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Michele Klein’s Portrait of Iconic Couturier Charles James

Michele Gerber Klein, founder of Joan Vass U.S.A., an online boutique specializing in comfortable and classic everyday looks, graciously addressed a packed theater about her new book Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man.

Interviewed by SCAD’s Special Projects Coordinator Carmela Spinelli, Klein is the first author to ever write about designer Charles James. The biography is certainly one-of-a-kind, as she had personal encounters with James. In the book, she highlights the man himself, who he was and the women who influenced his pieces.

The room was captivated as she put herself in James’s shoes and recounted the troubled relationships and emotions that may have influenced his unique take on evening wear. Klein added cheeky remarks about James’s character, specifically noting his affinity for income tax evasion.

Another focus of the night was the many fashion staples he pioneered such as faux fur, the wrap dress and zippered clothing. Both Klein and Spinelli took an interest in the innovation of James’s work often referring to him as “ahead of his time.”

She concluded with an explanation of the photo on the cover of the book. The picture is of an elegant Nancy Lee Gregory, James’s wife, wearing his Swan Dress while newly pregnant. Charles James is seen affectionately holding his dog, staring not at his spouse, but at her reflection in the mirror. He focuses not on his wife, but on the woman he transformed her into.

Written by Trinity Serra

Photography by Jonathan Gomez