Al Beres, 1970s - 1990s
Born and raised on the east coast, legendary belt designer “Big Al” Beres first developed an interest in the fashion industry as a teenager designing costumes for his rock n’ roll band the “Marvalons” and Doo Wop group the “Bel-Airs”, both of which performed around the tri-state area through the early 1960s. At the age of 20 Al moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in music and took a job with a local manufacturing company designing stitches, embroidery and trims for fashion fabrics. His full attention soon turned to fashion design and he began hand-crafting a limited collection of leather jackets and accessories for several iconic Hollywood apparel shops with clients that included Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Ricky Nelson, among others. Beres established his eponymous brand of high-end belts in the late 1970s because “it was something [he] could design, sell and produce [himself]” and his unique collection of hand-crafted western-inspired pieces, available through a handful of luxury department stores worldwide, garnered a loyal following of socialites and celebrities over the next 20 years and are still sought after by collectors today. Using straps crafted from imported leathers, alligator and lizard skins, and handmade sterling silver buckles sourced from several cowboy silversmiths across the country, Beres designed his belts for “people who can wear anything and not worry about it” and succeeded in elevating the status of such a familiar accessory.
Albert Nipon, 1970 - present
In the early 1970s, accountant turned fashion designer Albert Nipon turned a small maternity clothing company based in Philadelphia into an internationally known producer of ultra-feminine, beautifully tailored women's dresses and suits. By 1984, dress sales alone reached $60 million and Nipon counted Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Walters, Rosalynn Carter and Nancy Reagan among his many loyal customers. Nipon's fall was as rapid as his rise; in 1984, he was indicted for tax evasion and bribery in an IRS investigation and served 20 months in a federal penitentiary. After his release from prison, the Nipon company declared bankruptcy but survived intact, eventually expanding into men’s apparel.
Albrecht of Minneapolis, 1855 - 1990
The Albrecht family entered the fur trade business in their hometown of Coburg, Germany in 1725. One hundred years later, Ernst Albrecht immigrated to the U.S. and launched a new chapter of his family’s business in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1855 when he opened his original fur shop. In 1951 Albrecht became the first store in the U.S. to manufacture coats made of Borgana, a synthetic material that resembled real fur. By 1981 the firm had officially relocated to Minneapolis and rechristened itself Albrecht of Minneapolis, Inc. At that time it was said to be the oldest and largest fur manufacturer and retailer in the United States.
Amerikaner, 1869 - unknown
Amerikaner, originally a German brand of rolled gold jewelry, was founded by Friedrich Speidel in 1869 in Pforzheim, a small town in southwest Germany commonly refered to as Goldstadt, or “Golden City”, renowned world-wide for it’s jewelry and watch-making industry. The company moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1904 and later went on to become the Speidel Company, inventors of the revolutionary Twist-O-Flex metal expansion watch band in 1959. The Amerikaner brand in it’s early years was known for manufactured sterling and gold-plated pocket watch chains, seed pearl sautoir necklaces, watch bracelets and delicate leverback earrings. Their Art Deco bracelets and cufflinks were known by their heavy yet delicate engravings and inlays, often featuring a small fishscale pattern, while many later pieces from the Art Nouveau period were set with a number of rare and semiprecious stones. Pieces are signed with Amerikaner followed sometimes by SP for it’s thought Speidel, other times by AD for Andreas Daub and occasionally K&L (origin unknown) is found on their linked chains and watch fobs. Today the original Amerikaner company is defunct but brother and sister Gennaro and Lynn-Marie Cerce, scions of the Foster Grant sunglass concern, have resurrected the Speidel brand of watches, watchbands and jewelry.
Andrew Geller, 1910 - 1971
The Andrew Geller Shoe Company, headquartered on New York’s Fifth Avenue and known for “exquisite footwear,” was formed by Andrew Geller in 1910 and manufactured sublime upscale shoes, boots and handbags for women using only the finest leather, suede and skins. Geller’s nephew, Bertram Geller, began designing for the company around 1928 after the Great Depression put an end to his dream of becoming a city planner and continued the family patronage of modern architecture first by William Lescaze and later Marcel Breuer for their in-store displays. They believed that this style of marketing was an important and homogenous element of their shoe designs. Bertram Geller was also an early collector of abstract art by Pollock and Rothko and that aesthetic can be seen in some of their designs. In the 1970s they patented their famous Strada line of footwear manufactured in Italy and the original label closed in 1971.
Avoca Handweavers, 1723 - present
Having opened its doors in 1723, Avoca Handweavers is the oldest working woolen mill in Ireland and the country’s longest running business. Established in Avoca Village, County Wicklow, the mill originally functioned as a cooperative where local farmers could spin and weave their wool as well as grind corn for the production of bread and other foodstuffs. When the fly shuttle loom was introduced in the late 18th century, the mill successfully shifted its focus to the production and sale of woolen fabrics, despite early protests from employees who, fearing unemployment, set fire to several machines. When the Wynnes sisters inherited the mill in the 1920s they began manufacturing and exporting tweeds colored with natural vegetable dyes in Avoca’s signature red, green and yellow hues. Immediately popular, these colored fabrics were purchased by Parisian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II, who commissioned a number of baby blankets for her children. In 1974 the Pratt family took over the mill, saving it from being turned into a holiday complex, and soon after opened retail stores in both Ireland and the U.S.
B. Altman & Company, 1906 - 1989
Born in New York in 1840, Benjamin Altman was the son of Bavarian Jews who opened a small store on Attorney Street on New York’s Lower East Side shortly after immigrating to America in 1835. Quitting school at age 12, Altman started his own dry goods store in 1865 on Third Avenue and 10th Street and later acquired his brother’s business on Sixth Avenue between 18th & 19th Street after Morris’ sudden death. In 1906, Altman and his cousin, Michael Friedsam, established B. Altman & Co. on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, constructing New York’s first major department store in a residential neighborhood. To match the fine architecture of his store Altman decided to carry only the finest luxury goods of the day including ladies’ and men’s fashion, imported rugs and china and exquisite leather goods. The department store made many innovations including the early introduction of elevators and telephones as well as a fine restaurant on site and it was the first retailer to expand into the suburbs. Shortly before his death in 1913, Benjamin Altman established a foundation to donate his $20,000,000 art collection to the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
Badgley Mischka, 1988 - present
James Mischka was born in 1960 in Burlington, Wisconsin; Mark Badgley was born in 1961 in East St. Louis, Illinois and together they formed the American fashion label they design for and market. They met at Parsons in 1982 and found a shared aesthetic so after graduation and taking separate apprenticeships - Badgley with Donna Karan, Mischka with Willi Smith - the pair formed their own company in 1988, followed by their popular bridal business in 1993. Originally their showroom was in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan up an old staircase that got vicious crosswinds, which reportedly blew the gowns across the street on occasion. In 1992 however, they attracted financing from Escada who helped them improve the business side of their business and move to a better studio on West 40th. The designers, whose look is described as "red-carpet-destined evening wear," are partners in life and business. Early on they decided to specialize in evening wear and now celebrities clamor for their unique brand of elegance. In 1989, they won the Mouton Cadet Young Designer Award, and in 1992, the Dallas International Apparel Rising Star Award. In recent years the Mark + James line has attracted a young Hollywood crowd for their cocktail dresses and retro beaded tunics. In 2004, Iconix acquired the brand and with financial and marketing support, the label has succeeded in becoming a full-fledged lifestyle brand.
Bemidji Woolen Mills, 1920 - present
Father and son Ira P. and Ira H. Batchelder founded Bemidji Woolen Mills in Minnesota in 1920 with a goal to produce the highest quality outdoor woolen apparel for the logging industry in and around Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. During the 1930s and 1940s, the area was discovered as a "great north woods playground" by thousands of individuals who came to explore the great forests, spectacular lakes and pristine rivers. The warm woolen clothing from Bemidji Woolen Mills, especially their signature red and black plaid as well as their “Lumber Jack” heavy wool pants, were also discovered and the reliably warm woolen garments soon became staples in the wardrobes of those original nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Ninety years later, Bemidji Woolen Mills is still headed by the Batchelder family and continues to manufacture indispensable woolen apparel for the outdoor industry.
Ben Amun, 1980 - present
Cairo-born designer and founder Isaac Manevitz established his brand of hand-crafted jewelry in 1980, naming it Ben-Amun in honor of his eldest son Ben and the greatly revered ancient Egyptian pharoah Tutankhamun. His father served as head jeweler to the royal court of Egypt’s King Farouk from 1936 to 1952 and having spent some time serving as his father’s apprentice, Isaac soon discovered he had a sculptor’s eye and true talent for the fabrication of fine jewelry. After immigrating in the 1960s and serving in the U.S. military, Manevitz pursued his interest in sculpture and design with a degree in fine art from Brooklyn College and during his time at the university Ben also met his future wife and business partner, Regina. Statement pieces by Ben-Amun often feature unusual and innovative materials such as lucite, resin, pewter, textiles, wood, glass and crystal with a stylistic nod to the designer’s Egyptian heritage. Fans often refer to Ben-Amun pieces as “wearable works of art” and over the years the brand has collaborated with a number of renowned designers including Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors.
Bill Atkinson, 1950 - 1970
In the 1940s, Bill Atkinson, a former architect, made a square dancing outfit for his wife out of eight red bandanas. The outfit was so popular among his peers that in 1950 he hired Glen of Michigan, a clothing construction company known for its line of house dresses, to mass-produce it. For twenty years, Glen of Michigan continued to manufacture Atkinson’s line of women’s sportswear, known for its relaxed, suburban feel and frequent use of “early American” textiles such as printed paisley, tweeds and casual cords. Atkinson was the first designer to divide his warm weather apparel into resort, spring, summer and Indian summer collections which appealed to many well-to-do customers who traveled frequently. In 1973, Atkinson started a new clothing line, Bill Atkinson Ltd., which went out of business in the early 1980s.
