Friday, July 22, 2011

Lost & Found: Complete Collection of FLAIR Magazines

A Balmain gown created specially for the May 1950 Rose issue of Flair.

To escape the heat yesterday, I popped into Open Air Modern on Lorimer St. and noticed two issues of Flair magazine in the middle of the shop. The owner Matt Singer, who doesn't care much for fashion himself, showed me he has a complete vintage set of the famous magazine, which was only published between 1950 to 1951. (He is selling the set for $500.)

While it's fine and dandy to see this fashion magazine reproduced in a set by Rizzoli, the experience is not the same as touching the original pages. It takes a bit of doing for a magazine to move me so, but I was bouleversée.

The legendary magazine founded by Fleur Cowles published all that was glamorous and great. But the expensive cost of producing a magazine with die-cut covers, unusual elements like invisible ink typeface, and other out-of-this-world features shortened the title's lifespan. The art direction and style was very inventive for its time, and Cowles hired René Gruau to be the magazine's illustrator. John O'Hara, Auden, Cocteau, and Tennessee Williams all contributed pieces.

As a woman who wore an uncut emerald ring the size of Niagara Falls, perhaps budget was not always  top of mind. Speaking to Time magazine in 1949, Cowles said, "I've worked hard, and I've made a fortune, and I did it in a man's world, but always, ruthlessly, and with a kind of cruel insistence, I have tried to keep feminine."

In the May 1950 Rose issue of Flair, there is a layout with a beautiful Balmain gown commissioned especially for the issue and another with elegant women wearing the latest fashions but arranged uniquely alongside photographs of long-stem roses. There are other unusual articles about how businesswoman decorate their table settings with flowers and a page advertising "the newest rose in the world," named Flair. Ingenious, no? "Its color is a rosy coral, its bloom abundant and vigorous," the copy reads.

Cowles threw birthday parties for Queen Elizabeth, appears in the letters of Paul Bowles and Noel Coward, painted surrealist animal pictures, traveled the world, married not three but four times, and maintained her sense of style during her later years. Wouldn't you have loved to be her?

A page from the College issue.

Pages from the College issue.
Cover of the May 1950 Rose issue.
Die-cut cover and second page of the Rose issue.

Page advertising the Flair rose.

Shot of Judy Holiday in Flair.

Bathing suit fashions in Flair.

Bathing suit fashions in Flair.

Cover of the Paris issue.

Page from the Men's issue of Flair.

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