Fashion and accessories history is a passion of mine, and when I had the opportunity to acquire two original sketch books by Anne Klein and some of the jewelry from her collection, I jumped at the chance. The facilitator of our access into the world of Anne and the brand, comes via the personal archive of the former Burt Wayne. He was an interior designer, friend, and finally the creative director/president of Anne Klein Studio after Donna Karan officially hired him in 1977. He is survived by his niece, who graciously allowed me access.
Burt was a colorful and talented personality per his experience and publications in the interior design world. His work can be seen in books like The New York Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration, published in 1965. He met Anne and worked with her as her decorator in the 60s and 70s, when they became friends. After her unexpected death in 1974 of cancer, he stayed close to Donna Karan whose design abilities he believed in. Burt’s responsibilities as the studio director were various, as was directing the designer “kids” in terms of their inspiration and production. This direction included jewelry and a large array of accessories. Behind the scenes his touch extended to his close relationship and championing of the young Donna Karan. His niece spoke of Donna’s friendship and daily contact with Burt. She remembers a very young Donna sketching by the pool at his country home. As Donna stated in her memoir:
“In 1977 we called the interior designer Burt Wayne, my style mentor since Anne’s death.
‘Uncle Burt, darling I need you – full time, ‘ I said. ‘You have to head up the Design Studio. You won’t believe how much we have going on here.’
‘I do homes, Donna, not handbags and shoes,’ Burt sniffed. He wore huge diamonds and long fur coats and had his copper hair colored and blown. His Connecticut home was a mini Versailles.
‘Okay, and now you’ll also do those furs and jewelry you love so much, and a few other things, too. Think of all the fun we’ll have.’ I had him at ‘furs’. Burt was named president of the Studio, and his life and business partner, John Duktor, was named creative director. Together, they oversaw a world of Anne Klein- licensed knitwear, coats, scarves, eyewear, watches, umbrellas, intimates, menswear, handbags, and shoes” (My Journey, Donna Karan, 96).
His home still held archives from his time with Anne Klein and contained these 1971 sketchbooks, as well as what is believed to be her personal jewelry mixed with collection of inspiration pieces. These sketchbooks have been put away since Anne’s death. He also kept 80s-90s sketches and some examples of accessories from 1970’s-on.
Anne Klein’s Place in North American Fashion History:
In a way, Anne’s contributions to fashion have a bit of dust on them, we will hopefully blow some off in this post and help highlight her importance in terms of American style and sportswear. She died in 1974, relatively early in the brand’s founding, which had officially begun in 1968. The brand’s image today and that of the 80s-90s, we must remember, has a long history that includes designers which followed after her adding their own touches. While she is known for women’s sportswear, there is more insight into her design process that these sketches can add. However, we can’t really know how her brand would evolved with her at the helm, but I will admit; the sketchbook due to their completeness in terms of inspiration photos and ads give insight. The fascination I have with the 1971 sketches is due in part to how transitional they were, and different than the AK designs that apparently come into the mind of today’s youth. I can’t be sure how much Donna would have influenced these 1971 sketchbooks, Donna in her books says she didn’t take completely over a presentation until Anne was sick, when she was asked by Anne, to do the holiday/resort collection on her own in 1972 (My Journey, Donna Karan page 63).
Anne Klein’s legacy is so complex……Many younger people I asked about Anne Klein either didn’t know much about her or mentioned thinking of her brand as very conservative. Today’s AK, per fashion week shows in the mid 2000s until now don’t fall quite into this style they envision, but I can see how those things come to mind for a younger generation. Ironic since as Caroline R Milbank puts it:
“Anne Klein was known for fun, young clothes. This 1967 at-home dress juxtaposed giraffe spots with black and white stripes, bifurcated by a curvy orange zigzag” (New York Fashion, 227).
These sketches give us a glimpse into the creative process of Anne Klein during her lifetime and hopefully will provide inspiration to future designers. In them, one can see that American sportswear, separates and basics foundation her early brand is known for, but her take on current trends and cultures therein is telling… I could see her use and love of Moroccan pieces in historic photographs of her wearing such jewelry and Accessocraft pieces inspired by those roots, but in these sketchbooks that element is also in the clothing.
In these original drawings,swatches, and jewelry unearthed, understanding more about Anne’s design process and personal style becomes possible. Her historical contributions to ready to wear, women’s sportswear, and separates were fundamental. Jackets and such “men’s” styles had been adapted and used by Chanel earlier, but Anne created a very “American” version of women’s sportswear and separates. She is arguably a founder of the American women’s sportswear look, but how important was she? Notions of American sportswear begin to take hold after the great depression, for practical reasons, this may have influenced her as she grew up during this time period. In the 1930s Claire McCardell is rightly hailed as one of the earliest women’s sportswear designers. How much do they share a place in history? Anne was after all working in the latter 1930s. Her chic, but casual style brought elegance to the juniors departments at first, then to working women using the idea of interchangiblity and well planned separates and accessories. As Enid Nemy described in her article for the New York Times, “The breakthroughs achieved by Ms. Cashin and designers like Claire McCardell, Vera Maxwell, Anne Klein and Anne Fogarty still influence the way women dress, and paved the way for the success of American designers like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein” (Bonnie Cashin, Who Helped Introduce Sportswear to Americans, Is Dead at 84, February 2000).
