An Evening With Coco: Fashion Group 1969-“The Theory of Elegance”

Scan from my textual archive: Chanel, The Fashion Group Program. 1969.

During my constant search for fashion accessories texts and archives I ran across an interesting rare program from an event given in December of 1969, by The Fashion Group called, An Evening With Coco. The event was to honor her unique and fabulous style with a party and special performance of the sell out musical “Coco” (Frederick Brisson production of the musical-Katharine Hepburn played Coco. Cecil Beaton designed the costumes)  to benefit the group’s foundation focused on helping develop young talent in the industry as well as advancing women’s health and programs/job opportunities for those who would otherwise not have exposure to them.

The Fashion Group was founded in the 1970s, based on a program which was started in 1928 by seventeen New York women made up of store executives, fashion magazine editors etc. who shared an idea that fashion in America could be more. They wanted equality in fashion for women so that together both sexes could advance “American fashion”.

Coco was still very much alive in 1969 when the event was given – well into her 80s and the program features an interview with her by James Brady, WWD among rare images, quotes, information and stories. “She is the only designer who ever created a spirit as well as a look. And she has been her own best mannequin” (James Brady, WWD).

Chanelisms Coco Chanel Quotes 1969

Chanelisms. Scan from Chanel, The Fashion Group. 1969.

The post focuses on the contents of the program for all of the accessories and fashion lovers out there.  I hope to share some of those lesser known facts and sayings that this program has to offer:

Chanel 101:

She opened her Millinery shop in 1910 and her boutique in Deauville in 1912. Her first official shop was in Paris in 1914 and by 1916 her jersey was featured in Harper’s Bazaar. By 1918 she was leading the industry in Paris and in 1919 she made the “little nothing dress, 1920 the little black dress, the cage dress, pleated skirts and the quilted coat” (Program, page 12).  Other noteworthy moments – she creates Chanel no. 5 in 1922, 1925 she coins the sport tweed look.  In 1928: “Jewelry made of colored glass and crystal. ‘Quality, always quality-this is essential in the perfumery as in fashion’, says Mlle. Chanel” (from page 13 Chanel Non Stop).

Chanel actually closes and stops designing in 1938, keeping her perfume still available and popular until 1954 when she reopens at 31 Rue Cambon and starts designing again. Thus, as a designer she takes quite a long absence and gets back on the horse again!

The Lady and The Legend:

One of my favorite parts of the program is entitled The Lady and The Legend by Tomi Block and it explores the best of the “Chanel” stories and legends.  “All my life I have been called Coco“, she says-

Coco Chanel -The Fashion Group

Chanel vintage History Chanel Timeline Chanel

The Chanel Look (page 10):

“The Chanel Look, as specific as H2O, meant a combination of youth, comfort, jersey, pearls, of luxury hidden away in the perfection of detail, such as sable lining a collar and revealed only when the collar was turned up”. Luce cache and jewels, real or fake, were part of her theory of elegance…

1969 program scan closeup on Coco.

1969 program scan closeup on Coco.

“The essence of the Chanel Look was Chanel herself“….- it finishes that longer paragraph with one of my favorite parts:Combining true and the false, she wrapped her throat and filled in the V of the jacket with a mass of real pearl ropes, jumbled with red and green stones, obviously fake.”

Vintage Red and Green Chanel Jewelry

Chanel. 1969. Image scan.

Chanel. 1969. Image scan.

Coco facts

 

Maison Goossens: More to a Title Than Meets the Eye

Haute Couture Read:

Robert Goossens:

All images from Maison Goossens Haute Couture Jewelry, rights reserved. Sneak Peek view. Collage compiled from my copy of the text.