Bill Blass, 1970 - present
In 1939, at the age of 17, William Blass moved to New York City from Fort Wayne, Indiana to attend Parsons School of Design and received nearly a dozen awards and honors, as well as a star on New York City’s 7th Avenue Fashion Walk of Fame, before his death in 2002. His mother was a dressmaker and after his father’s suicide when Blass was only five he turned to sketching and sewing as a creative outlet and by the age of fifteen began designing evening gowns which he sold to a New York manufacturer for $25 a piece. After being the first man to win Mademoiselle’s Design for Living Award and completing his studies at Parsons Blass enlisted in the army and was assigned to the 603rd Camouflage Battalion with a group of writers, artists, sound engineers, theater techs, and other creative professionals. Their mission was to fool the German Army into believing the Allies were positioned in fake locations by using recordings, dummy tanks, and other false materials. After the war he moved to New York and became a protégé of colorful Russian émigré and Vogue editor Baron Nicki de Gunzburg - along with Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein. Blass set his line apart by designing clothing which any women could wear day or night and he often expressed the belief that “no woman can be well dressed unless she is comfortable in what she is wearing.” Known as the “Dean of American Designers” throughout the second half of the 21st Century Blass made youthful, feminine clothes that were found at country clubs and black tie events and favored by First Ladies like Jackie Onassis, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush as well as stars like Candice Bergen and Barbra Streisand. Blass said he designed for the woman "not obsessed with fashion," who cares about clothes, but has a career, a family, a home and other interests. Blass began writing his autobiography after retiring in 1999 and completed the book just a few weeks before his death in 2002. Since 2007 the womenwear collection has been headed by Peter Som with Michael Bastian designing the brand’s line of menswear.
Bloomingdale's, 1886 - present
Benjamin and his sons Joseph and Lyman Bloomingdale started out selling hoops for skirts on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1872 before opening Bloomingdale’s East Side Bazaar, the first American department store at 59th and Lexington in 1886 to sell, “skirts, corsets, fancy goods and gent’s furnishings.” They expanded into a block of Art Deco allure in the 1920s and in the 40s introduced fashion events such as Women of the Year that used lights, sets and music to turn retail shopping into a veritable theater experience. “Bloomie’s” introduced the window display, branded shopping bags and its reputation for finding new fashion talent was cemented with designers such as Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis and Norma Kamali. They also established the first in-store boutiques for Yves St. Laurent and Calvin Klein. After the Queen of England visited in 1976 their status was deemed iconic.
Bobbie Brooks, 1939 - present
Maurice Saltzman and Max Reiter established Bobbie Brooks in Cleveland, Ohio in 1939, manufacturing traditional women’s apparel. The 1950s saw the development of a new youth-centered consumer culture and recognizing an opportunity to cater to these young women who “like[d] to dress alike and shop in packs”, Saltzman shifted the brand’s manufacturing to the junior’s apparel market. In 1959, Bobbie Brooks became the first women’s clothing manufacturer to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and by the early 1960s was one of the top 5 clothing manufacturers in the U.S. Bobbie Brooks was arguably the most popular label among young American girls throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s and is still known as one of the first brands to build its collections around separates - individual pieces unified by a cohesive style, color scheme and use of patterns.
Bonwit Teller, 1895 - 1990
Paul Bonwit, a New York City milliner, joined businessman Ed Teller in 1895 and opened the department store, Bonwit Teller, announcing it as “An uncommon display of wearing apparel from foreign and domestic sources, which will appeal to those who desire the unusual and exclusive at moderate prices.” A seven-story-high billboard bearing the store’s celebrated trademark of purple violets soon rose atop the imposing Art Deco storefront on East 57th Street and Fifth Avenue where the “carriage trade” arrived at their private entrance. Bonwit Teller developed a cutting edge reputation by introducing a young Christian Dior and Hermès leather goods, featuring European high-ends such as Vionnet, Patou and Lanvin and for discovering the new American designers Henri Bendel and Calvin Klein. They also featured the art and design of Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Richard Avedon, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg within their stores. Known for its decorated shopping bags and hatboxes as advertisements, eye-catching window displays and posh interiors, the chain was deemed “simply divine” by fashion editors especially for their capes and coats, Judith Leiber handbags, gowns by Adrian of Hollywood and for their numerous Alençon lace, known at the time as “the queen of lace”, designs.
Bottega Veneta, 1966 - present
Michele Taddei and Renzo Zengiaro began producing a collection of fine leather goods in 1966 under the name Bottega Veneta, meaning “Venetian atelier.” With no access to sewing machines capable of sewing through thick leathers, Bottega Veneta’s artisans developed a unique method of weaving strips of leather by hand called intrecciato, a technique that quickly became the brand’s most iconic design element. Bottega Veneta is also known for its discreet, no-logo design which was established in the 1970s with an advertising campaign featuring the tag line “when your own initials are enough.” By the early 1980s Bottega Veneta was a favorite of the international jet set and Andy Warhol, who did his Christmas shopping in the New York boutique, made a short film for the company in the 1980s. In recognition of the importance of artisan craftsmanship and the diminishing number of master leatherworkers in Italy, Bottega Veneta opened the Scuola della Pelletteria in 2006, a school free of charge established to train and support future generations of leather artisans.
Bruno Magli, 1936 - present
After learning the art of shoe-making from their father and grandfather, Bruno Magli and his siblings Marino and Maria began crafting their own collection of women's shoes in 1936. Setting up a workshop in their family’s basement in Bologna, Italy, Bruno designed every shoe while Maria sewed the uppers and Marino crafted the soles. In 1947, the first Bruno Magli factory was built and the siblings began producing collections of both men’s and women's handmade footwear with 30 people handling each pair of shoes during the course of production. Throughout the 1980s, the Bruno Magli Company developed an expansive retail network that included over 40 international franchises. In 1996, sales in the U.S. skyrocketed, growing by more than 50%, due to the brand's role in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, in which sets of bloody footprints from a pair of Simpson’s loafers took center stage as evidence. The company retains a dedication to its history of handcrafted, classically styled yet comfortable shoes—its designs are sometimes likened to architecture—and boasts several products on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Burberry, 1856 - present
Thomas Burberry, who made his name with the trench coat, established his first shop in 1856 and began to sell clothing under the Burberry name in 1891. The founder was a shrewd businessman and used a trademark and advertising to build his brand. His innovative advertisements touting his styles as "designed by sportsmen for sportsmen" drew patrons to his store, which was established in London's Haymarket near St. James Square. In 1909 Burberry registered the "Equestrian Knight" trademark to distinguish his garments from imitations, an insignia used continuously until the mid-1990s. The armor in the iconic logo signifies the protection afforded by the outerwear, the "Chivalry of Knighthood" slogan reflects the company's sense of integrity, and Latin "prorsum" meaning "forward" referred to Burberry's innovative fabrics and styles for the career crowd. Burberry sought to broaden its appeal to a younger, more fashion-conscious female clientele in the late 1980s and introduced the Thomas Burberry collection featuring a number of designs at a lower price point. After designing for both Donna Karan and Gucci, Christopher Bailey was named creative director of Burberry in 2001 and continues to design all of the brand’s apparel and product lines as well as oversee the branding, advertising and store design internationally.
Cacharel, 1962 - present
Jean Bousquet, the son of a sewing machine salesman, trained to be a tailor at a technical college and worked for two years as a designer in Nimes before moving to Paris in the 1950s. In 1962 Jean Bousquet and Cacharel head designer Emmanuelle Khanh, a former model, developed what became the “it” shirt of the mid 1960s - a closely fitted blouse suggestive of a traditional men's button-down shirt. The success of his first womenswear collection coupled with a 1963 Elle cover shoot featuring the iconic Cacharel seersucker blouse launched the company as an international brand. Distinguished by its youthful, feminine style and frequent use of bright colors and patterns, Cacharel has expanded over the years to include both men’s and children’s apparel, accessories and a successful line of perfumes. Since 2000 the famed British design team Clements Ribeiro has directed the Cacharel line of womenswear.
Carolee, 1972 - present
Carolee Friedlander began her career as an architect and went on to become the head of Carolee Designs the company she started in 1972. It began as a kitchen operation with her stringing beaded necklaces as a hobby and before long, she was casting pewter designs and applying flea market glass stones and beads she’d gathered. Her Greenwich, Connecticut factory shortly put 300 people to work and now the company is an internationally recognized jewelry and accessories brand. A line of designs for the Duke of Windsor’s wife was called Carolee’s Estate Collection and labeled as "Duchess of Windsor," which borrowed from Cartier. Friedlannder sold her interest in July of 2001 but the company is still in business and the jewelry is manufactured in over 20 countries including the US, China, Korea and Great Britain.
Carraig Donn, 1960s - present
Carraig Donn’s roots were initially established in the magnificent, wind-swept Aran Islands off the West coast of Ireland where it was founded by the Hughes family. Today sons Patrick and Vincent Hughes are still at the helm as it is a family owned business that started with knitwear and the classic fisherman’s sweater and has grown to become a national prestige brand that sells apparel, jewelry and housewares at 20 stores in the Emerald Isles with plans to expand outside of Ireland. It was established in the mid-1960s and has several in house brands or specialty lines licensed to them including costume jewelry. It has more recently broadened from Irish crafts and indigenous wares that appealed to tourists to a cost conscious fashion forward look with a continental flare.
Celine, 1945 - present
When Celine Vipiana’s first boutique opened in Paris in 1945, it sold made to measure children's shoes. It wasn't until 1959 that women’s “couture sportswear” was launched and another three years until the Blazon Chaine -their signature horse-bit buckle - was introduced and adorned collections of shoes, accessories and their famous handbags. In 1997 American designer Michael Kors was appointed chief designer of the ready-to-wear womenswear line and the following year he went on to become the company's creative director. Under Kors leadership, Celine became renowned for super-glamorous, ultra-luxurious womenswear that catered to a wealthy jet-setting crowd. When Kors’ tenure came to an end in 2004 the brand was led unsuccesfully by a handful of creative directors until 2008 when Phoebe Philo, former chief designer of Chloe, took the helm and reinvorgated the brand’s image with a series of well-received collections. The refined image of the brand, created by a woman for women, and its complete dedication to quality and comfort have established the Celine style as perfect Parisian elegant daywear.
