Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Truly Glam!

Splendeur! San Francisco couture connoisseur Tatiana Sorokko’s fabulous couture collection goes on show in Moscow

Eighty unique designs by vintage Yves Saint Laurent, Patou, Ralph Rucci, Vivienne Westwood, James Galanos, Balenciaga, Balmain, Yamamoto, Alaia,  Lanvin, and other luminaries, go on show in Russia this week, in a dazzling first-time exhibit.

Exclusive preview: view rare vintage couture from this 80-piece show, and see inside Tatiana’s private fashion world

San Francisco’s Tatiana Sorokko, a former top model in Paris, Milan, and London, has been collecting rare and gorgeous vintage and one-of-a-kind Paris couture since her early days modeling in Europe in the nineties. At that time, no-one was interested in vintage and couture, she said, so she was able to find handsewn, beaded and elaborately constructed pieces by Balenciaga, Gaultier, Patou and Balmain for a song.
Today, she collects Ralph Rucci couture, and commissions gowns from Alaia.
Now her collection is being shown in Moscow as part of Russian Fashion Week, April 1-31, 2010.

Tatiana with GianFranco Ferre.

From her early days modeling in Paris for top designers, Tatiana Sorokko has been besotted with fashion.
Imagine modeling for Yves Saint Laurent in his glory days, and becoming best friends and treasured muse for Ralph Rucci.
She modeled for Vivienne Westwood (with Jerry Hall) or Yohji Yamamoto or GianFranco Ferre and Azzedine Alaia—and then scooped up some of the best sample gowns to add to your collection. Or even better,  commissioned a one-of-a-kind evening gown from Alaia or Ferre.
I’ve been very fortunate to see up-close many of Tatiana Sorokko’s couture outfits as she wears them to opening night galas of the San Francisco Opera or the San Francisco Symphony, and to gallery openings and parties in California and in Paris and New York.
I’ve also seen them in her closets at her house in Mill Valley, north of San Francisco, where she lives with her husband, gallery owner Serge Sorokko.                

Tatiana carefully stores her collection of precious gowns, along with her collection of Codognato jewelry, Blahnik shoes, Hermes bags and gloves, and wildly original hats.
There are beaded tunics (James Galanos), and silk-screened evening jackets (Ralph Rucci), as well as a Patou coat, and a Ralph Rucci gown with an orange coq feather bolero.
‘Splendeur!’ as Diane Vreeland would exclaim in her inimitable faux French accent.

“Extending the Runway: Tatiana Sorokko Style” opens in Moscow on April 2, 2010 and features a collection of over 80 garments and accessories from Tatiana Sorokko’s extraordinary couture wardrobe.
The exhibition runs through May 1, 2010,at the brand new Russian Fashion Museum and has been curated by Dennita Sewell, former collections manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and currently curator of fashion design at the Phoenix Art Museum.
The exhibition coincides with Russian Fashion Week, which launches its 20th season on April 1, 2010 at the World Trade Center in Moscow.

Tatiana Sorokko was the first Soviet/Russian model to achieve worldwide success.
Moving from Moscow to Paris in 1990, she walked the runways for major designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Karl Lagerfeld, Miuccia Prada, Issey Miyake, Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs, and Calvin Klein, among many others.
For over a decade, Sorokko graced the covers and editorial pages of European and American magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Elle and Cosmopolitan.

‘Extending the Runway: Tatiana Sorokko Style’ showcases works from the early 20s through today, by legendary designers and fashion houses such as Fortuny, Paquin, Lanvin, Madame Grès, Balmain, Patou, Balenciaga, Ungaro, Hermès, Alaia, Jean Paul Gaultier, Gianfranco Ferré, Vivienne Westwood, Comme des Garçons, Yamamoto, Halston, Galanos, and Chado Ralph Rucci, among others.