I must admit that when I heard about the release of the book Maison Goossens by Patrick Mauries via Thames and Hudson Ltd., which chronicles the work of Robert Goossens and his fantasic creations, I was already sold.  When the luxurious gray linen covered text arrived with the vibrant images I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.  Opening the book I experienced a rock crystal fantasy bijoux world of the work of Goossens in technicolor.  We are introduced to the old world accessories makers of France with Line Vautrin and Robert’s start there. The longevity of his career gives us an idea of how important such arduos hands-on training was to the eventual construction of such precise and beautifully crafted designs.  He did the time so to speak, and it wasn’t always glamourous – thus one can understand his pride in being called an artisan.  The book discusses Chanel’s relationship with Gripoix and the earlier more delicate designs versus the Fulco di Verdura’s style and how Goossens fits in, although it also touches on his work for other houses, like Balenciaga.  Key players in his career like Marquise de Beausset are address, intrigued yet?  You should be! Oh did I mention YSL, custom rock crystal chandeliers and Thierry Mugler?  Which leads me to one question, Maison Gripoix or Maison Degorce or? Here’s a clue, you have to read the last chapter for that answer… However, perhaps most relevant for collectors and admirers are the works of Patrick Goossens, heir to the thrown so to speak. Yes, those huge couture Dior earrings were his. In fact a number of images in the last chapter are very helpful in identifying his work on the runways and what the next vintage accessories to collect are!

“If Coco hadn’t taken me under her wing, I’m quite sure no one would have given my work a second glance. She was a bit like the grandmother I never knew. That said, she never told me if what I’d done was any good. Never ever! The first time I made her a piece of jewelry – a gold brooch with three large pearls and a diamond she’d given me, real gemstones- I took it up to her studio on the second floor( it was only the second time we had met). She put the brooch on and carried on talking about something else. After a little while, I asked her what she thought of the brooch. She looked straight at me with those jet-black eyes of hers and said: “If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have worn it!” (Robert Goossens, Maison Goossens by Patrick Mauries). 

*Available here

ISB978-0-500-51770-3

*Above sneak peek images photographs of the text’s, original image rights reserved to Maison Goossens.

 

 

 

Bill Smith Jewelry Archive and Runway Size Richelieu

Bill Smith Coin 1969

Bill Smith of Richelieu Halter, Rare 1969 piece from my archive.

I spend many hours researching fashion accessories of the past. Sometimes they lead me on a journey. A few Richelieu pieces that have challenged me, led me to think more about why Richelieu jewelry attracted me in the first place?  That always lands me right back to one of my all time favorites, Bill Smith.         

Vintage Bill Smith necklace. Met museum online archive image.

Vintage Bill Smith necklace. Met museum online archive image.

Bill Smith and Richelieu:

Bill Smith was born in Indiana in 1936. In the 1950s he was originally in NYC to study dance, but eventually decided on jewelry instead in 1958, setting up his own shop.  He began working for Richelieu in 1968, as the vp and then head designer. During this time he became the first African American to win the Coty award for costume jewelry design. Many of his pieces were only signed on a tag that was attached.  Some pieces are signed on the metal- Bill Smith of Richelieu…His designs are often African inspired. You can see this in the archive photos for Look Magazine, April 1971, which included a spread entitled “Fashion Now: Black Pow!” Afterwards Bill Smith worked under his own name designing for Cartier, Omega, Hattie Carnegie and Anne Klein.   

Bill Smith-Look Magazine., circa 1972 which include a spread entitled "Fashion Now: Black Pow!"

Bill Smith-Look Magazine., circa 1971 which included a spread entitled “Fashion Now: Black Pow!” The model was Naomi Sims wearing an 18k hat made for her. From a copy of the original magazine.

Richelieu was a jewelry company founded in New York by Joseph H. Meyer & Bros, which began in 1911 and ended in 2003.  The jewelry is just beginning to gain popularity among collectors and wearers of fashion jewelry. An interesting link about the Richelieu patents and signatures is:jewelrypatentproject.com. You can see some sample signatures and dates for Richelieu at Illusion Jewels under Joseph Meyer. 

 Image from, Black Enterprise Jul 1981. Bill Smith.

Image from, Black Enterprise Jul 1981. Bill Smith. From a copy of the original magazine.

However, let’s concentrate on Bill Smith and the mini archive here of his rare work for you to study. First let’s start with not only his jewelry buy his rare body jewelry. At Richelieu he does something sort of ground breaking- constructing dresses, skirts, vests, halters and beyond from costume materials and metals. While we see the metal mod connections of the time in those by the likes of Paco Rabanne the bead part and jewelry link is quite fascinating. Here I’ve put together both old magazine images and article photos with some of the pieces they reference in an attempt to provide a visual archive of his work.

Bill Smith Jewelry Ad 1960s.

