Paris Journal by Vicky Tiel: FRIDA KAHLO Exhibition

I remember seeing Frida Kahlo’s work for the first time in Paris in 1968 when I opened my shop on Rue Bonaparte, walked past the Beaux Arts College, and turned right on Rue de Beaux Arts. My eyes popped out.

I was in total shock. At a gallery across the street, there was a giant portrait of a lady in the most exotic dress and makeup with an extraordinary bouquet of flowers on top of her head and a hand hanging from her ear. She was Mexican from a Polish Jewish father, who died in 1954.

Frida Kahlo’s first Paris show and self-portrait were in the surrealist style of the time, but she was better than anyone else ( for me). Her painting was more creative and more beautiful to hang on a wall. My mother was an American artist who painted unusual self-portraits, but her clothes on canvas were nothing to notice.

Frieda Kahlo’s portrait shook me as a fashion designer to my roots. Her dress and jewelry were different than other clothing I had ever seen. I had to own the painting and ran into the shop asking how much. The amount the Galerie wanted was 1300 francs, maybe $5000 then. I didn’t buy it, which I will always regret. Today her latest work went for 34 million dollars.

Photos by Ani Berkeley

The Galleria museum, our fashion museum in Paris, had a FRIDA KAHLO vernissage Tuesday night. It explained the influence of Frieda in Fashion, with many Valentinos and other couture designers showing designs inspired by it by Frida. The place was packed, many women themselves wearing Frida-style clothing.

Frida was one of the first women in the arts who insisted on making it on her own (despite marrying a top Mexican artist …). Frieda was a tough cookie. She had a tragic accident, a tram crash after a childhood of polio that wrecked her leg and back but she still worked and even traveled to Paris and America for her shows because art ruled over pain.

She had to express herself. She grew a light beard and had a unibrow to show the world she was almost a man and equal to her famous husband, artist Diego Riviera. Born in 1907 and dying young at 53, Frieda lived every moment, coming to Paris to show in 1956 and becoming a world-famous artist just before her death, perhaps a suicide. Her last quote said, “I hope to have a happy end of life, and I hope never to return.”

Frida was also a fashion designer; her unusual dress style stood out worldwide. She introduced electric Mexican orange to fashion, mixing many clashing prints with a touch of other shockers such as teal, chartreuse, and fuchsia.

She wore Mexican hanging beads and pecay zig zags for trims on cotton that started a 50s trend. She wore a dress with a large ball gown skirt as her every day, even when COCO brought the skinny-fitted minidress to the world in the 20s.

Frida said I might be a cripple but LOOK AT ME. I’m sure her confidence made Diego Riviera love her. He was a rascal with many women and children and never married until he married crippled Frieda. He respected her strength and loved her paintings just like I do….Hmmm, $34 million?

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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.

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