“A woman can carry a bag, but it’s the shoe that carries the woman” – Christian Louboutin

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Who doesn’t love a pair of heels? They not only make any outfit look good, but they make you feel good too. They may not always be practical, but then stilettos were never meant to be! That feeling when you pull your new shoes out of the box and try them on at home for the first time is liberating. How many of you have stood in front of the mirror and just admired them on your feet, and the way they make your body feel? I know I have many times. A great pair of shoes can give you confidence, they can lift your spirits and make you feel sensual. They can complement any outfit and give you the urge to strut your stuff! Oh for the love of shoes, yes, I think I have a fetish like many of you do!

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One man who can be credited with giving women this lustrous feeling about themselves and what’s on their feet is Christian Louboutin. The French shoe designer has been decorating women’s feet for over twenty years now, and has certainly cemented his place in fashion history. Born and raised in Paris’ 12th arrondissment on January 7th 1964, Louboutin was the only son of a cabinet maker and stay at home mum. He had three sisters and spent most of his younger years surrounded by these women. Louboutin was fascinated during his childhood with the country Egypt, and it’s been reported that only a few years ago he discovered that his biological father was in fact Egyptian. Not being much of an academic, Louboutin was often expelled from school or failed to show up in the first place. By the age of twelve, he had taken inspiration from a Sophia Loren interview about her sister leaving school early and going on to achieve success. Louboutin follow suit with no doubt in his mind that his life would turn out just fine.Louboutin 2

After leaving school, Louboutin found work at the famed Foiles Bergeres cabaret club in Paris. Here he experienced many things as a young boy, and became known as a bit of a party lad around town, cruising the scene with the likes of Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol. He also spent some time abroad, in Egypt and in India, before returning to Paris and setting his sights on shoes. His fascination with shoes came from a visit to a museum when he was a young boy, where there was a sign displaying no high heels to be worn inside the museum for fear of damaging the floor. With little formal training, Louboutin compiled a portfolio of shoe designs that he set off to show some of the couture houses in Paris. From these initial meetings, Louboutin was fortunate enough to impress Charles Jourdan, who gave him his first job as a shoe designer. It wasn’t long after this that he moved on to apprentice in the atelier of the renowned Roger Vivier, who had designed shoes for Christian Dior in the 1950’s.Louboutin 5

After learning many skills and encouraging what was his natural abilities, Louboutin became a freelance shoe designer himself. He designed collections for Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Maud Frizon. After taking a short break form designing, Louboutin found the calling too strong, and in 1991 with the help of two backers, set up his own business. One of his first clients was Princess Caroline of Monaco, who just happened to be in the store at the same time as a journalist. This meeting set the scene for Louboutin and he has never looked backed. There are many famous women who have fallen in love with the red soled shoes, including Catherine Deneuve, Joan Collins, Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker and Blake Lively. One of Louboutin’s biggest fans is reported to be Danielle Steel, who is said to have over six thousand pairs of Louboutin’s in her wardrobe!

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Christian Louboutin has been credited with bringing the stiletto back to life. His heels are around one hundred and twenty millimetres high, and are recognised the world over for the flaming red sole. The idea for the coloured sole came about when Louboutin was looking for something to liven up his designs. His assistant was painting her nails a vibrant shade of red next to him one day in the studio, and Louboutin stole the bottle and painted the sole of his latest creation. He knew in an instant that it would become his trademark! The colour has its own unique Pantone code of 18-1663 TPX. The majority of Louboutin’s shoes are aimed at the upmarket dressy fashionista. They are adorned with all sorts of embellishments depending of the inspiration for the season. Jewels, bows, feathers and patent leather are all featured on some of his more sensual designs. Know amongst the elite as the “Sammy red soled shoes”, Louboutin’s signature was created in 1993, and over the years the designer has fought many battles to keep this design feature exclusively his.

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Christian Louboutin has achieved immense success since the start up of his business. In his first year of trading he sold about two hundred pairs of shoes, and by 2012, was turning over around 700,000 pairs! Of the $300 million in annual revenue, almost 95% of it comes from shoe sales alone. The United States is by far the biggest market for the stunning red soles, making up 52% of the company’s sales. The majority of the shoes are produced in a factory in Milan, where Louboutin employs about four hundred and twenty staff. Known as Loubis Angels, the staff work tirelessly to bring his creations to life. For a long time Christian Louboutin resisted the calls for him to design other luxury goods. In 2003 he developed his first line of handbags and purses, and has since branched out into men’s footwear, luxury beauty products (including a red nail varnish), and fragrance. He has also been involved in many side projects over the years as well, including partnership with Disney, Mattel, Apple, and a photo exhibit with David Lynch.

