Saturday, October 13, 2007

I Heart Michael Vollbracht

Michael Vollbracht and Me, October 11, 2007

Back in the day, meaning the late 1970's and early 1980's, a hot American designer named Michael Vollbracht created eye-popping dresses and outrageous, colorful silk ensembles. The well-heeled customers at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue couldn't get enough of Michael's work, and for good reason: his clothes were fresh and witty, bearing as they did his signature irreverence for the Proper and Correct. In 1980, Michael won the Coty award.

He headed up the Bill Blass empire after that designer passed away, and you can see Michael's wit and sense of color throughout those collections, even as the dresses boast an undeniable Blass pedigree (conservative lines, proper colors--in short, it's finery for ladies of a certain age). He was also kind enough to write a blurb for the back cover of Virtual Vintage, the book Linda and I wrote in 2002.

Michael recently moved on from Blass and is back in town now, throwing himself into his painting and various other projects personal, public, and philanthropic. On Thursday night, also known to a small handful of people as my [age redacted] birthday, I attended a gallery opening, in Bellair Bluffs, that celebrated (and of course offered for sale) a sampling of Michael's artwork (the hanging-on-the-wall kind). I wore a denim skirt with one of his blouses from the early 1980's, procured from a vintage clothing dealer on eBay; I had actually bought the matching printed-silk skirt from a different seller, months later, but wearing the two pieces together, it turns out, just rubbed me the wrong way--blame my English resistance to conformity and matching sets of things, I guess.

Anyway, I'm really happy to know our little Burg has a real, live, honest-to-goodness fashion designer in its midst once more. That he's an old family friend is icing on the birthday cake, so to speak.

"More clothes!" I told Michael, whose original vintage pieces I adore, because they are just so beautifully made and don't seem terribly vintage at all, come to think of it, bearing as they do the hallmark traits of any real classic: time hasn't aged them, worn them down, or rendered them irrelevant.

"Don't abandon fashion--it needs you," I said. And so it does.

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