answers.  But at any rate, the story is there, and I’m sure you are going to enjoy this one!

Deanna is probably best known as one of the original designers for the 1960s New York boutique, Paraphernalia.   Along with fellow designers Betsey Johnson and Joel Schumacher she helped to establish the “Youthquake” of Great Britian here in the States.



1.  How did you first become interested in a design career?

Deanna  studied ballet at the High School for the Performing Arts in New York and after after high school continued studing ballet.  At night she attended Queens College.  But she was disappointed with ballet school, as it did not have the the artistic mix of students that she was used to in high school.  She began to have second thoughts about her career choice.

At Queens College she was in a dance troupe and had the opportunity to make the costumes for a performance.  Deanna had been sewing and designing her own clothes since she was 15, so why not a career in design, she thought.  She researched her options, and applied to Parsons School of Design.



2.  What was it like at Parson’s in the late 1950s?
It was very different from today; there was no Project Runway!  It was in a different location, 54th Street, far from the garment district.  The school was very strict and quite demanding.  Her class started with 60 people, but only 24 finished.  Parson’s had a kindly environment, but the instructors were realistic, and if you did not perform to their expectations, then you were asked to leave.  It was very intense instructionally, but students had less exposure to the fashion world. They were not invited to shows, and were much less sophisticated in the ways of fashion.  But the training was superb and comprehensive and included everything from drawing to draping, from patternmaking  to constructing a garment from start to finish like the Haute Couture.

3.  How did you get started in the design business?

The Parson’s graduates were well aware that the field was very competitive, and noone at the time expected to get a design position immediately after graduation.  Deanna won the coveted Norman Norell Award, which was a great honor, and brought her to the attention of Life magazine.  She and her prize winning garment were featured in a story.  From that story, she came to the attention of  Mr. Mort where she got her first job.  At Mr. Mort she was an assistant to the designer, doing tasks such as making phone calls, placing and receiving orders for sample fabrics and coordinating between the design room and the factory.  There was no actual designing involved, but she got to see how a workroom worked.

A salesman let her know about a job at Evan-Picone, which at that time was a well-known skirt and pants maker.  Deanna did pants with sweaters and tops to coordinate.  She learned so much from Mr. Picone, especially about the fit of pants, and how to manage a line of coordinating pieces.

Between 1962 and 1964 she worked for a sportswear firm called Harold Goldstein.  Her name was on the label, and this job brought with it a lot of recognition. Bloomingdales liked her work so much that gave her the entire Lexington Avenue windows to showcase her collection.  This was quite unusual for the time, as department stores were still sharply divided into departments, with different buyers for dresses, sportswear, separates, and so on.  And then her work was shown in Glamour magazine as well.  When her work was shown in Glamour magazine Bloomingdales was given the editorial credit, but it was difficult at the time to organize the buyers and get them to coordinate on this.

3.  I love the wardrobes you designed for Butterick Patterns in 1964.
How did you come to the attention of Butterick?

At this time, people started to look at young designers, due to the “Youthquake” influence.  People were paying attention to what young designer were doing.  Butterick had seen her work through the recent exposure, and when they learned she was about to embark on a year-long trip with her then-husband, she was given the opportunity to design a travel collection for them.

After returning home she went to work for Zaccari, and the following year, in 1965, was part of a group of young designers that won the coveted Coty award for their work as “young” designers. Thid was a first for the Coty Awards – now known as The CFDA awards.



The travel wardrobe Deanna designed for Butterick.   From the Summer 1965 Butterick Home Catalog.


4.  Tell us about your experience at Paraphernalia.  How were you
selected to be on the design team?  What was it like working there?

Paraphernalia was conceived by Paul Young who was British, and who had recently come to the US.  Together with Karl Rosen at Puritan Clothing he put together a venture that capitalized on the youth craze.  The idea was to do a shop with young designers from London and from the United States.  Puritan would make the clothes, and a fun time would be had by all.

Paul Young approached Deanna with the idea, and offered her a position as designer for Paraphernalia. She replied that she could do what he wanted – basicly make kooky things for the young market – but that she had a consumer following she had built up, and wanted to continue to make more serious, but still hip, clothing.

The solution was found in another Puritan line, Mam’selle by Betty Carol.  They were looking to do a boutique line along with the more conservative things being turned out by Betty Carol.  So at the same time she was designing for Paraphernalia, Deanna also worked at Mam’selle where she did a line that ranged from double-knits in unusual patterns to floating georgette dresses.


5.  In reading about Paraphernalia, one gets a sense that the designers
had complete freedom to do anything they envisioned.  How true is that
perception?

