In its attempt to garner some of the Good Life via Ralph Lauren-esque historicist antics, J.Crew ‘s makeshift Americana time machine bizarrely finds itself not in the romantic farming towns of New England or the hustle and bustle of The Ranch, but instead in the quaint, though joyfully so, Western United states, coming by way of Conestoga wagon in flight from political enemies, in tow with the gospel of Moroni. The images of their 1989 campaign ooze an earnest prudishness, the kind only had from zealous religious piousness ala the Orthodox Jewish value of Tzniut, or, and more similar in their rural context, Amish Mennonites. Yet this rendition carries with it such a specific meme, or some weird attempt at developing one; an American ideal that reads more like a retro recruitment poster for the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints than it does as an ad for contemporary, heritage inspired sportswear. No frills, to-the-point and down-to-earth, rosy cheeked and youthful; it’s a celebration of a unique American experience that does not easily lend itself for fashion reference. Scandalous in a union suit, expressive in plaid, and outright élan in dour shades of gray, it is just as sobering as an icy water rinse of the face on a brisk autumn morning on the plains .
Kelly Klein, Fran Lebowitz, Calvin Klein and other guests of Malcolm Forbes’ 70th birthday celebration.
“Soft party looks in the holiday mood”
“It is a collection in which neatness counts. The clothes are in the American tradition of glorious sportswear, updated by the use of precious materials. There are strong men’s-wear accents in the double-breasted jackets in pewter gray plaids and checks, and in the lean trousers that overshadow the knee-baring skirts. Occasionally there is a hint of mauve or green in the tweed jackets, sweaters or trousers. Softening agents are the drifts of knitted cashmere, in triangular shapes or in long stoles to wrap around the body. Some knitted styles tie at one side of the waistline for a new sweater shape.”
– from FOR KLEIN, NEATNESS AND LUXURY COUNT by BERNADINE MORRIS, NYT, 1989
Top: Kors and model exude the American ease which would define the designer’s career, photo by Tony Palmieri. Bottom: A look from Kors’ fall 1989 collection, highlighting the designer’s propensity for uncontrived glamour, photo by Thomas Iannaccone.
Like many prominent American designers, Kors executed sportswear with a high level of skill and a fresh perspective, and along with Mizrahi, helped push the genre into the 90’s with a startling relevance. Lauded for his “witty minimalism” and a heavy focus on practicality, Kors took a cue from Calvin Klein’s cleanliness and the bourgeois glamour of Ralph Lauren but sans the former’s relentless starkness and the latter’s sometimes overbearing historicism. You could characterize Kors’work at this time as both intellectual and populist, with his minimalist tendencies hinting at an impressive conceptual and commercial insight. For Kors, the two qualities are not mutually exclusive and they would never escape his work, even if only one of those qualities would seem to leave a lasting mark.
by Elizabeth Cannon for BOMB Magazine
“Move your head a little to the right please…That’s great, Isaac!”
As I enter the Isaac Mizrahi studio, the designer is seated on a cutting table brightly illuminated by photo floods. The phone is ringing, the staff is readying for a trunk show the next day in Beverly Hills and evidences of work-in-progress are everywhere.
Elizabeth Cannon Did you design the tartan chiffon fabric?
Isaac Mizrahi Yes. It is so wonderful to imagine Black Watch floating that way. Do you know the names of the tartans and the variations: muted, royal or hunting? The ones called muted, for instance, were buried for years in chests. So they faded. It’s this whole narrative. Now they’re actually produced that way.
You can view the entire story at BOMB Magazine’s own website.
Isabella Rossellini shot by Steven Meisel for the Dolce & Gabanna Fall 1989 campaign.
When the duo broke out in 1986 they quickly became known for purveying a unique and sophisticated sexuality. Formed from their own Italian/Sicilian heritage, the inspiration was more Visconti and Fellini than anything banal or pulp — as it could easily be misinterpreted for. Coming into their own as the decade petered away from excess and androgyny, it was Dolce & Gabanna’s hyper-classical take on femininity, as subdued and understated as it could be, that would lead the way. In 1989, with photography by Stephen Meisel, this overlooked facet of the designers’ universe was perhaps no better illustrated and, at the same time, obscured.