Chanel, 1909 - present
Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Bonheur Chanel grew up a poor orphan in a convent wearing a black dress with a white color and transformed herself into the richest and most famous fashion designer in the world - known for her little black dress with the white collar. After a brief turn as a singer, Chanel began her design career in 1909 as a milliner in Paris, catering to the wealthy horse racing set, then opened her own shop at 31 Rue Cambon in Paris where she introduced her radical mannish fashions by means of blue flannel blazers, ankle length linen skirts, sailor middy tops, jersey sweaters and by the 1920s the three piece suit with a revolutionary knee length skirt, boxy jacket in woven wool with black trim, gold buttons and a blouse that matched the lining. She added her signature large costume pearl necklace and a pair of pearl earrings – one black, one white - in 1924 when money was tight and she couldn’t pay to insure her real jewels. Known as the Queen of Fashion and the only designer named to TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, her maxim was, “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” She made her fortune with Chanel No. 5 perfume and her comeback in 1957 when she presented her first timeless quilted leather shoulder bag with the gold chain handle. She will be known forever as the woman who made clothes comfortable and functional by inserting pockets in ladies pants, walking pleats in skirts and by inventing the little black dress with the Chanel ribbon bow with the interlocking C’s that took women from day into evening. She accomplished all of this despite the fact that the famous designer boasted that she couldn’t sew a stitch.
Christian Dior, 1946 - present
Born in a small coastal town in Normandy, France, Christian Dior spent his early years in Paris working as a gallery owner, fashion illustrator and design assistant before being called for military service at the onset of World War II. After leaving the army in 1942, Dior served as head designer for fashion house Lucien Lelong alongside Pierre Balmain, dressing the wives of Nazi officers and French collaborators until he left to establish his own fashion house in 1946. Breaking away from the restrained, practical and fabric-conserving style of the times, Dior’s first collection introduced the “New Look”, revolutionizing womenswear and reestablishing Paris as the global fashion capital. Quoted as saying “I have designed flower women”, Dior’s elaborate designs created an ultra-feminine, hourglass silhouette due to copious amounts of fabrics draped over boned bodices, corsets, hip pads and stiff petticoats. In 1955 Dior reluctantly agreed to hire his first and only design assistant, Yves Saint Laurent, at the insistence of a friend who had seen his work in a recent design competition. For the next decade Dior enjoyed a wildly successful career, both critically and commercially, before his untimely death while on holiday in Italy at the age of 52. Despite the early death of the brand’s namesake creator, Christian Dior has maintained its position as one of the most influential fashion houses for over 60 years in large part due to the leadership of its gifted succeeding creative directors; Yves Saint Laurent, Gianfranco Ferre, John Galliano and now Hedi Slimane.
Coach, 1941 - present
The luxury leather goods company Coach, founded in 1941 as a partnership called Gail Manufacturing Company, began as a family-owned business operating out of a small loft in Manhattan with six craftsmen making wallets, handbags and other small leather goods. In 1946 Miles & Lillian Cahn, a couple who owned a leather handbag manufacturing business of their own joined the small company. By 1950, Miles had taken charge and was running the business mainly by himself and introduced the first line of Coach leather products in 1957. Then in the early 1960s Cahn did further research on leather and discovered a very complex method for processing leather to make it strong, soft, and durable. He used the new technique on a small selection of women's handbags and Coach quickly became one of the most well-known and successful makers of fine leather goods in the world. In 1962 Cahn hired Bonnie Cashin as a designer and creative consultant and over the next twelve years Cashin revolutionized Coach, helping build the brand as it is known today. Cashin introduced brighter colors, the silver toggle closure (now a Coach hallmark) and thoughtful design elements such as side pockets and coin purses to the brand’s collection of handbags. Cashin also led the way for the company’s later expansion into the apparel, accessories, jewelry and frangrance markets when she designed various accessories such as sunglasses, pens, shoes and keychains to match the brand’s handbags. In 1986 the Cahns sold their company to the Sara Lee Corporation and bought a small farm in upstate New York where they produce cheese and other dairy products under the Coach Farm trademark.
Coblenz, 1935 - 1980
Flying in the face of the Depression and business stagnation, Louis J. Coblentz, born in France in 1896 and migrated to America in 1927, opened the Coblenz Bag Company factory along with Irving Schoenholz, Arthur Isaacs and Kenneth Simon on West 32nd St in New York City in 1935. A few years later they moved to a modern showroom at 30 E. 33rd St. where they remained in business until they folded around 1980. They were known for ultra smart “French style” handbags of high quality and craftsmanship that were stamped inside with the “Coblentz Original” label in gold. Coblentz was known as “The Barometer of Bag Successes,” using such materials as suede, lizard and alligator for the metal frame classic handbags as well as beaded, tapestry, satin and velvet clutch style evening bags.
Coro, 1901 - 1990
In 1901, two businessmen, Emmanuel Cohn and Carl Rosenberger, opened a small accessories boutique in New York City that they would eventually name Coro Inc., an amalgam of letters from their surnames. Between 1930 and 1960 Coro expanded into manufacturing, establishing factories throughout North America and Western Europe. Fashioned by Gene Verri, Adolf Katz and a stable of designers, the brand produced more costume jewelry pieces than any other American manufacturer in this period. Hugely popular following World War II, Coro pieces are highly regarded by costume jewelry collectors for their patriotic themes, floral motifs and jelly belly animal pieces designed with lucite. In 1979, the company officially closed its doors in the U.S. but continued production in Canada until 1990.
Crouch & Fitzgerald, 1839 - present
In 1839 a young Englishman named George Crouch founded C & F - Crouch & Fitzgerald, America's third oldest retailer after Lord & Taylor and Brooks Brothers, in lower Manhattan when the city was still a small, bustling seaport. Crouch quickly became known as the "father of the trunk industry," with many patents and technical innovations to his credit - a hallmark that led to an impeccable reputation for quality and service. The iconic brand was established in the same era as Hermes (1837), Goyard (1853) and Louis Vuitton (1854). In addition to its proprietary branded products, Crouch & Fitzgerald was among the earliest in America to sell Louis Vuitton and other prestigious European brands, which included Bally of Switzerland. Crouch & Fitzgerald has served Roosevelts, Kennedy's, and other prominent New York families for generations.
Cuddle Coat, 1916 - present
Established in 1916 by Samuel Lipman, the Cuddle Coat line of women's outerwear has been a family run company for nearly 100 years. Through the late 1960s and 70s, Cuddle Coat received heaps of praise under its head designer, Victor Joris, who won the Coty Fashion Critics Award in 1965 and 1969. Joris insisted that “luncheon clothes” were becoming obsolete and, like many other American designers of the era, refocused the company on making separates. Over the years Cuddle Coat has manufactured a number of collections for YSL, Louis Feraud and Christian Dior.
Eddie Bauer, 1920 - present
Seattle-based outdoorsman Eddie Bauer established his namesake company in 1920 with a single shop specializing in tennis racket repairs. After developing hypothermia during a winter fishing trip, Bauer began experimenting with alternatives to the standard heavy wool garments and patented the first insulated goose-down jacket in 1940. Two years later he was commissioned by the U.S. Army Air Corps to develop the B-9 Flight Parka, designed to keep pilots warm at high altitudes. Of all the government suppliers, Eddie Bauer alone was granted permission to affix his company logo to his products. In addition to the parka, his company also supplied the army with backpacks, pants and sleeping bags, all of which became standard issue for American troops during World War II. Eddie Bauer’s reputation for producing the highest quality outerwear and equipment was further solidified when the company began outfitting a number of major scientific and exploratory expeditions through the Himalayan Mountains, Antarctica and Mount Everest. Though the company has increasingly shifted its focus to more casual lifestyle apparel and accessories over the years, Eddie Bauer’s original creed, "to give you such outstanding quality, value, service and guarantee that we may be worthy of your high esteem", continues to guide the brand today.
Ellen Tracy, 1949 - present
In 1949, Herbert Gallen bought Tranel Underwear, reconfiguring the letters to form Ellen Tracy, a junior’s blouse manufacturing company. Linda Allard, a former Kent State University student, worked as a design assistant for only two years before being named chief designer in 1964, a position she has held for more than 40 years. In a 1991 interview with The New York Times, Gallen stated, “Ellen Tracy has changed with the times. In the 60s we did junior sportswear—fairly casual. Then through the 80s, we became career-oriented.” Despite its humble origins, Ellen Tracy has found its place as a “bridge” label - one just below luxury status, under the direction of Allard.
Emilio Pucci, 1947 - present
Emilio Pucci, Marquis of Barsento, was born in 1914 in Italy. Heir to an aristocratic family, he was the first Pucci to work in over 1,000 years but spared his family’s honor by signing all of his work with "Emilio." In 1934, after spending a few years studying at Milan University followed by the University of Georgia in the U.S., Emilio skied for the Italian Olympic team and then got a skiing scholarship at Reed College in Oregon where he wrote a defense of the fascist, Mussolini, and earned his MA in Political Science. Emilio then ventured into fashion by designing the uniforms for the Italian ski team. In 1945 a Harper's Bazaar photographer shot a friend of Emilio’s who was wearing ski pants he designed and a Harper’s editor commissioned Emilio to create a line of skiwear for a story on European Winter Fashion, which it published and then sold through several New York department stores. In 1949 Pucci established his haute couture house in the fashionable elite travel destination the Isle of Capri selling his original cropped pants, which took the world by storm. In 1951 his first fashion show was held in Florence where he gained his reputation for the brilliantly patterned sportswear and relaxed daywear that satisfied a post war hunger for color, novelty and newness; it contributed to the success of all post-war Italian fashion. Known as the Prince of Prints, Pucci drew all of his designs for each collection, including clothing, carpets, the Apollo 15 space logo, and a Lincoln Continental. Many of his designs resembled the marbled papers of Florence, which were adapted from the Turkish style known as ebru, or “the art of clouds,” others were a combination of flowing Art Nouveau blooms, Op Art graphics and Arabian exotica. Emilio retired more than 40 years after launching his fashion house and died shortly after in 1992. Emilio’s daughter Laudomia, took the helm as Image Director and has since brought in major designers such as Christian Lacroix, Matthew Williamson and now Peter Dundas as Creative Directors and Chief Designers.
