Patterns of Persian Living

1970s, Ann Turkel, Henry Clarke, Inspirational Images, interior design, interiors, Michael Szell, thea porter, Vogue
Michael Szell in the bedroom of his London flat. The rolls of fabric, his new collection of Persian prints for Thea Porter. The dress, simply one length from the range worn like a caftan.

Michael Szell is the Hungarian fabric designer who is introducing Iran to London via a new collection of designs, taken up by Thea Porter for her romantic and ravishing evening dresses. His own bedroom, opposite, is in rich emerald, turquoise and brown arabesqued linen, cool and grand by day but rich and warm by electric light, with 18th-century Eng-lish paintings and mirrors. His drawing-room, below, is turquoise with brilliant Persian prayer mats colouring the walls, 18th-century English botanical china, and a mixed forest of hyacinth and growing orchids, later bluebells and orchids. Iran runs through Michael Szell’s life like a thread. He began to visit friends and connections there while he was still a child, used every possible holiday to get there while he studied economics at Aberystwyth University, and later when he worked with Sir Nicholas Sekers. His love for Persian ceramics, buildings and woven carpets developed into a passion for early Islamic art in its formal, random, asymmetric period before it came to represent life in the 19th-century : a passion culminating in his opening his own furnishing fabric showrooms at 47 Sloane Avenue. He began selling silk signature scarves to Henri Bendel of New York in 1969 and has just produced his new Persian collection of fabrics. Thea Porter asked him to print his designs onto silk chiffon for her and made them in flowing evening dresses with yards of floating sleeve and skirt.

For the coronation of the Shahanshah and the Empress of Iran, Michael Szell designed curtains, chair-fabrics and an entire state banquet for the Golestan Palace. He has been asked again to help with the decorations for the great October celebrations—the twenty-fifth centenary of the founding of the Persian Empire. He will contribute designs for the interiors of houses and for some of the 500 tents that are planned, with their own marble bathrooms, for the royal and distinguished guests who will take part in the celebrations at Persepolis, the ruined city and ancient capital.

Mr Szell has also been asked to provide the fabrics for all the palace sets in the new Universal film Mary, Queen of Scots, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Mary and Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth. He has an unrealised ambition to produce an absolutely modern collection of very cheap fabrics “from chair covers to plastic shower curtains”.

Model is Ann Turkel.

Photographed by Henry Clarke.

Scanned from Vogue, July 1971.

Midnight blue Persian curlicues on azure silk chiffon. Sleeves dipping to the ground and gathered at the wrists, the bodice fitted, skirt soft and gathered. £78, at Thea Porter, 8 Greek St. Persian necklaces, both pages, from Michael Szell’s own collection.

Kathleen Tynan by Norman Parkinson

barbara daly, Hair and make-up, Kathleen Tynan, norman parkinson, thea porter, Vogue
With her vivid dark blonde hair, shining hazel eyes and pale skin, Mrs Tynan looks marvellous in white: here it’s her Thea Porter dress of white voile embroiderpd in green and bronze. She wears Balenciaga scent Le Dix; the Eau de Toilette during the day, and the scent at night. Some time ago Mr Tynan had made for her a copy of the dress that Garbo wore in As You Desire Me”; a delicious compliment. “I use Hydriane by Dr Payot, powder, mascara and a bit of green eye shadow. Eyeliner in the evening. I’m skinny and I’d like to be fatter, but no one can tell me how. I sometimes exercise at Lotte Berk, but more often don’t, and I like swimming in warm waters.” She loves roses and cornflowers, her favourite restaurant is L’Etoile “for sentimental reasons and because it has the best food in London.” Here, her hair by David of Michaeljohn, her make-up by Barbara Daly.

Kathleen and Kenneth Tynan live in Kensington with their children, Roxana, 5, and Matthew, 2, when they’re not abroad: they’re often either just off or just back – now it’s just back from four weeks in a cottage in Wales. Kathleen Tynan is an excellent journalist, specialising in arts features and interviews, and is working on her first book.

Photographed by Norman Parkinson.

Scanned from Beauty in Vogue, 1973.

A python in her room

1960s, 1970s, Art Kane, Inspirational Images, Margrit Ramme, Queen magazine, thea porter

“You love your boyfriend and he’s left you. You’re alone in a big city and an empty apartment.” Kane had not yet picked up his camera, but Margrit Ramme was working on the sadness. She was also scared of the snake. The editors of Queen magazine had asked for an entire issue to be called “Art Kane’s New York,” including fashions, and he had said all right—but don’t expect to see laughing girls running down Fifth Avenue. He had just divorced his second wife, had not yet met Jean Pagliuso or photographed Larry Rivers, and felt fairly bitter.

