Charles James was born in Sandhurst, England in 1906. He briefly attended the University of Bordeaux in France, before being sent to Chicago in the USA, by his family, to word for a utilities magnate in architectural design. He resigned almost immediately since he was not interested in that line of work. In 1926, he opened a hat shop “Charles Boucheron”. In 1928, he moved to New York and took up dress designing and in 1929 he began commuting between London and New York. His clientele included Millicent Rogers, Coco Chanel and Diana Vreeland. His designs are so timeless that his 1932 culottes for the New York department store Lord and Taylor, were still being sold in the 50’s. In 1934 and 1935, James worked in Paris under the patronage of PAUL POIRET, designing fabrics for French textile manufacturer Colcombet. New York became James base from 1940 to 1947 and during part of that period, he designed clothes for Elizabeth Arden’s salon. He showed one of his most successful collections in Paris in 1947. In the 50’s he spent most of his time in New York. James looked upon his dresses as works of art, as did many of his customers. Year after year, he reworked his original designs, ignoring the seasons. The components of the precisely constructed designs were interchangeable so that James had a never-ending fund of ideas from which to draw. He is most famous for his sculpted ball gowns made in lavish fabrics and to exacting tailoring standards, but is also remembered for his capes and coats, often trimmed with fur and embroidery, his spiral zipped dresses and his white satin quilted jackets. James was very temperamental and continually sabotaged his own success, but the lush structural beauty of his clothes have ensured he will be remembered as one of the greatest designers. After the birth of his son, he also produced a children’s collection. He designed the interior and several pieces of furniture for the Houston home of John and Dominque de Menil. After returning to New York City form Paris, Scaasi worked for James for two years. Charles James retired in 1958 and died in 1978. In the year 2001, the city of New York decided to honour American fashion designers by placing bronze plaques along 7th Avenue, the great street of fashion in New York. This has been called the “FASHION WALK OF FAME.” Charles James was one of those honoured, and here is a picture of his plaque.
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