Emanuel Ungaro, 1965 - present
Born in 1955 in Aix en Province to Italian parents, Emanuel Ungaro moved to Paris to work under the guidance of his idol, Cristobal Balenciaga, a genius of fashion construction, at the age of 22. Here Ungaro learned important lessons in mastering architecture and also the way cloth is impeccably draped. He joined Courrèges, designing many early 60's metal outfits for the brand and in 1965 Emanuel Ungaro decided to launch his own house. By 1967 Maison Emanuel Ungaro was located on Avenue Montaigne where it remains today. He soon was thoroughly metal minded and put his models into metal bustiers as he became the leading metal-merchant with chain mail body sculptures, and body jewelry. The Ungaro brand is known for its allure and ability to combine sensual colors and graphics, monochromatic tones and contrasts, polka dots and stripes, flowers and figures, self-confidence and softness. He was one of the first designers to make leather feminine making pastel long leather coats matched with leather hot pants. He also showed modernistic geometric renderings of the Kimono, with wide sashes at the waist and necklines slashed to the sash and further Ungaro introduced animal prints and lace as a staple in his designs. As the son of a singing tailor with music as his inspiration his designs were created to an accompaniment of classical music in his salon. This is said to have led to his genius for draping and for his flowing almost lyrical gowns.
Escada, 1976 - present
Wolfgang and Margarethe Ley created their first line of women's apparel in Germany in 1976 under the label Escada Sportliche Eleganz by SRB, which was soon shortened to Escada. Margarethe Ley served as chief designer until her death in 1992 and was responsible for developing the brand’s distinct design identity - clean, slick and sophisticated lines using brightly colored knit fabrics embellished with finely embroidered trims. In the 1980s, Escada became one of the largest fashion houses in the world, expanding its line of women’s apparel to include sportswear, separates, junior and evening wear and opening a number of boutiques around the world. After filing for bankruptcy in 2009, the Escada Group was purchased by India’s steel-making Mittal family.
Etienne Aigner, 1959 - present
Etienne Aigner was born in pre-war Hungry and began honing his skills in the treatment and working of leather while employed as a bookbinder in Paris through the 1930s. Despite his conversion to Catholicism, Aigner was well aware of his precarious position as an Eastern European of Jewish descent during World War II and sought protection by joining the French Resistance. After the war, Aigner returned to Paris where he developed a reputation as an expert artisan specializing in high-end leather goods. After spending several years designing for Christian Dior and a number of other haute couture boutiques in Paris, Aigner moved to New York City and worked out of his apartment for ten years before opening his first showroom on 5th Avenue in 1959. Crafting his namesake label as a German brand with an Italian soul, Aigner drew heavily on classic equestrian themes, most notably his famous monogram logo shaped like a horseshoe. The Aigner label went international in 1973 and has since expanded into apparel and a number of other luxury goods.
Etra, 1949 - present
New York-born sibilings Michael and Jane Etra established their eponymous line of handbags in 1949 and became known for their innovative designs with lucite, elaborately brocaded evening bags and hand-painted styles designed in Paris over the next several decades. In 1988, following a five year consisent increase in the price of leather, Jane launched a small line of leather-alternative handbags under the name Carol & Jane and in 1991 Etra was hired to design and manufacture all of the handbags, footwear and accessories for womenswear designer Nicole Miller.
Evan-Picone, 1949 - present
The Evan-Picone Company started with Joseph Picone and Charles Evans in New York when Picone was working out of a storefront on Fifth Avenue near 46th Street. A native of Castronovo, Sicily, he had entered the garment business when he was 7 years old as an apprentice to a local tailor. He left Italy in 1936 when he was 18 years old and within 3 years arrived in the United States and opened a business making men's trousers. After a stint in the U.S. Army in World War II, he came back to New York to make men’s slacks at his machine shop at MPA Tailors, which soon became a supplier of pants for Brooks Brothers. One day his client, Dr. Archie Shapera, sent his son, Charles (Shapera) Evans, over to make a business proposition to the tailor Picone. Charles, whose brother Robert Evans would become a partner in the company and go on to achieve fame and fortune in Hollywood, had designed a simple skirt with a fly front but he couldn’t find anyone to sew a sample to show for sales. He believed it would be very appealing to the women's fashion market and the tailor agreed so Charles Evans and Joseph Picone formed a company in 1949 called Evan-Picone. The brand was a success overnight when thousands of skirts and then women's tailored slacks gained the attention of America’s workingwomen. Charles Evans instantly became one of the first celebrity designers but in 1962 left the company and went into real estate and the movies with his brother. After he’d departed Picone continued in the clothing industry. In the 1970s they provided the entire wardrobe for Mary Tyler Moore in her TV show for several seasons and then he developed the MaxMara clothing brand for America with his Italian friend, Achille Maramotti.
Fendi, 1925 - present
Originally a furrier and leather goods company known as the House of Fendi, today Fendi is internationally known for its branded display of extravagance. Founded by Edoardo and Adele Fendi in 1925, their five daughters joined and then ran the company until Karl Lagerfeld came aboard in 1965, defining the iconic brand as it is known today. Under his creative direction, Fendi broke barriers in fur design and played a major role in changing people’s perception of fur from a traditional status symbol to a more youthful, high fashion garment. Lagerfeld was the first designer to dye and print furs to resemble other fabrics and popularized the use of many unorthodox animal skins and construction techniques. Creating the iconic double-F logo in the late 1960s, Fendi is still perhaps best known for its logo-laden accessories, consistently producing some of the world’s most coveted bags. Lagerfeld continues to produce glamourous womenswear and classically tailored menswear since debuting the brand’s first ready-to-wear collections in 1977 and famously staged a fashion show atop the Great Wall of China in 2007 - at a cost of $10 million.
Ferragamo, 1928 - present
Salvatore Ferragamo (1898 - 1960) was born in southern Italy, the eleventh of 14 children, and designed his first pair of shoes for his sister’s confirmation ceremony when he was only nine years old. Salvatore followed his older brother to California in 1919, initially opening a small shoe repair shop in Santa Barbara before moving to Los Angeles in 1923 to establish The Hollywood Boot Shop. Crafting innovative, custom-made shoes for a number of major studio films, Ferragamo quickly garnered a reputation as the “Shoemaker for Stars”, designing footwear for Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland and Gloria Swanson, among others. After returning to Florence in 1927, Ferragamo established his eponymous company the following year and continued to craft unique, hand-made footwear for some of the wealthiest and most famous women in the world including Marilyn Monroe, Eva Peron, Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn. His precise and creative approach to shoes spawned many innovations including the wedge heel, metal-tipped stilettos and the ballerina flat, and by the early 1950s his team of 700 artisans were creating nearly 350 pairs of shoes every day. After his death in 1960, Ferragamo’s dream to “dress a woman from head to toe” was carried on by his wife and children, unveiling the first collection of handbags and women's ready-to-wear apparel in 1965 and thus establishing Ferragamo as a total fashion house. In 1995, the Salvatore Ferragamo museum was established at the company’s flagship store in Florence, dedicated to footwear and the brand’s history.
Furla, 1927 - present
Aldo and Margherita Fulanetto started their family business in Bologna, Italy in 1927, trading and peddling handbags and other small leather goods throughout Europe. After taking over the business in the 1970s, Fulanetto’s three children, Giovanna, Paolo and Carlo, established Furla as an international luxury brand, crafting purses and leather accessories of the highest quality with a design aesthetic that melds “elegance [and] femininity [with] techno-artisinal details”. Family run until 2007, Furla continues to produce collections of fine leather goods and accessories that are both modern and classic.
Giorgio Armani, 1974 - present
After completing his obligatory military service with the Italian army in 1954, Giorgio Armani decided to quit his studies at medical school and instead began his career in fashion as a window dresser for Milan’s leading department store, La Rinascente. He freelanced with design houses such as Nino Cerruti, Tendresse and Emmanuel Ungaro for twenty years before launching his eponymous label with a hugely successful menswear collection, soon followed by a line of womenswear that was met with equal critical acclaim. Armani is often credited as the pioneer of power dressing for women, creating the iconic broad-shouldered look of the 1980s as well as the softly-tailored, unstructured look that gained popularity in the 1990s and became known as “androgynous chic”. Renowned for his expertise in tailoring, Armani’s classic minimalist look became defined by his focus on simple, clean lines and a frequently neutral color palette. Unlike many of his contemporaries, most notably fellow Italian designer Gianni Versace, Armani believed fashion should evolve slowly rather than shift abruptly according to changing trends and remarked in 2003 that he “always tried to do things are new but that can be combined with what you’ve already got in your wardrobe”. Named Italy’s most successful designer in 2001, he continues to serve as the creative director, president and CEO of the Armani Group.
