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Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Jewish Museum’

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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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I dress like it’s still the 1950s. (Amy Winehouse, 1983-2011)

Image courtesy of the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Amy Winehouse before fame. Image courtesy of the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

In the exhibit Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, fans of the vocalist can get a peek at the girl and her family before and after she found fame. Born in 1983 to a Jewish family in a London suburb, Winehouse grew up a regular kid in a supportive household.

In this charming, small exhibit is a family tree, photos, concert mementos, clothing of her childhood, and fashions the singer favored. Included is a dress by Betsy Johnson, which Ms. Winehouse wore for her US television debut on David Letterman during which band leader Paul Shaffer said she looked very much like a member of the 1960s girl group, The Ronettes. There’s also an array of flashy platform shoes by designers such as Fendi, Ferragamo, and YSL.

Often sporting a 60s beehive hairdo and 50s dresses, Ms. Winehouse was inspired by vintage clothing as well as vintage tunes. Her taste in jazz, swing, and soul music developed early on, and she had an ever-growing collection of LP records by musicians such as Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, and Sarah Vaughan, many of which are included in the exhibition.

In response to the intimate look at Winehouse allowed in A Family Portrait, The CJM invited three contemporary artists to display work about the public figure of the singer. Bay Area artists Jason Jägel and Jennie Ottinger create new works for You Know I’m No Good and a selection of drawings by New York artist Rachel Harrison will also be on view.

Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait runs now through November 1, 2015 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

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