The Couturiers' Private Lives, 1969: Part I

Posted by Laura
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There are few things I find more interesting than getting a peak into the private worlds of creative, inspiring people—whether a glimpse into their office, workroom or home, all can provide an understanding of how they view the world and interact with beauty. A portfolio of portraits of fashion designers at home, produced by Town & Country in 1969, reveals a host of the top American designers of the time relaxing in their diversely beautiful havens away from the chaos of their studios.

All photos by Francesco Scavullo, except for the portrait of James Galanos which is by Jay Thompson. All from Town & Country, September 1969.

Couturiers used to be known primarily for the clothes they designed. Today they influence nearly all aspects of fashionable living. Tuned in to tomorrow, they are sensitive to changes in social habits and often reflect trends they observe in their own adopted patterns of living. Since the advent of the designer celebrity, the way they look and entertain has set off a whole chain reaction of imitation and inspiration. For this feature they shared with us their private lives, revealing their views on décor, color, pattern, proportion. Their approach, we found, is usually bold, always creative and personal. Their observations are razor sharp, their irreverence for outdated concepts refreshing, their views on accepted values controversial but always aimed at breaking new ground.

James Galanos (pictured above) is one man who enjoys the contradictions of 20th-century living. In spite of a great need for privacy, Galanos eats out every night. "Being a bachelor, it simplifies matters," he explains, adding that "as a dieter I like simple things: caviar and champagne, or a great American hot dog." A night person at heart, he prefers dark rooms of subtle colorings but "with a feeling of richness and quality." Of décor, he says that it should be a complete reflection of oneself. For him, perfectly proportioned furnishings, simple in line—"nothing embellished. Elaborate antiques were right for their particular time and environment but are not suitable for the scale of houses today. Mies van der Rohe and Breuer designs are as elegant as anything of the past. You have only to look at thh Seagram Building in New York—a jewel."


Bill Blass regally overlooks Beekman and Sutton Place from a floor-through penthouse bordered by terrace gardens. In the process of combining two apartments he talks about plans for the décor he worked out with Chessy Rayner and Mica Ertegun. His living room may well be done completely in shiny brown vinyl, brown being a Blass signature color in both his women's and men's wear. With brown, he likes the related tones of tortoise shell, animal horns, speckled sea shells, coral, and—tigers. Blass tigers come in all sizes and shapes—miniatures carved in wood, ivory, crystal, and semiprecious stones are clustered on table tops. A celebrated bachelor host and a dedicated cook who "loves to involve himself in elaborate dishes as a form of creative therapy," at home he entertains friends in the easy style that has become a Blass trademark.


Pauline Trigère would "rather enjoy the fresh country air than spend weekends in town at a smoky cocktail or dinner party." Her country house, La Tortue, was named for her collection of more than 500 turtles. She has added to it several times and compares her architectural operations with plastic surgery. She also did her own landscaping, arranging plants and rocks "like pockets on a dress." With a magpie instinct for collecting, she is a skillful manipulator of many possessions, among them pewter, antique porcelain, old barber plates, French toile, and a boatload of ashtrays. Her forte is to convert objects to unusual uses: old Spanish doors divide the kitchen and dining room; antique paneling was made into an alcove guest bed, and a child's cradle became a two-tier coffee table.


Oscar de la Renta and his wife believe in a rich double measure of everything. Home to them is a refuge, a place to refuel or spend their creative energies, a heaven of comfort for themselves and for guests. Both have a passion for pattern. Preferably pattern on pattern. Although each room is basically kept in one color family, the myriad nuances plus the fireworks of different designs and textures build into a mad crescendo. Everything is layered: color on color; pattern on pattern; area rugs over wall-to-wall carpeting; double rows of pillows on soft upholstery; fur thrown over suede; tortoise shell on rich woods; flowers and Chinese porcelains massed; bibelots are clustered; table surfaces cluttered; collections and books everywhere you look. "We believe in living a full life," concludes the designer. "To do so we need an atmosphere of abundance."


Jacques Tiffeau. Dressed in the same loosely cut kimono he wears at work, Jacques is completely informal at home. In occasionally salty vocabulary, he gives his views on décor: "I like clean spaces, the pure object, no jazz—the same principles that apply to my clothes." The proof is all around him: stark black-and-white living room, purely functional furnishings, and bold personal objects. African sculpture and the canvases of Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler and Alex Lieberman are everywhere. When in New York, he "loves feeling alone with lots of people around me." He spends time away skiing or traveling the South of France, where he acquired a taste for lots of garlic, pot-au-feu, and choucroute, which he serves to a few friends at home. "The ritual in restaurants is a joke," he thinks.

More designers to come...

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