Friday, August 16, 2013

Tina Leser, an American designer influenced by the worlds cultures

Tina Leser designs are featured in this edition of Life magazine, dated September 3, 1945. All the dresses, swimwear and sportswear are Tina Leser fashions, worn at a party at her Long Island country property, and features her refurbished barn! so hipster!

 the caption reads: Miss Leser (left) and Barbara Maison model cottons in the barn's chintzy study.

Dancing on the ping pong table....
When these photos were shot, WWII was in its waning days. May 8, 1945 marked the German surrender, and in early August, 1945, the Japanese surrendered.

Who is Tina Leser?
Born in 1910 to wealthy parents, Miss Christina Wetherill Shillard-Smith, grew up in Philadelphia and the family enjoyed international travel. The Shillard-Smith's visited all the exotic locales....India, Africa, Asia and of course, Europe. When Tina grew up, she decided on a career in art and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Tina also attended the fabled Sorbonne in Paris which expanded the cultural outlook of Tina.
After Tina married Curtin Leser, in 1931 they moved to Honolulu, Hawaii and she opened a shop a few years later to sell her clothing designs using  Hawaiian, and importing,  Asian fabrics.   She  experimented with hand-blocked designs and handpainting fabric, often working with commonly available fabrics like sailcloth. 

Fashion magazine, Harper's Bazaar editor Carmel Snow loved Tina's designs and in 1940, she sold a huge order to Saks.

Meeting with great success in the Big Apple, Tina closed her store on the little island after the Pearl Harbor bombing. Once back in New York, Tina took a job with Foreman Sportswear Company. 

Tina originated sarong-type play clothes, and the one-strap bathing says this Life article.

Throughout Tina's long long design career she was always influenced by cultures and countries around the world. I'm particularly interested in her use of  textiles from Mexico and Guatemala and feel quite confident she helped set off a mid-50s trend of "exotic" Central American fabrics used for North American sportswear.
I think about that when I find a 50s skirt from Guatemala, or a 50s Mexican textile worked up in a bolero style jacket that looks great with a full skirted dress, a style that was so popular in the post-war 50s.
Tina Leser died in 1986 and she holds a place in modern American  fashion design because she helped create the casual American sportswear style once Paris fell from a position of dominance during WWII.

Here is a Tina Leser tie in my funkomavintage Etsy shop.....

Vintage Tina Leser Tie,  40s green Silk Brighton Pier Boardwalk Royal Pavillion Gay 90s  theme.....1890s that is!
Rare Tina Leser design has her signature in the print, rather than a later design with a tag.

Read more about Tina Leser in her NYTimes obit, and  here  and here , and with more detail and lots of pretty pics, here at  Lizzie's blog about Tina