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So if you’re the kind of woman who loves the feel of a well crafter pair of shoes on her feet, and you’ve got between $400 to $6000, then maybe a pair of Louboutin’s is what you need! With the desire to make women feel sexy and flirtatious, Christian Louboutin has certainly achieved this many times over. Striking, iconic, and damn right hot, the Louboutin brand of shoes with their lively red sole is certainly something I will be striving to own in my vast shoe collection.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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“I avoid looking back. I prefer good memories to regrets” – Grace Kelly

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When you think of Grace Kelly, what kind of person comes to mind? The style icon of pure elegance and sophistication, the film star at the top of her game, or Her Royal Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco? She was all these things but so much more, as I’ve discovered whist researching this next blog. I put Grace Kelly in a league of remarkable women. There were a few other influential females during the 1950’s that also have a significant place in history. Think Audrey Hepburn, Sofia Loren and Marilyn Monroe. But Grace is the one I think of first when I’m looking for inspiration for something pure, gentle and nourishing. She not only dominated the world of film and fashion, but became a European royal and continued to showcase her serene taste in clothing while she occupied the Palace of Monaco.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to see the exhibition Grace Kelly Style, presented by the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum of London, when it toured globally and came to a regional city close to my home town. Being able to get so close to some of Grace’s personal possessions was an overwhelming experience and one I will gladly carry with me forever. It not only highlighted her impeccable taste in fashion and how she continues to influence the runways all these years later, but gave a history into the life she lead as a member of the Royal family, and all of the tremendous work she did for charitable organisations.

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Grace Patricia Kelly was born on November 12 1929, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, into an affluent family. Her father was an Olympic gold medallist for his country, and worked in politics and as the owner of a large brickwork company. Her mother was a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania, and together the Kelly’s had 4 children, raising them all in a Roman Catholic household. Grace and her siblings never wanted for anything, and Grace attended a prestigious girl’s Catholic school. It was here that she dabbled in the arts, being involved in modelling, drama and dance. From this sample of the entertainment business through her schooling, Grace wanted to pursue a career in acting, either on stage or film. Her father was not impressed by her choice in further studies, but no less agreed to Grace moving to New York to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Being a competent and dedicated student, Grace went on to master her acting skills, and on her graduation, secured roles in theatre productions. From working on the stage, Grace then continued to improve her talent, and moved on to television productions, and then finally landed the Hollywood dream of being a film actress.

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In 1951, Grace debut in the film 14 hours, directed by Henry Hathaway. The film was not a roaring success, but it did lead Grace to Gary Cooper, who asked the actress to star in his new film High Noon (1951). From here on in, Grace became noticed more and more, and signed a contract with studio MGM in 1952. The contract was for seven years, with Grace earning $850 a week. In 1953, Grace had her biggest success to date, earning an Academy Award for her role as Linda Nordely in Mogambo. She stared alongside Ava Gardner and Clark Gable. The following year the Academy came knocking again, this time earning the rights to Best Actress for her role as Georgie Elgin in The Country Girl. By now, Grace had cemented herself into acting royalty, and was in high demand amongst producers and directors. One director who Grace formed a close bond with for the remainder of her life was the dexterous Alfred Hitchcock. The pair made a few films together, and Grace became Hitchcock’s number one leading lady. Their first film together was Dial M for Murder (1954), followed by Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). Following her time with Hitchcock, Grace went on to make two more films before leaving Hollywood. The Swan and High Society (both 1956), were the height of sophistication in Grace’s motion picture career. Over her relatively short stint in Hollywood, only lasting five years before life as a Royal took over, Grace made eleven films.

