Designers through the decades - Galanos and Norell
The 1950s

Stanley Marcus (the late, great CEO of the luxury retailer founded by his father and aunt), once said of James Galanos, “the greatest and most treasured luxury in the world for a woman to have would be a dress by James Galanos.” Trained in the Paris atelier of couturier, Robert Piguet, Galanos is the undisputed master of chiffon, of beadwork, embroidery and of fur worked like fabric, and his work has been compared, by those very much in the know, to French haute couture. One anecdote has it that when couturier, Hubert de Givenchy, peeked inside a Galanos dress, he was heard to mutter, “we don’t make them this well in Paris”

 

Coveted for timelessness of design, beauty of detail, unsurpassed quality and luxury, Galanos’ clothes are worn by the world’s most glamorous, elegant and very particular women, who never, ever part with them.

James Galanos

Often referred to as “the American Balenciaga, Norman Norell was, contrary to the accepted notion, the first designer to outfit women in a tuxedo.

 

With his days as a costume designer – first with the Astoria Studio of Paramount and then with Brooks Costume Company – behind him, Norell joined Charles Armour’s dress company, followed by the post of head designer for Hattie Carnegie. But it was in 1941 – the flow of French fashion into The States corked by WWII – that Norell joined the manufacturer Anthony Traina. Produced under the label Traina-Norell was ready-to-wear hand-finished in the most luxurious of fabrics, with invisible hems and silk linings and said to be on a par with French couture (and just as pricey.)

 

Celebrated for the famous sequined “mermaid dresses” and the utterly pristine little jersey dresses, absent of everything but perfection of cut and fit (and which some of us deeply mourn having given away), Norell won the first-ever Coty American Fashion Critics Award. He went on to take four more and, in 1956, was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame.

 

When he died, in 1972, the front page of The New York Times headlined “Norman Norell…made 7th Ave. The Rival of Paris.”

Norman Norell