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Monday Muse: Brassa¯ Inspires Jenny Packham

Brassai’s Woman Playing Snooker

Brassai’s Woman Dressing

When he hit the scene in the ’20s, George Brassa¯ caused a stir among the Parisian upper crust. Not only would he become famous for snapping images of the opera, social events and his famed Paris by Night photographs, he would gain notoriety for also shooting photos of prostitutes, vagrants and other pillars of the Parisian underbelly. Was he the great Democrat or just a man with a good eye? Designers have been pulling inspiration from his noir-tinged photos for decades, but this season, Jenny Packham — she of glitz and glam — used Brassa¯’s work as a touchstone for her red carpet-ready collection at New York Fashion Week.

In 1933, Brassa¯ published his first book, Paris by Night, and became, according to Henry Miller, the Eye of Paris. He first used photography to supplement his journalism, but later he grew to focus solely on the art. By photographing everything from salons to soir©es along with Paris’ after-dark denizens, he managed to show all aspects of the city — including its style. Gowns were given the same attention as someone who was rummaging through garbage and women of high society were photographed in the same way as women of the night.

While it infuriated some of the city’s more conservative madames, Brassa¯ gained fans from all over the world for showcasing streetwalkers and society women.

Jenny Packham Fall 2013

Jenny Packham Fall 2013

Jenny Packham, in sharp contrast to Brassa¯, definitely caters to the society women of the world. After all, she dresses Kate Middleton and Angelina Jolie for their red carpet outings and royal engagements. Her latest collection, however, drew from the after-dark  noir that pervades Brassa¯’s photos. She’s known for evening wear, and she stayed true to that motif throughout her runway show, which featured floor-skimming lengths and sheer overlays that recalled the smoky salons and bars of Brassa¯’s photos. The cinched-waist silhouette also drew from the women that Brassa¯ immortalized, as well as Art Deco touches such as geometric rose gold earrings, intricate embroidery and dusty hues of peach and pink. And while we won’t be seeing any of these runway looks on a street corner when they hit the racks in the fall, we can imagine a few starlets who would be perfect for the vintage-meets-modern feel of Packham’s sweetly seductive creations.