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Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

IMG_20200319_104650919Here in the Bay Area we are under a shelter-in-place command. To help slow the spread of Covid-19 we have been told to stay home except for essential errands such as grocery shopping, medical appointments, and anyone who is working an essential job.

Others across the country are also doing their part by staying home. Here we are at a distance from friends and family, maybe miles and miles away, maybe just a few blocks.

I have an idea to lift our spirits! Write a letter. Who doesn’t like to get mail? We all do and yet it’s a rarity these days to receive a handwritten note or even a card. Earlier this year Papyrus closed all their stores across the country because of low sales. Hallmark stores also closed many of their locations. It’s sad to say that thank you notes, party invitations, holiday cards have all given way to social media.

I know several people in my life who would enjoy a letter. Something handwritten to say “I’m thinking of you.” It doesn’t have to be long. Even just a postcard with Hello on it could brighten someone’s day.

And here’s another idea – how about a letter writing lesson for kids, who are now studying at home because of school closures. Pull out some paper and colored pencils and have them make a card with a brief note to grandma and grandpa, auntie, cousin, godparent. Better yet, is there an elderly person in the neighborhood? Make a card for them and then on a walk (walking is good too) pop it in their mailbox. What a nice surprise that would be. Who knows, maybe they’ll write back.

Taking the time to sit and write a letter is a calming exercise. It forces us to stop and to think – what am I going to say? How should I say it? (Quiet reflection right now is a good thing.) It can be creative as well. Many letter writers draw on the paper or decorate with stamps and stickers.

Have I convinced you?

 

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When we think of American style, we think of among other things, jeans. More specifically we think Levi’s Jeans. But have we ever considered the story behind the iconic brand? It’s an interesting one and locals in the Bay Area have a unique opportunity to learn about Levi Strauss the man and his jeans.

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Levi Strauss never wore jeans himself because in his day jeans were for manual labor workers and he was a businessman.

On now at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco is Levi Strauss: A History of American Style. Featuring over 250 items from the Levi Strauss & Co. Archives, this exhibit sets out to tell the story of German immigrant Levi Strauss and how he went from a dry goods merchant to THE man behind our beloved blue jeans.

Born in 1829 in Bavaria, as a young man Strauss immigrated first to New York to work selling dry goods. He then moved to San Francisco during the end of the Gold Rush to expand the family business.

Meanwhile, Northern California tailor Jacob Davis was hearing from workers that their pants were not holding up to hard wear and tear. He had an idea to place rivets at key stress points on the pants. He had the idea, but not the funds to push it forward. In comes Strauss and the two men worked together on a patent. That was the start of a business venture that is still impacting fashion today.

 

Included in this extensive exhibit are photos of Strauss’ hometown in Germany, decades of Levi’s Jeans advertisements, Hollywood film clips showcasing Levi’s, a 1974 Gremlin car with Levi’s interior upholstery, and many original Levi’s garments from early overalls to a leather jacket worn by Albert Einstein to an array of distinctive re-purposed Levi’s Jeans. It’s the largest public display of the company’s archival items ever gathered and it’s exclusive to the CJM.

One thing that struck me about the Levi’s story, something I had not thought about, is the evolution of jeans. Strauss was clever at expanding the desire of his product for the working man –  to the cowboy, to the teenager, and eventually to women in 1918 with “Freedom-Alls” and in 1934 with the first jeans line for women called “Lady Levi’s.” Beyond that, over the decades jeans became statement pieces for rebels, hippies, and rock stars proving that Levi’s Jeans have something for everyone.

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Strauss and Davis were granted their US patent in 1873.

In addition to the fashion story, Levi Strauss: A History of American Style is a local Jewish story. Lori Starr, Executive Director of the CJM says, “The exhibition will contextualize the Jewish experience for twenty-first-century audiences, offering insight into the history of San Francisco and its Jewish population, the story of an iconic element of American style, and the inventive spirit behind it all.”

Levi Strauss: A History of American Style is on now through August 9, 2020 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission Street at 3rd St. in San Francisco. 

Don’t miss this rare opportunity.

 

 

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It takes nine pairs of jeans to make one pair of my customized creations. 

Melody Sabatasso, Bay Area fashion designer.

 

In the 1970s, Ms. Sabatasso was an independent fashion designer just starting out with her own boutique in Marin County. Her personal daily style back then included jeans but she found she had nothing appropriate to wear to an upcoming wedding. So, she got creative and made herself a patchwork dress out of re-purposed Levi’s.

