The fashion world is rife with rumour today as Zac Posen has been tipped to revive the Charles James brand. If you’re thinking “Charles who?”, then worry not, you are not alone. All you need to know is that this could be the biggest fashion news of 2015 and here’s why.
Despite being called ‘America’s best-known couturier’, the British-born, New York-based designer became something of a forgotten genius after his death in 1978 aged 72.
After designing in London and Paris, Charles moved to New York, and from the late ’20s to the ’50s, legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland championed his designs, Cecil Beaton captured them on film and Marlene Dietrich became a devotee of his tulle, satin and velvet gowns.
He can also be credited with inspiring Dior and Balenciaga with his love of wasp waists and sculptural shapes, and pioneering the off-the-shoulder dress silhouette.
“He’s seen as one of the designers who absolutely transformed fashion design,” says Harold Koda, curator in charge at the Costume Institute. “Christian Dior is said to have credited Charles with inspiring his New Look.” That’s the phrase coined to describe Dior’s spring/summer 1947 collection which, after years of wartime utilitarian dressing, brought back clothes that celebrated the female figure with nipped-in waists and full midi skirts.
Iconic designer Cristóbal Balenciaga has also said: “Charles is not America’s greatest couturier. He is simply the world’s best.” Talk about high praise. That inspiration is still evident today, with Charles’s iconic shapes being mirrored on the catwalks of Dior, Balenciaga and Oscar de la Renta this season.
It doesn’t stop there. Countless high-street hotspots are referencing Charles’s work in their current collections including off-the-shoulder fit and flare numbers at House Of Fraser and full midi skirts at Coast.
You might recognise his name from last year’s Met Gala theme – ‘White Tie and Diamonds’ to toast the accompanying exhibition, Charles James: Beyond Fashion.
“Part of the reason we’re doing Charles is that the fashion world knows him, but to the audience at large, because he doesn’t have a surviving label or brand, he’s been forgotten,” Harold explained.
Well all that might be about to change. After Harvey Weinstein entered into a deal with the James family last year, we have been waiting for news on who will be taking the helm. Rumours are circulating that Zac Posen will be the man for the job – with his rep neither denying nor conforming the news, we are going to allow ourselves to get really quite excited.
Essentially, it will spell a load of beautiful dresses for the catwalk and red carpet. Fingers crossed!
By Amy de Klerk