Anne was born in 1923 in Brooklyn as Hannah Golosfski. Just out of high school she worked in the garment industry and as a sketcher. She studied fashion at Traphagen School of Design in New York in 1937. She was hired to work with Verden Petites on Junior Miss in 1938. Her process was evident at this time, as she designs more stylish look for younger girls. One that was less gender specific lace and frills. Her strong sketching skills were evident there and at Maurice Rentner, where she designed as well. She married Ben Klein a clothing manufacturer in 1948 and they started Junior Sophisticates for young women with a focus on petites. It was this label that rocked the junior and petite fashion market, which had been otherwise conservative, very feminine, yet childlike. By the 1950s under her and her husband’s business, Junior Sophisticates, Anne was on her way to designing separates and establishing her own style. At this time her many awards had begun to come in, starting with the 1954 Mademoiselle Merit Award and the Lord & Taylor award in 1964.
As described by Caroline Rennolds Milbank:
“A typical Anne Klein 1950s cocktail dress was made in wool rather than taffeta; an evening dress, in mink ice stain in lieu of baby blue tulle, was cut in an interesting shape, with a bloused neckline and crinoline. Anne Klein worked with sheath shapes, sometimes with bloused bodices, and in 1958 she showed low waisted dresses with pleated skirts as an alternative to the sack. Her suits and dress-and-jacket ensembles featured blazers cut like pea jackets, sometimes lined in rabbit fur for a grown up touch” (New York Fashion, The Evolution of American Style, 191).
Her label was founded in 1968 when she was approached to begin in a partnership with Gunther Oppenheim. Her style was evolving with such unconventional pairings. She continued to pay attention to the importance of the accessories which accompanied the lines. She won two Coty awards and was inducted into the Coty Hall of fame in 1971. By that time Klein had met Tomio Taki which led to him owning part of AK along with Oppenheim and Klein. When Anne died in 1974 Taki, her second husband Chip Rubenstein and Oppenheim all had stakes in what should happen to it….. Donna’s own book does a good job of explaining that history including the beginning of AK II a less pricey line, all the way up until the point she departs and begins her own brand. A rough time line of succession would read: Donna and Louis Dell’Olio from 1973 to 85 for Donna and Louis leaving in 1993, Richard Tyler then takes over until 1994, Patrick Robinson from 95-98. Then Isaac Franco and Ken Kaufman until 2001 when Takihyo sells the company. Charles Nolan is appointed head designer in 2001, yet he quit at the end of 2002. Followed by Micheal Smaldone and a series of designers to this day, with the company owned by Jones Group, they also own Nine West among others. Sycamore Partners now owns Jones and split it’s acquisitions into various names. I believe Anne Klein is now held under Nine West Group. (Dates summary via Fashion encyclopedia).
The Anne Klein Sketches- Summer of 1971:
The collection found in Burt’s attic appears to be personal pieces used by Anne as well as inspiration jewelry that may have been later used by Burt when he worked there to let the “design” kids inspire from. His niece stated that he helped Anne’s husband after her death and was given some of those items and sketches then. Burt helped her husband clean things out when she passed away. I think those ethnic tribal pieces she was known to wear in various images during this time can easily be separated and at the very least looked at as part of this whole side of the AK people have forgotten. Her personal style was evolving yet indicative. In the 1970s per images of the designer it seemed very much sporty separates in black and earth tones dotted with such bohemian statement jewelry. As Milbank describes:
“In the 1970s Anne Klein continued to design classical separates, like the hacking jackets, ruffled blouses, and kilts, knickers, or trousers, but she also worked with such modern ideas as body-suits to be worn with zippered miniskirts and jumpsuits as well as clothes that reflected the current ethnic craze, like the djellabas made in Indian printed cotton” ( Caroline R Milbank, New York Fashion, 257).
