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. 

Fashion designer Geoffrey Beene examines shoes
Fashion designer Geoffrey Beene examines shoes in Milan, Italy. (Photo by David Lees/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

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. 

Model wearing Geoffrey Beene
Jewelled evening ensemble with a pink top and gold skirt banded by a pale blue sash. Neckline is heavily jewelled.

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.

More Fashion Designers

  • Zandra Rhodes (b.1940) British fashion and textile designer

    Zandra Rhodes (b.1940) British fashion and textile designer

    Zandra Rhodes studied lithography and printing at Medway College before going on to the Royal College of Art to study textiles, graduating in 1964 during the height of the pop movement. She made a paper wedding dress that cost less than two shillings, motivated by this trend and the work of painter Roy Lichtenstein in particular (about 7 new pence). In 1967, paper clothing was all the rage: it was the ultimate representation of disposable apparel.Read More →

  • Judith Leiber  (1921 – 2018) American designer of handbags

    Judith Leiber (1921 – 2018) American designer of handbags

    Judith Leiber (1921 – 2018) was a prolific designer whose fanciful minaudières had accessorised royalties, first ladies, and film stars, and entered the collections of art the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While her couture handbags—carried by celebrities such as Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Claudette Colbert, Björk, and Barbara Walters—are widely regarded as works of art, Leiber preferred the word “artisan” to “artist.”Read More →

  • Dame Mary Quant (b.1934) British Fashion Designer

    Dame Mary Quant (b.1934) British Fashion Designer

    Mary Quant, a pivotal figure in British fashion design, studied art and design at Goldsmiths College of Art from 1952 to 1955 while also taking evening classes in clothing construction and cutting. In 1955, in Knightsbridge, London, she established her first shop Bazaar on King’s Road, followed by the second shop Terence Conran designed in Knightsbridge.Read More →

  • RIP – Issey Miyake, the Japanese fashion designer, dies 84.

    RIP – Issey Miyake, the Japanese fashion designer, dies 84.

    Issey Miyake died on August 5, 2022, in a Tokyo hospital of liver cancer. He founded the Miyake Design Studio in 1970.Read More →

  • Paul Poiret (1879 – 1944) – King of Fashion

    Paul Poiret (1879 – 1944) – King of Fashion

    In the early decades of the 20th century, Paul Poiret was a crucial figure in the French fashion industry, notably by adding a deep oriental flavour and rich colours to contemporary clothing. Read More →

  • Hattie Carnegie (1886 – 1956) Austrian Clothing Designer, Jeweller

    Hattie Carnegie (1886 – 1956) Austrian Clothing Designer, Jeweller

    Her family settled in the USA when she was in her teens and took the Carnegie name. In 1909, with a friend, she opened a tiny dress and hat shop, New York, known as Carnegie—Ladies’ Hatter.Read More →

  • Coco Chanel: A Classic of the 20th Century

    Coco Chanel: A Classic of the 20th Century

    From gold buttons to comfortable tailored trousers and comfortable cardigan sweaters, there is no more significant influence on clothes than Coco Chanel.Read More →

  • Jean Patou (1880 – 1936) 🎩 Fashion Designer

    Jean Patou (1880 – 1936) 🎩 Fashion Designer

    One of Patou’s most famous customers was the French tennis champion Suzanne Lenglen, whom he dressed both on and off the court. This lean and active young woman epitomised the 1920s “new woman.” She created a furore in 1921 when she wore Patou’s knee-length pleated skirt, which revealed much of her legs when she ran. The headband she wore while playing tennis was widely copied by women throughout the 1920s for day and evening wear.Read More →

  • Claude Montana (b.1949) French Fashion Designer

    Claude Montana (b.1949) French Fashion Designer

    Montana’s career in fashion began almost accidentally; he moved to London in the early 1970s “to escape studying,” having no plans and no work visa. Raising money by selling rhinestone-studded papier mache jewellery, he met a Vogue editor by happenstance and had his work featured in the magazine. Read More →

