Friday, May 30, 2008

Dodie Rosekrans-Part II

Clockwise Left: Crusader chic, a look from Dior’s Fall 2006 Couture, one that would have appealed to Rosekrans’ eccentric tastes; Rosekrans in 1963 wearing a sari-inspired gown by Balenciaga, one of the first couture pieces she bought right after getting married; A young Rosekrans in 1963; Another look from Dior’s Fall 2006 Couture; In San Francisco, wearing a draped Balenciaga column,1964; Galliano coming down the runway with models at the end his first Paris show in 1991.

But as well traveled as she is, Dodie Rosekrans, who is 89, may go down in history as a formidable style icon. Much like her late friend and fellow San Franciscan, Nan Kempner, Rosenkrans has amassed one of the largest and most enviable haute couture collections in the world. For half a century she has been a fixture at the Paris couture shows, collecting pieces by Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Balmain, Gaultier, Lacroix and Dior. But it is here where the comparison’s to Kempner end.

For although Mrs. Kempner’s couture collection was the subject of an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, some wondered whether anything was to be learned about fashion or social history by looking at her wardrobe. For those who knew Kempner personally, it may have served as a timeline of events in her life. But for the average person, her world was little more than a fantasy. It left visitors questioning what Kempner’s contributions were to the history of fashion and why she mattered. For the clothes to become more than exquisite examples of tailoring, they must reveal something about the collaboration between the client and the couturier to create something unique and beautiful, or about the larger culture in which they existed.

By comparison, the “Rara Avis” exhibit at the MET, which showcased the wardrobe of the New Yorker Iris Barrel Apfel, succeeded in this regard. Instead of merely exhibiting tasteful examples of expensive clothes bearing designer labels, the exhibit was a study of Apfel’s eccentric sense of style in the way she combined flea market finds, ethnic costumes and couture pieces to create her own unique look. It was ultimately an example of how an individual can reinvent herself by using fashion as a building block.

Mrs. Rosekrans seems to follow a similar esthetic to that of Mrs. Apfel when it comes to her own wardrobe. Over the years she has acquired the ability to pull together looks that have pushed the boundaries of what is considered good taste. When asked to describe her own sense of style, she has responded that, "It's not something I'm conscious of, I just know what I'm comfortable with." That definition of comfort is of coarse unique to her alone, and by no means an easy task considering the amount of time many a society lady spends on her appearance before each public outing. "Dodie is not pretentious and not self-conscious," said Ann Getty, a longtime friend, interior designer and frequent travel companion. "After she gets dressed, she's not aware of it at all."

She once attended a Christmas luncheon in San Francisco wearing a sweater, pants, furry boots that looked like something the Abominable Snowman might wear and an amulet-style necklace so big it looked like it belonged to a front-man for a heavy metal band. While at a dinner in Paris with Nina Ricci, Rosekrans once wore an Indian Mogul necklace of rubies and emeralds, doubling the strands and tying them together with a ribbon from a Fauchon chocolate box. Known for her taste in accessories that mix the primitive with the refined, Mrs. Rosekrans often buys and commissions her jewelry from artists. On most individuals those combinations would have appeared contrived, but on her it looked effortlessly chic. "She's fearless," added Getty. "Dodie's a trendsetter. You look at what she's done and think, 'Why didn't I do it that way?' It makes you want to follow her lead, but she's already done it."

It is also interesting to note that Kempner was known to be a conspicuous consumer, not an artist or collaborator as such. She once said, "I'm a drunk when it comes to clothes." She chose them based on what she knew would be most flattering on her body. As a result, her collection is not filled with the most provocative or iconic pieces from a designer's collection. By contrast Rosenkrans has always gravitated towards the most unique or extravagant pieces. According to her good friend John Galliano, "She always wants to buy the pieces straight off the runway, so her collection of Dior and Galliano are all one-of-a-kind, show-stopping pieces, whereas most other couture clients go for more discreet pieces," Galliano said. "With all her fantastic stories and seeing her incredible wardrobe, she is a real inspiration." Most of her clothes are stored at her homes in San Francisco, Paris and Venice. According to friends, her collection includes three notable African dresses from Yves Saint Laurent in the 1960s and a green fox coat from the '70s.

But what seems to set Dodie Rosekrans apart from your average couture customer is that she has not only served as a client but also a patron. With a sixth sense for spotting talent she often doesn’t hesitate to support a designer who’s work she admires. It is a little known fashion fact that she was one of a handful of supporters instrumental in shaping Galliano’s career. "I went to his atelier when he wasn't there, and it had the most wonderful things in it," she said. "I fell in love with him, so to speak, before I ever met him." But when they eventually did meet, it was the intersection of two extraordinary minds coming together. Galliano’s memory of that first meeting was that he was "bowled over by her amazing sense of style, eclectic sense of dress and the way she mixes her vintage '70s Saint Laurent with Comme des Garçons and Harry Winston jewels."
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1 comment:


Fashion designers and fashion in general need more people like Dodie today. She was incredible....