It was Lagerfeld who, nearly half a century ago, helped launch the designer ready-to-wear concept while still a young and evolving designer with the House of Tiziani in Rome. The historical connection between Lagerfeld and the beginning of designer ready-to-wear has never been widely acknowledged, but a 50-year-old archive to be auctioned Saturday, January 11th in West Palm Beach tells the story in stunning visual detail. Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
“This 1960s archive, which was maintained by the founder of Tiziani, Evan ‘Buddy’ Richards (1924-1994), has been passed down through consecutive estates and is absolutely unique,” said auctioneer Rico Baca of Palm Beach Modern Auctions, the company conducting the sale. “It contains Lagerfeld sketchbooks – some showing entire ready-to-wear lines for a season – hundreds of individual sketches by Lagerfeld and other Tiziani designers, hundreds of photos of couture shows, and several signed photos and personal notes from Elizabeth Taylor to Tiziani.” The collection’s piece de resistance, a Tiziani coral gown with feathered cape, is matched to the original, pre-production sketch. The sale also includes four other pieces of Tiziani couture – three dresses and a beaded top – plus four Mary McFadden couture garments and a mod-style Kiki Hart pantsuit.
Tiziani designed for European royalty and other very wealthy women, including Gina Lollobrigida, Debbie Reynolds, Doris Duke and Princess Marcella Borghese. The label was a particular favorite of Elizabeth Taylor’s. During the years that Lagerfeld designed for Tiziani Roma under the mentorship of Richards – a Texas-born opera singer turned couturier – a close personal and working relationship developed between the three individuals. Taylor even chose Tiziani to design her wardrobe for at least three major motion pictures.
The intimate friendship between “Tizi” and Taylor was revealed in a Nov. 19, 1966 Washington Post News Service article, in which the couturier described a party he was planning at his new apartment in Rome. Richards stated the guests of honor would be “two of [his] favorite people – Elizabeth Taylor and her husband, Richard Burton.” In the article he goes on to say that he is “doing the clothes for Miss Taylor’s new picture (Reflections in a Golden Eye),” but notes that Taylor is unhappy with the skirt length dictated by the film’s postwar timeframe.
“The picture takes place in 1948, when we had that horrible length,” Tiziani told reporter Winzola McLendon, adding that Taylor preferred her skirts “at least 1½ inches above the knee.”
No such problem existed with the designs Tiziani created for Taylor’s personal wardrobe. As the sketches to be auctioned attest, Taylor was right on trend with her fashion choices, whether miniskirts or maxi dresses. Some of the drawings are clearly marked as being for “Elizabeth Taylor Burton.”
The Tiziani archive fills a nebulous gap in fashion history. “It answers the question, ‘How and under what circumstances did couture make the leap to mainstream retail?’” said Baca. “Evan Richards and his brilliant designer Karl Lagerfeld were right at the forefront. Richards had grown weary of his couture designs being purchased, taken apart and copied line for line by top department stores in New York. Eventually, he thought, ‘Why shouldn’t we be the ones selling our designs as ready-to-wear?’ That was the beginning of it all.”
The importance of the Tiziani: Lagerfeld + Liz archive has been recognized in no uncertain terms by fashion-industry moguls who’ve previewed its contents. “Those who have seen it have become very excited and have had the same sort of reaction a jeweler might have when examining a rare and famous gem for the first time,” Baca said. “One person, who is on the board of a top design house, said he thinks the archive belongs in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s fashion collection. Another said they felt it should be the subject of a video documentary. But what makes this grouping of items so unusual is that it crosses so many areas of interest. It’s historical, it has a unique connection to the last great Hollywood star, Elizabeth Taylor; and it’s also art. Many are going to view the Lagerfeld sketchbooks and sketches as art first, fashion second.”
The archive will be offered in approximately 400 auction lots, complemented by 100 lots of select designer furniture and decorative art from the mid-century era. The auction will open with approximately 200 sketches and photos, followed by the furniture/art, and conclude with the archival sketchbooks and hundreds of drawings. Actual fashions will be interspersed throughout the day.
The Tiziani: Lagerfeld + Liz Auction will commence at 12 noon ET on Sat., Jan. 11, 2014. The exhibition center and auction venue is located at 417 Bunker Rd., West Palm Beach, FL 33405. All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers.com.
A cocktail party preview benefiting the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens will be held at the Palm Beach Modern Auctions exhibition center (address shown above) on Thursday, January 9th, commencing at 5 p.m. A $25 donation is suggested although not required. RSVP appreciated; tel. Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens at 561-832-5328 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Palm Beach Modern Auctions has contributed a Karl Lagerfeld original sketch as the door prize for the event.
For additional information on any item in the auction, call 561-586-5500, e-mail email@example.com.
Click to view a video about the auction:
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ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE