'Fashioning San Francisco' highlights the patrons who shaped the city's style

At a time when fashion brands are paying celebrities and influencers to wear their clothes, the designers' true patrons — as well as museums — are rarely discussed. But in San Francisco, a new exhibit celebrates patrons like Ethel Sperry Crocker, Eleanor Christenon de Guigne, Jeanne Magnin, Georgette „Dodi” Rosekrans, Denise Hale, Christine Suppes and now Sherry McMullen. .

At the de Young Museum, Saturday through August 11, „Fashion San Francisco: A Century of Style” by Callot Soeurs looks at their museum bequests and permanent collections of luxury ballgowns, little black dresses, bohemian and avant-garde looks. , Lucille, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Ralph Rucci, John Galliano, Rodarte, Kaisik Wong, Christopher John Rogers and others.

Rodarte Evening Dress, Spring 2011, Gift of Christine Suppes

Randy Dodson

Using more than 100 ensembles, curator Laura Camerlengo touched on several themes, including fashion's role in signaling the city's rebirth after the natural disasters that shaped it, including the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed 80 percent of it.

Within days, merchants had set up a temporary retail zone to serve Gold Rush-flushed San Francisco, and the recovery culminated in 1915 at the Panama Pacific International Exposition with many fashions from French couturiers and American designers. Party looks like the 1921 blue and black Lucille evening dress with floral garland detailing were symbolic of the region's elegance, refinement, and bohemian tendencies.

Lady Duff Gordon „Lucille” evening dress, 1921

Randy Dodson

The first French clothing imported after World War II, the 1946 Jacques Costed velvet and silk little black dress, is on display, retailing — and wearing — the French style that shaped San Francisco's cosmopolitan identity in the early 20th century. Retailed by I. Magnin, it was front-page news in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Bay Area department stores, especially i. Magnin signed contracts to copy and retail French clothing to the community organization. The museum's clothing collection especially benefited from the patronage of Grover Magnin (I. Magnin was founded by his parents) and his wife Jean, a former model and close friend of Christian Dior. Their donations included stunning Venus and Juno gowns from the Dior 1949 Fall Couture collection, which toured the West Coast as part of the store's traveling fashion exhibitions. With their petal-shaped skirts and glittering sequins, they'll look right at home on the 2024 red carpet.

Installation view of „Fashion San Francisco: A Century of Style” at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.

Gary Sexton

In many cases, local donors had close relationships with the designers, not only buying their clothes, but also supporting them by funding runway collections and businesses. Georgette „Doddy” Rosecrans financed John Galliano's early collections, and her Dior Spring 1999 dress, designed to be worn backwards, was one of his many avant-garde looks.

Two of Hale's promised gifts are on view, including a gown by Irish designer Sybil Connolly worn by the philanthropist and best-dressed Hall of Famer when she arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Museum for a state dinner.

And Tatiana Sorocco, model and muse of Ralph Ruzzi, was noted for her fall season with the digitally printed Infanta gown she wore to the 2007 San Francisco Symphony Opening Night Gala. Another major donor, Christine Suppus, has exhibited many of the looks of Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Rodarte, which she has supported.

Sybil Connolly Evening Ensemble: Top, Skirt, Stole and Belt, 1983. Denise Hale Collection.

Randy Dodson

„There are a lot of women here who are not only interested in fashion in dressing up, but really interested in supporting the industry,” Camerlengo said.

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While many of the city's fashion patrons are white, born into or married into wealth, Black tastemaker Sherry McMullen aims to demonstrate how that is changing by including two Christopher John Rogers looks. Oakland store. Also included is a dramatic gold-embroidered green gown with puffed sleeves by Edwin Oudshoorn that Silicon Valley executive Tanum Davis Boehne wore to the ballet gala.

Ralph Ruci Women's Ensemble: Cape and Gown, Fall Couture 2007, worn by Tatiana Sorocco.

Randy Dodson

However, one wishes space had been devoted to revealing the biographies of all these women, with photos of them wearing designs by Chanel, Bill Blass, Yohji Yamamoto and more.

Throughout, Camerlengo considers European and American designer inspiration (and appropriation), and the enduring influence of the Pacific Rim on local settlement. The work of two prominent Chinese American San Francisco designers is noteworthy—Kaisik Wong, who emerged from the art-to-vest movement in the 1970s and is best known for his patchwork dress, copied by Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga. Traditional dress maker Richard Tom.

Kaisik Wong Evening Ensemble, 1985

Randy Dodson

„In the 1960s and '70s Richard Tom emerged as America's greatest designer for women's clothing here, but also Ethel Kennedy and Tina Shore,” said the curator. „He worked as a fashion designer, and I've seen items on the market attributed to Balenciaga, which Tom designed in the 1960s.

„It's a wonderful opportunity to celebrate their work,” he said of Wong and Tom. „Both designers died very young, and their stories are somewhat lost in traditional histories and stories, and deeply meaningful to our communities that still remember them. I would love to have a large show of Tom's work housed in the Met, the museum at FIT, and other major museums, but this never happened. Lacks extensive research.

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These are the forerunners of other Asian American designers, among them Derek Lam and Alexander Wang from the Bay Area.

Richard Tom evening dress, 1966

Randy Dodson

There is no camerlengo to define San Francisco style, he said. „Buyers are importing the best of French fashion into the city, there are women who make their own clothes, women who can't work with hustle and bustle, who use newspapers to fill their skirts, and people who wear traditional culture clothing,” she said in the range. „It's representative of how San Francisco still dresses today. What you see in Timeline are self-made women like Sherry McMullen and Danum Davis Boehn and how they rejoin a long thread of women who manifest in different ways in the public sphere in San Francisco.

Christopher John Rogers evening gown, 2021, from the collection of Sherry McMullen.

Randy Dodson

Another such woman today is Anna Siu, co-founder of San Francisco fashion brand Comberet, who recently dressed Awkwafina, Abby Elliott and Diane Lane for awards season events. Inspired tie closures, architectural shirts and intricate seams are loved by style makers in the Bay Area and beyond.

„It's inspiring. The level of complexity and imagining the people wearing these,” Chiu said while viewing the collection Wednesday morning.

It will be interesting to see the exhibition's conversation continue with contemporary Bay Area labels, including sustainable ones that bring solutions to today's natural disasters, and Levi's, born in San Francisco, has done more than almost any other brand. Democratize fashion.

For now, visitors looking for it can take advantage of the museum's partnership with tech giant Snapchat in a virtual experience featuring three AR glasses featuring exhibition looks by Dior, Valentino and Wong.

Thomas P., director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. As Campbell said, “When we try to make museums open and friendly, fashion is important…and we can't have all these fragile clothes. Touched, it seemed like a wonderful opportunity.

Three Snap AR mirrors allow museum visitors to try on ensembles, including one by Dior.

Gary Sexton

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