Stephen Burrows (designer)

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Stephen Burrows (born in Newark, New Jersey on May 15, 1943) is an American fashion designer based in New York City.[1][2] He went to the Fashion Institute of Design, then began work in the New York City's garment center, alternately managing his own businesses and working closely with luxury department store Henri Bendel. He is known for being the first African-American fashion designer to develop a mainstream, high-fashion clientele. His garments, known for their bright colors and "lettuce" curly-edges, became an integral part of the "Fun City" New York City disco-dancing scene of the 1970s.[1]

Early life[edit]

Stephen Burrows was born in Newark, New Jersey on May 15, 1943. He was raised by his mother, Octavia Pennington, and her mother, Beatrice Pennington Banks Simmons (sometime sample hand for Hattie Carnegie). Fascinated with his grandmother's zigzag sewing machine, he learned to sew early.[3] He made his first garment for a friend's doll when he was eight years old.[4]

As a high school student, Burrows took dance lessons and loved the mambo. He began heading to Manhattan on Sundays to dance at the Palladium, and then it was a natural step to begin sketching dresses he wanted for his partners. However, when he graduated from Newark's Arts High School, he first enrolled at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, intending to be an art teacher.[5]

Inspired by dress forms he came across during a tour of the college,[5] he transferred to New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology,[6] but found it frustrating. FIT professors taught a set of basic draping rules that Burrows had no patience with. Even then he had established his spontaneous style of cutting at all angles, stretching edges off grain, and draping as he went.[7] Nonetheless, he graduated in 1966.[8]

Fashion career[edit]

Burrows began his working career with a job at blouse manufacturer Weber Originals.[2] While working there, he created pieces for his friends to wear out dancing. Gradually his work was picked up by small shops, and in 1968 he began working with Andy Warhol and his entourage at Max's Kansas City, selling across the street at the O Boutique.[9] Burrows' clothes were described as the fashion embodiment of the electric sexuality of this era. The women who wore his clothes gave off this aura of frantically creative days and wild nights filled with disco music and glamorous people.[10]

Accustomed to tease his FIT classmates about which of them would sell their lines at Henri Bendel, Burrows himself was introduced to Geraldine Stutz, Bendel's owner, in the summer of 1968.[11] She loved the coat he wore to meet her so much that she gave him a boutique in the store.[12]

In fall of 1973, Burrows' first lingerie/sleepwear collection, called "Stevies" was introduced at Henri Bendel's, Bonwit Teller, Lord & Taylor, and Bloomingdales, as well as stores in Chicago, San Francisco, and elsewhere.[13]

In 1978 Farrah Fawcett wore his gold chainmail dress to the Academy Awards where she was a presenter.[14] In February 1981 Brooke Shields, at age 15, graced the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine wearing Stephen Burrows. Other women who loved his clothes included Barbra Streisand, Cher, the Supremes, Bette Midler, and Jerry Hall.[15]

In May 2006 the CFDA honored Burrows with "The Board of Directors Special Tribute". Around the same time, Burrows was invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Mode to return to Paris to present his Spring/Summer 2007 Collection in the Carousel de Louvre. In addition to "Stephen Burrows World", Burrows expanded his company to include a number of labels drawn from various points of inspiration. "S by Burrows" was created for a venture with Home Shopping Europe (HSN) in Munich, Germany, while "Everyday Girl" was inspired by Anna Cleveland, daughter to muse and model Pat Cleveland, and "SB73," a cut and sew knit line that was developed based on Burrows' hallmark, color-blocked creations of the seventies.

First Lady Michelle Obama wore a Burrows Jersey pantsuit to a Washington DC event. Remarking on the significance, Vogue Magazine wrote, "It was a wonderful acknowledgement of Burrows, one of the great African-American designers and a Harlem resident known for his inventive cuts and bias technique."

Also in 2010, Burrows opened his new showroom and design studio in New York City’s Garment Center.

Awards[edit]

  • Coty American Fashion Critics award ("Winnie"), 1973
  • Coty American Fashion Critics special award (lingerie), 1974
  • Coty American Fashion Critics award ("Winnie"), 1977
  • Council of American Fashion Critics award, 1975
  • Knitted Textile Association Crystal Ball award, 1975

Retrospectives[edit]

Burrows’ work as a fashion designer has been the subject of a series of retrospectives: in "1940-1970's Cut and Style" at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology; "The 1970s" at The Tribute Gallery in New York, and in "Back to Black: Art, Cinema, and the Racial Imaginary" at Whitechapel Gallery in London in June 2005. That same year he was the subject of a documentary by filmmaker Jenny Grenville and is the subject of another documentary under development by Patrick di Santo. In 2013, the Museum of the City of New York mounted the first major examination of Burrows' work in "Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced" with an accompanying catalog.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Zalopany, Chelsea (May 19, 2014). "André Leon Talley Honors Stephen Burrows at SCAD". Vogue. Retrieved 4 December 2015. 
  2. ^ "Stephen Burrows - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia - clothing, century, women, dress, style, new, body, dresses, designs, jewelry, world, look". fashionencyclopedia.com. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Burrows, Stephen; Morera, Daniela; Museum of the City of New York (2013-01-01). Stephen Burrows: when fashion danced. New York: Skira Rizzoli in association with Museum of the City of New York. p. 16. ISBN 9780847841189. 
  4. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (1980-11-01). Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. 
  5. ^ a b Burrows, Stephen; Morera, Daniela; Museum of the City of New York (2013-01-01). Stephen Burrows: when fashion danced. New York: Skira Rizzoli in association with Museum of the City of New York. pp. 16–18. ISBN 9780847841189. 
  6. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (1973-07-12). Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 
  7. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (1980-11-01). Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. 
  8. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (2007-09-01). Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. 
  9. ^ Burrows, Stephen; Morera, Daniela; Museum of the City of New York (2013-01-01). Stephen Burrows: when fashion danced. New York: Skira Rizzoli in association with Museum of the City of New York. p. 10. ISBN 9780847841189. 
  10. ^ Burrows, Stephen; Morera, Daniela; Museum of the City of New York (2013-01-01). Stephen Burrows: when fashion danced. New York: Skira Rizzoli in association with Museum of the City of New York. pp. 36, 37. ISBN 9780847841189. 
  11. ^ Wilson, Eric. 2009. "At Henri Bendel, the Street of Sorrows." New York Times (1923-Current File), May 14, 1.
  12. ^ BELLAFANTE, GINIA. 2002. "A Fallen Star of the 70's is Back in the Business." New York Times (1923-Current File), Jan 01, 1.
  13. ^ By, BERNADINE MORRIS. 1973. "Pajamas to Wear when Going Out." New York Times (1923-Current File), Jul 16, 24.
  14. ^ Burrows, Stephen; Morera, Daniela; Museum of the City of New York (2013-01-01). Stephen Burrows: when fashion danced. New York: Skira Rizzoli in association with Museum of the City of New York. pp. 148, 149. ISBN 9780847841189. 
  15. ^ Burrows, Stephen; Morera, Daniela; Museum of the City of New York (2013-01-01). Stephen Burrows: when fashion danced. New York: Skira Rizzoli in association with Museum of the City of New York. p. 16. ISBN 9780847841189. 

Further reading[edit]

  • NYT article
  • Morris, Bernadine, and Barbara Walz, The Fashion Makers, New York, 1978.
  • Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style, New York, 1989.
  • Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York, 1996.

External links[edit]