Dodie Rosekrans, a social star in her native San Francisco whose bold fashion taste was also the toast of Paris, died Saturday at her home in that California city, according to sources close to the family. She was 91.
With a couture wardrobe that spanned iconic items from Yves Saint Laurent’s Africa collection to ensembles from enfant terrible Jean Paul Gaultier, Rosekrans was perhaps best known as an ebullient champion of John Galliano, quietly financing the British designer in the early days of his career and lining up to be among the first to snap up his high fashions when he arrived as the couturier at Christian Dior in 1996.
“His first couture show set the tone for things to follow,” Rosekrans told WWD in 2007. “It was very impressive.”
The admiration was mutual.
“To meet her was like meeting a fire bird or watching a room turn from gray to Technicolor,” Galliano said Monday. “Fashion has lost one of this century’s greatest patrons, icons, originals and friends.”
The designer marveled that Rosekrans collected fashion as if it were fine art, but wore it freely and with aplomb. He called her “utterly unique, beguiling and enchanting. Honestly, without Dodie’s patronage and encouragement, I would not be where I am today. She had a vision, intelligence and integrity that made her one of the most amazing and interesting women to be around.”
The designer also credited Rosekrans for encouraging him to be “fearless in fashion,” and for helping him “stay on my creative path.…To get Mrs. Rosekrans’ seal of approval on a collection was always high praise indeed and something I will continue to strive for.”
On Monday, a wide swath of designers lauded Rosekrans for her free-spirited way with clothing and jewelry, despite her diminutive stature, and her support of major art institutions in France, Italy and America.
Gaultier, who has visited Rosekrans’ jewel-box-like apartment in Paris and also met her late husband, John, said she epitomized “a way of life evoking all the grandeur of the haute couture era. She was someone extraordinary, extravagant and elegant. I was privileged to have known her.”
“She’ll have great style either in hell or heaven,” Christian Lacroix related. “We’ll miss for sure such a character, who had the know-how and skill to play with both eccentricity and the highest taste.”
Lacroix praised her “sure eye for grand decorating and personal extravagance,” especially the lavish parties she hosted at her palazzo in Venice, decorated by the late Tony Duquette of California, whose necklaces often finished off her couture ensembles.
“She had a great personality, a certain extravagance and was extremely generous with everyone. She was kind, intelligent and eccentric,” said Hubert de Givenchy. “She wore things like no one else could; extravagant jewelry, like a toad necklace. She had her own taste, a type of elegance, of chic, and great humility.”
Countess Isabelle d’Ornano, co-founder of Sisley, said Rosekrans carved out a place for herself in Paris, no small feat for an American.
“She was extremely generous. For example, she gave several very beautiful pieces to the Pompidou Center,” she said. “For Dodie, elegance came with age; she really found her style in the past 10 to 15 years.”
Born Georgette Naify in San Francisco, she is the widow of John Rosekrans, who died in 2001, and is survived by two sons from her first marriage to Edward Topham Jr., Ned and John, along with two stepsons, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.