  • Geoffrey Beene (1927-2004) an American Fashion Designer

    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. Read More →

  • The Art of Zandra Rhodes (Hardcover) 1995

    The Art of Zandra Rhodes (Hardcover) 1995

    Zandra Rhodes is known for her creativity and talent worldwide, and it is images and impressions from all around the world that has so often inspired her art. Images have met her eye and been interpreted through her own very personal vision, boldly pushing their way into the highest levels of fashion, from an aerial view of a Mexican sombrero to the wiggle of the Great Wall of China.Read More →

  • Calvin Klein (b.1942) American fashion designer

    Calvin Klein (b.1942) American fashion designer

    Klein’s excellent, modest tailoring and beautiful sportswear lines, as well as his casual separates created in the finest linens, silks, and cashmere, had earned him a name by the mid-1970sRead More →

  • Jean-Paul Gaultier (b.1952) French Fashion Designer

    Jean-Paul Gaultier (b.1952) French Fashion Designer

    Before launching his label in 1976, Gaultier worked for Cardin, Jacques Esteirel, and Patou. From the onset, Gaultier was dubbed the ‘enfant terrible de Paris’.Read More →

  • Mainbocher (1890 – 1976) – Simplicity without Boredom

    Mainbocher (1890 – 1976) – Simplicity without Boredom

    When designing his 1945 spring collection, Mainbocher – the noted French designer who worked in New York after the fall of Paris in WWII. Declared that he had attempted more than ever to make clothes “that would embody the right amount of novelty, were stimulating for today,Read More →

  • American Fashion (Hardcover) – Council of Fashion Designers America

    American Fashion (Hardcover) – Council of Fashion Designers America

    American Fashion is the definitive book on the country’s fashion culture, spanning eight decades and featuring the work of more than 100 designers. American Fashion is a visual journey through classic and fresh photographs by the century’s most outstanding photographers and illustrators, followed by essays defining nearly a century of fascinating culture, commissioned by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).Read More →

  • Emilio Pucci (1914 – 1992) Italian fashion designer

    Emilio Pucci (1914 – 1992) Italian fashion designer

    A leading figure in Italian fashion in the 1950s and 1960s, Pucci studied for a year at the University of Milan. In 1935 he travelled to the United States where he also studied, returning to the University of FlorenceRead More →

  • Alexis Mabille Launches Furniture Line

    Alexis Mabille Launches Furniture Line

    Buoyed by his thriving business as a designer of restaurants, including Le Boeuf sur le Toit in Paris and Cipriani in Saint-Tropez, Mabille has produced a mix of one-of-a-kind pieces and limited-edition items under his own Beaubow Editions imprint.Read More →

  • Spotlight On: Irish designer Aisling Kavanagh

    Spotlight On: Irish designer Aisling Kavanagh

    My love for designing was unearthed as my grandad was a tailor and I was fascinated watching him create these impeccably tailored suits. every stitch, every detail, cut and construction showed true craftsmanship. I learned the value of good design principles, the importance of the right cut, and the quality of the finish.Read More →

  • 270 Metres of Lace in Grace Kelly’s wedding gown

    270 Metres of Lace in Grace Kelly’s wedding gown

    The formal wedding gown was made of 278 metres of the finest materials, and at the time was described as the most lavish ever worn by a bride.Read More →

  • Alexis Kirk (1936 – 2010) American Jewellery Designer

    Alexis Kirk (1936 – 2010) American Jewellery Designer

    Kirk self-identified as Armenian despite being born in Los Angeles and raised in New England. One of his Armenian ancestors, Vemian, was a jeweller to the Turkish court. Some of his works are on display at Istanbul’s Topkapi Museum. His grandfather worked for Lalique Glass in Paris as a chief artist.Read More →

You may also be interested

Bernadette Expands Its Floral-printed Universe

NEW HORIZONS: Mother-daughter duo Charlotte and Bernadette de Geyter want you to spend your entire day in their whimsical creations: From having breakfast on one of their new ceramic plates, to lounging at home in the brand’s silk-printed pajamas, changing into one of their new knits and “ending the day in a robe, having some pasta in the ceramics.”

The Future of Fashion Is in the Past

A couple of years ago, if you wanted to find a pristine piece from Prada’s spring 1996 collection, a Tom Ford-era Gucci bag, or that one pair of Dries Van Noten silk trousers that have been haunting you for years, you would have had to rely on grit, patience, and exceptional luck.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.