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SPOTLIGHT ON GEOFFREY BEENE
by Ann Guerin

In this election year I'm casting my fashion vote for Geoffrey Beene. That's about as risky as backing Chris Evert on clay. For in the thirteen years he's headed his own Seventh Avenue firm, not only has Beene garnered countless awards and been elected to the Fashion Hall Of Fame, he has also won the wholehearted support of the modern American woman. And with good reason. Exquisite of fabric, impeccable in cut and above all, comfortable to wear with seemingly indestructible seams that can survive any and all emergencies, Beene's clothes are today's woman's best ally.

This is no accident. In a small room off the main showroom of his spacious offices in 550 Seventh Avenue, Geoffrey Beene sat at a round white conference table that gave nary a clue to his profession – not a swatch of cloth marred its pristine perfection – and talked about his concept of the G.B. woman. "When I'm working," he said, "I do have a particular woman in mind. But my thinking is not in terms of physical ideals, rather it goes very much into the mental being of the person I'm designing for. I usually prefer to think of her as a contributor to society, a doer, a woman of purpose." Beene is keenly aware that the times they are a-changin' and his aim is to help the doers keep step with the ever-accelerating tempo of modern life.

His concern for people's mental and physical well-being is nothing new. Growing up in Haynesville, Louisiana, Beene's ambition was to be a doctor. "I had three years of pre-med and one of medicine at Tulane University. Sometimes you have to study something to know not to do it. For the sake of the human race, it's just as well I decided to drop out."

Beene headed West where he found a job window-dressing at I. Magnin. "I was surrounded by clothes and the richness of fabrics and it just instantly turned me on."

In L. A. he went to school to study
[[image – photo of a man (Geoffrey Beene) with graying hair and eyeglasses resting his chin and neck on his fist and outstretched thumb]]
fashion sketching. "My designs came to the attention of some of the executives in the store who liked them very much. They advised me to go to Europe for further training. I went abroad and studied for two years in France." On his return he worked for a few years as an associate in a couple of beginning fashion concerns, most notably the now highly successful Teal-Traina operation. "I was lucky," says Beene, "the companies I joined were just starting out so there was no built-in stigma of the type of clothes I must do. Throughout my career I've had free range to do the kind of clothes I wanted to do rather than being obliged to follow the dictates of an established house." In 1963 he formed his own company which like Topsy has just "growed and growed." Today the Beene organization is composed of Beene Couture "which goes anywhere from $300 to practically infinity;" Beene Bag, a less expensive, sports-oriented division which ranges in price from $12 "for T-shirt or simple sweater" to $150; and the Fragrance Division, which began with the introduction of a perfume for women titled [[italics]]Geoffrey Beene[[/italics]]. That was followed by [[italics]]Gray Flannel[[/italics]], a cologne for men which was a smash success and won awards both for the subtlety of its scent and the originality of its packaging. The line now includes bath accessories and a delicious new perfume for women titled simply Red.

He's proud of his perfume
because he says, "When I was a student in Paris, the great couturiers had two things I al-
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ways wanted – perfume and scarves." Beene has knocked the pins out of the Parisians. For in addition to owning the perfume division, he not only has licensed his name to scarves, but to shoes, furs, jewelry, tote bags, handbags, menswear, mens' and women's tennis wear, loungewear, bed linens, optics and luggage. In Beene's case his signature is a testament to quality. Fixing me with a steely eye, he said, "this very room we're sitting in is designated for signing all those things. I am not the type of person who signs his name to something and then never sees it. I like to be totally involved in anything I'm doing."

This fall Beene adds fresh laurel to his crown. He opens in Europe--an American fashion first. "I've been selling in Europe--in Berlin, Hamburg and in London--and the clothes have gone over very well but, of course, my customers have to pay so much money. They kept saying if you could only make them in Europe. So in a year and a half I have brought the organization about and under the auspices of two very famous fabric houses Tarone and Agnoma, I'll be showing in Milan. I feel this is a major step forward for American fashion and our image abroad."

Beene says there is nothing revolutionary in the collection. He expects that the next revolution in fashion will come from the chemist's tube not from a designer--"Perhaps it will be some sort of miracle fiber that will do something to enhance our way of living. Perhaps it will have thermal values for hot and cold. It doesn't make a damn bit of difference anymore about silhouette in clothes. It's how comfortable they are how they fit into our pace of life."

"Elemental" is the word Beene uses to describe the new collection. Grecian in concept, the clothes are a 20th century adaptation of the classic simplicity of the golden age. Red and tones of grey from pearl to charcoal are the colors that predominate but Beene has also used underwater colorations for his prints and he says "some of the dresses come off like liquid metals in shimmering shades of aged bronze and pewter."

The future may belong to the chemists but thank God the present provides the beauty of designs by Beene.

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James Kenrob
[[image: graphic of woman modeling sportswear]]
Famous for elegance in sportswear, dresses, suits and ensembles. A division of Dalton. Dalton Industries, Dalton Blvd., Willoughby, Ohio and New York City. Also makers of Hadley Active sportswear.
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