If you want to call it Art Kane’s New York, he told Queen, you’ll have to accept pictures showing that the place right now is kind of empty for me. Righto, they said.

He left the studio and rummaged around for real-life locations. He had found the apartment on Gramercy Park, and decided to shoot the fashions there before the furniture came in. Truth is, he wasn’t motivated entirely by a desire to display his mood. Not only does training as an art director make him look for a theme when he has space for an essay, as against a bunch of random shots that just present the merchandise; Art Kane loves almost more than anything else to tell a story.

He also loves snakes. The first boy scout in the Bronx to get a Reptile Study merit badge, he kept 32 of them at home despite a mother who tried to make him flush the first one down the toilet.

This story would reflect the dilemma of a lovely woman—always beautifully dressed, of course—searching for a man, for identity, for something. A snake would be not only an obvious male symbol but also a reminder of a Garden of Eden to start it off. Since Kane had given, his collection to the Bronx Zoo when he was drafted, he called All-Tame Animals, a pro-vider of non-human performers in New York. They referred him to a snake owner in one of the city’s residential hotels, asking that he be discreet; she would be evicted if the manage-ment discovered that she kept a boa constrictor and a python in her room. So Kane was Uncle Joe when he called to ask about Cousin Bea: “She must be a really big girl by now. Oh, six feet six, that sounds good.” And Patricia? “Over eight feet tall? My goodness.” He went over to see them. Their owner showed him the boa in her bathtub and pulled the python out of a closet. “Terrific,” he said. “Bring them up to my place at 10 o’clock tomorrow.”

When she arrived with the snakes in a laundry bag, Kane was moving white window shades up and down, studying the way they filtered the natural light he would use all day. Morning light came softly through the west-facing windows of the living room. He arranged the python, then stood back to peer through a Nikon. Moving forward, back, left, right, he kept the model close to the center of the frame. He was using a 24mm lens, not only for depth of field that would keep the picture sharp from front to back but also to make objects near the edges seem to lean away, focusing attention on the center.

“Okay, Margrit, you’re unhappy, unaware, the two of you can never really come together. . . .” Bracketing—one shot at a normal exposure, one above, one below—he redesigned the picture as he moved. “That’s it, keep it, keep it,” he told her when he liked what was happening. “Now, hold every pose for three clicks and then change … Beautiful. Now keep that until I say stop. I want to explore this until we’ve eaten it up.”

Ninety minutes later he had eaten up the male-female situation (above) and moved to the bedroom (below) to set up an identity problem. A second model had arrived. “You’re clothed and you’re naked,” Kane said, “you’re really the same woman, trying to figure out who you are.” This time he wanted to stretch the image more alarmingly toward the edges, so he put on the 21mm lens that he had used to shock the editors of Vogue on his first fashion assignment.

Images originally published in Queen magazine .

(date not given but looks circa 1969/70 to me, especially given Queen merged with Harpers Bazaar in 1970).

Clothes are uncredited here but both look like Thea Porter to me.

Photographed by Art Kane.

Scanned from Art Kane: The Persuasive Image, 1975.

Indoor Fireworks

1970s, biba, charles jourdan, cherry twiss, Chic of Hampstead, Inspirational Images, janet reger, Lucienne Phillips, ossie clark, quorum, Sam Haskins, Sheilagh Browne, telegraph magazine, The Sunday Telegraph Magazine, thea porter, Vintage Editorials, Yuki, yves saint laurent, zandra rhodes
Sparkling black chiffon dress with plunging neckline and diamante embroidery, £250 from Thea Porter, 8 Greek Street, London W1

Japanese men are peculiarly affected by a glimpse of the naked nape of a Japanese neck. In Western cultures such excitement is generated by a panorama of bosom (as in this black chiffon dress by Thea Porter), or a smooth swathe of thigh. Here we show some revelations from the London autumn collections… hot numbers for the coolest of winter evenings.

All perfect for lockdowns, I’m sure you’ll agree! It’s also nice to be surprised by Ossie Clark every once in a while – with a corset being so vastly different in tone from what we would usually expect.

Photographed by Sam Haskins.

Fashion Editor: Cherry Twiss.

Hair by Paulene at Michaeljohn.

Scanned from The Telegraph Magazine, 8th November 1974.