The original designers at Paraphernalia were Deanna, Betsey Johnson and Joel Schumacher.   They were given a huge studio and a lot of freedom – sort of a Home Alone situation where almost anything went.  However, it was all done with the knowledge that the clothes had to sell.

It was interesting because they had the freedom to experiment with new fabrics and processes.  They took textiles that were not meant for the fashion trade and used them in clothing in new and ground-breaking ways.  For example, they were brought some artificial leather material that had been made in florescent colors like fuchsia and chartreuse.  Deanna used this material to make raincoats, with the addition of glow-in-the-dark white inserts and details.  She also made matching miniskirts and then found some buffalo checked taffeta in the same wild colors.  From it she made cowboy style shirts to go with the minis.  It was perfect gear to wear to go out clubbing.

The atmosphere fostered creativity.  Because clothing was made in small lots, the designers could take risks without a large investment, and so it led to a lot of amazing things. It was thrilling to work there, knowing one was in a sort of a test tube of fashion.

The first Paraphernalia store opened on Madison Avenue in 1965. The  Velvet Underground played the opening which was more like a disco than a store opening party.   Some of the British designers – Deanna remembers  Tuffin & Foale, along with Julie Christie  –  came to the wild opening.

The store did very well, so Paul Young had ideas to move the brand to the next level by opening Paraphernalia boutiques in department stores around the country.  At the time, this was unheard of.  The boutique within a store idea was totally new and untried.

The first collaboration was with a store in Philadelphia.  Paul Young gathered together a clan for the opening and they all took the train to Philadelphia.  As the group was crossing the street with the models, traffic came to a standstill to stare at the group and their crazy dress.  Betsey Johnson was wearing a tiny skirt with mesh stockings and silver tap shoes.  The others, including Deanna, wore wild colors in shocking combinations.


Deanna Littell for Paraphernalia, see label above.

6.  I’ve seen designs from the later 1960s and early 70s under a Deanna
Littell label.  Where did your career, and life, go after Paraphernalia?

In 1967, Geraldine Stutz of Henri Bendel had seen some dresses Deanna did for Mam’selle, and Ms. Stutz wanted her to design a  special private label collection for Bendel’s Fancy, as the “Designer” department was called.  This label was “Deanna Littell for Bendel’s Studio”, where money was no object.  Deanna designed for Bendel’s Studio for three years.

In 1970 she and her family went to live in the south of France.  In 1973 she started her own label, designing clothing that was made in France.  These clothes were sold first at Henri Bendel and Saks Fifth Avenues, and then across the country in upscale stores like Neiman Marcus and Marshall Field.

After she returned to the US, she worked for large companies like Jones New York, as head esigner.  She also worked at Albert Nipon as design director and Kasper as creative design director.


1970s Deanna Littell dress, Made in France
Photo courtesy of vintageous.com

7.  What led you into jewelry design?

Deanna had never had a charm bracelet as a girl, so she decided to make one for herself using vintage charms she collected over the years.  People admired it and wanted her to help them put together bracelets that were reflective of their own lives.  She met Ki Hackney who was writing a book on charms,  The Charm of Charms.  They traded informatiom about charms, and Deanna began to think of starting her own business using her vast collection of vintage charms to help others make tailor-made bracelets. Deanna Littell’s Charm School opened in 2005.  Today Deanna still works, helping others assemble a bracelet that is unique to the owner and that can be a continuing project.  Her latest venture is with HSN, where they are selling replicas of her vintage charms.  Catch Deanna on air on November 17!

Comments: 

Posted by Brenda:

Wonderful interview Lizzie and, as always, super history of vintage fashion designers!

Monday, November 8th 2010 @ 8:42 PM

Posted by Jonathan Walford:

There are a many designers who ‘were there’ in the midst of an era and are largely forgotten now. Ms. Littell was obviously at the forefront of the American youthquake movement and I am happy to know more about her role now. Thanks for the great interview Lizzie!

Monday, November 8th 2010 @ 8:47 PM

Posted by Couture Allure:

Fabulous interview, Lizzie! Thanks for all the hard work that went into it. I am especially thrilled to learn that I have a Mam’selle dress that was probably designed by Deanna!

Tuesday, November 9th 2010 @ 2:19 AM

Posted by Carrie Pollack:

What an information-packed interview, Lizzie! Not only does it help me understand youthquake fashion better, but there are fascinating glimpses into labels I’ve run across but never known much about. What a long, varied, and rich career Ms Littell has had!

Thanks so much, Lizzie!

Tuesday, November 9th 2010 @ 4:43 AM

Posted by KeLLy Ann:

thank you so much for this article.
I love history, and I love that second dress!

