Charles James: Beyond Fashion May 8 – August 10, 2014 and my magical sneak preview thanks to the Head of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum, Harold Koda, and a visit to the archives with Julie Le Photos by Miguel Villalobos

Dear Shaded Viewers,

A sublime treat is coming to New Yorkers May 8 – August 10th this year when the Costume Museum of the Metropolitan Musuem of Art opens their Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibition at the Anna Wintour Costume Center and first-floor Special Exhibition Galleries. On last weekend's  whirlwind trip to New York I had the great fortune of having a private preview  visit to the work in progress, my visit was grace of Harold Koda the Head of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan. Harold is considered one of the most prestigious figures of the New York fashion world and I'm proud to count him as a very old and dear friend. We met through our mutual friend Stephen DiPietri when we were all living in New York.   Back to the amazing sneak preview…I got to see a few of the pieces up close like the Four Leaf Clover Abstract Ballgown and to see how it was constructed and then later visit with Julie Le in the Museum's library and see some of the original Charles James sketches. I cannot show you very much as all is top secret and a work in progress but I had such a wonderful preview with both Harold Koda telling us some of the most amazing stories and then having the pleasure to meet Jan Glier Reeder, Consulting Curator in the Costume Institute, who is organizing the exhibition with Harold Koda. In 1982 I was fortunate to see the Genius of Charles James Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and never tire of referring to the collector's item…the catalogue. 

There are many stories going around about Charles James and some of them are made up by the man himself and other's handed down from one person to another. It is very hard to know what is true and what is false. I remember when ASVOFF went to Tokyo I had a great chat with Gene Krell and he told me all kinds of stories like two clients fighting over a dress and then Charles James taking a sissors and cutting it in half and giving a half to each of them, who knows if that is true or not but that along with so many other tales is quite amusing. The man was a pure artist known for his unbelievable construction of the garments as well as his eccentric personality. He was known to deliver one of his designs only to take it back saying he needed to make adjustments to it and then never returning it,perhaps giving it to a museum as he felt all of his pieces were works of art and belonged only to him. He would persuede his important clients to donate his designs to the Brooklyn Museum. Charles James first started designing in his native London and then went to Paris and arrived in NYC in 1940. He had no formal training but was considered one of the greatest designers to work in the tradition of the Haute Couture in America. I had the great pleasure to meet him once at the Chelsea Hotel when Pratt students were making an interview with him for cable TV. I wonder where that emission is…

The exhibition is organized by Harold Koda and Jan Glier Reeder. The exhibition designers are Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a New York-based interdisciplinary design studio led by Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, and Charles Renfro that integrates architecture and the visual and performing arts.  The d

Diane Pernet

A LEGENDARY FIGURE IN FASHION and a pioneer of blogging, Diane is a respected journalist, critic, curator and talent-hunter based in Paris. During her prolific career, she designed her own successful brand in New York, costume designer, photographer, and filmmaker.