Diving For Galanos Off The Coast of Fifth Avenue

November 16, 2011 12:37 pm

written by Evan Ross, proprietor of FROCK in New York City

Here at FROCK we are fortunate to have both the opportunity to see fashion at it’s finest, as well as meeting the women who truly appreciate it and have a distinct sense of personal style. Every day is akin to a treasure hunt as we go shopping in these women’s closets for new pieces. There are designers one finds in nearly every closet we encounter. Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Christian Dior, Halston, Bill Blass, Chanel (both Coco and Karl)… each and every one a true master; but there is one favorite designer of mine who always stands out and is found in the closets of women who were fortunate enough to have the means to acquire these exquisite pieces. This would be James Galanos, in my personal estimation, one of the foremost 20th Century American couturiers and rightly so, one of the leading designers of all time.

Ironically, his creations didn’t come to life in New York City, the epicenter of fashion in the states, but from Los Angeles in southern California where American sportswear was de rigueur. Getting his start at the emporium Hattie Carnegie in New York City, he had the opportunity to learn from the greats of the time; Jean Louis, Pauline Trigere, and Norman Norell. He was hired to start a California-based ready-to-wear collection which failed following to the divorce of the investors. He was dispatched to Paris to learn from the couturier Robert Piguet, and where Galanos was exposed to Hubert de Givenchy, Marc Bohan and Pierre Balmain, who were Piguet assistants.

1951 marked the year Galanos decided to return to California and make a go at his own collection. Although the pieces were sold as ready-to-wear, initially in Saks Fifth Avenue and then in every notable emporium in America, they all were hand finished and exhibited many fine details and exquisite fabrics. Every piece, whether it be a day dress, a gown, or embroidered and beaded jacket, had some degree of hand finishing, if not completely hand-done like the couture in Paris. The five figure prices reflected the worth of the craftsmanship. Known especially for his work with chiffon, whether the garment is pleated, layered, or draped, the attention to detail to this day stands out. Coming across these pieces and finding a woman who is willing to let them go sends shivers down my spine. The combination of printed floral sheer chiffon used for the sleeves of a dress with the same fabric in silk and pleated and tucked to the gods, makes a simple shirtwaist dress of his stand out.

Then there are the gowns!! Oh lord, the gowns!! Each and everyone breathtaking, making the woman who dons it look like a million bucks. What I find wonderful is that whether the dress or gown or jacket, or top, or even the belts (his belts are out of this world), each and every piece exudes a style and elegance and true eye for creation rarely found in today’s fashion. There is a sensibility of class with an imbedded sexiness that isn’t overt or trying too hard. (Lord knows Galanos could do sexy!!) It was a period in fashion when things truly felt new and exciting and fashion had the aura of elegance and refinement. It portrayed the confidence and the women’s knowledge of her worth and beauty. Galanos retired in 1998, but thankfully his legacy lives on through his vintage pieces still worn today by arbiters of style found throughout the world.

More Recent Articles

  • Browse Selects Shows and Events Tadashi Shoji Dresses Strong Women

    Tadashi Shoji Dresses Strong Women

    To a group of us after his frothy Spring 2014 show, Tadashi Shoji said in lieu of his theme: “It doesn’t take big shoulder pads and dark pant suits for a woman to be strong.” Known for his feminine party clothes, Mr. Shoji’s current regard for power dressing was not necessarily indicated by either his track record, or what had just gently glided by on the runway. On closer inspection of the impeccably crafted dresses and gowns, I started to see just what sort of strength Mr. Shoji championed and how it was achieved.

    Read more →
  • Browse Selects Shows and Events Jen Kao – Daring Devore Combinations

    Jen Kao – Daring Devore Combinations

    In a chilly, hazy hangar of a space, against a backdrop of gauzy white curtains, Stevie Nicks, and Joni Mitchell, a collection materialized wherein classic singer/songwriter leitmotifs like denim, plaid and devore were sent through Ms. Kao’s cutting tunnel. What came out the other side, once ingeniously stitched back together, was redolent of the past but defiantly new. “This season is about versatility. The clothes ask a girl – beg a girl to want to put it together for herself.” So said Los Angeles-based designer Jen Kao of her billowy, skin baring, hippie/jet setter Spring 2014 collection.

    Read more →
  • Browse Selects Shows and Events Naeem Kahn – Spanish Fire

    Naeem Kahn – Spanish Fire

    Naeem Kahn takes us from Madrid to Buenos Aires for a Spring 2014 trip to beautiful. Essential motifs of Latin passion- flamenco, the lace mantilla and bold red roses, are vehicles for the journey. A master of embellishment, Kahn gave a profusion of Chantilly lace, floral embroidery, caviar beading, seed pearls, hand-painted fabric, and metallic appliqué, but he balanced all that with simple silhouettes and a mostly red, black, white and gold color scheme. The effect, though fancy, was never excessive.

    Read more →
  • Browse Selects Shows and Events Jeremy Laing – Rave On, Barbie

    Jeremy Laing – Rave On, Barbie

    Jeremy Laing lives and works in Toronto, where the winter is long and dark, and summer is lovingly referred to as three months of bad sledding. An understandable longing for hot summer days and hotter nights informed his Spring-Summer 2014 collection, shown in New York, where we take heat waves for grumpily granted. When the sprightly young designer was asked to verbally autograph the show moments before it began he chirruped, “its Malibu Beach Barbie goes to a rave!”

    Read more →
  • Browse Selects Shows and Events Reem Acra – Star Strut

    Reem Acra – Star Strut

    The clear message from Reem Acra for Spring 2014 is get up and dance. There were no backstage discussions of empowering women or clothes conferring confidence for the demands of their busy lives. No, no. Ms. Acra wants her girls to have some fun. Proof was the show started, not with the expected selection of spiffy day looks, but rather with a sparkly detonation of molten, bias cut, and draped party dresses in black, the key shade of night.

    Read more →
  • Browse Selects Shows and Events Helmut Lang – No Corners Cut

    Helmut Lang – No Corners Cut

    “We like the idea that something is constructed and crisp, but at the same time is floaty and easy.” These were the calm and precise words of Nicole Colovos, minutes before presenting the Helmut Lang Spring 2014 collection, which she designed with her husband, Michael Colovos. Crisp. Sharp. Pure. Clean. These were the touchstone words for the collection. The beautiful tension between construction and ease originated in natural fabrics like chintzed silk, twisted linen, and cotton waxed or in simple white shirting. Even the leather, in either matte or perforated treatment, looked cool and comfy, bonded like the wool pieces to soft jersey to create comfortable effortless efficiency.

    Read more →
  • Browse Selects Shows and Events Cushnie et Ochs – Cut To Reveal

    Cushnie et Ochs – Cut To Reveal

    Finding beauty in the tools of bodily constraint was the admitted goal of this Spring 2014 collection by Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs. Straps, buckles and bandages are not very attractive when found in a hospital milieu, but with a bit of alchemy, these elements did a sharp glissade down the knife blade runway of Mistresses Cushnie and Ochs, giving glamour to spare.

    Read more →
  • Browse Selects Shows and Events Emerson’s Cool Collected Girls

    Emerson’s Cool Collected Girls

    Jackie Fraser Swan’s Fall 2013 collection continued her Emerson brand’s parade of head on her shoulders cool girl staples. It’s a young lively assortment with great color choices, displaying interesting use of patterns and leather. Good fits for environments from classroom to office to cocktail reception. She has a good habit of framing or presenting the neck and shoulders very well.

    Read more →