Her dress somehow caught the eye of Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall, who commissioned the designer to make an outfit for her. Ms. Sabatasso hitchhiked to the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco for a private fitting with Ms. Bacall. On the inside of the ensemble for the actress she wrote in red, Love Melody.

That was the beginning of a long and ongoing career in custom re-purposed denim outfits. Her creation for Ms. Bacall (pictured above) is part of Levi Strauss: A History of American Style, the current exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

Check back tomorrow for my full coverage of this impressive fashion exhibit.

 

 

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Romance lurks in strange places, but perhaps nowhere so much as behind shop windows.

British Vogue, January 1922.

British Vogue, like Vogue in America was published by Conde Nast. In the 1920s the covers were illustrated, such as the one pictured here. I find the illustrations have a certain charm that photographs just don’t have however artistic and slick they might be.

I just finished reading Conde Nast: The Man and His Empire, by Susan Ronald (St. Martin’s Press). Check back Wednesday for my review.

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Resort 2020 for Louis Vuitton.

On my first trip to New York, I was fascinated by the incredible craftsmanship of the Art Deco buildings. I tried to go back to those emotions with this collection. It’s about rediscovery of American Heritage. 

Nicolas Ghesquiere – French fashion designer and creative director for Louis Vuitton.

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1960s Vera logo. Image courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design.

Although Vera Neumann (1907-1993) might be best known for her colorful scarves, which by the 1970s were a staple in any fashionable lady’s wardrobe, there is much more to learn about this artist, entrepreneur, and successful business woman.

Last fall I attended the exhibit Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan. What I knew when I walked into the extensive exhibit was that Vera designed beautiful scarves and that is all I knew. I was amazed and excited to see examples of her life’s work from table linens, to bedding, to clothing, to needlepoint kits and more.

Vera was always interested in art and as a child growing up in Stamford, CT. she spent her time drawing and painting what she saw in nature. After high school she attended The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a private college in New York City. Later she studied life drawing and illustration at Traphagen School of Design.

After working in fashion illustration she and her husband George, a former marketing executive, started their own business in their Gramercy Park apartment. It was 1942 and the couple had an idea to transfer Vera’s bold paintings onto fabric and create textiles to use in the home. They built a silk-screen just the size of their dining table and called the new company Printex.

A year later the Vera and George took on a partner, Frederick Werner Hamm who brokered Printex’s first big order – placemats for the NYC department store B. Altman & Co. Other orders came in along with licensing deals and within a few years Printex outgrew the dining room and relocated to a larger space, where Vera and George also lived and raised their children.

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Vera at work in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design.

During WWII fabric was in short supply. While desperately looking for cotton, Vera came upon parachute silk in an army surplus store and bought some to try. The results were a series of scarves with a fern motif and her signature on the bottom right hand corner. That was an unexpected game changer as department stores such as Lord & Taylor lined up to place orders and the Vera scarf became a serious trend for decades to come. Ten years later she had designed more than 2,000 scarves.

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Scarves by Vera. (I love the telephone dial.) Photo courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design.

 

Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann tells the entire Printex story with examples of everything the company manufactured. They were the first back in the 1950s to create a lifestyle brand. A lady could decorate her home entirely Vera with the first laminated placemats, napkins, dishware, wallpaper, pillows … By the 1960s she could also don Vera clothing in those distinctive bright colors and unique patterns inspired by nature and Vera’s world travels. Motifs in all her work included flowers, plants, insects and birds, but also coffeepots, an apple, carrots, school buses, even eyeglasses. Vera saw beauty in the details of everyday living and believed that art was not meant just to adorn the walls of the elite. She felt strongly that art should be affordable and available to all. (Other designers of the day were selling their scarves for $25 or more, while a Vera scarf sold for between $2 and $10.)

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Vera Paints a Scarf exhibit. Photo courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design.

In addition to examples of Vera’s work, included in the exhibit are several videos produced by the company back in the day, which help to tell the complex yet fascinating story of Printex from humble beginnings to corporate success.

Vera sold Printex a few years before her death in 1993 (George died in 1962). Since then the brand has changed hands a few times. As far as I can tell the most recent sale was to a holdings company based in Singapore. New issues of Vera’s designs are distributed through licencing deals.

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Photo courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design.

Hurry hurry, if you’re in the NYC area Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann  is on now through January 26, 2020. If you can’t make it, check out the museum website.

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On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me … 

 

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… a good laugh. 

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