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We go beyond fashion with Charles James

Blake Lively walks the Red Carpet at the MET GALA in a lovely Gucci gown.
Blake Lively walks the Red Carpet at the MET GALA in a lovely Gucci gown.
Hope Wilkos

Last week was off to a very stylish start as the press gathered to see the preview of the newest fashion exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 5, 2014. 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' took us back in time to revisit some of the most outstanding couture gowns designed by a legendary designer, Charles James, who continues to influence current day designers. James had a very intriguing way of using sculptural, scientific and mathematical approaches to his design process. Some of the most prominent women over the ages have been seen wearing his couture creations.

With over 65 of James’ finest designs on display, the exhibition is shown in the new Anna Wintour Costume Center and the museum’s exhibition galleries on the first floor. The main gallery shines a dramatic light on some of the most exquisite gowns of all time. They include the “Clover Leaf”, “Butterfly”, “Tree” and “Swan.”

Charles James was a wildly idiosyncratic, emotionally fraught fashion genius, who was also committed to teaching, “said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “He dreamt that his lifetime of personal creative evolution and the continuous metamorphosis of his designs would be preserved as a study resource for students. In our renovated galleries, we will fulfill his goal and illuminate his design process as a synthesis of dressmaking, art, math and science.”

Programmed light projectors with pan/tilt heads and robotic boom arms direct the visitor’s eye to the area of the gown the digital content explores. Analytical animations, text, x-rays, and vintage images tell the story of each gown’s intricate construction and history. Mirrored walls tagged with James’s quotes create an infinity repeat surrounding the sea of silk and velvet.

Those with a love of the work of Charles James are given an opportunity to see jewelry maquettes, scrapbooks, and accessories–including hats representing James’s early work as a milliner–and other materials from his personal and design archives. A white satin eiderdown evening jacket, widely regarded as the first puffer coat, sits in the center of the room.

This tribute continued far into the evening hours as the Red Carpet on the steps of The Metropolitan Museum of Art filled with both celebrities and designers who celebrated this legacy of fashion. It was truly a black tie affair with gowns reminiscent of James' era on beauties such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Blake Lively, Kate Mara, Sarah Silverman, Taylor Swift, Karlie Kloss, Charlize Theron, Beyonce' and many more. Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta are designers who were in attendance in honor of the great Charles James.

Although the fascination, intrigue and magic of the evening came to a most stylish end, it is far from over. The 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' exhibition is now open to the public until August 10, 2014.

In addition, it has been announced that film producer and co-founder of Miramax Films, Harvey Weinstein, is planning to make a deal with Charles James' children to license the fashion icon's name. Weinstein's plans include an "exclusive couture house" and a fragrance. There would be no other investors in the license of this brand. "Charles James was one of the most incredible couturiers in the history of fashion and this label deserves to be a household name in the same ranks as Chanel, Dior and Oscar de la Renta," Weinstein said. "There isn't a single designer in high fashion who wouldn't name him as a major influence. We are beyond thrilled to be spearheading the revival of this brand and bringing it back to the world's finest retailers."

Georgina Chapman who is Harvey Weinstein's wife and Marchesa designer, will become the creative consultant for the brand. "Charles James designs and gowns took everyone's breath away at the Met Ball," she said. "He's long been an inspiration to me and everyone at Marchesa. We're thrilled to help bring the Met exhibit to museums around the country and to bring the spirit and style of Charles James back into the fashion marketplace."

There is no better way to revitalize the brand that has launched many a splendid creation and the timing seems to be just perfect.

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