A sketch from Kenneth-Paul on display at the Boston Museum.
BOSTON — Some two dozen of Kenneth Paul Block’s works are on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in a new exhibit of his sketches.Block, considered one of the most important fashion illustrators of the 20th century, had a four-decade career at Fairchild Publications. From the Fifties to 1992, he was WWD’s prime cataloguer of fashion and fashionable women, recording the way runways reflected changing times and women’s growing equality.The MFA owns some 3,000 pieces of Block’s work, the majority of his archive.It’s the evidence of craft — the whiteout, the penciled notes to production, the charcoal smudges (some deliberate finger-drags to soften a line, some accidental prints) — as Block chronicled styles coming off runways that makes the show striking. There’s the sense of news urgency, haste. A sketch or two looks as if made with a marker about to bleed dry. Working in the pre-digital era, Block would reel off dozens of mini-sketches before coalescing his ideas and drawing the pieces that hit the paper. He became so in tune with fashion that he could, on the occasions a designer banned WWD from a show, re-create it based on descriptions from attendees, like a police sketch artist.As Block recorded style du jour, he also captured history.For instance, his sketches of Jackie Kennedy, published four days after JFK was elected to the White House, show her wearing Madame Grès evening gowns, not the American designers she’d soon adopt.Block was “an amazing draftsperson and he was able to capture the era, not just in the clothes, but also in the way women carried themselves,” says Pamela Parmal, the MFA’s David and Roberta Logie curator of textile and fashion arts.Block once remarked, “Gesture to me is everything in fashion. It is the way we stand, sit, walk and lie. It is the bone.”The show starts with a few prim early drawings and their quaint captions — one optimistically describes rompers as “guaranteed to turn most anyone into an odalisque.” But the heart of the show is work Block did throughout the Sixties into the early Seventies, when he worked on gray paper in black marker, charcoal crayon and flat white paint. The monochrome not only suited the era’s printing technology, it also highlighted the era’s sleek fashions shown by Courrèges and others.The show includes a superb 1964 charcoal portrait of Babe Paley, a fur stole draped over her shoulders, cigarette held low, with thick white paint highlighting the icy planes of her face.Block’s sure hand captured the profile of the Duchess of Windsor in 1962 with her distinct nose and iron chin. No whiteout or falter here. In 1966, with a quick flip of marker and a slap of white paint, he captured Julie Christie’s sex kitten appeal.“I was never only interested in the clothes. I was more interested in the women in the clothes,” Block once said.He recorded the liberating impact of workwear — a woman in a 1970 sketch wears a plaid suit and is seated in a masculine pose, with her knees wide and a leg outstretched.When WWD began printing in color, Block added watercolor. Angled blocks of cranberry, ivy green and pumpkin give background and movement to his sketches throughout the decade.He also drew covers for W magazine, then also owned by Fairchild. The show features a 1991 W cover featuring a model with glossy scarlet lips, a cloud of black hair, round blue specs, and a Gianfranco Ferré coat that looks awhirl with energy.The show includes several alternate sketches for the cover of WWD publisher John B. Fairchild’s book, "The Fashionable Savages," as well as the design Fairchild ultimately selected.For her part, Parmal thinks Block is under-recognized, and she's planning bigger showings of his work in future. “I think he deserves a lot more exposure. He was not good at publicizing his own career.”The MFA has some of the runway fashions Block depicted, and is working to acquire more, Parmal said.The show runs through Aug. 16.
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
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“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia