Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Famous fashion model/actress Marisa Berenson  sits pretty in the most
opulent silk paisley of many a decade. This full page is part of a New York
fashion report from Vogue Magazine, September 1967.

When the award-winning designer, Deanna Littell, was completing high school and dreaming of the future,  she was torn between two loves, ballet and fashion design.  It was the time of the great auction of art and design from the Ballet Russe, and she reveled in the auction catalog with its photos of the work of Leon Bakst, the genius dance set and costume designer.  Often Bakst's work was energized by exotic paisley and Russian motifs. Littell gradually saw how her love of design, dance and music might merge.  Parson's rather than the New York City Ballet was her next stop before becoming a New York fashion designer.

Although Littell worked in all fabrics, all colors and prints, she began one of her first notable success stories with the launch of the first Bendel's Studio Collection under the astute retail leadership of store president Gerry Stutz and studio director, Jean Rosenberg. The collection was meant to be of-the-minute and limited to small quantities to be sold exclusively at the legendary West 57th Street store.  Littell made her debut as Stutz's solo designer with her Rich Peasant fall collection.  Leading the collection, this evening coat inventively made of rolls of silk patterns that a local silk company had meant to cut up for scarves.  It looked like something a modern princess would wear and was priced at $1,250. Today it would be a bargain at $12,000.

Littell explains:  " I loved the prints because they were large, dramatic, romantic. They reminded me of Russian  babushka prints and I wanted to quilt them, outlining the motifs in trapunto stitching and then have them hand embroidered in jewel-colored and gold beads." 

She remembers that the launch party that was a "Happening" at fashion photographer Milton Greene's studio which is what late 60s people did before today's invention of the flash mob.  The evening coat model for the Happening also wore paisley boots of the same fabric designed by Jerry Miller of the Miller Shoe salon, also at Bendel's.

Acceptance of the collection by the press and customers was sensational.   Littell was off and dancing in a new rarefied world. Today, she is a fine jewelry designer with Deanna Littell's Charm School.   JP