Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Joe Allen Hong

With the upcoming royal wedding I thought it might be interesting to look at some other famous royal wedding dresses…

The dress worn by Grace Kelly on April 19, 1956 to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco was a gift from MGM, the studio where Grace Kelly had been contracted. Kelly still had a seven year contract outstanding with the studio when she left to marry Rainier. In exchange for breaking the contract, MGM was granted permission to film the wedding — a decision Princess Grace later wished she had not agreed to due to the invasiveness of the cameras. A perk of the deal included a wedding dress designed by MGM costume designer Helen Rose, but the rest of the bridal party’s clothes were designed by Joe Allen Hong, the subject of this installment of the ‘obscurier couturier.’

Joe Allen Hong was born in El Paso, Texas on November 28, 1930 and attended the California College of Arts and Crafts. After a short stint in the army, he landed a job as a fashion designer for Neiman Marcus.

At the urging of Lawrence Marcus, Hong entered a competition to design the bridesmaid and flower girl’s dresses for the royal wedding, and won! The pale yellow dresses were demure and in keeping with the royal status of the wedding dress. The flower girl’s dresses were embroidered with tiny floral sprigs, in keeping with the spring time date of the wedding.

Hong eventually settled in San Francisco where his designing talent extended beyond the realm of fashion to include everything from posters to the gift box design for Joseph Magnin Co. Hong died on February 28, 2004.

9 thoughts on “Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Joe Allen Hong

  1. Just got this from Trish Turner, who used to work with Joe Hong:
    “Thank you so much for the salute to Joe Allen Hong. He hired me as the first Art Director for The Horchow Collection (he was Creative Director).

    He asked me 3 questions:
    “Do you know what an Xacto knife is?”
    “Do you know how to paste-up with rubber cement?”
    “What sign are you?”

    and when I answered…”Aries” without hesitation, he said “You’re hired.”

    In my 35+ years in advertising, have I ever worked with a more talented and delightful creature than Joe Hong? No. I still have some of his layouts. After a catalogue was printed, I was always hunting for his layouts, back from the photographers. They were threatened if they didn’t.

    He was so generous with his knowledge and talent and one of my greatest teachers. And he was HYSTERICALLY FUNNY!!!

    He was such a dear, dear man. I googled him over the years but I was mistaken – I thought it was Joseph Allen Hong.

    I really appreciate you making this page – he was truly a legend and I was blessed by his friendship. There are a hundred funny stories – trust me.”

  2. jonathan… great information about joe hong. you might check the instagram account, “ reflections of a man “ ( stanley marcus ) for current post on hong.

  3. Dear Jonathan,

    Trish Turner here. I wrote you before about Our Dear Mr. Hong and you posted it. You also wrote me a most gracious email back, that I was so touched by that I kept it for all these years (since 2016). However, in my move here to Brenham, TX – Google lost all of my old emails and bookmarks, bless their very-small-dark-hearts. But I’m hoping in my move that I will find the layouts Joe Hong did that I saved from our glorious days together at Horchow. The best one is a two-page spread of a beautiful creation (feature page) of a gorgeous evening gown by Valentino, who was an emerging talent in 1973-74 (at least for the Horchow focus customer).

    So, I was thinking that if I was hit by a truck tomorrow, no one would know the historical importance of these layouts. So I am asking two things:
    1. I would like to get them to a source, such as yourself, who would appreciate them and share them with the world.
    2. But I also could not miss one of the comments in your blog (from that same page) from one of Joe Hong’s nieces about “wish we could talk” (meaning you). I would also like the family to have access to them as well (and maybe me to talk about Joe Hong which I could do for hours).

    ***(Did not verify this info below – was afraid I’d lose my comments if I left this page to go do so).
    I also have a copy of the Bloomingdale’s “Sighs and Whispers” lingerie catalog (1976-77?) that just caused an Absolute Sensation in the Fashion World (catalog and visual merchandising of store windows). I could sell it on ebay for $300+ but sometimes it is much more fun, in the vein of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to “Give it away, give it away now.” This is also an item that needs to be documented (and please forgive me if you have already done this – didn’t see it).

    I left catalog work in the late 70s and advertising in the late 80s to pursue fine art only (even though I consider Joe Hong’s layouts&artworks to be the most beautiful blend of both).

    In my tender age of 68, I find daily that it is most important that we document for the future. Thank you for all the enchanting work you do on this blog/website – it is like the Cyberspace Smithsonian of Fashion in my mind. I just get lost in it for hours and it has given me great enjoyment. I so appreciate your art and want to participate in making all of this available for future generations. Bravo!

    • Hi Trish – thank-you for your kind words and support. I am the director/curator of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario, so we are always open to donations to the collection, including archival material. We have several archives of designers, all Canadian at the moment, but also some interesting archives from fashion journalist David Livingstone. He worked in Canada, but interviewed all the designers/models/fashion leaders around the world and we have all his audio tapes of those interviews! They are a treasure of information I hope to have translated into documents some day soon. I just have to find the right grant to get that done. Anyway, I would be interested in both items, however, if you feel it’s more important to keep them closer to where Mr. Hong worked, I would suggest contacting a fashion collection in the U.S., like Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, or the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles. Kevin Jones is the curator at FIDM and I suspect he would be interested in Mr. Hong’s work, and the catalogue if he doesn’t already have it. However, I would be happy to take both regardless. Thanks again for your kind words!
      Jonathan

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