Ralph Rucci, who will be attending the exhibit opening, attests, “Tatiana's style is not only flawless, it is also highly influential. She has absolutely inspired me…”

‘Extending the Runway: Tatiana Sorokko Style’ will occupy the newly renovated former offices of the Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Solomentsev. This historical building is part of the All-Russian Museum of Decorative Arts. It is the first Western exhibition to take place here and a symbolic one as Tatiana left the Soviet Union, and now, twenty years later, she comes back to a new Russia to share her vision and exhibit her collection in the inner sanctum of the fallen empire.



The Russian Fashion Museum (RFM) was established in Moscow in October 2009. It is part of the All-Russian Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts. The RFM’s basic collection has over 30,000 unique pieces including medieval costumes, important textiles and fashion sketches, among other iconic objects.
Russian Fashion Week in Moscow (RFW) is the biggest fashion event in Eastern Europe. On April 1-7, 2010 RFW is celebrating its 20th season in Moscow’s Congress Hall of the World Trade Center.
RFW attracts over 45,000 people and over 1,000 accredited journalists and buyers. www.russianfashionweek.com
The exhibition will run from April 2 until May 10, 2010.  All-Russian Museum of Decorative Arts and Russian Fashion Museum: 3, Delegatskaya Street, Moscow.

Tatiana in a twenties French beaded tunic, at the residence of vintage fashion expert and dealer Ricky Serbin and architect Mitchell Benjamin.

Best friends, designer and muse; Ralph Rucci with one of his paintings, and Tatiana in a Ralph Rucci tunic inspired by the painting.

A Chat with Tatiana:

To celebrate her show in Moscow, I sat down with Tatiana at her art-filled Mill Valley house, 30 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge,  for a sip of Russian tea before she jetted off to Russia.

Diane Dorrans Saeks: Your museum show in Moscow during Russian Fashion Week will be glamorous and divine. Wish I could be there! What’s it like returning to Moscow as such a celebrated fashion figure? Ralph Rucci will be there. Who could ask for more!

Tatiana Sorokko: I left Moscow when I barely turned 18, at the time when most people were just finding out about perestroika and Russia was opening up.
I was following in my father's steps and studied to be a physicist.  My true love, however, was fashion, and all things glamorous fascinated me since I was a little girl. It was at that time that I met Marilyn Gauthier of Marilyn Models and she invited me to come to Paris to become a model. Naturally, I did not have to think long.
The Moscow I left behind in 1990 was still the capital of the Soviet Union. There was not much there in terms of fashion. Department stores offered largely the same boring clothes, poorly executed and wholly unfashionable. It's an altogether different place now, some twenty years later.
Moscow today is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe, a truly "happening" place. It is also remarkably fashionable. My exhibition is scheduled to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Russian Fashion Week.
Numerous designers, both from Russia and elsewhere, will be showing their collections, and the public interest in enormous. Moscow has become a fashion capital, and I am very excited to be invited to bring my collection there.   

Having an inaugural exhibition at the brand new Russian Fashion Museum is a humbling experience. At the same time, I am thrilled that my show will be the first ever exhibition of Western couture, and I am happy to share my vision of fashion and style with Russian women.

DDS: Which qualities do you look for in couture fashions you collect?

TS: I look for intelligence behind the design, uniqueness and superb craftsmanship. I'd like to think that couture fashions I collect all have a style that is truly timeless.           
There are fewer and fewer artisans working for couturiers today. Fewer ateliers making feathers and embroidery, fewer hat and glove makers. It makes me sad to imagine that some day, like endangered species, they will disappear from the face of the earth, leaving couture an art form of the past. 

