“Timeless Fashion Taught by Coco”

Coco Chanel

New York Fashion Week for the upcoming Fall 2022 season, begins on February 11th signaling yet another month-long fashion cycle. There will invariably be too many shows (many of which should not be staged in the first place), and too many designers – a good many of whom will inevitably fade into oblivion.

When you get right down to it; the number of designers who really make a difference, represent something, have a singular vision, and leave their indelible mark on fashion is few and far between.

“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”

Coco Chanel

Assuredly, the late Coco Chanel was one of them. Coco was my mentor; I was lucky to know her. It’s unimaginable but Chanel taught me one important life-changing thing (besides telling me to make perfume). She said, “fashion is not forever, perfume is” I realized that her saying fashion is not forever meant I was to try to make a dress that sells forever, like perfume, as she did!

Coco knew how to make timeless fashion. The Chanel four-pocket Jacket will sell until life on Earth ends, but Coco also invented pants, black wool pants for women, and the quilted Chanel bag and her beige high heel shoe with the black toe. Chanel is not just a brand, she taught us, designers, what is possible, to make clothing that can sell forever. TIMELESS FASHION.

When I lecture students I pass on her message. If you can close your eyes and say the name of a dress designer, their fashion creation must instantly pop up in your mind. That same creation is in the minds of millions. That is the goal, to be remembered by your creation that sells forever. It is also the way to have endless income — if you do not sell your name.

Here is a list of the designers who achieved this, but sadly, many sold their names. Their designs have been selling forever since they were created 30 to 150 years ago.

MCINTOSH 1850: The beige trench coat

WILLIAM COTTON 1864: The white cotton Tshirt

LEVI STRAUSS 1880: Blue Jean Jacket, 1890 blue Jean pants.

COCO CHANEL 1910: The Chanel 4 pocket Jacket, black full pants, the striped T-shirt, 1925: the flapper dress, along with Molyneux.

ELSA SCHIAPERELLÎ 1930: The jumpsuit

CHARLES JAMES 1937: The puffy coat( jacket), (Eddie Bauer made the Skyline down “work jacket”,) Charles James also made the all ruched gown

CLAIRE MCCARDELL 1938: The Monastic sack dress, the « popover » kimono sleeve dress with waist.

DIOR 1947: The “new look” Shirtdress

BONNIE CASHIN 1950: the Noh coat; Industrial solid brass turn-lock closures 1964

LOUIS FERAUD 1953: Brigitte Bardot wears his first bikini at Cannes Film Festival

BALENCIAGA 1959: The baby doll dress, the puffy skirt, the full skirt gown

NORELL 1959: The tight all sequin sheath with set in sequin sleeves

ALLEN GANT 1959: He found Lycra and had the first stretch tights sewn

CARDIN 1960: The bubble dress, topstitching bands, boots, and mini 👌

CARDIN 1964 invented Licensing!! His first deal was with Brazil in 1964 for luggage. Mia and I were with FERAUD when he found out and Louis went beserk.

GIVENCHY 1961: The fitted black sheath boat neck dress for Audrey Hepburn in « Breakfast at Tiffany »

MARY QUANT 1961: The mini skirt, also thé year Mia Fonssagrives came to Parsons NY with a wrap mini skirt in soft beige suede and I sold thick suede mini skirts with beaded fringe hems in Greenwich Village, matching beaded fringe bags and fringe vests.

SONIA RYKIEL 1962: The “poor boy” ribbed stripe sweater

GALANOS 1962: All beaded lace sheath gowns with fitted waists

ANDRÉ CORREGES 1963: Thé vinyl coat and jacket with AC initials

RUDI GRENWICH 1964: The Jax 3/4 pant, fitted with no side seam, back zipper, the topless swimsuit

PUCCI 1964: The silk jersey print dress (inspired by African trip)

YVES ST LAURENT 1964: The safari jacket, the flared 3/4 length Russian skirt, and pants (he lengthened hems in 1969 and we all had to)

THEA PORTER 1965-1966: The flowery Caftan,

ZANDRA RHODES, CILIA BIRTWELL, OSSIE CLARK, thé Floaty London hippy look( what a fun group! )

PACO RABANNE 1966: Architecture mini dress all in giant square or round beads

MIA VICKY 1968: The mini wrap dress, fitted waist bias skirt, set-in sleeve, hot pants
with beaded bras worn with long coats (lately selling the wrap dress on HSN)

NORMA KAMALI 1970: The sleeping bag coat

HALSTON 1972: The Ultrasuede belted shirtdress..Did Joel Schumacher design it?

ISSEY MIYAKE 1973: Sculpted fabric for clothing

AZZEDINE 1980: The bandage mini dress.

Again, Can you name a current designer today whose design of theirs immediately pops into your head?

Vicky Tiel

Vicky Tiel is an American born French couturier designing since 1964, when she went to Paris with her partner, Mia Fonssagrives. They created a storm with their miniskirts, hot pants and jumpsuits. Vicky did the costumes for 15 films and in 1975 she sold couture to Henri Bendel’s and 45 leading shops In 2011 she joined HSN TV, wrote her first book “Its All About the Dress” and has written a second book “The Absolute Woman It’s All About Feminine Power” which she recently launched on HSN.

  1. Dear Vicki

    I love your newsletters! I am a friend of Marilyn Kirschner’s – she has covered me 4 times!!!!

    My brother Zack spent most of his design career at Calvin Klein. In the.early 80s, he was brought into the House of Chanel, to intervene for Creative Director. Not only did he bequest his personal design library to me but he also passed on his love of Chanel. Author Rhonda Garelick of “Mademoiselle” called my brand CARR “the younger American cousin of CHANEL.” Not only is Coco an inspiration but so are her boyfriends Etienne, Boy & Ben’dor. I’m planning a trip later this year to London, Scotland & Paris to connect with her original Factories & Mills. I am Scot, Irish, English by birth but Francophile by design.

    Please, email me so we can connect.

    PS: I met Mademoiselle in 1969.

  2. Thank you for your comments Diane.

    Ralph Rucci is an incredible designer and yes, he is known for his Infantas. That being said, it was Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972) who christened the “Infanta” gown in 1939. Cristobal was inspired by Diego Velázquez’s portrait Las Meninas (1656).

    The designs Vicky is referring to in her article, are fashion staples that have stood the test of time for decades and have found their way into fashion’s common vernacular. Ralph’s Suspension Jackets are sensational but they don’t fit into that category.

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