Bill Smith Jewelry Ad 1960s. From a copy of the original ad.

Richelieu necklace I restored and turned out to be Bill Smith per the newspaper image above. Sarara Couture image.

Richelieu necklace I restored and turned out to be Bill Smith per the newspaper image above. Sarara Couture image.

Rare Bill Smith Rhinestone Bra. Circa 1969.

Rare Bill Smith Rhinestone Bra. Circa 1969.

Back view of tassels on Bra, From my archive.

Back view of tassels on Bra, From my archive.

Bill Smith jewelry tag.

Bill Smith jewelry tag.

vintage Richelieu necklace

As I have seen whole sets with rings and necklaces, it is my belief that some skirt halter combinations had other accessories that could be stacked as in this example.

DSC_0882

Unsigned Richelieu necklace to accompany skirt.

Bill Smith body jewelry. 1969. Private Archive permission obtained.

Bill Smith body jewelry. 1969. Private Archive permission obtained.

1969 Bill Smith Cape

1969 Bill Smith Cape

1969 Bill Smith Body Jewelry Cape. Back view.

1969 Bill Smith Body Jewelry Cape. Back view.

1960s body jewelry halter and skirt. Private archive, permission obtained.

1960s body jewelry halter and skirt. Private archive, permission obtained.

1960s-possibly early 70s tassel outfit. Private archive, permission obtained.

1960s-possibly early 70s tassel outfit. Private archive, permission obtained.

I have seen another shown as a cape but after seeing the bra and skirt together with original tag before I believe it to have been sold as shown. Of course his pieces can be worn in various ways.

I have seen another shown as a cape, but after seeing the bra and skirt together with original tag before…. I believe it to have been sold as shown. Of course his pieces can be worn in various ways.

Circa 1968-69 Bill Smith Chain Halter. Private archive. Image permission obtained.

Circa 1968-69 Bill Smith Chain Halter. Private archive. Image permission obtained.

Ebony Oct. 1968 image. Bill Smith article/jewelry.

Ebony Oct. 1968 image. Bill Smith article/jewelry. From a copy of the original magazine.

Now to the question of the red necklace I am researching as well by the brand…Was this necklace worn by Richard Burton playing King Arthur in Broadway’s Camelot?  I bought it from a source who is friends with an old film and theater costumer.  Now if you have looked over the blog, you will see I do love a good piece of fashion or jewelry with an old Hollywood, film, or a theatrical history as well.  This piece was supposed to have been worn by Burton in the production, so I am off to look through many pictures and see what I can verify.  There are three possibilities, if it was worn on stage by him: Camelot 1980-1981, Hamlet 1964, or Camelot 1960. Many times a verbal history can be off. However, at the very least it is an enormous King worthy Richelieu runway style necklace.  The length seems more proportionate to a man. Seeing it on my brother made me think….. The piece is large and styled like a necklace in royal red, that would fit a King in such a production.  The design and color are possible clues.  It is signed Richelieu in two places. I have however seen a version of this necklace shorter in red and another in green… They did also make pieces for productions…. In fact, Bill Smith did all the jewelry for the broadway production of Coco.  I believe, per the style and signature, dates to around the 1960s-70s. The cursive script according to the patent site below ceased use in 83.  Quite frankly,  I think the 60s-0s in general was when they made some great pieces.  This royal red necklace does appear to date from the late 60s early 70s when Bill Smith was vp, but could be the work of another artist with them at the time or just Richelieu. For now it resides in my personal archive.

Sarara Vintage photographs of large Richelieu piece,rights reserved.
Signature plaques, Richelieu copyright symbol and printed to the right on plaque.
Vintage Richelieu Necklace, signed. Sarara Couture, Shary Connella photo.

In the end, I think that the collector’s market for Richelieu is growing, especially the large 60s-late 70s pieces, especially those very rare ones linked to Bill.  Pieces by Bill Smith for Richelieu designs range from 500-4,000 depending on the design.  Bill Smith pieces are beautiful and collectible.  A current market example for Bill Smith can be seen below. Sold at an auction house for over 4,000 for the pair.

Bills Smith Body Art Jewelry/ 1969-70. 

SHOP OUR VINTAGE BILL SMITH BODY JEWELRY