It was during Grace’s reign as a Hollywood starlet that she met her husband. In 1955 at the Cannes Film Festival in the Mediterranean hideaway of the French Riviera.  A striking young Grace met Prince Rainer Third of Monaco. There was an instant attraction between the two, and the media enjoyed every minute of their courtship. A short time after their initial encounter, the pair announced their engagement, and the future Princess of Monaco had arrived. Grace had to make a sacrifice many women these days would find difficult, giving up her own hopes and dreams to become a Royal. She was no longer able to continue her life as an actress, as royal protocol ensured that she was no longer working, but rather involved in royal duties and obligations (much like todays fairy-tale of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle!). The couple had two weddings, one a religious ceremony, the other civil. The civil ceremony took place on 18th April 1956, in the Palace Throne room in Monaco. The service only lasted sixteen minutes, but included all the official necessities, comprising of Grace receiving one hundred and forty two official titles! The grand ceremony and religious service took place the following day at St Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco, and was televised to thirty million viewers worldwide. There were seven hundred guests at the reception, including Aristotle Onassis, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant and Gloria Swanston. The gown which Grace wore was designed by MGM head costume designer Helen Rose, and took six weeks and three dozen seamstresses to construct.

The couple went on to have a family on three. Princess Caroline was born in January 1957, followed by Prince Albert (the current serving Prince of Monaco) in March 1958. A few years later, Princess Stephanie was born in February 1965. Grace fell naturally into her role as Princess and took on her royal duties with confidence and commitment. She was offered parts in film and on stage numerous times after her marriage, but was not allowed to accept. This left Grace feeling somewhat incomplete, but she channelled these emotions into giving her three children the best upbringing she could have imagined.

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Tragically in September 1982, the world lost Princess Grace in a car accident. It’s reported that she suffered a stroke while driving her daughter Stephanie home, losing control of the vehicle and crashing off the side of a cliff. Princess Stephanie survived her mother, with Grace sadly passing the following day after her life support was turned off. At her funeral service five days later, four hundred mourners attended to pay their respects to this gracious woman. Again Cary Grant showed his solid friendship to Grace by attending the service, alongside Nancy Regan and Diana, Princess of Wales. Her eulogy was given by close friend James Stewart, and through his heartfelt words, Princess Grace was laid peacefully to rest. Prince Rainer never remarried, and in 2005 when he passed away, he was buried alongside Grace in the family mausoleum.

There were many legacies Grace left behind, with none being bigger than her influence on fashion. She has remained a style icon into the twenty first century, with designers constantly looking towards her wardrobe for inspiration. One of the most notable contributions to fashion the Grace made, was popularising a handbag made by designer brand Hermes. Dubbed the ‘Kelly’ bag, Princess Grace was always photographed with this bag over her arm, in what many believe was an attempt to shield her pregnant belly. Even today, the ‘Kelly’ bag is hugely popular among celebrities, and is in constant demand. Grace also made popular the ‘Fresh Face’ look. She always wore her makeup as natural as possible, or even none at all. She had a pale complexion accented by her shiny blonde hair, and had a look of pureness about her. Grace loved fashion as much as it loved her, and throughout her life she continued to follow trends and experiment with new styles as the world changed from one decade to the next. Helen Rose of MGM studios played a large role in the construction of Grace’s wardrobe. During her time at MGM, Rose worked on over two hundred films. She was bestowed the honour to make both of Grace’s wedding garments. At the civil ceremony, Grace wore a beige lace and rose silk suit. It had a fitted bodice with a silk cord tied in a bow at the neck. Lace covered buttons ran the length of the jacket. The skirt fell fourteen inches above the floor in a glorious full hem. Short white gloves, matching lace covered shoes and a small silk trimmed hat completed her outfit. For her religious ceremony, Grace wore one of the most recognisable wedding gowns in history. Composing a high neck, the rose point lace hugged Grace’s arms and torso. A cummerbund of ivory silk was positioned over the waist, and a full skirt cascaded below. The skirt received it’s voluminosity from pleats carefully constructed in the sides and back, with three petticoats and a hoop assisting in keeping it all in place. This most famous of gowns has been replicated many times over for brides across the globe, with a nod of acknowledgement coming from the Duchess of Cambridge at her wedding to Prince William in 2011.

