Fashion History Talks! In conversation with Tziporah Salamon

“It was Matisse that turned my eyes into diamonds.” Tziporah Salamon

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Small Odalisque in Purple Robe by Henri Matisse, 1937, Private Collection.

It is one thing to admire the art of dress, it is another thing entirely to be its living embodiment. And yet, that is exactly what the enchanting, inimitable Tziporah Salamon represents: a walking painting. the-art-of-dressing-book-cover-rizzoliEach of Tziporah’s thoughtfully-crafted ensembles are a work of art, beautifully composed from a lifetime of collecting clothing and accessories from around the world and throughout history. Liquid Chinese-embroidered silk jackets in bright magenta, floral-sprinkled beach pajamas paired with the perfect green hat, a self-styled turban fashioned from Japanese ikat–such are the things that dreams are made of–or quiet literally, the visual manifestation of one woman’s life lived in color. To see Tziporah is to smile.

A personal stylist, fashion consultant, author and performance artist, is it any wonder that Tziporah is also a recognized New York style icon and fashion model? A staple of the beloved street-style photography of the late, great Bill Cunningham, she has starred in both a groundbreaking Lanvin ad campaign and Ari Seth Cohen’s widely-acclaimed documentary Advanced Style, as well as his blog and book of the same name. It is perhaps of no surprise that the woman herself is as captivating as the clothing she wears. Thank you, Tziporah, for being the latest interviewee on The Art of Dress!

 

Tell us about yourself and what you do as it relates to the history of fashion and dress.

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Photograph by Ivy Ney.

 As the daughter of parents who both sewed for a living, I grew up surrounded by cloth. My parents, Hungarian Jews, were accomplished craftsmen, with highly evolved skills. They both made all my clothes. From day one, I was swathed in the clothing of royalty – measured and fit to my exact measures and designed and executed to perfection by both of them. Dad was a master tailor who survived the Holocaust by sewing the Nazi uniforms (and you know how perfect those were) and mom could not only sew, but knit, crochet and embroider. So not only did I have the perfect sky blue hand-knit sweater to pair with the perfectly forming accordion pleats navy blue skirt which sometimes turned into a jumper, but the sweater would have a wreath of flowers, or a few birds, embroidered to it. The same with the royal blue velvet dress with ruffles on the bottom.  Or my father’s red toggle button wool coat with a Little Red Riding Hood hood. Or his knickers, and shorts with suspenders. My clothes were the stuff of dreams, of royalty, of Hollywood glamour.

To top it off, my Aunt Yoli, my Doda Yoli, my father’s favorite sister, after surviving Auschwitz, ended up in America, while my father ended up in Israel.  Over one weekend, while in NYC, the course of her life was changed forever when she met a rich Texan, who took her back to San Antonio where he happened to be the Vice President of Neiman Marcus, the best Dept store in America in the 50’s. When she learned that her favorite brother just had two little girls, she went shopping. And shop she did. On a regular basis, we would receive packages from the store filled to the brim with the most luscious, well-made, fashionable girls clothes of the day. I wore the same clothes picked out by Jacqueline Kennedy’s mother and aunts for young Jackie. So that from day one I had on my body the best clothes that hands could make, and the best clothes that money could buy. The bar was set very high indeed!

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Photograph by Kal Naga.

Fast forward to today, where I travel the world to teach The Art of Dressing Seminar, a 2hour master class in which I use my own extensive collection of antique clothes and accessories to teach the principles of design.  I have also just published a book, THE ART OF DRESSING: Ageless, Timeless, Original Style, published by Rizzoli. It is a beautiful book of which I am most proud. I have a one-woman show called THE FABRIC OF MY LIFE, a sartorial autobiography  and TZIPPY’S TALES, a chronological visit of one woman’s wardrobe through the decades, a show and tell – both of which I have performed at various venues, with my next Tzippy’s Tales to be performed at the Jewish Museum, NY on Nov 30th.

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Photograph by Yaniv Edry.

Why is the study of fashion and dress history important to you? Because I believe that I was put on this planet to raise the bar when it comes to dressing and style.  It is desperately needed.

In addition, it is a way to honor my parents.
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Photograph by Kal Naga.

In your opinion, is fashion art? Fashion CAN be art – if you take it to that level.  Absolutely. But it must be carefully rendered and follow certain principles of design and be worthy of being called art. Sadly, most of the clothing of today and the way women choose to wear them and how they are portrayed in fashion magazines is NOT art.  Fashion as art must be cultivated, studied, thought about, making careful choices. It starts with a hunger and takes discipline and refinement and discernment. And most importantly, takes a knowing of oneself.

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Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons. 18th-Century Punk, autumn/winter 2016–17; Photograph by © Paolo Roversi.