DDS: I've been fortunate to see you wearing many of these outfits.  I love the craftsmanship, the detail, the luxe fabrics, the feathers and beading. I was able to view up-close the beaded Galanos tunic at a gallery party. I watched the feathers fly when you wore the gloriously romantic Chado Ralph Rucci ivory feathered gown at the San Francisco Opera gala opening.
            Eight years ago there was the stunning and glorious Alaia couture gown, also at the opera opening. There were dozens of yards of fine black wool and burgundy contrast fabric on the long swinging skirt.  It was so chic, so totally different from the usual glitzy ball gown. Alaia designed red ballet slippers to wear with it. Perfection.
            At parties in San Francisco and the Napa Valley and in Los Angeles and New York. I’ve seen all the Chado Ralph Rucci tunics and jackets and coats and all the Ralph Rucci evening gowns. He's the best. His ensembles are the most luxurious, creative, and imaginative.
            These are couture pieces you wear in California and Paris and New York, and pieces everyone can enjoy.

TS: Yes, this is not a museum collection. I wear them all the time. Ralph Rucci’s printed silk chiffon gowns and his silk faille and silk satin tunics and silk taffeta dresses are light and packable, and very practical.  I travel with them. I am very fortunate.
My collection of couture was not really conceived to be placed on mannequins and displayed in museums. I do not mind doing this once in a while, though.I wear all of my things all the time. Mine is a "living" collection that is evolving, and it uniquely reflects my style and remains timeless. I will keep adding as I find pieces.

DDS: Tatiana, congratulations on this splendid event. It is your triumphant return to Moscow and I am so happy for you. God Speed.

Tatiana Sorokko with designer, Ralph Rucci, at his apartment in New York.

Tatiana wore Chado Ralph Rucci gowns above to the gala openings of the San Francisco Opera.

Tatiana in a vintage Balmain gown, with Denise Hale in GianFranco Ferre.

Tatiana in a GianFranco Ferre dress, in her couture closet, at home in Mill Valley, California.

Tatiana and James Galanos

Tatiana with Azzedine Alaia

Tatiana and Yohji Yamamoto

Tatiana with Yves Saint Laurent

Tatiana strikes a pose with Jerry Hall at a Vivienne Westwood show.

Red chiffon gown by Vivienne Westwood

Photography of Tatiana Sorokko's couture fashions on mannequins by Ken Howie.

Photography of Tatiana wearing Ralph Rucci gowns at the San Francisco Opera, and with James Galanos,  by Drew Altizer.

Photograph of Denise Hale and Tatiana Sorokko by Thomas John Gibbons.

Portrait of Tatiana in black beaded dress at the residence of Ricky Serbin and Mitchell Benjamin by David Duncan Livingston.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

All That Glitters

A Privileged Visit to the Legendary Gem Palace in Jaipur
My Passage to India … continues, from Delhi to Jaipur, the most beautiful and exciting city in the moghul-rich state of Rajasthan.
Come and meet Kasliwal scion and world-class jewelry designer, the great Munnu Kasliwal. View his glorious newest jewelry designs, and get a first look at prized centuries-old Jaipur art from his personal collection of antique Indian miniature paintings featuring jewels of the maharajahs.
Chandelier earrings are amethyst with diamonds.

The illustrious, splendiferous, and somewhat mysterious Gem Palace is my favorite place to visit in Jaipur.
As soon as I arrive to stay at the Rambagh Palace hotel, I ask my driver to take me in the Maharani’s 1937 Daimler to M.I. Road. Finally I arrive at the magical Gem Palace in the center of the historic town of Jaipur.

The workshops of the Gem Palace, owned by the philanthropic Kasliwal family, once made jewels for maharanis. Now their diamonds and jewels fuel the desire of European royalty, Italian fashion designers, London interior designers, German barons, Moroccan royals, Dubai emirs, and a world of gem collectors too rich, dazzling, or famous to mention.

The Gem Palace.

“Please try this on,” murmurs Jaipur jeweler Munnu Kasliwal, expertly draping a stunning necklace of ice cube size rose-cut diamonds and securing it just so. The ravishing diamond necklace and matching diamond earrings are followed by a maharajah’s trove of sapphire and diamond rings, a luscious diamond pave pebble pendant on a white gold chain, an emerald bead torsade, a dazzling gold snake bracelet, a lapis lazuli and turquoise Egyptian-style necklace, and a Burmese ruby necklace sparkling with diamond rondelles.
The Gem Palace. Diamonds as big as the Ritz.  Emeralds the size of a quail egg. It’s just another dazzling day in Jaipur, the legendary Indian city, where lavish jewels, shimmering silks, and palatial hotels that were once home to royal families are all part of the day’s pleasures.
And on a warm spring day, there are historic jewel-encrusted palace rooms to visit, embroidered cashmere shawls to buy, jangling temples to quietly visit, and delicate rose-flavored pick-me-ups to savor.