Tuesday, November 9th 2010 @ 8:47 AM

Posted by Carol:

Another great interview! Such an exciting time to be designing clothing.

Tuesday, November 9th 2010 @ 10:56 AM

Posted by Barbara Troeller:

That was great! THANK YOU 100 times for this. I remember when the first store opened and reading about it in the local NJ Sunday paper…I loved Paraphernalia …yes I am that old. I love Betsy too, and it was great to find out what was going on back then when everything was so new, fresh and exciting.

Those days are gone. It just can never be like that again. What a time it was!

Again, thank you, I adore your blog.

Barbara

Tuesday, November 9th 2010 @ 12:07 PM

Posted by MS:

What a wonderful interview, thanks so much!
My mother wore those Evan Picone coordinating outfits, I had no idea that Deanna had designed those, no wonder my Mother looked so stylish.Love your blog, I always learn something new every time I read it.

Tuesday, November 9th 2010 @ 12:44 PM

Posted by Catbooks1940s:

Ah, Lizzie, your blog is a delicious danger for me. I always have such a hard time tearing myself away!

Fabulous interview with Deanna Littell! I too loved Paraphernalia and am that old. But there was so much I didn’t know about Deanna and was fascinated reading all about her. So glad she found your blog, commented, and that you two could get together for this wonderful interview.

Thanks!

Joan

Tuesday, November 9th 2010 @ 12:48 PM

Posted by Pinky-A-GoGo:

Fantastic article!

I would give anything to go back in time to be at the Paraphernalia store opening on Madison Avenue in 1965.

Amazing fashion and The Velvet Underground–what more could a girl want!

Tuesday, November 9th 2010 @ 3:44 PM

Posted by Melody Fortier:

What a wonderful article! The progression of her carreer is fascinating. When I see the vintage from the designers and companies she worked for I’ll be wondering…Thanks Lizzie!

Tuesday, November 9th 2010 @ 5:56 PM

Posted by Sarsaparilla:

Thank you for sharing this fascinating interview! What an interesting life she has led. Would have loved to have seen Velvet Underground playing for the opening of Paraphernalia.

I just visited Deanna’s “Charm School.” Her charm bracelets are incredible! And she’s got a fantastic blog too…

Thursday, November 11th 2010 @ 3:56 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Thanks for all the nice words. And thanks again to Deanna Littell for sharing her story with us.

Thursday, November 11th 2010 @ 4:24 PM

Posted by Deanna Littell:

Thank you Lizzie for a wonderful article. It took me back in time too. I loved reading all your reader’s comments & the thrill of knowing that I have so many fans.Where’d you get that sequined dress? Could wear it now. Best, Deanna Littell

Thursday, November 18th 2010 @ 12:26 PM

Posted by b2:

tres bien lizzie!…u have truly captured the creative essence of deanna littell! she is a unique talent who adores life’s beauty & continues to inspire!!
it was such fun reading about her ever evolving life! merci!

Friday, November 19th 2010 @ 5:41 AM

 

 

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Filed under Designers, First Person Stories

Designer Sayde Weinberg



Courtesy of  metroretrovintage

 

Sayde Weinberg just may be the most fascinating fashion designer you’ve never heard of.  I was introduced to Sayde by a member of her family.  After years of searching for information about the Jerry Gilden label, a colleague at the Vintage Fashion Guild turned up an old newspaper article from the 1950s.  In it, Sayde Weinberg and her husband, Abe Weinberg were identified as co-owners of the Jerry Gilden line, with Sayde as the designer.

I used this information to write a short blurb for the VFG Label Resource, and then forgot about it until last month when I received an email from Sayde and Abe’s relative.  I called this family member, hoping to learn more about the Jerry Gilden company so I could write about it, but in just a few minutes on the phone with him I realized it was actually Sayde’s story that needed telling.

Sayde was born into a large family; she was in the middle of sixteen children.  Like many poor children of the early 20th century, she went to work early.  At thirteen she became a stock girl at the Blum Store: “Philadelphia’s Finest Apparel Store.”  But Sayde had some advantages.  Although she had little formal education, she was a naturally gifted artist who had a tremendous sense of color and an eye for design.

Her abilities were recognized as she worked her way up at Blum’s.  She eventually became the buyer for Blum’s Fifth Floor – their high fashion floor.
Before one buying trip to New York, her bosses at Blum’s told her to make sure she was clear in making the manufacturers know exactly what she wanted.  Sayde took them at their words, getting the clothing makers to make changes in the clothing they were presenting to suit her taste.  Over time Sayde became much more than a buyer; she was essentially styling the lines that the manufacturers were making, for not only the  Blum store but for all their clients.  Her influence on the image of the store was so all-encompassing that she even sketched the store’s print ads during the 1930s.