Favorite fashion designer, past and present: Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons.

If you could recommend one fashion or dress history related book to Art of Dress followers, what would it be? I guess it would have to be my book,

THE ART OF DRESSING: Ageless, Timeless, Original Style, published by Rizzoli.

If you could recommend one movie for the period costumes alone, what would it be? FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI, by Hsiao Hsien Hou
For a wonderful slideshow of the evolution of Tziporah’s style, please visit here.
More on the her seminar
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Photograph by Kal Naga.

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The Art of Christopher Kane Fall/Winter 2015 RTW — An Ode to Art and Fashion History

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Five distinct looks from Christopher Kane’s F/W 2015 RTW collection. Photographs courtesy of Catwalking.com via the Financial Times.

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Christopher Kane S/S 2007 RTW.

Christopher Kane’s Fall/Winter 2015 ready-to-wear collection beyond celebrating “feeling[s] of attraction and sensuality,”[1] was, in my eyes, a celebration of art and fashion history—not in the literal sense, but in a nuanced manner unique to Kane. Yes, the sexual references abound—phallic-looking slip tabs and silver-tipped pumps, which alluded to nipples, but perhaps it may be my inclination as a fashion historian to also see the historical references in this collection. Kane’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection demonstrates his immense talent and skill to move beyond his supremely well-received freshman collection from Spring/Summer 2007 of bodycon bandage dresses in neon colors to designing collection after collection that are thoughtful while being subversive, wearable yet provocative, all the while playing up the inherent qualities of his chosen materials. This particular collection, more than any, celebrates the art of dress in its tactile materiality. OChristopher Kane FW 2015 RTW_46f the several notable ensembles in this collection, the lace dresses comprised of sinuous nude figures that writhe and wrap around the model, were perhaps the most alluring. The highly stylized figures outlined in black were actually drawn by Kane and his team during life drawing classes held at the studio. Stylistically, they are redolent of Henri Matisse’s nude dancers from his renowned painting, The Dance of 1910, but Kane’s treatment—each figure pieced together, I see a nod to mid-1930s Surrealism à la Elsa Schiaparelli.             Matisse_The Dance 1909 The uneven hem formed from the figures’ cut out feet that aptly dance around the models’ ankles remind me of Schiaparelli’s masterful use of trompe l’oeil in her “Tears Dress” from the Circus Collection of 1938 designed with the help of artist Salvador Dali. Furthermore, Kane’s choice to use lace for the nude figures evokes human body hair, beautiful and grotesque all at once.

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The Tears Dress, printed evening ensemble by Elsa Schiaparelli, February, 1939. Victoria & Albert Museum.

Meanwhile, a shimmering blue and red draped velvet dress seemed to hark back to the heavy, draped fashions of 1913.

1913 Comparison

Vogue, December 1, 1913, 64.

Other historical references include a giant, characteristically 1960s floral Swiss lace that was used in its entirety to create a dress or at times trimmed a chainmail mesh shift that itself coincidentally recalls Paco Rabanne’s mesh “Rabanette”

Floral Comparison

All over embroidered daisy dress by Emanuel Ungaro and photographed by Richard Avedon. Vogue, March 1, 1966, 171.

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Jane Birkin dancing with Serge Gainsbourg in a Paco Rabanne mesh metal dress from 1969. Courtsey of Pacorabanne.com.

A diaphanous, seemingly ladylike sheer dress, embroidered with more outlines of nude figures, could have easily been a chiffon dinner dress by Jean Dessès from 1954.

Desses Comparison

Blue chiffon dinner dress by Jean Dessès. Vogue, March 1, 1954, 117.

Tim Blanks of Style.com also saw a nod to Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking jacket in the first look of the collection.[2]

Le Smoking Comparison

Yves Saint Laurent’s “Smoking” evening suit. Vogue, September 1, 1966, 291.

Despite Kane’s numerous references to fashion history, their presence never dilutes the overall strength or novelty of this collection. Nor do they come off in the least bit gimmicky. Rather, Kane transforms and reinvents what have become banal decade-associated tropes and merges them with elements that are distinctly his own.

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Glittery green lurex ensemble at Christopher Kane F/W 2015 RTW.

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Currents of an “electric orgasm,” Christopher Kane F/W 2015 RTW.


All runway photographs, unless noted, are courtesy of Style.com. Notes: [1] Jo Ellison, “Christopher Kane – London Fashion Week AW15 Show Report,” Financial Times, February 23, 2015, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ffaf1b76-bba4-11e4-aa71-00144feab7de.html [2] Tim Blanks, “Fall 2015 Ready-to-Wear Christopher Kane,” Style.com, http://www.style.com/fashion-shows/fall-2015-ready-to-wear/christopher-kane