Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sophie of Saks




I've written about the fabulous magazine Flair before here. Published by Fleur Cowles from 1950 to 1951, it was arty, intelligent and cultural without being pretentious. Every so often, I pull out a an issue and carefully turn the fragile sixty-four-year-old pages and I always find inspiration. My friend Karen loaned me her collection of the original magazines over two years ago, and I confess I still have them. 
Karen, I promise you'll get them back! But in a few months, I'll have my own reference book. A rare book of the issues, The Best of Flair was originally published in 1998, and I just discovered that it will be reissued this September 2nd and I just pre-ordered a copy. 




Yesterday, I was looking through the February issue and saw the above ad. I like the sentiment in the handwritten note: "I believe that to-day as always smart women dress only in terms of their own likes, looks, lives. Sophie"

So who was Sophie? I did a search for Sophie and Saks Fifth Avenue and quickly learned that it was Sophie Gimbel. I didn't know about her before. Not well-known today, she was a top American fashion designer for 40 years from 1929 to 1969 and the director of Salon Moderne at Saks creating made-to-measure couture clothes. She was also a smart business person, recognizing a merchandising need when she saw one.  When the Paris salons were closed during WWII, Sophie created the American version of couture clothing at the Salon Moderne.


Sophie and Adam Gimbel in 1935 and an evening dress designed by Sophie in 1952.
Saks Fifth Avenue Archive: Julia Noni for Saks Fifth Avenue, Parsons Fashion Archive. 

She was hired as a stylist by Saks president Adam Gimbel. In 1929 she took over the Salon Moderne and had such success and influence that she was the first American designer to be on the cover of Time magazine. She married Gimbel in 1931. She had definite opinions about dressing and personal style and was known for her pointed quotes. Here are a few:

"I like my wardrobe simple, correct, perfect in every detail."

"A woman and her waist should never be separated."

"You don't have to have lots of clothes in order to be chic. But you most certainly have to have the right clothes."


An evening dress from 1958 designed by Sophie Gimbel. Wouldn't it be fabulous to wear today? 
Photo is from the The New York Times, January 17, 2013, by Lolly Koons/Parsons Fashion Archive. 


In early 2013, Parsons the New School for Design had a show, Sophie Gimbel: Fashioning American Couture exhibiting eighteen of her designs from the Parsons Fashion Archive. I would've loved to have seen that. I'm so glad to learn about Sophie. And it's interesting how an ad that's over half a century old is still piquing curiosity.











1 comment:

  1. Oh, I love the quote that we must never be separated from our waists! And that evening dress, oh my. Great post, Lesa!

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