Fashion Week History: The 1950s and 60s

September 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Norman Norell Fashion Show (photograph by Bill Cunningham)

In the 50s, designers began to move away from the Plaza and Waldorf and into their own showrooms. 550 Seventh Avenue was and still remains the most prestigious address in the Garment District. Pauline Trigere, Claire McCardell Bill Blass, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta, and many other of America’s most esteemed designers have owned office space at 550. Assumedly, the showrooms provided a more intimate viewing space and the chance to show the entirety of a designer’s collection. At the hotels, only select parts of collections were shown.

550 Seventh Avenue

John Tiffany, author of Eleanor Lambert: Still Here, explained how Fashion Week would traditionally conclude with Norman Norell’s show during this era:

“People forget that Norman Norell was known as the dean of fashion. He was the first to win a Coty Award.  He won numerous Coty Awards, so many in fact that his stature prompted the creation of the Coty Award Hall of Fame. He was the second President of the CFDA, and he was one of the top designers in America.  For many years, his fashion shows would end fashion week. According to editors who were there… you’d have to go in black tie at night and they served champagne cocktails.

Once your cocktail was done, the show would begin, the runway designs would be read out loud by Norell himself. Ms. Lambert wanted the designers to be personalities. There’s something very smart about that because you know what is going down the runway. Ms. Lambert’s big complaint, before she died, was that people don’t really know what is on the runway, because they can’t see. She would say, “it’s not bad, it’s just different.” She really believed in making things easy for the editors.

Norman Norell Fashion Show Fall/Winter 1968 (photograph by Bill Cunningham)

To learn more about the history of Fashion Week, purchase Eleanor Lambert: Still Here at Pointed Leaf Press

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