Besides buying  for Blum’s, Sayde became a design consultant – both formally and informally – to other companies.  This is a role she continued for many years. During the 1940s, while continuing to work for Blum’s, she also designed for her husband’s companies, first at Reggie Dress, and then at Teen Fashions.

In 1952 another opportunity presented itself in the form of Jerry Gilden Specialties.  Sayde and Abe bought into the company with Sayde being the designer, Abe the head of production, and Jerry Gilden the head of sales.  The production was so large that the factory, located in Union City, NJ, covered several city blocks.  They were a high volume producer, and Sayde designed everything in the several lines the Jerry Gilden produced.  She was also in charge of the sample rooms.

Sayde was a perfectionist.  She would work with a design until the fit, look and construction were perfect.  She had a eye for proportion and detail that made Jerry Gilden  a successful business. She would hold up the production of 10,000 dresses if she was not satisfied with the way a dart fell or with the quality of a button.

But the business closed around 1960.  Sayde then worked as a designer for several other well-known dressmakers, Lee Richards, and the Carlye division of Leslie Fay among others.  When she retired she didn’t completely leave the clothing business, opening stores in the Philadelphia area.  Eventually she retired for good and moved to Florida. She eventually moved back to Philadelphia where she died in 2005 at the age of 93.

I think it is remarkable that a woman who designed clothes that were worn by thousands of American women could have been so completely forgotten.  It’s a bit ironic that we remember the names of designers who worked to clothe the wealthiest women, but not those who produced beautiful clothing that most women could afford.

So the next time you are lucky enough to find a 1950s Jerry Gilden dress, think of Sayde and how her strong sense of design helped American women look their best.

A little taste of what Sayde did best, all from the mid 1950s:
Courtesy of yumyumvintage

Comments:

Posted by Mary Jane Enros:

Thank you so much for shedding some light on this company. I have always admired Jerry Gilden dresses. Knowing the background story about the wonderful lady who had such a keen sense of style makes it all so much more interesting. It’s always nice to know about what goes on behind the scenes. I will appreciate their dresses all the more after reading your blog.

Friday, August 27th 2010 @ 6:54 PM

Posted by Metro Retro Vintage:

What an interesting and in depth piece on Jerry Gilden. I especially enjoyed learning about Sayde and her successful rise to the top in her field. And thank you so much for featuring a Gilden dress from the shop. 🙂

Friday, August 27th 2010 @ 7:51 PM

Posted by Pinky-A-GoGo:

Wonderful and interesting piece.
Thank you for sharing her wonderful story with us!

Saturday, August 28th 2010 @ 5:30 AM

Posted by Em:

Great post!

Saturday, August 28th 2010 @ 5:44 AM

Posted by Couture Allure:

Fantastic article, Lizzie! I am so thrilled to know more of the history of Jerry Gilden, one of my all time favorite lines. Thank you!

Saturday, August 28th 2010 @ 9:09 AM

Posted by Sarah:

“It’s a bit ironic that we remember the names of designers who worked to clothe the wealthiest women, but not those who produced beautiful clothing that most women could afford.”

I couldn’t agree with you more. Excellent piece!

Monday, August 30th 2010 @ 12:34 AM

Posted by Renaissance Festivals:

the historical collocation amazing..with complete information about the dresses and costumes..

Thanks for great posting
Renaissance-Festivals.com 🙂

Tuesday, August 31st 2010 @ 12:51 AM

Posted by Lin:

chiming in late to say this is a fascinating life story – thanks for publishing it for all to read. And very much in agreement with Sarah and you on who are the most interesting ‘women of fashion’.

Wednesday, September 1st 2010 @ 3:08 AM

Posted by daisyfairbanks:

Wonderful bio! Interesting that she later worked for Carlye – I’m wondering if some of their early (and incredibly detailed) dresses I’ve seen were designed by Sayde.

Thursday, September 2nd 2010 @ 8:29 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

I’m glad you all liked this piece. It’s just so important to document these 20th century dressmakers while the information is still available!

I actually found a 1950s Jerry Gilden dress this weekend, and I’ll post photos of it later. It’s a very nice frock!

Sunday, September 5th 2010 @ 7:11 AM

Posted by sue:

Oh my goodness the dress with all the roses on it puts me in mind of a dress my mother used to ware that patterned exactly like it. I don’t remember if it had roses but I think it did. All I do remember is it was red and the exact same pattern. Now I wonder if it was a Sayde dress. If can find a picture of my mother in that dress I will e-mail it.