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One of the most well-known outfits worn by Grace Kelly came from humble beginnings. At her introduction to Prince Rainer, Grace was wearing a floral dress that was constructed from a 1955 McCalls pattern. The fashion world went crazy for the design, and it is one that I am fortunate enough to have a replica of in my own extensive collection of vintage patterns. The design is said to be Dior inspired, and consists of five yards of thirty five inch fabric. After her wedding, Princess Grace was obliged to support French couture. She was often photographed in the latest designs from Dior, Lanvin and Balenciaga. In later years, she wore designs by Marc Bohen, Yves Saint Laurent and Madam Gres.

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The wardrobe of Her Royal Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco has thankfully been kept in glorious condition by her children and fashion enthusiasts. In 2006 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Princess Grace’s wedding gown went on display at what would have been her fiftieth wedding anniversary. Four years later in 2010, the Victoria and Albert Museum put on a stunning exhibition of clothing and accessories worn by the Princess. This exhibition travelled the world, and I was fortunate enough to see it in Australia in 2012.

The Grace Kelly effect on fashion is one that I believe will remain for many years to come. With its overwhelming sense of femininity, sophistication and allure, the Grace Kelly style is a directional influence on fashion that I personally will continue to model. This woman was not only a stunning display of couture, but a loving, caring and passionate lady who did all she could to support her family, her friends and her passions. Vale, Grace Kelly!

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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And then there were three… The House of Fath


It’s well established by now for anyone who has been reading my blogs on a regular basis, how passionate I am about the decade on the 1950’s. Every time I see something related to this era, be it an old-fashioned movie, some historical patterns at my local haberdasher, or some striking book or article featuring gorgeous images of the time, I cannot help but feel inspired and in love. I often think how grand it would have been to be alive during this time, and to be able to wear such magnificent gowns on a daily basis. Sure there would have been hardships, and I’m sure if would become tiring having to lug so much fabric around all day, but the appreciation for such wonderful couture would have been sensual. I’ve decided to inscribe about one of the other greats of fashion during the fifties for this next blog. This man competed alongside Dior and Balenciaga, but put his own unique stamp on couture of the decade. Jacques Fath. He was a member of this elite club whom I’m so envious of, and I feel that fashion would not be where it is today had it not been for his striking influence.

Born in the town of Laffitte, France, on 6th September 1912, it was evident from early on the Fath would be a strong influencer on fashion. There was a sturdy lineage of artists in the Fath ancestors, including his Great Grandmother who was herself a dressmaker (she designed clothing for Empress Eugenie, Napoleon’s love interest), and his Great Grandfather who was a writer. His Grandfather was also a painter, so it was only natural that this flair for creativity would flow onto a young Jacques. His father worked in insurance, and was hoping the Jacques would follow in his footsteps. Whilst he did for a short time, working as a bookkeeper and then as a broker, it was obvious that Fath had a calling for fashion. After completing the compulsory one year military service for the French Army, Fath final decided it was time to head to Paris and join the elite fashion world. At only twenty five, he launched his first collection in 1937.

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Being self-taught, Fath was able to craft his skills from studying designs himself, as well as costumes, and he often went to museums and galleries to learn all he could about fashion. He was also an avid reader. Like many other couturiers of the era, Fath designed his clothes directly on the female form, draping fabric to his heart’s content, and never used a pattern. His designs glorified the female figure, with hourglass waists, plunging necklines and full skirts. The House of Fath can also be credited for giving some other grand designers a start in the industry, with Hubert de Givenchy, Guy Laroche and Valentino all being hired at one time or another, as assistants or apprentices to Fath.

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Jacques Fath certainly had a dominant influence on post war couture. His designs were overtly feminine, and put a large emphasis on the bosom and hips. Many of his gowns had irregular necklines, which drew attention to the décolletage, and his skirts were either full or slim, nothing in between. The full skirts displayed lots of pleating and gathers, with the slimline designs showcasing draping techniques. Fath also used angles in creating a point of difference, with collars and pockets often being sewn asymmetrical. Hem lines too could occasionally be seen uneven, and lots of diagonal panels were evident in his designs. Tucks, tiers and knife pleats were also a Fath signature, and only enhanced the glamour look of the 1950’s. Fath was also not afraid to use colour in his work, with bright blues and greens being one of his favourite combinations. As always with couture, fabric was a vital part in making a woman feel opulent. Fath was accredited to using natural fibres and resources, utilising hemp in his garments, and also creating sequins from walnut and almond shells. Some of his biggest supporters naturally came in the form of Hollywood starlets, with Ava Gardner, Greta Garbo and Rita Hayworth all fans of Jacques Fath.

