Sophie Gimbel: Fashioning American Couture

The exhibition ‘Sophie Gimbel: Fashioning American Couture’ will open to the public on 22 January 2013 at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at Parsons The New School for Design, in New York. The display (which closes on 12 February) will explore the career of this twentieth-century American fashion designer who, although little known today, directed the Salon Moderne at Saks Fifth Avenue from the 1930s until its closing in 1969 and became a champion of American Couture.

The Salon Moderne was an exclusive haute couture boutique, which in the 1920s and 1930s helped introduce European designers such as Schiaparelli, Vionnet, Mainbocher, and Balenciaga to the American public. In the 1940s, it became a platform for Gimbel’s own couture designs, which were intended specifically for American women. Gimbel’s work graced the cover of Vogue’s inaugural American fashion issue in 1940, and in 1947 she became the first American designer to make the cover of Time magazine.

“Gimbel was an outspoken champion of American fashion,” said exhibition curator Beth Dincuff Charleston. “She rejected the radicalism of Christian Dior’s New Look in favour of subtler changes in American women’s wear, speaking to an intelligent consumer who was no longer willing to follow fashion dictates from a distant European capital. Among Sophie Gimbel‘s many contributions towards an emerging American style was her strong support of Parsons, and the education of a new generation of American designers.”

The exhibition will feature 18 garments from the Parsons Fashion Archive that were made by Salon Moderne artisans, as well as archival photographs and other ephemera that document Gimbel’s impact on American fashion. Alongside the exhibition, Saks Fifth Avenue will feature Gimbel looks in the windows of their flagship store on Fifth Avenue, and a lecture by Dincuff Charleston will take place at Parsons on 8 February.