Canadian Fashion Connection – VALI

Valerie Dubsky began her career sketching designs. However, when the communist putsch of 1948 closed off Czechoslovakia from the west, she fled her homeland for France with her husband John, and child. John soon received a visa for Canada to work in a hat factory, but when the year-long contract ended, the family went to New York where Valerie resumed working in fashion.

Vali dress, c. 1967

By 1959, the family had returned to Canada and Valerie worked for various Montreal manufacturers until 1966 when she founded her own clothing company Vali Design Inc. She produced four collections per year: ‘at home’ leisurewear, clothes for cocktails, sportswear, and coordinated accessories, as well as importing her own perfume from France.

The Vali look became known for its femininity, fluid lines, and often floral prints. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis purchased several Vali outfits through Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, which carried the line. Margaret Trudeau also wore Vali designs, most famously for a state visit to Washington D.C. in 1972.

Valerie Dubsky (left) with models, c. 1972

In 1973, Valerie gave fellow Czech-born Ivana Zelníková (a tall, 24-year-old former Olympic skier) a job as a model. Ivana was soon modelling for many Montreal designers until she moved to New York, where she met and married Donald Trump in 1977.

Vali Design Inc., was officially dissolved in August 1985.

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Azzedine Alaïa, 1939 – 2017

“Fashion is not a trend that you have to follow like sheep. When something is good, it’s good.”  Azzedine Alaïa

Tunisian born Azzedine Alaïa’s love of fashion was fostered by his twin sister, and a French friend of his mother who gave him copies of Vogue when he was young.

After studying sculpture at the Beaux-Arts in Tunis, Alaïa went to Paris in 1957 where he started his career as a tailleur at Christian Dior. He then worked as a combination au pair/personal dressmaker for the Marquise de Mazan from 1957 to 1960 and the Comtesse Nicole de Blégiers from 1960 to 1965.

These women helped him open a private atelier for a select group of clients until he founded his Paris fashion house in 1979. He began with accessories, but in 1982 produced his first ready-to-wear collection that garnered him the designer of the year award by the French Ministry of Culture. By 1988, he had opened boutiques in Beverly Hills, New York and Paris.

Alaïa’s first RTW collection, 1982

The signature Alaïa look emphasized the figure using naughty and nice materials mixed together: black leather, silver studs, lace, silk jersey, tweed and zippers. He became famous for his knitwear, bustiers, and close-fitting suits, and was dubbed the ‘King of Cling’.

He was also known for being a perfectionist, protective of his creative process, and was notorious for operating his business according to his own timetable. His deliveries were rarely on time, and he never advertised. A well-known rift developed between Alaïa and Anna Wintour (who reportedly once fired a subordinate for wearing Alaïa.)

Alaïa’s 2016 collection

1992 was a difficult year for Alaïa who was already coping with high expenses and slow sales in a soft economy when he also lost his muse and twin sister. Alaïa stopped doing shows but continued his couture work for private clients.

Alaïa regained his prominence when he entered into a new partnership with Prada that launched in September 2000. He seemed to be over his control issues as delivery times improved and he regained his reputation for innovation. In 2007, Alaïa bought back control of his house from Prada when Compagnie Financière Richemont (owner of the luxury brands Cartier and Chloe), became Alaïa’s new financial backer.

Alaïa died November 16, 2017

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Six different ways to hang a watch chain…

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Fashion in Song – Fashion Killa (2013)

Released 2013, by A$AP Rocky — Warning, racial epithets.

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Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Catherine Parel

Catherine Parel, 1945

Russian born Yekaterina Bobrikova (Catherine Bobrikov) worked in the Jeanne Lanvin fashion house from 1927 to 1934. She set up her own fashion house under then name Catherine Parel at 11 Rue Boissy d’Anglas in 1936. She released two small collections per year for her clients which included well known Parisian actresses and singers at the time, including Michèle Morgan and Lys Gauty. Features of her collections included sheer backs in 1937 (see illustration at bottom right), and straw trimmings in 1938.

Catherine Parel also created costumes for French cinema, most famously for 1946’s La Symphonie Pastorale, which received an award at the Cannes Film Festival. Catherine Parel closed in 1948.

For more information about Catherine Parel and other Russian couturiers of the 1930s, click here.

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Glossary – Skeuomorphism

A skeuomorphism (pronounced skyoo-o-morf-izm), is a word created by archaeologist Henry March in 1890 to refer to designs or details that are no longer relevant but still exist. In fashion this can include original design features that are still made, but no longer used like watch pockets, sleeve buttons, and D-rings on trench coats. It can also refer to things made to represent something they are not, like crocodile imprinted pleather belts, or leopard print anything. It can also refer to archaic traditional ways of dressing, such as Gentlemen leaving the lowest button of their vest unbuttoned.

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Canadian Fashion Connection – Erdem Moralioglu

Erdem Moralioglu (pronounced Moralee-oh-glue) was born in Montreal to a Turkish father and English mother. He earned a B.A. in fashion from Ryerson University in Toronto before working as an intern at Vivienne Westwood. After receiving his M.A. from London’s Royal College of Art in 2003 he worked for Diane von Furstenberg before launching his label ERDEM, in 2005.

He received a number of fashion awards over the past decade, including several from the British Fashion Council, but when the Duchess of Cambridge began wearing ERDEM, his clothing quickly found an international following.

Without any external funding, Erdem has grown year over year, launching an e-commerce store in 2014, and a flagship shop in London’s toney Mayfair area in 2015. Last week a pop-up line for H&M was launched, and while affordable, the new line still has the Erdem look, identifiable by his use of bold floral textiles.

One of the designs for Erdem’s fall 2017 H&M line

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Canadian Fashion Connection – Hugh Garber

Hugh Garber with model, 1981

Born in 1945, Hugh Garber left his native Montreal to study art at Hornsey College of Art in London. Upon graduation he worked as a cook in a kibbutz for 6 months before working at Patrick Barentzen in Rome. Waiting for an opportunity in fashion back in Canada, that opportunity came in 1968 when he was hired by Margo Dress in Montreal to design their holiday line. The line was a success and soon Hugh Garber was designing under his name for Margo Dress.

In 1976 Garber moved to Toronto, becoming a partner in a new company HE II. His clothes were never edgy or extreme, they were always immensely wearable, and sold through quality retailers, like The Room at Simpsons. In 1981 Garber took on some more corporate work, designing uniforms for CP Air, Mary Kay cosmetics, and Players Tennis classic. By 1983, his love with the fashion business had waned and he went into a new venture – Hughie’s Burgers. The restaurant was a success, but an even more fortuitous event occurred when Garber won a 3.2 million dollar lottery in 1987.

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Sailor Tattoos Decoded

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John Mollo, 1931 – 2017

Costume designer John Mollo died October 25, at the age of 86. Before becoming a costume designer, Mollo specialized in historical military uniforms, and wrote several books on the topic. He acted as an historical advisor on films including  The Charge of the Light Brigade and Barry Lyndon.

His first costume design job was for 1977’s  Star Wars. Darth Vader’s costume was inspired by a combination of World War 1 trench armour, and Nazi helmets. Mollo was awarded the Oscar for best costume design in 1977 for Star Wars, and again received an Oscar for best costume design in 1983 for Gandhi. Mollo also created the costumes for Alien, Cry Freedom, Chaplin and The Empire Strikes Back.

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