As did many other couture houses of the time, Fath also diversified his business to manufacture other products than clothing. Fragrance was a growth industry at the time, and has withstood the ever changing fashion world which continues to evolve decade after decade. In total, nine perfumes were produced under the House of Fath, with some still being accessible today. Fath also saw the potential to claim the American market, and in 1948, struck a deal with an American department store to supply a range of ready to wear garments. In later years, after the passing of Jacques Fath, the company diversified even further to produce gloves, hosiery and other female accessories. Fath married once during his life, in 1939, a couple of years after the establishment of his couture business. Genevieve Boucher became Fath’s life partner, but also his business partner as well, operation the corporate side of the company so that Fath could continue to concentrate on design. They had one child together, a son named Philippe in 1943. Fath was also credited to designing costume for various motion pictures from 1948 to 1955.

Sadly in 1954, Jacques Fath passed away after a courageous battle with leukaemia. There was a reported four thousand guest at his funeral service, all who paid homage to this grand couturier. After his death, the House of Fath continued to operate for a further three years under the direction of his widow. The company however closed in 1957, leaving a legacy of grandeur. Years later, the brand was reborn when it was purchased by the French Luxury Group in 1992. Since then, the House of Fath has been sold on many times, and has seen many different designers take control. In 1993, a retrospective of Fath was held in Paris to pay tribute to the influence and style that the stunning designer contributed to the fashion world.

From austerity in 1940, to posterity in 1960, the Fath couture brand made a lasting impact on fashion and history. Through his creative genius, Jacques Fath gave us many superb couture items to marvel at and be envious of.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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“Walk like you have three men walking behind you” – Oscar de la Renta

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When you think of grand ball gown designers your mind immediately gravitates towards the names Dior, Balenciaga and Balmain. But not many people would think of the great American designer Oscar de la Renta. He did not come from European decent, nor grace the world with stunning couture pieces during the Golden Age, but his talent and flair for the feminine silhouettes is nothing short of stunning. A grand American designer, de la Renta is best known for his powerful women’s suits and striking ball gowns.

Born on July 22nd 1932, in the capital of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Islands, de la Renta grew up surrounded by lush tropics and vibrant colours. He had six sisters, and the siblings lived in a middle class home with their parents. Not much else in known about de la Renta’s early life, until the age of eighteen, when he moved to Madrid to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando. De la Renta had a passion for the arts, and wanted to become an abstract painted. But he soon found a new love for fashion illustrations, and was extremely talent at it also. Nurturing this new found love, de la Renta was extremely fortunate when he landed an apprenticeship with non-other than Spanish royalty Cristobal Balenciaga. It was just prior to his engagement with Balenciaga in 1950, that de la Renta made a lavish debutante gown for the daughter of the US Ambassador to Spain. This gown was strikingly beautiful, and caught the eye of many admirers and fashion elite. So stunning, it was featured on the cover of Life magazine, which is when Balenciaga discovered this talented man, and de la Renta’s place in fashion was secured.

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De la Renta apprenticed with Balenciaga throughout the 1950’s, and no doubt learnt many fine skills from this revered couturier. It was then in 1960 that de la Renta decided to move on, and chose the City of Light as his destination. Paris has always been and will continue to remain, the number one city in the world for Avant garde fashion and grand couture. So it was no surprise when de la Renta decided to experience all that Paris had to offer, and he began working as a couture assistant for Lanvin. De la Renta was surrounded by high fashion and master designing for the three years he spend at Lanvin, and the influence that this time had on his career can been seen in some of the lavish ball gowns de la Renta designed under his own label years later. In 1963 it was once again time to move on, and de la Renta chose to head back to the United States and began working for Elizabeth Arden. His close friend and mentor Diane Vreeland, who at the time was editor in chief of Vogue magazine, assisted in his transition and remained a strong supporter of his talents for years to come. At Elizabeth Arden, de la Renta was charged with designing couture gowns for the labels custom made business. No doubt Balenciaga and then Paris had a large influence here!