Cream and brown two piece with lace split skirt and boned top by Ossie Clark. Shoes by Charles Jourdan, 47/49 Brompton Road, SW3
Slate blue dress by Yuki. Approximately £,165 from Fortnum and Mason, Chic of Hampstead, Heath Street, London NW3 or Lucienne’s, 89 Knightsbridge, London SW1. Gold and jade bangles from Jones, 52 Beauchamp Place, London SW3.
White silk chiffon and net full skirt and sheer top by Zandra Rhodes, to order from Fortnum and Mason.
Black jersey skirt with split front by Yuki obtainable from Fortnum and Mason or Chic of Hampstead. Sheer silk chiffon halter top by Sheilagh Browne, £14 from Quorum. Black suspender belt from Janet Reger, Bottom Drawer, 33 Southwick Street, London W2. Black stockings from Biba, Kensington High Street, W8. Shoes from Yves St Laurent, 113 New Bond Street, W1 .
Corset and skirt by Ossie Clark (as before)

Emeralds, Diamonds, Pearls

1970s, eric boman, eric bowman, Inspirational Images, jewellery, thea porter, Vintage Adverts, Vogue

Advert for Bonds of New Bond Street. Hair by Daniel at Neville Daniel.

Clothes by Thea Porter.

Photographed by Eric Boman.

Scanned from Vogue, June 1978.

Hair Today

1970s, Chris Holland, hair, Inspirational Images, petticoat magazine, thea porter
MADONNA soft and delicate with baby hair separated into silken strands – gossamer fine with tiny plaits.

Hairdressers are laying down their scissors saying: “We want to feel hair again – short hair is out”. If you’re growing your hair, you’re in ‘cos long hair is romantic and flattering. These styles show you what we mean.

Photographed by Chris Holland.

Scanned from Petticoat, 9th May 1970

THE GOTHIC LOOK is very much here to stay. It’s a sensational change from the shiny tanned skin and short hair which is rapidly becoming dated. Tunic by Thea Porter. Jewellery from Booty, 14-18 High Holborn.
THE BUANITA. In other words the gypsy look. This style needs a lot of hair with lots of body and bounce.

Fashion Goes Into Purdah

1970s, cherry twiss, Crocodile, deborah and clare, Inspirational Images, jean muir, kurt geiger, Sacha, Savita, Suliman, telegraph magazine, The Sunday Telegraph Magazine, thea porter, universal witness, Vintage Editorials
Savita’s orange and red printed muslin hot skirt and balloon sleeved midi top. The latticed rust suede hat and scarf are from Suliman.

After the systemic strip of the West’s liberated women comes a longing for the romance and mystery of the East. The newest clothes reflect this mood with suggestive gauzes and clinging crepes. We took some to Bahrain, where the women are still heavily veiled and pass secluded lives in the harem.

A textbook example of the trend towards ‘exotic’ inspiration in the fashion world of the late Sixties/early Seventies. Most famously by Thea Porter, of course, but also with lesser known labels such as Suliman and Savita. Another strand of the post-Sixties backlash against the minimal and the space-age, along with the period romanticism of Laura Ashley and the more kitschy retro Rock’n’Roll stylings of Glam Rock.

As an aside, I always feel a little uncomfortable posting these ‘location’ shoots when they involve local characters, because it can feel a little exploitative. But at the same time, I don’t want to censor the past and think it’s important to remind ourselves of how fashion needs to be less exploitative and culturally ‘acquisitional’, even now.

I was also very entertained to note that a variation on the first image was used as part of the hilarious series of Smirnoff adverts and that I scanned back in 2015. There are only a few months between the two and I’m fascinated to know whose decision that was!

Fashion by Cherry Twiss.

Photographed by Sacha.

Scanned from The Daily Telegraph Magazine, 2nd July 1971.

White banlon dress by Simon Massey.
Flawless blue silk crepe jersey dress by Jean Muir. Gold sandals by Kurt Geiger.
Butter muslin shirt from Deborah and Clare. Striped satin skirt from The Universal Witness. The harem pants were made in the local souk.
Lace skirt and jacket by Thea Porter. Sequin cap from Crocodile.
Black crepe bloomer dress by Jean Muir.
Bronze slipper satin dress by Thea Porter.

