Miriam and Coco Prove ‘em Wrong and Lead the Way The scene is a café in Paris. It is told that two women sip tea exhausted from their shopping spree. They spent the day at Madame Gripoix’s searching for the season’s newest trinkets. Carefully chosen by the creative eyes of these two shoppers are the beads, crystals, and embellishments that will soon be the newest fads and predict the color scheme worn by the fashion elite. Over lunch they discuss the secrets of their celebrity friends; Joan Crawford, Lucille Ball, Gloria Vanderbilt. They chatter about the latest fashions that will later be immortalized on movie screens and magazines.
It is 1927 and the two women are Coco Chanel and Miriam Haskell. Pioneers in fashion design, an industry where men ruled. Men held almost every position within the fashion industry from designer to store owner. That was until these two dynamic women hit the scene. And what a scene it was. The roaring 20’s, the Jazz Age, the economic boom following World War 1 was in full swing and fashions were both a trend and a social statement. The Roaring Twenties redefined womanhood and a new woman evolved.
Miriam Haskell was not daunted by the male dominated industry. She jumped right in and carved a niche in fashion history. She had an eye for superior quality and detail that was noted by the society women of her day. She would travel, with her many male suitors, in search of unique materials to Paris, Venice and beyond. It was not long before her designs were sought after for films, publicity shots, and personal use by movie stars, and worn with the couture of her friend Coco or in the grand productions of Flo Ziegfeld.
The passing of bustles and corsets gave clothing and accessory designers much greater freedom of expression. New and colorful fabrics and jewels echoed the joy felt by a war weary population. Hemlines rose and stockings showed. The bra was invented. It was more acceptable to smoke and drink in public, closer body contact in dancing, shorter hair, colorful make-up was in demand. Fashion was the outlet for this new woman and Coco and Miriam were there to lend a hand with their new styles and designs. Little did they know they were also blazing a trail for future women designers.
Miriam is a legend in today’s fashion industry. One designer, Paige Jansen Nichols, credits Haskell as an inspiration. Jansen Nichol’s jewelry line, Saint Vintage, is reflective of Haskell’s vintage designs. Jansen Nichols models Haskell’s workmanship with pieces made entirely by hand. The materials used are vintage brass filigree and backings, crystal beads and antique charms. The jewelry is made to be collected and cherished. Miriam was in tune with the capitalistic spirit of the era. She set an example for future female entrepreneurs, like Jansen Nichols and others, who are eager to compete and
find personal fulfillment.
The scene is two women sipping tea in a café’. The year is 2011.They are discussing the shopping trip they just completed. One will spend the rest of the afternoon going over profits from her successful jewelry business. The other will be in the studio creating new designs for famous clients. Thank you Miriam and Coco.