Givenchy, 1952 - present
Aristocratic-born Hubert de Givenchy left his home in Beauvais for Paris in 1944 to study design at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and apprenticed with several famous salons alongside fellow unknowns like Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain before founding his own fashion house at the age of twenty-five. Givenchy earned his reputation as the youngest member of the post-war progressive fashion scene in Paris with his 1952 debut collection that arguably featured the first “separates” - lightweight skirts and blouses made from raw cotton, a material previously used exclusively for foundation garments worn during fittings. After presenting one of the earliest luxury ready-to-wear lines in 1954, he solidified an aesthetic characterized by polished, casual designs that are both modern and classic. The caption for Glamour magazine’s 1955 cover story spoke directly to the appeal of his designs in America: “Givenchy marks young chic...for when [women] want to look casual in a worldly way.” He quickly earned a loyal celebrity following that included Jaqueline Kennedy, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Lauren Bacall, and, most famously, Audrey Hepburn. After meeting Hepburn in 1953, Givenchy began designing her personal wardrobe as well as costumes for films such as “Sabrina”, “Funnyface” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and came to call the actress his muse and close confident for nearly 40 years. The little black dress worn by Hepburn in the opening sequence of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” has become one of the most iconic images in both cinematic and fashion history. After showing his final couture collection in 1995, the Givenchy house went through several creative directors, including John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, before hiring Riccardo Tisci in 2005.
Goldette, 1958 - 1977
In 1958 Ben Gartner established Circle Jewelry Products Company in New York City and began designing the Goldette line of jewelry which was manufactured in New Jersey. Before going out of business in 1977, Goldette specialized in Victorian Revival cameos, Roman intaglios, Art Nouveau figures, Oriental inspired elaborate designs and Native American “squash blossom” styles made from antiqued goldtone and silver metals. Known for their large leaded glass sets, watch fobs, ornate Egyptian designs and locket pendants, the Goldette line is perhaps most famous for their slide bracelets with faux gems, pearls and rhinestones that would glide on a pair of chains.
Gucci, 1906 - present
Guccio Gucci founded his eponymous company in Florence, Italy in 1906. It’s considered one of the most famous, prestigious, and easily recognizable global fashion companies and the biggest selling Italian brand in the world. In 1921, Gucci opened a leather goods company and small luggage store in his native Florence after spending years working in London's chic Savoy Hotel. He’d absorbed the refined aesthetic of English nobility and introduced this sensibility in Italy through exclusive leather goods created and produced by the master craftsmanship of Tuscan artisans. Guccio was personally responsible for designing many of the company's most distinguished merchandise such as the "Bamboo Bag", which became one of the first of Gucci's iconic products. During the 1950s, he created the trademark Gucci green-red-green web, which he had derived from a saddle girth and remains one of its signature styles. Guccio Gucci died in 1953 and his sons Aldo, Vasco, Ugo and Rodolfo took over the company. In the late 1960s the company adopted the legendary interlocking double 'G' logo and designed the Flora silk scarf worn by Grace Kelly as well as the iconic Jackie O bag. After family intrigue nearly brought the fashion house down, a turnaround of the company was devised in the late 1980s that made Gucci one of the world's most influential houses once more. In 1990 a young designer named Tom Ford was hired and in 1993 took Gucci over from the family to restore its reputation and bring an elegant new vision to the brand. 2001 was also an important year for the Gucci Group as it acquired percentages of Bottega Veneta, Di Modolo, Balenciaga, and formed a partnership with Stella McCartney. Following Ford’s departure in 2004, Gucci Group retained three designers to continue the success of the company: Alessandra Facchinetti, Frida Giannini and Yvan Mispelaere.
Guy Laroche, 1956 - present
Guy Laroche was born in La Rochelle, near Bordeaux, France in 1923 and went to Paris at an early age to work as a milliner. After World War II, he spent 2 years in New York making hats on 7th Avenue before returning to Paris in 1949 to join Jean Desses, where he worked for 8 years. In 1955, he visited the U.S. again to investigate the post-WWII ready-to-wear manufacturing industry and founded his high-fashion atelier at 37 Avenue Franklin Roosevelt in Paris the following year. In his first collection he introduced vibrant colors such as pink, orange, coral, topaz and turquoise and his early work, influenced by Balenciaga, was also known for its skillful cutting and tailoring. He later gave that formality a lively freshness, introducing plunging neck and back lines, which cultivated popularity with younger women for his separates. He is particularly remembered for his empire-line dresses with material gently gathered into raised waistbands, as well as his tailored pantsuits. "It is my intention to try and adapt haute couture to modern requirements to make dresses that are simple and chic," Laroche proclaimed. A number of established designers spent time working under Laroche throughout the label’s early years, most notably Azzedine Alaia, Valentino Gatavani and Issey Miyake. In 2007, nearly ten years after Laroche’s death, Swedish designer Marcel Marongiu was named artistic director and has garnered praise for his collections desgined for the Laroche label.
Halston, 1968 - present
Roy Halston Frowick started his fashion career as a window dresser and milliner in Chicago and got his first big break when the Chicago Daily News wrote a short piece about his fashionable hats. In 1957 he opened his first millinery shop in Chicago and proceeded to move to New York City the same year, adopting his middle name as his professional moniker. Soon after his arrival, Halston was named head milliner of Bergdorf Goodman and in 1961 he designed the iconic pillbox hat worn by Jacqueline Kennedy at her husband’s presidential inauguration. Launching his eponymous womenswear label in 1968, Halston was largely responsible for creating the style that came to define the glamour-fueled, Studio 54 era in American fashion and was named “the best designer in America” by Newsweek in 1972. His look of modern easy elegance typified by halter dresses, wide-leg pants, wrap coats and sarong skirts designed in luxurious yet comfortable fabrics like cashmere, ultrasuede and knit jersey, became hugely popular among the fashionable elite. Halston quickly garnered a celebrity following that included Bianca Jagger, Angelica Houston, Liza Minnelli, Lauren Bacall, and Elizabeth Taylor. Halston’s drug-fueled lifestyle became increasingly problematic over the years and in 1984 he was fired from his own company, losing the right to design and sell clothes under his own name. After his death in 1990, the Halston brand went through no less than half a dozen owners and head designers until Hollywood entrepreneur Harvey Weinsten purchased and relaunched the iconic American label in 2008.
Hudson's Bay Company, 1670 - present
Founded in 1670, Hudson’s Bay Company is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. After learning of the wealth of animals with valuable fur in the area surrounding Hudson’s Bay, French voyageurs Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Medard des Groselliers established a number of trading posts where Huron and Ottawa natives could exchange furs and other goods with European settlers. This network of posts eventually evolved into the Hudson’s Bay Company, which dominated the North American fur trade for centuries. By the end of the 19th century, however, a new kind of customer had emerged - the individual consumer paying for goods in cash. The former trading posts forever changed to accommodate the contemporary consumer and became retail shops stocked with a variety of household goods including blankets, clothing, coffee and tobacco. Today, Hudson’s Bay Company is known for its numerous department stores and boutiques throughout Canada and serves as the official clothing and luggage supplier for the country’s Olympic Team.
Jacques Fath Paris, 1937 - present
Along with Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, was one of the top designers who replaced the ruling female designers in post World War II Paris and who would later hire and mentor Givenchy, Guy Laroche and Velentino. Born into a family of artists and dressmakers Fath taught himself all he knew about fashion by visiting museums and honored the female form with “wearable glamour” that included plunging necklines, nipped waits and either very full or pencil thin feminine skirts. Some of the hallmarks of his designs were velvet gowns, knife pleats, asymmetrical draping, and a great sense of color. Fath utilized such innovative materials as hemp cloth and sequins made from the shells of walnuts and almonds. Dubbed an enfant terrible who hosted themed costume balls and scandalously promoted himself Fath was the godfather of sex and glamour in haute couture and was a favorite designer of Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Greta Garbo and Eva Peron. He was also the very first designer to create a line of prete a porter fashions for department stores like Lord & Taylor and Bonwit Teller. As one reporter described it Fath combined, "mingling the casual air that American women love with unmistakable French chic." The house closed shortly after his death in 1954 but was relaunched in 1992 with great success.
Jaeger, 1884 - present
Jaeger is a 125-year-old British company known for designing and manufacturing its own line of tailored clothes. It was started as the Dr. Jaeger’s Sanitary Woollen System by a German zoologist who favored the use of animal fibers over vegetable fibers in the belief that breathable wools would ward off coughs and colds. George Bernard Shaw adored their wool jersey long johns and Shackleton wore them to discover Antarctica. A 1906 ad boasted: “Jaeger…the safest wear for all climes at all times.” Jaeger at this time had also become a stalwart of sophisticated apparel and accessories favored by the tweed crowd the world over. They invented the camel hair coat and also introduced cashmere, angora and alpaca clothing as well as woolen swimsuits in the 1930s and the crocheted bobble dress. Models included Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy, Marianne Faithful and Julie Christie in the 1960s and some say Ralph Lauren’s original inspiration was to create a Jaeger culture for America. Led by Stuart Stockdale the British designer who came over from Jean Paul Gaultier in 2007, Jaeger recently acquired Aquascutum, a UK-based luxury brand best known for their exemplar trench coat worn by both Winston Churchill and King Edward VII.
Joseph Larose, 1949 - 1981
Although Joseph Larose is not well known outside the South, he once had five stores in Florida and catered to an elite clientele including Joan Crawford and Jackie Kennedy. An immigrant from Italy in 1949, at 38, he opened his first store in Jacksonville which was an immediate success. His most popular shoe was an elfin-looking flat with an ankle strap, which he named the Yippy Skippy. In one year, Larose sold 5,000 pairs of the Yippy Skippy in 23 colors of velvet, leather and suede. A Larose was meant to conjure up visions of a glamorous, exciting world, and he named the shoes accordingly: Cara, a blue sandal covered in charms; Da Vinci, a delicate pump with tiny pieces of snakeskin stitched together. In 2000 Sotheby's auctioned off 100 lots of Larose shoes, complete with matching handbags and original design sketches by Larose himself.
