Geoffrey Beene (1927-2004) an American Fashion Designer

Geoffrey Beene (1927 – 2004) was an American fashion designer; born Haynesville, Louisiana. He was a premed student at Tulane University when he found himself sketching gowns when he became bored during his lectures. Along with Bill Blass, he was regarded as the Godfather of American sportswear. 

Studies

Between 1941-44, he studied at Tulane University in Louisiana. Between 1944-45, studying at the University of Southern California. In 1949, at the Traphagen School of Fashion of Ethel Traphagen. In 1949 at the Academie Julian, Paris. 

Professional Career

His first job in the industry came when he signed on as an assistant at the display department of the downtown Los Angeles branch of I. Magnin, the clothing store. A company executive recognised his talent and encouraged Beene to get a job in fashion.  

He moved to New York City in 1947, enrolled at the Traphagen School of Fashion, and then went off to Paris to learn the business. 

He returned to New York and got his first big break in

1954, a job designing for teal Traina, and his fledgling firm. Between 1949-50, he was a designer for Samuel Winston. Between 1950-57, at Harmay; and 1958-62, at Teal Traina; and for Martini Designs and Abe Fetterman. 

Geoffrey Beene spread in Vogue 1977

Beene launched his company on a shoestring budget in the early 60s and turned it into a fashion empire. Geoffrey Beene Inc. sold $500,000 worth of clothes in its first year, a figure that would quadruple in just two years. The next year he won the first of his Coty awards. He was an eight-time winner of the Coty Fashion Critics Awards and the first American designer to show his clothes in Milan.

In 1969, the boutiques Beene Bazaar; in 1970, the Beenebag. He was a member of the Fashion Design Council of America. Beene was known for quality rather than innovation, took a classic approach in the 1970s. He designed 1991 furniture that included the Shoe-heel stool and Leg table sold through his outlet and 1993 Drum porcelain dinnerware by Swid Powell. 

Style

A southern gentleman in a rough and competitive business, Mr Beene made strong impressions with his courteous manner and his highly original style. He was a champion of minimalist design. The short, A-line dresses and body contoured jumpsuits he was known for were marvels of cut and proportion.

Geoffrey Beene | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The recent work of Geoffrey Beene has been characterized by an increasingly sensual reductivism. In this evening gown an asymmetrical yoke in black leather acknowledges the anatomy-the clavicle, sternum, and spine-while also evoking another reference, that of a shoulder holster, in its trapezoidal shape, strapping, and use of material. As in many of Beene’s designs, the yoke is a detail simultaneously abstract and allusive, a vestige of earlier collections in which harnesses appeared as separate accessories to overlay, segment, and define the torso.

His evening collections featured layers of fabrics and prints some them embroidered with dots and trimmed with delicate lace. Everything he designed had a hand-crafted, artisan’s quality that made more familiar-looking clothes look predictable.

Recognition

Received 1964 and 1966 Coty American Fashion Critics Award, 1977 Hall of Fame, 1965 National Cotton Award, 1965 Nieman Marcus Award, and 1966 Ethel Traphagen Award. 

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Geoffrey Beene – Designed simple classic sportwear. (2004, September 29). The Miami Herald. https://www.newspapers.com/image/651437594/?article=771cf64a-88b4-4706-96a1-cdbe47015d25.

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