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Geoffrey Beene

The high-standard of Geoffrey Beene’s designs set the tone of All-American taste

“My career has nothing to do with money. It has to do with self-expression” designer Geoffrey Beene famously once said about his designs. These words couldn’t ring truer- Beene was one of the true original American designers: A good all-rounder with an eye of elegance and a knack for a good classic. As an innovator, his design career took off in the sixties when couture was verging on over the top but he changed its tone by introducing grey flannel, jersey fabrics and houndstooth. This minimal approach met the taste requirements of high-society personalities that were ditching the loud styles of the sixties and adopting a more debonair approach to American dressing to see them into and through the seventies. As well as floor length ball gowns, he put women in suits that boasted nipped in waists and drop-crotch, flowing pants.

A new wave of actresses began hitting the screen- including Glenn Close and Mia Farrow. They were women with a new edge and famously, they turned to Beene for premieres and public appearances. Then in 1969, it turned out he could turn his hands to menswear too. He created immaculately tailored suits and put the focus back on to refinement. Let’s not forget that the sixties- as ground-breaking fashion-wise as they were- weren’t necessarily an exercise in classic.
That’s why Geoffrey is heralded as an American icon. “Very immodestly I say that I did awaken Europe to the idea that Americans could design more than just blue jeans” he once said and whilst he didn’t push American fashion to the experimental levels of Paris- he helped shape the American fashion personality that’s still echoes at New York Fashion week today. Whilst design labels Proenza Schouler, Rad Hourani and Rodarte are pushing boundaries, the basis of the American fashion scene is wearability beyond the everyday wardrobe but it has to be luxury that isn’t too far out and that can be a hard aesthetic to nail.

As Coty, Neimen Marcus and CFDA awards rolled in (Beene now has the Lifetime Acheivement Award named after him) throughout each career decade, the designer’s business only got bigger and so it stands today as one of the most famous American brands with values and appeal to all. I suppose the ultimate testimonial lies in the fact that in the US, April 27th is Geoffrey Beene day. Not bad for an honest designer who never wanted an all American empire at all.