Meet the designer: Thea Porter

1970s, Golden Hands, Inspirational Images, John Carter, thea porter

Thea Porter describes the women she designs for as “thirtyish, tall and slim,” but she laughingly adds that “I design clothes that I know will suit me too, so they do just as well for short, fat people.” Whatever their shape, Thea Porter’s customers live a high-society, jet-set life. Their clothes must be dramatic, brilliant and packable, and Thea Porter designs are exactly what they need; the clothes are among the most coveted in the world. How did Thea break into the rarefied atmosphere of high-fashion design?

In 1965, Thea and a couple of friends launched an interior decorating service. “we started the fashion for enormous cushions, and we were just beginning to make a name for ourselves,”‘ Thea reminisced, “when I happened to bring back an antique caftan from overseas. I wanted to use the material in a decorat-ing scheme. Suddenly caftans came in to vogue but the only ones you could get from abroad were either minute or voluminous. So, with the help of a dressmaker, I started making caftans from lovely old fabrics. Then a photo-graph of Fenella Fielding wearing one of my caftans appeared in the Daily Express. More people began wanting them and eventually I decided to bring out a collection which I showed in a Kensington restaurant. I was still mainly a decorator but from then on things started snowballing. I had designed some jackets with masses and masses of braid which the Beatles bought, for instance. At the end of 1967, I took the plunge and started the shop in Greek Street.”

Without any formal training, Thea Porter became a dress designer. She knows nothing of cutting and sewing, and recalls her only attempt at dress-making as a child when she succeeded in cutting through her own skirt! An assistant takes all her designs to the pattern and cutting stage. The import-ant thing, to Thea, is the designing. She describes her philosophy quite simply. Using her hands to emphasise, she explains “you know how a line of poetry sounds right, as if it has been waiting for someone to write it down. That’s how it must be with a dress. It must be a complete entity and nothing must jar —unless clashing colours are an intrinsic part of the design. The shape, colour and fabric should be in perfect harmony. I put together every detail of the dress myself — down to the last button.”

Thea finds that she designs best away from her Soho shop, and works in spurts according to her mood, but she finds it difficult to describe the sources of her inspiration. “My two absolute standards are that I must like the dress myself, and every season I try to bring out five good shape’s. The collections are different every time. It can take me three weeks to do a collection — or three months. Some-times I get my inspiration from a fabric. Sometimes I do a sketch and then choose a fabric. I often buy fabrics without having the least idea of what I shall do with them.”

“I don’t use a method that you could describe”, she continues thoughtfully. “There are so many influences. For example I got the idea for a nautical theme when I was leafing through a book on Victorian painters. To be a designer I think you need a broad culture — certainly my knowledge of the East has shaped my creative thinking. A conventional art course would have been a waste of time for me.”

Thea Porter specialises in glamorous evening clothes and if there is a theme running through her creations, it is that the materials are almost invariably soft, flimsy and graceful and chosen to reveal the contours of the body. She buys them from all over the world: from India, Italy, Switzerland, France and England. She designs some fabrics herself. “I do a sketch, give it to a textile designer to translate, we work out the colours and we have it made up.” Expensive? “Very,” she agrees.

The tiny Thea Porter shop in Greek Street, London, is full of the exotic feeling she translates so expertly into her clothes. Amid the display of dia-phanous dresses, rolls of richly coloured fabrics are heaped on shelves and piled several deep against the wall in glorious disarray. From a battered cardboard box, a profusion of braids and ribbons tumble like wild flowers. A litter of photos, sketches and other paraphernalia are pinned around her desk. The casual atmosphere is typical of Thea Porter’s spontaneous approach to designing. There is, however, nothing at all naive about her ideas and plans for the future.

Until recently, Thea, was thinking on two planes, Britain and America. “The main difference between the two markets is that American women have such perfect figures and they like waisted clothes with plunging necklines.” Now she is working in yet another dimension — ready-to-wear. Not content with this, she is already planning new outlets. “I would like to do wedding clothes, children’s wear and lingerie. But there would always have to be lots of evening dresses. A woman feels different in the evening, more relaxed and prettier.”

Interview by Rosemary Simon.

Photographs by John Carter.

Scanned from Golden Hands Monthly, September 1972

Tessa Kennedy by Norman Parkinson

1970s, Inspirational Images, interior design, interiors, norman parkinson, Oxus, Tessa Kennedy, thea porter
Tessa and Cary wearing antique Afghanistani caftans in the garden room, a patterned passage really, where Cassian sleeps. A Kelim rug covers the bed, the cushions are sewn from Indian silk scarves. Caftans from Oxus, 490 Kings Road.