Finally after years of mastering his own skills and strengths, Oscar de la Renta opened a fashion house under his own name in 1965. He received much acclaim upon launching his own brand, and had major success with designing ball gowns in the early years. Many of his clients were wealthy married women who had a desire to be seen in the most lavish and outlandish of attires to prove their status in society. Many of the gowns de la Renta designed for these women were accentuated with ruffles and bows over what was a simple and romantic silhouette. As de la Renta’s career continued to flourish, so did his personal life. In 1967 he married French Vouge editor Françoise de Langlade, and the two became known as the power couple of the time in fashion. The couple were regularly photographed and featured in magazines the world over, and his wife had a strong influence over what de la Renta designed. Tragically in 1983, Francoise de Langlade passed away. A couple of years after her passing, de la Renta decided to adopt a child from an orphanage in his home town. He and his wife had for years been strong advocates for this orphanage and offered it financial support as well. It seemed only natural to de la Renta to give himself so generously to the cause and to his new son.

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The success of Oscar de la Renta as a brand continued to grow throughout the 1980’s and beyond. In 1977, the brand launched its first perfume, Oscar, which continues to be a big seller in today’s market. The fragrance line has now divulged into catering for both women and men, and its varying scents are sold in seventy countries around the world. Other areas in which de la Renta chose to lend his name to, include sportswear, plus size clothing, bags, eyewear, men’s accessories and furniture. All of these lines debut in the mid to late nineties and into the early two thousands. De la Renta also saw a gap in the market in 2004, when he chose to release a diffusion line called O Oscar. This range of ready to wear clothing appealed to a wider market who had always wanted to wear designer clothes but could never afford the price tag. This diversion from the main brand de la Renta started was a great financial decision for his business, bringing in over $400 million dollars annually during the 1980’s and 1990’s.

If we take another look at just the fashion success of Oscar de la Renta, there are many wonderful things to discover. In the 1980’s the brand became well known for its high end tailoring of women’s suits. The eighties was the time of the power suit, and de la Renta certainly played a part in this. His suits were cut well and close to the body, and exhibited features of quilting and bold colours. Also during the same period, de la Renta became the preferred designer of First Lady Nancy Regan. He designed many gowns for her during this time, and she more often than not wore one of his creations to all official engagements. His connection with American First Ladies continued throughout the years, designing inauguration attire for Hilary Clinton in 1997, and Laura Bush in 2005.

In 1992, de la Renta took on a new challenge, reviving the couture line of a diminished Paris fashion house. From then until 2002, he designed for Balmain in both couture and ready to wear. He did this not under his own name so not to take away from his own brand. De la Renta’s first show for Balmain came in February of 1993, featured spring wear. The pieces were very wearable, elegant, contemporary, and sexy with polished touches. It was the first time an American had designed for the French label, and was very well received. After the end of his collaboration with Balmain, de la Renta added bridal wear to his own brand. In 2006 the Oscar de la Renta Bridal Collection was born, and featured heavy ornamentation and embroidery. The famous character Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City, wore one of these bridal creations in a photoshoot for American Vogue at the time of the film’s release.

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In 2014, the great American designer was slowly winding down, and decided it was time to hand the reins over to his successor. Peter Copping was appointed as head designer, with de la Renta’s family all being very closely involved in the business as well. His son also chose a career as a designer. A week after de la Renta officially retired, he passed away at age eighty two from cancer. The legacy that he created continues to shine today. He shall always be remembered as one of America’s greatest designers, and the brand he so lovingly nourished, will forever remain part of fashion history.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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“If there’s no such thing as Santa, I’ll have the red Lady’s Companion” – Orry-Kelly

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There once was a small town Aussie boy who used to dream about Hollywood. He would also dream of Singer sewing machines, of spools of vibrant silk threads, of feather boas, sequins and glitter. And he turned these dreams into his reality, and became one of the best costumes designers the world has ever seen. For years he has been relatively unknown to those outside the industry, but slowly the rest of the fashion world is starting to learn about the Australian rascal who was Orry – Kelly. He became a Hollywood legend, won three Oscars, dressed all the stars, and had a cheeky Aussie way of living. Through his memoirs that have been discovered in recent years, we have finally been let inside the world of this flamboyant designer, and it’s been a joy to learn all about Orry –Kelly and the legacy he has left behind. This blog is a small insight to the colourful life he led, the fine dames he dressed and some if his inside secrets. I hope you find delight in reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!

