Monday, June 9, 2008

News in fashion

Star shoemaker Ferragamo with Audrey Hepburn

The famous platform shoe created for Judy Garland in 1938

Fathers in fashion
By : Cheong Phin

CHEONG PHIN pays tribute to Lacoste, Ferragamo and Pucci, pioneers of fashion houses that are still standing now.

FATHER’S Day is approaching and instead of drowning your thoughts with a long list of gift ideas from the fashion houses this season, let’s digress a little and acknowledge the importance of the founding fathers of some of these fashion houses such as Lacoste, Ferragamo and Pucci. At times, they are also hailed as the pioneers or “father” of fashion styles that remain trendy today.

Through unwavering devotion and hard work, these talented men subconsciously defined fashion in their time and in doing so, created the necessary foundation for their children to lead a privileged life and make good choices as custodians of the brand. On the occasion of the forthcoming Father’s Day, here’s a tribute to the “fathers in fashion” and their extraordinary impact and influence on the new generation of fashion players today.

RENÉ LACOSTE — father of “le crocodile” polo shirt

In 1927, René Lacoste, a legendary tennis champion of seven Grand Slam titles, made a wager with the captain of the French Davis Cup team that an alligator-skin suitcase (which they saw in a shop) be his reward for winning the next day’s match for the French team. Sadly, he did not win the match or the alligator-skin suitcase but was instead nicknamed “le crocodile” by the American Press for his tenacity on the tennis court.
Apparently, once he got his teeth on his opponent, he’d never let go. As he continued his winning streak with a ferocious display of tenacity on the courts, the name got stuck. With a little help from his friend, Robert George, Lacoste proudly embroidered a crocodile on his blazer pocket which he wore to the tennis courts.

By tradition, competitive tennis in those days required players to wear long-sleeved white shirts on court. Since most of the championships were held in the summer months, it became very hot for the players to wear such attire. Inspired by the shirts worn by the polo players in Argentina, the talented Lacoste developed his short sleeved version of the polo shirt by adding on a ribbed collar and using a cooler fabric called “jersey petit piqué” which he regularly wore for his practice sessions.

The pivotal point of this invention occurred in 1929 when Lacoste, a finalist in the French Open then, walked on court in this revolutionary short-sleeved tennis shirt, defying the tradition associated with the sport, and started a new trend on the tennis court. After retiring from the sport at an early age of 25, Lacoste went on to set up a company with André Gillier, owner of France’s largest knitwear manufacturing firm to produce his famous polo shirt with the embroidered crocodile logo and dare I say, the most copied invention in the history of fashion.

The first Lacoste shirt in white is now reproduced in more than 50 different colours and the qualities of comfort and solidity upon which it built its name still shine through today. In 1963, René’s eldest son Bernard Lacoste took over the business and expanded it into a worldwide operation until his retirement in 2005. His younger brother and closest collaborator Michel Lacoste became his successor and remains the proud chairman and CEO of his father’s retail empire.

SALVATORE FERRAGAMO — father of “shoemaking to the Stars”

One of the earliest platform shoes ever made was by the incomparable shoe maker Salvatore Ferragamo who has been credited in the fashion industry with “inventing” the platform shoe. He was granted the first patent in the history of fashion for a cork wedge heel he concocted in 1937 when faced with a shortage of materials for his shoe creations.

The cumbersome sole proved to be a sturdy platform for walking and in 1938, Ferragamo created the famous platform sandal for Judy Garland which contained layers of different coloured chamois with an upper made of padded gold kid straps with a buckle.

Ferragamo went to the United States at a tender age of 16 and in 1923, opened his Hollywood Boot Shop which was frequented by film actresses. While courting these Hollywood royalties, he worked with movie studios and produced shoes for legendary film director Cecile B De Mille’s The Ten Commandments.

With his daring approach to shoe-making, he was subsequently dubbed as the “Shoemaker to the Stars” and in 1947, created the black velvet “Ava Sandal” for Hollywood beauty Ava Gardner and the famous suede platform heel “Evita” sandals for Eva Peron on her first trip to Italy. Creating shoes for Hollywood stars never waned in the post-War years and in 1954, Ferragamo wrapped Audrey Hepburn with one of his most famous creations: a suede ballerina with a strap. Today, the “shoemaker to the Stars” tag is shared by many but Ferragamo shoes remain a strong favourite.

After his death in 1960, the successful shoe business empire was valiantly continued by his daughter Fiamma. She truly inherited her father’s passion for his craft by creating two signature classics for the house — the “Vara” shoe and “Gancino” handbag. Fiamma sadly passed away in 1998 but the Italian fashion empire remains a family-run business today with the rest of the Ferragamo descendants.

EMILIO PUCCI — father of “geometric pop prints”

To an extent, the geometric prints in bright pop colours on silk jersey knit dresses by Emilio Pucci defined the fashion of 1960s. It all began in the early 1950s when Pucci began developing his signature prints — graphic, abstract designs which swirled in a kaleidoscope of colour.

An aristocrat by birth, Emilio Pucci naturally understood the needs of post-War jet set glamour and subsequently set up a boutique in Capri. It soon became the mecca for the jet-setters of the time and fans included heiress Gloria Guinness and actress Sophia Loren.

By the 1960s, Emilio developed stretch into fabrics with elasticised silk shantung and the luscious Pucci print went on to become a status symbol attracting the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. The international fashion Press was smitten by his bold new design and hailed him as the “prince of prints”.

After a glitch in the 1970s, Emilio’s daughter Laudomia Pucci began to take over the business in 1990s and formed a strong alliance with luxury giant LVMH in 2000. She remains an active Image Director of the brand today, working closely with creaw Williamson.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Batik Merbok Gallery under renovation.

Gallery schedule to be open mid of June 2008.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Harrods keen to stock our songket, batik

Models showcasing Kraftangan's batik and songket during the 'Titian Budaya Malaysia-Singapore' gala night recently.
Models showcasing Kraftangan's batik and songket during the 'Titian Budaya Malaysia-Singapore' gala night recently.

KUALA LUMPUR: Next year, Malaysian batik, songket and crafts will be available in London's famous department store, Harrods.
Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Shafie Apdal said Harrrods had expressed interest to stock the products.

"We should do a comprehensive study first."

He said the ministry needed to restructure and strengthen the role of Karyaneka before supplying locally made items overseas.

Karyaneka is a subsidiary of Perbadanan Kemajuan Kraftangan Malaysia and is entrusted with marketing handicraft and souvenir items produced by local craftsmen and small industries.
"We need a strong umbrella body which can stockpile craft products and batik from states like Terengganu and Kelantan to ensure adequate supplies."

He added that an effective marketing strategy and quality products were needed to market them in the long run.

"Sustainability is an important factor."

He added that although a target audience could be easily captured, strong networking was crucial to increase sales of the products.

He said well-known Malaysian shoe designer Datuk Jimmy Choo, whom he met in London, has agreed to incorporate batik and songket in his designs to promote local crafts.

Shafie was speaking at the Malaysian Film Week held in conjunction with the cultural extravaganza "Titian Budaya Malaysia-Singapore" recently.

The highlights of the event, which ran from May 8 to 11, included a gala night performance by stars from both countries, Kraftangan Malaysia batik and songket fashion show, performances by a traditional Malay orchestra and a visual arts exhibition by Malaysian artist S. Amin Shahab.

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