Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How They Wear it: Nan Kempner

Diana Vreeland, the legendary editor of American Vogue, once said: "There are no chic women in America. The one exception is Nan Kempner." Mrs. Kempner, the New York socialite and international jet setter who passed away in 2005, was arguably one of couture’s most passionate collectors. Over five decades she amassed the largest private collection of haute couture clothing featuring classic designers like Mainbocher and her favorite couturier Yves Saint Laurent.

Her first couture gown was a white Dior sheath, bought in the early 1950s. She traveled to Paris twice a year for the shows, seldom absent from the St Laurent salon. She was also known for maintaining her slender frame in order to fit into couture samples, discounted at $10,000 a gown. She stored them (when the children grew up, she converted their rooms to extra closets) and "it turns out that I was an art collector. Museums come and ask me for clothes all the time". As curator of her own rails, she was elected to the fashion Hall of Fame and gave courses at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Recently both the MET and the Fondation Yves Saint Laurent in Paris held exhibits of her couture collection.

Clockwise: In Valentino Couture, Spring 2003; Photographed at a Saint Laurent fitting in the late 80’s; In Gaultier Paris, Spring 2003; Seated at Yves Saint Laurent’s show in the late 70’s; In Yves Saint Laurent haute couture; In Christian Lacroix, Fall 2004; Wearing Valentino couture, Fall 2004.
© THE POLYGLOT (all rights reserved) CHICAGO-PARIS

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