Munnu Kasliwal, a young son of the family that has owned Jaipur’s legendary Gem Palace for seven generations, is considered one of the top fine jewelry authorities in the world.
“Jaipur was founded in 1727 as a planned city and has always had a tradition of rare handcrafted jewelry and art," noted Kasliwal, whose Munnu collections are on dazzling display at Barney’s New York in Manhattan, San Francisco and Los Angeles and other Barney’s locations around the country.
Although Kasliwal has been intimately involved with diamonds and emeralds and precious stones since he was a child, he revels and delights in his newest designs. He jingles vivid orange fire opals and pink sapphires on his studio table, and takes a maharajah’s turban ornament from a silk pouch and twirls it in his hand. Only in Jaipur are precious jewels displayed with such elaborate ease.

The gold necklace is set with diamonds in the traditional Indian technique of "Kundan-Meenakari" which is a style of setting the central stone with the purest form of gold, and with finely crated enamel on the reverse.

Diane’s Notes
I carry my Moleskin notebook with me at all times when I’m in Jaipur. Every second  seems so far removed from my life in California. Days are intense, drowsily fragrant, and helter-skelter with visits to friends, and  late lunches sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and spices.
I want to remember everything, so I sit in a quiet and shaded corner of Munnu Kasliwal’s studio and record impressions. Outside, the daily cavalcade of life in Jaipur continues, raucous and dusty and thrilling.
Monkeys sit on a shop awning, intently watching a cow sidling along the road amidst the tumult of traffic.
Far below the atelier, it's rush hour and rickshaws racket along, and bicycle bells set up a cacophony of sound with bus horns and panoply of pedestrians. I’m in Jaipur.

I scribble:
Sitting on a white linen-covered mattress on the floor at Munnu’s private atelier hidden in the top floor of the Gem Palace headquarters. Collections of old dhurrie rugs zigzag across the white marble floor in cool blue stripes. Sequined shocking pink and tangerine pillows make a vivid stab of color on antique carved wood chairs.
...Munnu unlocks the safe door, removes a metal lock box, and carefully lifts out a rumpled plastic bag--to display a newly crafted necklace of diamonds with a 125 karat emerald pendant. He holds it up to the window, where it glimmers and dazzles, and I focus on its great beauty. Rare, delicious, and highly desirable, it will appear, eventually, on the beautiful bosom of a royal lady, most likely in a rich and very private venue.
...It’s a hot afternoon in Jaipur, intense sun, and I am in my India travel uniform of custom-made white linen shirt, cream linen knotted and fringed scarf, neat black pants with a trim crease, and black Blahnik sandals. Jewelry is rather superfluous, but every day I wear my sentimental favorite, a natural white pearl necklace given to me by my grandmother.
...Munnu opens another old lock box. Inside, a rose cut old-mine diamond ring in the Indo-Russian style; pave-set diamond necklaces; drop earrings of aquamarines, smoky topaz, iolite and lapis; Burmese ruby rings rimmed with rose-cut diamonds; a pink, yellow and blue sapphire and diamond bracelet.
...On another worktable nearby are neat piles of citrines, topaz, spinels, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. The afternoon quietly passes with the unexpected visit of a friend from London, the arrival of chilled goblets filled with honey-flavored lassi, a new diamond amulet carried in from the workshop, to be checked, appraised and critiqued.
...Through an ornate window I can see that the sky is now pale blue, dotted with black crows and small red kites darting hither and thither.