Much of my research for this blog has come from Kelly’s memoirs that were published in 2015. “Woman I’ve Undressed”, is an eye opening read into the vivacity of Kelly and those who came and went from his life. Born in the New South Wales coastal town of Kiama, Australia on New Year ’s Eve 1897, Orry George Kelly was the son of a tailor. As a young boy living in rural Australia, it was much frowned upon that his interests lay with dolls, clothing and his Lady Companion, a sewing machine that Kelly saw in a shop window and begged his mother to buy for him. Kelly once recalls his father destroying all the things he loved, and throwing him outside to do some manual labour, something a young boy should be doing instead of playing dress ups. At age seventeen, Kelly was sent to Sydney to study finance and banking, and it was here in the big smoke that his love for theatre, art and nightlife flourished.

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During his time in Sydney, Kelly lived a tough life. Having no to minimal money, he begged and borrowed to make ends meet. He was a regular on the nightclub scene in Kings Cross, where he associated with Sydney’s underworld. His love for the theatre was ever present, and taking a chance, Kelly found his way to New York. Chasing his dreams, Kelly once again found himself dabbling with many of Hollywood’s more sinister clientele. Bootleggers, prostitutes and gamblers where just some of the company that Kelly kept. Renting a small apartment in New York, Kelly was making and painting silk ties during the day, and partying all night long in seedy Speakeasy’s. One night, while Kelly was still at home, a chance meeting occurred between Kelly and budding actor Archie Leach. The two became friends, with Leach moving in to help with the rent and also assisted Kelly with his tie business. Kelly’s talent for painting was soon noticed, and he went from painting ties, to painting murals on the walls of nightclubs. Some of his most famous murals involved monkeys getting up to mischief, much the same as what Kelly did himself!

After a brief stint running a Speakeasy himself, Kelly and Leach moved to Hollywood in 1931 where they could both pursue their dreams. Archie Leach struck success first, being cast in small motion picture rolls before the big time came calling. This was when Leach left Archie behind and became known as Cary Grant. Along the way, the two friends had become somewhat close, engaging in a relationship that was on and off for years. It’s reported thought that Grant decided he had outgrown his friend, and the two drifted apart. Kelly continued on his path of art and design, and had been producing stage sets for theatre productions. With an armful of sketches, Kelly was hired by Warner Brother’s in 1932 as a costume designer, and remained there as head of the department until 1944.

During his time at Warner Brother’s, Kelly quickly became known as one of the best in the industry. Later his work was also seen in productions by 20th Century Fox, MGM and Universal. In a career that spanned over 30 years, Kelly had earned the credit for 295 films! Some of the biggest stars of Hollywood at the time were dressed by Kelly, including Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Jane Fonda and Marilyn Monroe. Kelly’s work was known to ‘design for distraction’, meaning he used his skills to disguise women’s figures that were not entirely what the director of the film was after. Throughout his career, Kelly won three Academy Awards for his work on the films An American in Paris (1951), Les Girls (1958) and Some Like it Hot (1959), where he so convincingly dressed Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as women, that they went unrecognised when entering the female bathrooms! Other notable films in which Kelly worked on were Casablanca (1942), The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Oklahoma! (1955).

During his time in Hollywood, Kelly was committed to a brief stint in the American Army at the time of the Second World War. Not being an American citizen at the time, Kelly was confided to local duties. He managed to bide his time here by spending much of it intoxicated, and was soon released on medical grounds as being unfit to continue on. Kelly also became known for his fashion column which he wrote for a local newspaper. “Hollywood Fashion Parade” was published in the International News Service, and provided women with hope and inspiration during the war years.

In 1964, after a long and sometimes infamous career in Hollywood, Orry-Kelly died from liver cancer. It is believed that his many years of partying hard and drinking till dawn led to his passing. But one thing is for sure, Orry-Kelly would not have wanted to live any other way! At his funeral service in Los Angeles, his pallbearers included Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, and directors Billy Wilder and George Cukor. His eulogy was read by Jack Warner. A life that was never dull, Orry-Kelly certainly left his mark on the world of costume and film design in Hollywood. A true legend now, the boy from Kiama never let anyone sway his determination or extinguish his very bright and colourful spark. Thank you Orry-Kelly, for showing me and the world that you can achieve your dreams if you only just believe!

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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