If you’ve ever wondered what a day is like at one of America’s biggest fashion trade shows- look no further. At WWDMAGIC last week thousands of exhibitors set up camp to sell their designs for fall 2012. But of the many attractions and distractions one of our favorite exhibitors was not selling, but showing her collection of amazing vintage couture pieces, and signing her newest book, Dreaming of Chanel ($50, Amazon).
We had the good fortune to chat with Charlotte Smith, the author, about her experience at the show and other Chanel related topics:
DS: The GP has a clear fascination with the brand (CHANEL) but how was your book received by the industry insiders walking the floor or exhibiting?
CS: I have been overwhelmed by interest from buyers, exhibitors and designers at the event. I think the fact that this collection is all about preserving fashion history and telling a bit about social history fascinates people.
DS: What pieces were physically there?
CS: I brought eight vintage black dresses and eight vintage red dresses, plus the gorgeous Chanel tweed suit featured on the cover of the book. Designers included in the display are: Dior, Chanel, Ceil Chapman, Geoffrey Been, Zandra Rhodes, Courreges, Balenciaga for the LBDs ranging in date from 1920 - 1980. For the LRDs there was Betsey Johnson (1980), Oleg Cassini, Adolfo, Gianfranco Ferre, Raoul Aranga and Australian designer - Prue Acton. Dates range from 1930 - 1990. My Chanel suit is displayed on its own in a glass case and dates 1960.
DS: Do you feel like you have come to know Coco vicariously through writing this book (and her designs)?
CS: I think a combination of all the Chanel books I have read about her philosophy of life and fashion, and the enviable position I have to be able to look at real vintage Chanel garments in my collection has allowed me to feel I know her a tiny bit better. Chanel was a complicated and private woman. I don’t think her clothes reveal that - she was much to professional and clever to let her private life interfere with her fashion creativity. But, by handling (and wearing!) some of my Chanel pieces I admire her tenacity and drive to create masterpieces using superb quality materials at all times.
DS: How do you think Karl’s designs/design philosophy compare?
CS: I don’t think it’s fair to compare the original creator of a fashion house to its current designer. She had a dream, a mission and goals that were created by her own personal joys and disappointments (that were unique to her). Karl has tastefully and cleverly evolved the ‘Chanel look,’ thereby making the line the mega internationally recognized and desired brand that it is today.
DS: Any ideas about who might make a good successor for the line?
CS: I think it might be time for a woman to take over the helm. Even though Chanel could be quite boyish in her look, fitting with the Le Garçonne look she helped to establish in the 1920s, I sometimes feel some of the Chanel collections seen on the runway are mannish and have lost the subtle feminine appeal that she managed so easily. What about Donna Karan?! She enjoys tailored, simple and elegant silhouettes. She also loves using expensive, quality fabrics.
DS: Do you have a favorite designer?
CS: I love Dior. I just bought a gorgeous cocktail dress in LA. It is pure, indulgent glamour. For vintage, I adore Valentino.
DS: What is the most interesting place that the collection has brought you?
CS: Las Vagas has to be up there! Just goes to show how fashion connects us all around the world.