FA2L is for anyone who cares about beautiful things–clothing, shoes, accessories, home furnishings–and the interconnected tribes of those who make, sell, market and desire them. If something speaks to you, buy it now or hold your peace: there are links in each story, so the item you want is just a click away. I'd like to hear from you, too: please view my profile, use the email button and send me your comments.MG

Thursday, November 3, 2011

When New York City Was Fashion's State of Mind

Strange but true: American fashion, even in the second decade of the 21st century, owes most of its residual power (such as it is) to a unique cultural explosion that happened in New York City, circa 1976-81. At the time, the bright glow of neon lights tended to obscure that era's darker currents; but just choose a vice (flagrant hedonism and/or narcissism, hyped-up celebrity, overt and covert sexuality, rampant drug use and all manner of scandalous behavior) and you'll find ample proof it flourished in mid-to-late-'70s Manhattan. And since excess is always fascinating, it's no surprise that current designers–including the very youngest–still look back to that period for resonant inspiration.

Photographer Rose Hartman was there, camera in hand, and many of the pictures she took in that decadent heyday still speak loud and clear. Her book, Birds of Paradise (1980), offered a remarkably insightful look at fashion's "big picture" (at FA2L, we keep a copy by our bedside), and introduced readers to larger-than-life personalities like Diana Vreeland (then at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute), Steve Rubell (owner of Studio 54) and Candy Pratts Price (who'd already made a name for herself designing edgy windows at Bloomingdale's). Hartman is still very much on the go, but her archives are earmarked for the Fashion Institute of Technology–the site of this evening's opening-night party to celebrate an exhibit of 60 of Hartman's photographs representing Incomparable Women of Style. That would certainly include Apollonia, above, a lithe Dutch model with a sexy-yet-doll-like face who took NYC by storm. Stop by F.I.T.'s Gladys Marcus Library before January 20 to see this rara avis (and others) for yourself.