By PHILLIP D. JOHNSON
Images by PHILLIP D. JOHNSON
A genuine Californian, born and bred, Designer TRINA TURK—and the essence of her design aesthetic—is based as much on her upbringing, as well as on her lifelong appreciation for Mid-Century Modernist architecture, artistry and craftsmanship (CHARLES AND RAY EAMES, LOUIS KAHN, OSCAR NIEMEYER, ISAMU NOGUCHI, EERO SAARINEN, JOSEPH EICHLER, EDITH HEATH, CLIFF MAY, EILEEN GRAY, GEORGE NELSON) that has its nucleus in the Golden State. Turk is both inspired by and represents the lifestyle of California: optimistic, progressive, accessible, effortless, colorful, and confident. Her popular swimwear, ready-to-wear, accessory, and home collections are influenced by her love of 1960s and ’70s vintage apparel and jewelry as well as modernist and graphic art, and mid-century modern architecture. She is widely known for her use of dynamic colors and signature prints, including bright floral, bold graphics and vintage inspired jacquards.
From the beginning of her career, launching the brand with her photographer husband, JONATHAN SKOW, in 1995, she has championed the effortless flair and sunny optimism of this native mindset through the prism of her carefully crafted women’s ready-to-wear and accessories collections, a menswear line called MR TURK, and residential décor and textiles collections.
Miss Turk draws the inspiration for her company mainly from her own commuter lifestyle, where she splits her time between two Mid-Century architectural marvels the couple has restored in Los Angeles’ creative enclave of SILVER LAKE and in PALM SPRINGS, as well as from her travels up and down the California coastline. This hallmark—a laidback but yet still pulled together beach-meets-urban center lifestyle—is conveyed through a swath of contemporary product and at her very distinctive signature boutiques. For example, the idea of using pieces from her own archive of vintage modernist jewelry to replace the industry standard metallic rings, long a bikini staple, not only caught on with her devotees, but the entire swimwear industry which dove in to follow her lead.
Turk opened her first retail boutique in Palm Springs in 2002 and has since expanded to seven boutiques including Los Angeles, New York, Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Burlingame, Bal Harbour Shops in Miami, and her newest store in Dallas’ Highland Park Village, which opened in 2011. The company has also operated a seasonal store in East Hampton since 2009.
Licenses include a printed fabric collection for the home with home furnishings manufacturer F. SCHUMACHER & CO; Decorative pillows, bedding and gift items with PEKING HANDICRAFT; coats and outerwear with ITEM HOUSE; and swimwear and swim cover-ups with MANHATTAN BEACHWEAR. Collaborations include HUE HOSIERY, CLINIQUE, ALICE SUPPLY CO., REX RAY, NORDSTROM, M-EDGE (http://bit.ly/XSlgr7), THE ST. REGIS PRINCEVILLE RESORT, THE GRACE BAY CLUB, DEMPSEY & CARROLL, and the recent collaboration with BANANA REPUBLIC for Summer 2012.
The inspiration for her 2013 Fall/winter collection was sparked, in part, by a visit to the COOPER HEWITT exhibit “COLOR MOVES: ART & FASHION BY SONIA DELAUNAY” last year, where she was struck by Miss Delaunay’s “vibrant, modernist approach to fashion and print.” This was the starting point for her FALL/WINTER 2012 “MODERNIST MAVERICK” COLLECTION and has been carried over, in a very important way, into the 2013 FALL/WINTER COLLECTION as well.
SONIA DELAUNAY (nėe TERK, November 14, 1885 – December 5, 1979) was a Jewish-French artist who, with her husband Robert
Delaunay and others, cofounded the ORPHISM ART MOVEMENT, noted for its use of strong colors and geometric shapes. Her work extends to painting, textile design and stage set design. She was the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in 1964, and in 1975 was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor. Her work in modern design included the concepts of geometric abstraction, the integration of furniture, fabrics, wall coverings, and clothing.
Although she was already familiar with Ms. Delaunay’s work, as she wrote on her blog, “the show really reminded me of her genius, and what a trendsetter she was in her day. She infused geometric prints with a sense of movement, and her energetic color sense is unparalleled. The imprecise edges of the motifs in her handpainted designs are refreshing in a world of computer generated perfection.
Miss Delaunay’s textile print designs, which evolved from her paintings, were mostly created in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s; and her patterns remain remarkably timeless today, and foreshadow much of the textile design of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.
The exhibit catalog quotes Delaunay as saying it all started in 1911, when she made a patchwork blanket for her newly born son. The result reminded her of Cubism, and she and her artist husband Robert were off and running from there. They collaborated on painting, textile and fashion design, costumes, stage sets, and graphic design for 30 years, living first in Paris, then in Madrid, then back in Paris where she opened Maison Delaunay.
Some of Delaunay’s first fashion clients included the wives of famous Bauhaus architects: WALTER GROPIUS, MARCEL BREUER, and ERICH MENDELSOHN, in addition to other artists and journalists–an elite and highly specific group that made it difficult for her to make a living.
She did manage to attain real commercial success with her textile designs, and her company morphed from MAISON DELAUNAY to TISSUS DELAUNAY—a textile design house selling to print mills around the world. Her largest client became METZ & CO. in Amsterdam–a boutique selling exclusive objects designed by avant garde artists and architects—a circle Delaunay was already associated with. The relationship with Metz began in the 1930s, and the company continued to print and sell her incredible designs until the 1960s.
The Delaunay influence can be best seen in her satin stripe column dress with georgette sleeve and the very modern and desirable “Embarcadero” print jersey column dress. (See first panel of images at top of article.) The influence can also be seen in her various sweaters and the all-purpose satin stripe zip
pants. All these pieces ties back rather seamlessly to her overall design sense without actually looking backwards. In fact, these are pieces that could easily form the foundation of any woman’s wardrobe.
The rest of the collection consist of tailored pant and jumpsuits, a wide variety of covetable coats in Melton wool, tweed, lamb, alpaca (mixed with Melton wool, delicious!), basketweaved wool, glen plaid, rabbit and a tweed collage; and tops that you won’t ever let go of once you have purchased them. Looking at the images at home, after viewing the “The Nowhere Near the Ballpark YSL” SAINT LAURENT 2013 Fall/Winter collection from HEDI SLIMANE, I came to appreciate her designs even more than before. She, in a very, very good way, referenced the absolute best of the YVES SAINT LAURENT (screw the new logo and other changes) DNA while still making it her very own. The best example of this was her sleeveless jacket and slim-cut pant paired with a sleeveless python print shirt, finished off with elbow-length oxblood red leather gloves and a jauntily placed hat. (See second panel of images at top of article.) Another example was her Russette quilted lamb collarless (motorcross) jacket and high waist pant paired with a printed georgette shirt. It was edgy without being off-putting, laidback without being comatose; the essence of the confident cool California girl.
This was a fine effort on Miss Turk’s part. With this collection, she elevated her craft to new heights, employing a more refined approach in her choice of fabric, fit and attention to the smallest details. Maybe FRANCOIS-HENRI PINAULT should call her to offer her the YSL job, now that Slimane has dropped his latest turkey of a collection and totally lost his way. She is showing the right aptitude for the job. Either, she’s on the way up to even bigger and better opportunities.