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Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier

Chicago-born Mainbocher established a fashion house serving royalty, Hollywood, and the social elite. Featuring thirty garments, fashion illustrations, and photography, this exhibition explores the life and legacy of a remarkable man and his journey to become the first American couturier.

Following a few visits to Europe as a young man, Mainbocher landed in Paris after enlisting in the US Army. Later, he gained employment as a fashion illustrator for Harper’s Bazaar. From Harper’s Bazaar, he joined French Vogue, first as an editor and then editor-in-chief. Armed with the confidence of having selected women’s fashions for French Vogue, Mainbocher opened his couture salon at 12 avenue George V in November of 1930.

Anticipating the Nazi invasion of Paris, Mainbocher sought refuge in New York, reopening in the fall of 1940 at 6 East 57th Street, designing his American salon in the image of his Parisian atelier. He was the first haute couturier to relocate an internationally famous House to New York.