Sunday, October 10, 2010

So, I Fell in Love With a Man Named Stephen Burrows

I was browsing the Target online clearance section looking for clothes with personality (plain white tees need not apply) and was striking out until a crop of candy-colored garments the likes of which I'd never seen exploded onto the screen. Turns out they were part of one of those special by-designers-just-for-Target lines, and the designer guest star was Stephen Burrows. Having never heard of him, I hopped onto Google to see what he was all about. A visit to told me all I needed to know:

"Stephen Burrows is the first African American fashion designer to achieve international acclaim. After graduating from the Fashion Institution of Technology in 1966, Burrows began making clothing for the O Boutique, opposite Max's Kansas City in New York. Stephen's window displays literally stopped traffic, and the young designer was soon besieged with orders. With friend Roz Rubenstein, he launched a ready-to-wear collection for Bonwit Teller in 1969. Later that year Joel Schumacher, Henri Bendel's visual director (now film director), introduced Burrows to Bendel's legendary fashion director Geraldine Stutz, and he was hired on the spot.

Burrows, influenced by music, dance, and the body, produced revolutionary clothing that was soft, comfortable, and chic. His innovative designs, which made use of color and technique, were revolutionary during a time when American fashion was strongly influenced by the European design houses: very structured, heavy, and lined. With the advent of stretch fabrics such as wool and rayon jersey, Burrows crafted a close fit and slim silhouette. He originated a finishing touch - the "lettuce edge" - that became a signature and remains in the collection today. His designs became a foundation for signature American style.

Stephen Burrows' World opened at Henri Bendel in 1970 and thrust Burrows into the limelight. It was an immediate success. His client roster included Cher, Diana Ross, Lauren Bacall, Liza Minnelli, Jerry Hall, Lauren Hutton, and Barbara Streisand. The industry took notice, and Burrows was nominated for a Coty Award, fashion's highest honor, in both 1971 and 1972.

In 1973, renowned fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert organized a benefit fashion show at Versailles, France. The show was a collaboration between the United States and France. Participants included the most influential designers of the day -- Pierre Cardin, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, and Emanuel Ungaro representing France; Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, and Stephen Burrows representing the US. An international sensation, the event brought acclaim to American fashion for the first time. Noted for his extraordinary segment, which introduced color in ways never before seen on the runway, Burrows received rave reviews.

Following this success, Burrows was recognized with Coty Awards in 1973, 1974, and again in 1977. Urged by Halston to set up shop on Seventh Avenue, Stephen soon left Henri Bendel and opened his namesake business, quickly licensing products such as fragrances, sunglasses, and furs.

On February 13, 2002, "Stephen Burrows World" reopened in Henri Bendel with an event dubbed "the party of the season" by Vogue. The collection has been applauded by the New York Times, the American, French and Japanese editions of Vogue, Essence, and New York Magazine, among others. Stephen has been welcomed back to fashion with a star on the CFDA's Fashions Walk of Fame on Seventh Avenue.

2006 marks Stephen Burrow's 40th year as a designer. In June of this year, he was honored with the CFDA's Board of Directors Special Tribute Award. Currently, Stephen Burrows is available at fine stores in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

"BURROWS IN PARIS " Stephen Burrows presented his Spring Summer 2007 collection in October of this year as part of the French Fashion Week. Suzy Menkes of The International Herald remarked "He is the Master of matte jersey and colour combinations!"

Pretty fabulous, huh? After reading up, I scrambled back to to order not one but four of the Burrows pieces, including the middle dress in the picture at the top of this post (at 50% off I couldn't help myself). Sure, they were meant to be worn in the summer, but as a self-professed layering queen, I know no such seasonal bounds. In fact, if I like how everything fits, then I plan on revisiting to snap up the rest of my favorites.

One of the fun things about shopping on is reading the shopper reviews. The response for the Burrows collection was split, with half the shoppers loving the fun, vibrant colors and the other half dismissing the designs as something dreamed up by kindergartners. I sort of dress like a five-year-old, so once I read that I knew I was onto something good.

I'll let you know how it all works out. Not that you won't be seeing them in some future edition of Photo Shoot Friday :)

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