Joseph Mazer, 1917 - 1977
In 1917 Joseph and Louis Mazer, brothers who had immigrated to the United States from Russia as children, started their company called Mazer Bros. in Philadelphia, moving it to New York in 1927. At first the company made only shoe buckles but in 1927 they branched out to begin producing a range of costume jewelry known for innovation, exploring new design and production methods and continually experimenting with different techniques for creating metal amalgams like rhodium, a platinum alloy. The stones used in their jewelry were frequently made to order by Swarovski and imported from Austria. Beginning in 1930 the talented Marcel Boucher became the designer for the company and patented his novel duette pins that doubled as a pair of dress clips. He stayed until 1937 when he left to start his own firm, but Andre Fleuridas and Adolfo joined to lend their design skills. In 1948 Joseph began his own company, Joseph J. Mazer & Co., with his son, Lincoln. Louis continued Mazer Bros. alone until 1951 though the company lasted until 1977. Joseph’s company became better known as Jomaz as a result of the mark they used on their jewelry and continued in business until 1980. Mazer and Jomaz lines of costume jewelry are known for their excellent quality both in materials and how the pieces were finished. They were fond of the Fleur de Lis design, issued a collection of Oriental mask pins, fabricated fine cameo brooches, Maltese cross designs, and faux jade “Peking glass” pieces.
Karl Lagerfeld, 1958 - present
Karl Otto Lagerfeld, born in 1933 in Germany to a Russian born dairy tycoon, was an only child born 10 years after his parent’s marriage, when his mother was 42 and his father 60. In 1952 he went to Paris to study the history of costume, but spent most of his time with the elite who inhabited Paris in the 50's such as Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1954 he entered a design competition for coats and 6 months later got a telegram declaring he’d won. Yves St. Laurent won the dress category in that same contest and Pierre Balmain was one of the judges who immediately hired the talented young designer. In 1958 Lagerfeld became art director at the house of Jean Patou designing couture collections until 1963 when he left to design for several established houses in Italy and France around the time pret-a-porter was born. He next joined Chloé where his ensembles were constructed of lightweight, airy layers of the thinnest silk in ethereal colors. Here Lagerfeld experimented with many forms of decoration – painting designs on the silk, using lace inserts, tying silk blouses around the waist, wrapping scarves around the hips, and using high collars to achieve a look dubbed "Byronesque." He handed over the house to Stella McCartney, who brought out her first collection for Chloé in summer of 1998. In 1963 Karl Lagerfeld met the Fendi sisters, queens of top quality furs, and they asked him to take over the design of their collections to include dresses, handbags, luggage, belts and other accessories. In 1983, Karl Lagerfeld was given the artistic direction of Chanel and he soon brought new life back to the famous house while still maintaining the brand’s classic and distinct aesthetic. In 1984 Karl Lagerfeld started his own label and has presented two collections a year for his eponymous line while still collaborating with Chanel, Fendi, Charles Jourdan and H&M, among others.
Koret, 1929 - present
In 1929 Richard Koret started Koret, Inc. to design and manufacture handbags. In 1936 his Fall handbag line showed monogram initials that became the Koret trademark and also introduced his design emphasis on femininity and elegance with soft and shirred designs that moved away from the boxy purse. The savvy French speaking Koret traveled to London and Paris, making connections with luxury fashion houses Dior, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, and arranged to do their manufacturing. As soon as he returned he launched an extensive ad campaign, which remains a visual history of the evolution of Koret handbags to this day. The ads also introduced the Art deco stylized leaping gazelle silhouette as the Koret logo. A true master marketer, Koret traveled in social circles that allowed him to develop and maintain relationships with many famous celebrities that carried only his Koret handbags such as Claudette Colbert and Grace Kelly plus Cary Grant and Kirk Douglas were also noted for purchasing only Koret purses for the women in their lives. After Koret was killed in a plane crash in 1965, Michael Gordon who traveled in the same social circle bought the company and continued to develop other celebrity relationships before he signed a licensing agreement in 1995 with Pierre Cardin. In 2009, Chateau International acquired Koret Handbags.
Kreisler, 1914 - 1952
Jacques Kreisler and Marcus Stern established the Stern-Kreisler Company in New York City in 1914, dedicated to the production of fine jewelry for upscale jewelry and department stores. The company became well-known for its Art Deco style pins and brooches and patented designs like the buckle fastener and basket-woven bands. After closing briefly during the Depression, the company reopened its doors in 1933 as a leading manufacturer of watchbands under the direction of Jacques Kreisler and Stern’s son, Tobias. In support of the war effort, Kreisler turned its resources to the manufacturing of parts for cathode ray tubes and aircraft-related products in the early 1940s. The Kreisler brand finally returned to its roots in 1948, producing costume jewelry until the doors officially closed in 1952. The pieces created in this short period solidified Kreisler’s legacy in vintage costume jewelry and the brand is still regarded as typifying the “Retro Look” along with other noted designers Trifari and Monet.
L.L. Bean, 1912 - present
The L.L. Bean Company was founded by avid hunter and fisherman Leon Leonwood Bean with a waterproof boot that he constructed from lightweight leather uppers and rubber bottoms. After obtaining a list of home addresses for non-resident Maine hunting license holders, Bean prepared a descriptive mail order circular and set up shop in his brother’s basement in Freeport, Maine. By 1912, Bean had established a nationwide mail order business with his four-page catalog featuring the “Bean Boot”, or “Maine Hunting Shoe”, a staple of the company's outdoor image to this day. Family operated until 2001, the L.L. Bean Company continues to manufacture a broad range of outdoor apparel, accessories and equipment.
Lewis Purses, 1930s - 1960s
Lewis Purses, also known as Crown Lewis Purses, was founded by Nat Lewis in New York and headquartered at 135 Madison Avenue and 607 S. Hill St. in Los Angeles. Though the exact year of the company’s formation is unknown, the first ad for Lewis Purses is dated 1936. Through the 30s & 40s Lewis Purses started the trend in adding monograms to ladies’ handbags and they were known for their use of small soft reptile skins and leather linings as well as including a small mirror with the trademark gold crown above the Lewis name.
Lilly Pulitzer, 1959 - present
Born Lillian Lee McKim in New York in 1935, an heiress to the Standard Oil fortune, the socialite and her sisters Memsey and Flossie attended the Chapin School with the Bouvier sisters Jackie (Kennedy) and Lee (Radziwel) before she married Peter Pulitzer, grandson of the Pulitzer Prize founder, and moved to Palm Beach, Florida. In 1959 to allay her ennui Lilly opened a juice stand in her husband’s orange grove, which created the need for a simple cotton dress that fit the heat and all the messy squeezing. Voila thanks to her seamstress the first classic bright cotton shift dress was born and christened the “Lilly.” She sold it from her stall before opening a string of Palm Beach boutiques where she also sold simple A-line print skirts and dresses in uncommon color combinations such as her trademark hot pink and kelly green to prim and proper society ladies. Divorced from Pulitzer she made a comeback in 2006 with a licensing deal for apparel, accessories and home goods and continues to be known as the Queen of Prep, creating “colorful prints for women who lead colorful lives.”
Liz Claiborne, 1976 - present
After working as an illustrator in New York City’s Garment District for over 20 years, Elisabeth Claiborne launched Liz Claiborne Inc. in 1976. Ten years later, Claiborne became the first female CEO of a company on The Fortune 500 list. Through the 1970s and 80s the Liz Claiborne brand was celebrated for emphasizing casual wear at affordable prices in dressing the burgeoning women's workforce. Claiborne was also responsible for revolutionizing the way women shop in department stores, suggesting that clothing should be organized by designer rather than by article or occasion on the showroom floor. Since her death in 2007, creative directors have included Isaac Mizrahi and John Bartlett, among others. Today, Liz Claiborne Inc. oversees a wide assortment of brands that include Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand Jeans, DKNY and Kate Spade.
Louis Feraud, 1950 - present
Once a member of the French resistance who fought the Nazis in WWII, in 1947 a young ski instructor turned painter named Louis Feraud moved to Cannes to paint the colors of the south. He soon ran into Roger Vadim and Brigitte Bardot at the Cannes film festival, made a dress for the bombshell and promptly became a haute couture fashion designer with a design studio on Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore on the Right Bank in Paris. Twenty films for Bardot later he was dressing Kim Novack and Ingrid Bergman as well as the elite of all France in his brightly colored clothing inspired by the gypsies often seen in Le Metro. Feraud, awarded Prince de l’Arte de Vivre in 1991 and named Officier de la Legion d’honneur in 1995 once famously said, “Fashion is not created to separate people but to bring them together; it is a rendezvous of love.“ He remained a gifted painter with many exhibitions of his work until the end of his life. His silk scarves perhaps best represented his talent as an artist.
Louis Vuitton, 1854 - present
Louis Vuitton was born in 1821 in Jura, France the son of a carpenter. At 16 he walked 250 miles to Paris to work as an apprentice for trunk-maker Marechal. He formed a company in 1854 to make high quality luggage catering to the rich at a time when most other trunks only had rounded tops allowing water to run off them. But in 1858 Vuitton introduced a trunk with a flat top made from his waterproof trianon canvas that was lightweight, airtight and stackable. It became an instant hit with wealthy travelers and soon after he introduced the iconic striped red and beige color scheme as well as the first wardrobe trunk with a rail inside and small drawers. In 1880 he married and had a son Georges and in 1889, father and son decided to change their signature pattern to a brown draught-board pattern on a beige background. Their new design bore the very first registered trademark, the LV logo to thwart others copying their goods. After his father died in 1892 Georges opened a shop in New York and in 1904 introduced a new line of trunks that had special compartments for items such as perfumes, clothing, and other goods. In 1936 Georges passed away with over 700 designs to his credit and his son Gaston-Louis Vuitton assumed control, introducing a secretary type trunk designed for the conductor Leopold Stokowski. Soon after aviator Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris he bought two Vuitton suitcases for the return trip. In 1943, Henry Racamier married Odile Vuitton, granddaughter of the founder and took over the company in 1977 at the age of 65. Over the next decade Racamier transformed Louis Vuitton from a small company into an international powerhouse brand. Since Henry’s death, Patrick Louis Vuitton, the great grandson of the founder, has served as President and in 1997 hired Marc Jacobs as Creative Director to great success.
