Curated by: Rick Owens
The exhibition "Charles James - The Couture Secrets of Shape" curated, produced and originally presented by Rick Owens, offers a selection of rare original prints, paper patterns, prototypes, clothes, tools and original drawings by Charles James, from the 1930s in the early 1970s. Considered one of the most important American designers of the twentieth century, Charles James laid the foundations for a radical change in the conventions of fashion. Anglo-American Charles James (1906-1978), the first couturier in America, became famous for the extraordinarily elegant evening dresses created in the 30s and 50s for the most sophisticated clients. Personalities like Marlene Dietrich, Austine McDonnell Hearst, Gypsy Rose Lee, Millicent Rogers, wore her creations. From the beginning of his career, James designed, a fact for the times really revolutionary, unisex clothes. The down jacket (Eyderdown Jacket) and the unisex models share a sculptural presence, an architectural structure and a design method strictly based on mathematical proportions with its large ball gowns. James is considered an innovator in fashion for the technique and the methodological approach. Homer Layne, legendary assistant to Charles James and Dorothea Mink, Professor of Fashion Design at the University of the Arts in Bremen, together wrote the book, published by Spector Books, which inspired this exhibition.
After reviewing Charles James' remarkable innovations, they revealed what made his projects so special, and suggested that designers could apply James's concepts to their work even today. For the first time this exhibition on the secrets of form in the high fashion of Charles James, reveals a work largely invisible and gives an idea of the first development of his style, with carefully selected images, both in concept and in composition, which testify to an extraordinary creative process. The "Charles James: The Couture Secrets of Shape" exhibition goes beyond evening dresses, and presents some of the unisex designs and designs developed in New York at the Chelsea Hotel, where he lived from 1964 to 1978. In the age of Mapplethorpe and Patty Smith, of Warhol and Leo Castelli, his rooms at the Chelsea Hotel served him as a studio, a laboratory, an archive, almost a magnet for the artists who passed by. In 1973 he began writing the book: The Charles James Approach to Structural Design, which offered an insight into his working method, from paper patterns to original draping tools. As a tribute to Charles James, American designer Rick Owens, among his greatest admirers, wrote: "When I started in the mid-nineties, my ultimate goal was to become the new Charles James. Extreme admiration for craftsmanship, refusal for conventional comfort, but attention and respect for what is super-refined and original ". On display in 10 Corso Como, one of Charles James's archetypal dresses: sculpted and elegantly shaped, synthesis of timeless elegance, was reinterpreted by Rick Owens.