Baubles, bangles,
Hear how they jing, jing-a-ling-a,
Baubles, bangles,
Bright, shiny beads.
Sparkles, spangles,
My heart will sing, sing-a-ling-a,
Wearing baubles, bangles and beads.
 –Wright/ Forest/Borodin, from ‘Kismet’ 1955
The bird is a ring and it has a diamond briolette in its mouth.

The Allure of Rajasthan
Rajasthanis (the stunningly handsome people who live in this north-west province of India) are known for their love of vivid colors, gold, gems and adornment.
Jaipur is now said to be the world’s center of precious stone cutting, gems and jewelry crafting. It is also the place to find exquisite shocking pink, turquoise and amethyst-colored sari silks with gold-thread borders that look so ravishing with all these jewels.
Jaipur is home to diamonds and museum-quality emeralds and sapphires, as well as traditional tribal silver jewelry, and armfuls of lacquer and crystal bracelets for the princely sum of $1 each.
In Jaipur’s fashion salons, it’s possible to find exquisite beaded and embroidered dresses by India’s top fashion designers that are often the wedding gowns of nobles—worn with heirloom-quality Gem Palace Indo-Russian-style diamond chandelier earrings.
To luxuriate in the treasures of Jaipur, visitors may spend mornings at City Palace (home of the current maharajah and his family) or the Amber Fort. Then it’s on to lunch on the marble terrace at the Rambagh Palace Hotel, with a visit to the hotel's bookshop to find armfuls of books on Indian jewels and costumes. Later a driver will assist in the hunt for sandals and silks in the cacophony of Johari Bazaar.
My late afternoon hours are whiled away at the Gem Palace with perhaps a cup of spiced tea or chilled filtered water for a pick-me-up. Sanjay Kasliwal, one of the charming brothers who own this company, will uncover drawers full of cabochon rings or bring out a series of aquamarine bead necklaces or more informal labradorite necklaces.
Jeweled and bedazzled, and draped in silks, visitors to Jaipur are dazed and seduced by  the beauty. And on the visit’s last afternoon, a stop at the Gem Palace is de rigueur. One more tourmaline ring. One more topaz torsade or citrine bracelet.
Departures from this raja’s world will certainly be reluctant—but there will be more magic on a return visit.

A first look at prized centuries-old Jaipur art from Munnu Kasliwal's personal collection of antique Indian miniature paintings featuring jewels of the maharajahs:

Jaipur:  Where to Shop
Still today in Jaipur, there are neighborhoods of stone carvers, silk embroiderers, block printers, sandal makers, diamond cutters, wedding gown seamstresses, and jewelry crafters.
Mughal rulers encouraged jewelers, weavers, artists, stone carvers to come to the city from Persia and further East.

Gem Palace
This family-owned jewelry establishment, like other jewelers in Jaipur, was founded in the eighteenth century to custom design for the rarified whims and ceremonial demands of maharajas and their maharanis.
The brothers and cousins of the Kasliwal family now continue this illustrious tradition of connoisseurship. The Gem Palace’s emerald and ruby necklaces and diamond rings have been avidly collected in days gone by by crowned heads of Scandinavia, the Viceroy of India and Lady Mountbatten, Middle-Eastern nabobs, as well as devoted fans like Giancarlo Giammetti, and Prince Charles with first the Princess of Wales and later the Duchess of Cornwall.             

Visitors enter a series of mirrored antiques-filled rooms and discover pretty citrine rings for around $300 and Colombian emeralds rings, Burmese ruby pendants, or vivid sapphire necklaces for out-of-this-world prices. 

Photo credits: 
Indian miniatures exclusively shown here for the first time. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century handpainted miniatures, a tradition in Jaipur, are all from the private collection of Munnu Kasliwal, Jaipur. Used with express permission.

Jewelry images exclusive to THE STYLE SALONISTE, Eric Duroo, used with permission.

To visit the Gem Palace:
The Gem Palace
M.I. Road
Jaipur, Rajasthan
phone 0141-2363061