Tuesday, September 14th 2010 @ 7:02 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Sue, I’d love to see photos if you find them!

Wednesday, September 15th 2010 @ 6:41 PM

2 Comments

Filed under Designers, First Person Stories, Vintage Clothing

Interview: Fred Salaff of the Vera Company

You might have noticed that I’ve been on a real Vera “kick” lately.  It was so nice learning more about her from her nephew, Fred Salaff  that my enthusiasm for her work has just sky-rocketed!  And in honor of what would have been Vera’s 101st birthday, I want to share with you some of the more personal details of Vera’s life, as well as a showcase of great Vera items, most of which are still for sale!

Vera Salaff was born in 1907 and showed an early affinity for art.  She attended Cooper Union School of Art in New York City.  During the Depression she supported her family with her talent.  She retouched photographs and handpainted juvenile scenes on lampshades.

Vera married an Austrian immigrant, George Neumann, and in 1946 they began the venture that became the Vera Company.  After working from their Manhattan loft apartment for several years, they bought an old mansion in Ossining, NY, and converted it into their factory and home.  From then on the Vera Company grew, thanks to Vera’s talent and the business know-how of her brother, Philip Salaff who joined the company after the move to Ossining.

Vera was so successful she was featured in a book- Millionairess – which profiled her and nine other self-made female millionaires,  So Vera, the daughter of Jewish-Russian immigrants, was able to afford the finer things in life including  a home on Iziba and a world-class folk art collection.

But she is also remembered as an open and giving woman who supported a sick sister for thirty years and who encouraged young talent like Perry Ellis and supported schools with textile programs.  It was with that sister, Alice Siegel, that she wrote and illustrated a book titled Words Are Funny.  Alice’s words; Vera’s artwork.  And if you ever turn over a piece of Vera china, you might find quotes from the book on the bottom.

Vera had a very strong work ethic, usually working six and sometimes seven days a week.  You can see the result in the huge variety of designs she left to us.

In this gallery, you’ll see some of the many designs Vera did for scarves, clothing and linens.  Most are still for sell, so check out the links if interested.  Because there are so many Vera items available, prices have remained quite reasonable.  I think that Vera items are some of the best vintage design bargains on the market today.

SCARVES:

Vintage Vera Blue and Gold Scarf


Thanks to Daisy Fairbanks

Vera Modern Abstract Scarf

Thanks to Joules


CLOTHING:


Thanks to AgesAGoGo

Vera Remarkable Op Art Vintage Shirt


Thanks to Joules


Thanks to pumiecat

LINENS:

https://i2.wp.com/ny-image2.etsy.com/il_430xN.27304510.jpg


Thanks to IkonicVintage

Vintage Vera set of 4 matching Linen Napkins


Thanks to RetroWear

Comments:

Posted by Carol:

Very nice tribute! It’s always fun to find a Vera item. Little happy pieces.

Thursday, July 24th 2008 @ 12:26 PM

Posted by Maggie:

What a visual feast! What prolific inspiration! I didn’t realize she designed China patterns, were they for some other manufacturer, or her own company?

Thursday, July 24th 2008 @ 1:18 PM

Posted by Sue:

Such an amazing collection and range of
prints. Vera pieces DO make you smile! Thank you for a lovely tribute to her.:)

Thursday, July 24th 2008 @ 1:47 PM

Posted by Justine:

I agree that Vera’s items are one of the best bargains in vintage nowadays. The sheer volume and beauty of her work is amazing. I love that almost every Vera piece I come across is different from the last. Being in vintage for many years you usually come across the same styles or patterns after awhile and with Vera that rarely happens.

Beautiful tribute, Lizzie.

Thursday, July 24th 2008 @ 4:33 PM

Posted by Julie:

I have so much admiration, and respect for Vera’s body of work. Thank you Lizzie, for this terrific tribute!

Friday, July 25th 2008 @ 10:43 AM

Posted by samsara:

Thank you for this marvelous post about Vera. I’m the proud owner of one Vera scarf, and now I’m hungry for more. DeniseBrain’s musical Vera shirt is to die for. And I agree heartily with other posters that there is something about Vera’s work that makes ya smile.

Monday, July 28th 2008 @ 11:36 AM

Posted by Lizzie Bramlett:

Thanks everyone! I’m glad you all loved the show!
Maggie, Vera did products for several companies other than her own. Burlington made her sheets, and Mikasa produced the pottery line. Lizzie

Monday, July 28th 2008 @ 6:51 PM


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