Mackintosh, 1824 - present
In 1823, Scottish inventor Charles Macintosh spread rubber dissolved in coal tar onto sheets of wool cloth to create the first waterproof fabric and quickly began manufacturing a line of raincoats with this novel material. Initially known for being rather stiff with an unpleasant smell and a tendency to melt in hot weather, Mackintosh spent the next twenty years perfecting production and patented a method of vulcanizing rubber in 1843. With these early manufacturing issues finally resolved, Mackintosh became known as the manufacturer of waterproof outerwear and numerous imitators quickly began following the company’s lead. Today, would-be coat makers undertake a three-year long apprenticeship at the Mackintosh headquarters in Scotland in order to guarantee their ability to construct outerwear according to the brand’s specific and time-honored techniques.
Monet, 1929 - present
In 1929, brothers Michael and Jay Chernow founded the Monocraft Products Company in Providence, Rhode Island, manufacturing gold-plated monograms for handbags. Expanding production to include jewelry in the early 1930s, the company soon established itself as a costume jewelry label and changed its name to Monet in 1937. Highly regarded amongst costume jewelry collectors for its design aesthetic firmly rooted in the style of the Art Modern period, Monet is also credited with making a number of advancements in both jewelry design and construction. Monet’s craftsmen invented the friction ear clip and barrel clutch for pierced earrings and the brand is known for creating some of the earliest gold and silver-plated pieces as a more inexpensive option for customers of limited means, paving the way for the development of costume jewelry. Although best known today for the collectible vintage pieces made during the 1930s through the 1960s, Monet continues to produce a collection of jewelry under the ownership of Liz Claiborne.
Morabito, 1905 - present
Jean-Baptiste Morabito was born in 1885 in Naples and studied in Rome before opening his first leather shop in Nice in 1905 where he created pieces using organic materials including coral and mother-of-pearl. Quickly acquiring notoriety, he became the supplier of jewels to European aristocracy including the courts of Sweden, Yugoslavia and Russia and to international high society who vacationed in the Côte d'Azur. The Morabito name has been known for its perfumes, leather goods, including trunks and vanity cases and for launching the first line of handbags with shoulder straps shortly after World War II. Around 1910 Morabito began to create elegant clutch bags embellished with jewels selecting the finest materials and in 1921 the first French boutique was opened on the Rue du Fabuourg-Saint-Honoré. Trunks and luggage and other creations in leather were added to the repertoire made of materials such as elephant, deer and crocodile. Armand Morabito took over the commercial direction of his father’s business in 1926 and the company quickly became well-known for new designs under his direction that included decorative tortoiseshell clasps and the use of precious metals set with precious stones. In 1960 Morabito designed the iconic Orsay bag after Marilyn Monroe requested a traveling vanity case and in the following year Maria Callas similarly inspired the creation of the Traviata and Verdi bags. Jacques Morabito, the grandson of the founder, joined the group in 1977 and in 1993 Xavier de Fraissinette, a Beaux-arts graduate, sculptor and designer was given the role of artistic director.
Moschino, 1983 - present
Franco Moschino was born in 1950 near Milan. His father, who died when Franco was 4 years old, ran an iron foundry and Franco would arrange the heavy deposits of dust on the floor into patterns. At home he took refuge from boredom by drawing and encouraged by his mother, Moschino went to the Accademia di Belle Arte in Milan in 1967 with the intention of becoming an visual artist but was diverted into the study of fashion design. To finance his studies he started doing fashion design and illustration commissions for fashion houses and magazines until he graduated in 197l. His work caught the eye of Gianni Versace who hired Moschino to draw for his fashion house’s publicity campaigns. From 1977 to 1982 Moschino designed for Italian company Cadette and also gained experience by working as a freelance designer for Italian ready-to-wear lines. In 1983 he founded his own company called Moonshadow and also launched Moschino Couture. His first show was packed with Milan's groupies, who went crazy for his surrealist fashions as they paraded down the runway. By his second show, he was internationally known for his highly provocative and irreverent style, to the anger of Milan's established designers. Moschino was essentially the carrier of Schiaparelli’s legacy his work was the same mixture of art, surrealism, irreverent charm, and innovative design as the famously iconoclastic first lady of Italian fashion. In 1988 his Cheap and Chic and faux fur "For Fun" collections were introduced. His fresh, new approach provided light relief to haute couture and sent up the high glamour and sophistication of his fellow designers as he made fun of their high prices. He was an iconoclast who was always ready to shock with an outrageous idea anchored by expert tailoring and quality fabrics - he created a dinner suit with a knife and fork appliquéd on the bodice, blazers with windmills for buttons and his polka dot Minnie Mouse dresses which were dreadfully popular. The designer died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 44 in 1994 and since then the Moschino fashion house has continued under the direction of friend and collaborator Rossella Jardini who originally joined him in 1981.
Napier, 1875 - present
The costume jewelry brand known ultimately as Napier, which is America’s oldest jewelry company and one of its first corporations ever formed, was founded in 1875 in Massachusetts to make silver men’s watch chains and was originally known as Whitney and Rice. After World War I James H. Napier came on board, switched to making jewelry and it became The Napier Bliss Company. Finally in 1922 James Napier took over the helm and called the firm simply The Napier Company. During both Great Wars Napier stopped producing jewelry and made only military buttons and medals. In 1925 James Napier attended the World's Fair Exposition Internationale des Artes Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, and returned with many designs with Parisian and European influences. Reaching its height of popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, the jewelry designs were modern, simple geometric forms and floral motifs. Some of the metalwork had a sculptural look resembling Mexican and Scandinavian silver-work and spanned a wide array of styles. In the 1950s when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president the company presented First Lady Mamie Eisenhower with a charm bracelet that featured green glass elephant charms, the mascot of the Republican Party, and for years she was frequently seen wearing the custom piece. The company also produced a line of sterling silver pieces as well as chunky bracelets, oversized broaches, and large, button style earrings. Currently, The Napier Company is owned and operated under the corporate umbrella of Jones New York. Although the historic plant closed in 1999 in Meriden Connecticut, its jewelry is still being manufactured and distributed today.
Oleg Cassini, 1940s - 2006
Oleg Cassini Loiewski, son of impoverished Italian and Russian nobility, achieved fame as a successful couturier based in New York City, designing apparel and accessories for some of the world's most glamorous and fashionable women. Cassini had the longest career of any designer in America, spanning seven decades, and achieved perhaps his greatest fame as the official wardrobe designer for first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Their collaboration had a profound impact on the way American women dressed, with the "Camelot Look” coming to mean simple designs with an easy, relaxed fit, straight lines, boxy jackets, and very restrained use of trims or ornamentation. Cassini was quick to profess that he was above all about women and loved thinking about how he might drape fine cloth on them, how much to reveal and how much to keep secret. As he said in a 1961 interview with The New York Post, "my philosophy is this: Do not tamper with the anatomy of a woman's body; do not camouflage it.” The Oleg Cassini brand had no identity without its namesake creator and closed its doors shortly after his death in 2006.
Perry Ellis, 1978 - present
After finding praise for his spirited women's sportswear line Portfolio, Perry Ellis founded his own fashion house Perry Ellis International in 1978 opening his showroom on New York's 7th Ave. As the company's chairman and head designer he later developed Perry Ellis Menswear Collection, marked by "non-traditional, modern classics." Step by step, he added shoes, accessories, furs and perfumes that all bore his name. Ellis won 8 Coty Awards between 1979 and 1984 and a CFDA Award in 1983. In early 1986, Ellis died of AIDS. To fill the void the young designer Marc Jacobs, a recent Parsons graduate recommended by Bloomingdale’s was brought in and designed for the house of Perry Ellis until 1993 before starting his own label and then becoming head designer of Louis Vuitton in Paris in 1997. Accepted as a peer of Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Anne Klein, Perry Ellis helped increase confidence in American design at a time when French ready-to-wear was widely regarded as the source of most fashion innovations.
Pierre Cardin, 1950 - present
Pierre Cardin, born Pietro Cardin in Veneto, Italy, moved to Paris shortly after World War II to study architecture while also pursuing a career in fashion. Before founding his own house in 1950, Cardin worked with prominent designers Jeanne Paquin and Elsa Schiaparelli and spent several years as the head of Christian Dior’s tailleur atelier. Cardin’s career as a haute couture designer was launched when he designed 30 costumes for Venice’s “party of the century”, an extravagant masquerade ball held in 1951. Cardin shocked the fashion world in 1959 when he presented the first ready-to-wear collection by a couture designer, later explaining his decision by saying “I asked myself why should only the rich be able to afford exclusive fashion, why not the man and woman on the street as well? I can change that! And I did.” Immediately expelled from the Chambre Syndicale, Paris’ association of couture designers, Cardin established his own venue to show collections, the Espace Cardin, several years later. Throughout his career, Cardin displayed an interest in the sculptural qualities of cut and fine construction and became known for his experimental avant-garde style, focusing on geometric shapes and motifs rather than designing for the female form. His iconic space-age collection, which embraced helmets, goggles, metal body jewelry, unisex jumpsuits and geometrically blocked shifts, is his most highly regarded achievement and played a major role in defining the 1960s mod look. After a 15-year break, Cardin presented a new collection to a small group of journalists in 1994 and continues to run his fashion empire from his home in Paris today.
Ralph Lauren, 1967 - present
Ralph Rueben Lifschitz was born in the Bronx, New York in 1939 to a family of Russian Jewish immigrants. It has been noted that his father, Frank, encouraged Ralph to formally change his surname to Lauren in order to disguise his immigrant roots. As a child, Lauren worked odd jobs after school and even sold men’s ties to fellow classmates to earn enough pocket money to buy himself suits. In his senior yearbook, Lauren stated that he wanted to be a millionaire and quickly began pursuing that goal, working as a glove salesman for Brooks Brothers while attending business school courses at night. In 1967 he landed a job as a tie designer for Beau Brummel of New York and was soon given his own style division which he named Polo because of the sport’s sophisticated image. Lauren’s collections boasted classic lines that evoked the elegant “man about town” and when he turned to womenswear, Lauren applied the same qualities of timeless elegance to his designs. Lauren’s profile grew in the 1970s when he designed the costumes for two classic American films, “The Great Gatsby” and “Annie Hall”. His global brand today include men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, as well as children’s wear and home décor, all displaying his iconic vision of American style.