Tessa Kennedy lives down amongst trees and flowers on the Bayswater edge of Hyde Park; on a broiling blue July day it seemed more like the South of France with mimosa yellow awnings over the windows, white iron table and chairs set up on the terrace. On the corner of a great white classical block of houses, it’s a garden flat — no agent’s euphemism — knocked together from two; in the centre are a pair of tiny courtyards Tessa is changing into conservatories so that flowers can flower all year round: her sons can also wheel their bicycles straight out of doors to play. They are Cassian, Damian and Cary Elwes., 11, 10 and 7, and there’s Dylan, the baby, 7 months old.

Inside, a dramatic maze of rooms opens off the central chocolate-varnished corridor; everywhere carpets, tapestries, tartan and Indian silks make endless patterns. The old wine cellars have turned into great scarlet felt lined storage cupboards like the ones she designed for the Donald Davies shop, no dust can creep in. The drawing-room converts to a cinema built when Stanley Donen lived there; Tessa has hardly changed this at all. The projection room has mighty machines like the Marble Arch Odeon, she has registered herself as Kennedy Previews and has a projectionist hired full time—to show films to friends after dinner once or twice a week, or a couple of James Bond epics for the boys: “They love it of course and get absolutely boss-eyed.” Her fascination with gadgetry extends to video tapes, high-powered headphones for the stereo, intercom and a splendid American push-button dial telephone you can ring in on but not out. With the push-button stuff are clumps of fresh flowers, dog roses, daisies, piles of cushions in antique fabrics or in the flame stitch tapestry she sews on plane journeys, her collection of walnut shell sewing boxes, photograph, paintings—including a quartet of Louis XIV’s wife and mistresses—and carpet in a different colour but the same pattern as the one she designed for Burke’s restaurant. Burke’s is one of her decorating jobs she likes the best—along with Sir George and Lady Weidenfeld’s house and the flat she made for John Barry in an office block overlooking the Thames: “We installed such powerful sound that it moves right across the river and people coming out of the Tate look quite dazed.” Now she is working on a couple of country houses, one is for John Aspinall, and offices for Polydor records, and several new ideas, like a sauna in a storage cupboard, to build into this family and garden flat.

Yes, that’s little Cary Elwes at the tender age of seven. And of course it goes without saying that I would kill for those Theas…

Photographed by Norman Parkinson.

Scanned from Vogue, September 1970.

Patterns of carpet, tartan and voile in the drawing room cinema. The carpet is similar to the one Tessa designed for Burke’s; her voile dress with bib of rare oriental fabric comes from Thea Porter, £68.
Tessa in the hall, a varnished chocolate box hung with brown and white cottons. The gothic chairs are part of her collection. Her long scarlet chiffon robe, £35, from Thea Porter.

 

Go to a party

1960s, Adrian Mann, Anne Tyrrell, bernard freres, Club 92, Foale and Tuffin, Inspirational Images, jean varon, john bates, kleptomania, Paul Orssich, paulene stone, Rhona Roy, Simpson of Piccadilly, Sujon, take 6, thea porter, Tommy Roberts, Uncategorized, vanity fair, Vintage Editorials

go to a party 1

Wonderful in white… snowy crepe, sleeves long and ringed with Irish thread work. By John Bates at Jean Varon. Jewellery by Adrien Mann. Man’s shirt to order from Thea Porter.

Photographed by Paul Orssich.

Scanned from Vanity Fair, November 1968.

go to a party 2

Glamorously Grecian… pure white crepe, beautifully braided. By Young Ideas at Rhona Roy. Jewellery by Adrien Mann. Man’s black braided suit is from Just Men.

go to a party 3

Beautiful in black seductive plunging rayon jersey. By Foale and Tuffin. Jewellery by Adrien Mann. Shoes by Lilley and Skinner. Man’s evening suit and shirt all from Take 6.

go to a party 4

Stunning in satin… timeless dress as bewitching as a glimmer of midnight. By Bernard Freres. Man’s velvet jacket from Take 6. Man’s be-ruffled shirt from Kleptomania.

go to a party 5

Perfect in pink… sugared almond crepe falling soft to the wrist and waist. Designed by Anne Tyrrell at John Marks. Jewellery by Adrien Mann. Man’s red velvet jacket and silk scarf from Trend at Simpson.

go to a party 6

Reassured in red. Skimmy shaped wool crepe party-goer cut away at the shoulders. By Sujon. Jewellery by Adrien Mann. Man’s evening suit and polo shirt both from Club 92.