Last week I posted photos of my Picasso print White Stag rain jacket, and I asked if anyone had any additional information. I knew I could count on the vintage lovers who read this journal.
Amanda (who will soon be opening Vintage from Vermont on etsy) found an article written by the great fashion writer, Eugenia Sheppard in June 1963. According to Ms. Sheppard, this project was one of the best kept fashion secrets ever. The story:
Two ad guys from San Francisco stumbled on a good idea in a Peanuts comic strip – making and promoting Bach, Beethoven and Brahms sweatshirts. The shirts were a huge hit, and the two guys, Howard Gossage and Bob Freeman thought they had hit the big time. Then reality, and the copiers set in. Within a short time, Gossage and Freeman were out of luck, undercut by cheap knockoffs.
Undaunted, they decided to try again, but this time they realized they had to better protect their idea. Since culture was obviously selling, the second time they settled on art. The duo went to France, to the town where Picasso lived and started hanging out in the local bar in hopes of meeting him. That never happened, but through his Parisian representatives a deal was struck. Picasso evidently liked the idea of his work being displayed on sportswear, so Gossage and Freeman, and the manufacturer working with them to actually produce the line, White Stag, were given the exclusive right to use certain Picasso designs on fabric.
Even after the deal was made, White Stag and Gossage and Freeman kept complete silence about the project, which they had code-named Project Marvin. At no time, even behind closed doors, was the Picasso name ever used. It was not until April of 1963, shortly before the launch of the line, that the news leaked out.
Since White Stag was a sportswear maker, the pieces were along the lines of other pieces they produced. Besides vinyl covered rain coats like mine, there were ponchos made from printed corduroy, silk and cotton blouses, a pile fabric ski jacket, a hostess culotte dress and sweatshirts. To help the salespeople at stores that carried the line, White Stag printed a booklet to educate them about Picasso’s work (I want one of those booklets, please!)
Was the line a hit? Did Gossage and Freeman finally get rich? I really don’t know, but I do know that these pieces are rarer than hen’s teeth. I’ve seen a few come up from time to time at some of the vintage clothing auctions, but my jacket is the only one I’ve actually ever seen. I will keep you posted if anything else interesting surfaces.
Thank you for the update! I am fascinated by this.
Friday, September 25th 2009 @ 6:31 AM
You unearth the most fascinating, and in this case, obscure, fashion history stories, Lizzie. This one is quite amazing! I want to find one too; a printed corduroy poncho, yeah!
Friday, September 25th 2009 @ 6:44 AM
Posted by james thegaptoothedidiot:
I’ve just stumbled on your fascinating White Stag blog, parts 1,2 & 3! I recently found a cotton blouse which is printed in the “Figures” design featured in one of your White Stag advertisments you posted. I found it here in the UK, so it shows that the range had some international appeal. It would be fantastic to know where the Euginia Sheppard article was published, I’d love to get a copy of it. I would really appreciate it if either you or Amanda could post the details of which magazine or paper printed it and I’ll try and track down a copy.
Many thanks & best wishes,
Saturday, June 26th 2010 @ 10:55 AM
Posted by Lizzie:
James, the article was from the NY Herald Tribune. She wrote a column called Inside Fashion. Amanda found it through an online database, but I’m not sure which one.
I would love to see photos! Please…
Friday, July 2nd 2010 @ 6:30 PM