Renoir of California, 1946 - 1964
After serving in the Air Force during WWII, Jerry Fels returned to New York and studied at the National Academy of Art before founding Renoir of California in Hollywood in 1946. He chose the name Renoir to signal his intention to match Monet in quality and success and toward this end he invented a clear coat enamel which preserved pieces from tarnish to this day. The company produced jewelry in abstract modern and geometric styles until about 1964 and as part of Renoir Fels also founded the Matisse Company in 1952 to produce copper jewelry pieces with colorful enamel designs. Growing out of the American Arts & Crafts movement Fels from the outset took the company in the direction of contemporary abstract designs that evoked the modern art he had studied that was just coming on the scene. He created copper pieces with a hand hammered look and Renoir was often the choice of the younger, more fashion-forward generation.
Rudi Gernreich, 1952 - 1980s
Perhaps most famous for his 1964 topless bathing suit Austrian born Rudi Gernreich was a dancer in his youth and this love of movement informed his design aesthetic that freed women’s bodies. His roots in the Bauhaus movement also led him to favor function over form and these forces combined to create a designer whose clothes were revolutionary in the 1950s using tights and leotards instead of boning and underpinning. His model and friend Peggy Moffit called him, “a fashion prophet who came up with all of today’s trends yesterday.” Based on the Maillot swimsuit of the 1920s Gernreich added elastic to hug the female form in swimsuits and later adapted it into the tube dress. An early forerunner of the emancipation of women he invented the “no bra” bra with a soft nylon cup that followed rather than dictated a woman’s natural shape. In the 1960s he introduced the concept of unisex clothes offering floor length kaftans and white bell-bottomed pants for fashion forward women and men. He experimented constantly with the possibilities of various materials using cutouts, vinyl, and plastic, and mixing patterns such as checks with dots but always with the goal to expose, not to hide the human form.
Sanford Hutton, 1978 - present
Sanford Hutton, a former optician, experimented with the use of color in eyewear frames for years before perfecting his design and founding Colors in Optics in 1978. His first collection, consisting of eight classic frames available in 25 distinct colors such as cherry red, violet, emerald green and cobalt blue revolutionized the industry and was an immediate success. Featured in classic films like “Annie Hall” and “American Gigilo”, the original collection was recently reissued by popular demand. Today, the company continues to generate new designs under Hutton’s tutelage.
Sebago, 1946 - present
The Sebago-Moc Company, founded by shoe store owner Daniel J. Wellehan, Sr., manufacturer William Beaudoin and shoe designer Joseph Cordeau in Westbrook, Maine in 1946, played a major role in popularizing the preppy, New England collegiate look of the 1980s with its hand-sewn collection of docksides, campsides and topsides styles of loafers. Their first design in full grain leather was patterned after Native American moccasins where the entire foot including the sole was wrapped in leather. This style became the hand-sewn classic penny loafer. In 1948 the design was adapted into a boat shoe that was sold to Uniroyal and competed with the Sperry Top-Sider. In the 1960s the Sebago-Moc loafer was premiered at the international Semaine du Cuir in Paris and soon became an international fashion staple at about the same time the Jolly Rogers line of loafers was introduced for women. The style was later adapted by Gucci in 1966 to include a metal strap akin to a horse bit.
St. John, 1962 - present
In 1965 when she was 25 years old, Marie St. John had escaped Belgrade Yugoslavia and was working as a model in Los Angeles, getting ready to marry her fiancé, Robert E. Gray when she got fed up with the styles and prices of women's clothes available in her local department stores and so began making her own knit clothes by hand. Initially she created simple, straight knit skirts with matching short-sleeved tops for herself and several friends but in short order St. John discovered that she was not the only one who preferred her simple designs. Other models complemented her knits expressing an interest in purchasing them so St. John purchased a $450 loom and went into production. She began meeting the demand for her basic yet classic knit skirts and tops, and in the process created the St. John Knits an iconic American brand. St. John asked her fiancé for help but Gray, a self-employed salesman of women's apparel lines to department stores, was reluctant to use his professional experience to help fulfill his future wife's plan. As he later reflected to a Forbes reporter, explaining his mindset in 1962, "I took her dresses to retailers only to stop her nonsense and convince her that no one was going to buy them." For the next 35 years he would spend his days meeting the demand for his wife’s clothing. Early on, the couple decided they would design and sell four lines of clothing each year, ranging from tailored dresses, suits, and separates to more casual sportswear, with each line comprising 20 different styled pieces. Their creative innovation led to the discovery of the famous Santana® knit, St. John’s signature blend of wool and rayon. Using the finest wool, a trademark spinning process and custom dyes, St. John continues to create iconic luxury fashions.
Suzy Perette, 1949 - 1975
Established in 1949 in New York City, The Suzy Perette Company made well-crafted, affordable versions of popular Parisian haute-couture designs for over 25 years. Regarded today as one of the most collectible American vintage designers, Suzy Perette is perhaps most well-known for its 1950s cinched waist and full skirt silhouette, reminiscent of Christian Dior’s celebrated “New Look.” Sidney Blauner, whose Manhattan firm produced the line, purchased the rights to incorporate Dior’s designs into the Suzy Perette collection and “thus, on a slim budget, an Atlanta Stenographer or a Cleveland nurse could emulate a glamourous Parisienne. As [he said], ‘If you don’t come to Paris, you're missing the boat. There are more ideas in a thimble here than in all of America’” (Paris in the Fifties). American designer Victor Costa earned his reputation as the “King of Copycats” when he served as chief designer for Suzy Perette between 1965 and 1973, ending his tenure just before the brand went out of business.
Thalhimers, 1842 - 1992
After immigrating from Germany in the early 19th century, William Thalhimer, a former history professor at the University of Heidelberg, opened Thalhimers, a dry goods store in Richmond, Virginia in 1842. After inheriting the family business from his grandfather in 1888, William B. not only transformed Thalhimers into Richmond’s first large-scale department store but also a major regional presence, with numerous outlets in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The six-story aluminum-clad flagship store, constructed in 1939, is perhaps best known for its role in the Civil Rights Era. In 1960, a group of Virginia Union University students staged a sit-in at the department store’s segregated restaurant, The Richmond Room, which led to the city’s first mass arrest of civil rights activists, with some 34 students being taken into custody. In 1992, the Thalhimers flagship was the final department store in the Richmond area to close its doors and stood vacant for more than ten years until it was demolished in 2004.
Valentino, 1959 - present
When Valentino Garavani opened his first salon on the Via Condotti in 1959, Rome was the center of fashion in Italy. Valentino had spent several years studying design and construction at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and apprenticed with haute couture houses Balenciaga and Guy Laroche before returning to Rome to open his namesake boutique. After ten years in Paris, Valentino's design foundation was firmly set in the haute couture tradition of hand-crafted quality, luxury, and extravagance. His signature color, “Valentino red”, a rich shade of crimson with vibrant overtones of orange, has been used throughout his collections, particularly in his lavish evening gowns distinguished by delicate embroideries and careful detailing. Throughout the 1970s, Valentino spent considerable time in New York City where his presence was embraced by society personalities such as Vogue's editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland and the art icon Andy Warhol. Valentino retired in 2008 after showing his final haute couture collection in Paris and appointed Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli as co-creative directors.
Versace, 1978 - present
Gianni Versace grew up in southern Italy and worked at his mother’s dressmaking shop before moving to Milan at the age of 25 to pursue fashion design. The first Versace boutique opened on Milan's Via della Spiga in 1978 and quickly garnered much praise, recognition and popularity. Influenced by Andy Warhol, ancient Roman and Greek iconography, as well as modern abstract art, Versace's jewel-like colors, geometric lines and pattern combinations became signature traits of designs emblazoned with a logo representing the mythological Greek figure Medusa. Gianni Versace was shot and killed on the front steps of his South Beach home in Miami, Florida by serial killer Andrew Cunanan on July 15, 1997. His sister Donatella, former vice-president, stepped in as creative director and his older brother Santo became CEO.
The Villager, 1958 - present
Recognizing the developing youth-centered culture with its upwardly mobile tastes and growing effect on American fashion, brothers Norman and Max Raab split from their father’s blouse manufacturing business in 1958 to form their own clothing company, The Villager. After noticing a number of female college students wearing men’s button-down shirts, the brothers manufactured the first shirts sized for women with men’s style tailoring. These solid colored tailored shirts helped popularize the collegiate style and Max Raab was named the “dean of the prep look” by The New York Times. The Villager was one of the preeminent brands in American sportswear until the late 1960s when the growing counterculture, with its individualistic, anti-establishment style, began to turn the tide of young American fashion away from the conservative preppy look. Several years after establishing The Villager, Max began pursuing his interest in the film industry and bought the film rights to the futuristic novel “ A Clockwork Orange”, producing the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film. After Norman retired in 1969, Max dabbled in and out of the clothing and film industries, forming his own line of apparel J.G. Hook in 1974, and his own documentary production company Max Raab Productions in 1998. The Villager is currently owned and marketed by Liz Claiborne Inc.
Walborg, 1940s - early 1960s
In the late 1940s, handbag designer Hilde Walborg established The Walborg Company in New York City. She personally designed every piece in her collection and was known for using only the finest materials and construction techniques available such as alabaster beads, French tapestries and unique Limoges accent medallions. Her purses were crafted in Belgium, France and Germany with later delicate Beauvais beadwork done by hand in China, Macau and Hong Kong. Walborg’s personal popularity grew in the early 1950s when she became a well-known fixture among the New York fashion elite, opening her first boutique on New York City’s coveted Madison Avenue in 1954. With no company records available after 1963, it is assumed The Walborg Company closed sometime in the early 1960s.