It is precisely this moment in time that we are afforded an intimate gaze, via these two sketchbooks/mood boards. The Summer of 1971 notebook, is of the two found. It is in my opinion, the most compelling, although the other is enlightening as well.This Anne was inspiring from Ibiza, Morocco, the bohemian “it girl” of the time- Marissa Berenson, Willy Van Rooy…… She was pulling clippings from Spanish magazines and articles on hippie subculture….She was tapped into very current trends and counter culture. We can see this in all of her clippings, a few with her notes attached. The collection of sketches therein, is her take on this movement. Its very haute hippie at times. There’s that special Anne Klein touch of American sportswear/separates in these sketches, but there is also a free spirited easy wear style that is somewhat unexpected – epitomized by the topless sarong sketch. Not to say Anne was a bohemian, but there was more to her than a lion and some slacks. She traveled the world for inspiration and studied various cultural examples of jewelry, as did Burt per his extensive jewelry book archive, which I acquired as well. When looking at these complete archives we have the rare opportunity to climb, briefly, into a designer’s mind from mood /inspiration to sketches and swatches for the runway presentation. Many of her original sketchbooks were lost over the years as I understand it. I hope these in their entirety, remind people of the importance of this iconic female designer.
The Summer 71 Mood Board:
Anne Klein Summer 1971:
This sketchbook is fluid, dynamic, layered and hurried. Holding it in ones hands, the book reads as it should- using stapled paper, fabric swatches, new ideas over old ones and fold out aspects. This was used to extend an idea or mood when she ran out of paper in that area. It gives us a true sense of process. I have tried to capture that in the images above. What about the amount of skin shown? Not exactly the Anne Klein most people think of in my opinion, but she was really combining her sporty separates style with bohemian elements that were popular that summer. Also, it is after all a resort/summer line and reflects that purpose. Other aspects to note are the topless sarong sketch as mentioned, thigh high lace up sandal drawings, and forever long slits! I love her use of women of color in many of the sketches. You see various skin tones represented and included. So what does this collection book tell us about the designer and where she intended to go, who she was and what Anne Klein’s “style” was?
Perhaps some of the most enlightening quotes from Anne Klein that may help us see into the future as to where she was going had she lived longer, can be found in this 1972 Lebanon Daily News article with Anne:
“The impression that the 70s would be fashion’s classic decade was given further impetus when gypsy-prone Ali McGraw came into the Klein showroom and ordered: One turtleneck with knickers. Two tweed wrap skirts and pullover. One evening shirtwaist.
Ali, an ex-fashion coordinator, was heaving sighs of superlative relief about the fashion simplicities. Divine! Marvelous! Super!
Anne, an inveterate traveler, then went off to Acapulco. She was invited to a party at the Gloria Guinness estate near Las Spricas. Anne, who is Mrs. Chip Rubinstein in private life, was introduced to her hostess by her married name. When the subject inevitably turned to fashion, Gloria announced this season she had by-passed the Paris couture to invest in pared down separates by someone called Anne Klein. “Gloria nearly keeled over when she found out that she was talking to Anne Klein,” says Anne Klein.
As soon as Anne got back to the job, Cyd Charisse breezed into the showroom to order a new separates wardrobe for: herself and best pal, Dinah Shore. Cyd sputtered that all the mature elegantes in her circle including Dinah were bored silly with fashion’s penchant for costumes.
“The series of reactions turned out to be a fascinating barometer,” says Anne. “When my husband and I put the pieces together, the tendency toward sane fashion was an across-the-board trend. It was a desire of the young and old. Rich and not-so-rich. The famous and ordinary.”
Brooklyn-born Anne, who used to design for Jr. Sophisticates and then quit because she was “fed up” with fashion, got back into the business when her husband decided to quit manufacturing shopping bags to promote Klein-designed clothes. It was both real and psychic support. Three months as a homebody turned out to be solitary confinement.
At first Anne and Chip tried to expand the concept of “fashion” from clothes to everything that projected style. Anne talked with airline executives to create fashionable plane interiors. No soap. Chip talked to auto makers in Detroit with similar ideas. It was thanks but no thanks. Anne approached kitchen appliance giants who listened intently and announced that she was ahead of her time – but please come back in a few years.
“What I really wanted was to redesign the world,” says Anne, a pint-sized lady who. has more self confidence and experience “than formal training. She didn’t go past Brooklyn Girls Commercial High School. But at 16 she was a $28-a-week sketcher for Seventh Ave. fashion houses and absorbing the scene, learning, dreaming.
She’s still got the same kind of open mind. And, while stores were flooding her company with mammoth orders, she decided to change fashion within its own sphere — and down with limitations.
“Women in a hurry don’t want to waste time changing clothes,” says Anne. Which is, of course, the secret to Anne Klein’s success. All her clothes are sleek, unfussy items that make transitions with the addition of accessories.
Anne talks about 1972 being the year of clean dressing — meaning that unnecessary frou-frou and details have been erased from clothes.
“The world is complicated enough,” says Anne. “There’s war, polluted air, campus unrest, prison violence. Today there’s a new regard for simple dressing that is reactionary. It’s a personal projection of life style free from fuss.”(Lebanon Daily News, 1972). A rare transcribed copy of the entire interview can by found via: retro-housewife.com.
Want More? I’ve decided to tackle the Fall 1971 sketchbook and 1980s/90s archives-accessories examples from the Burt Wayne collection in another post.
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