Canadian footwear designer working in London
Born: Edmonton, Canada, 19 March 1963. Education: Studied at Cordwainers College, Hackney, London, 1983-85. Career: Established firm in London and designed collections for Bodymap, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and others, from 1987; London shop opened, 1991; hired CEO from Hermés, 1995; ran controversial suicide-themed ad for footwear, 1999; introduced first signature fragrance, 2000. Awards: Accessory Designer of the Year, British Fashion awards, 1994 and 1995; British Marie Claire Accessory Designer of the Year, 1996; Fashion Medal of Honor by the Footwear Association of New York, 1996. Address: 30 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9NJ, England.
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"My early shoes stick in people's minds," Patrick Cox has said, "but things are getting more refined." Those who may remember him as the devoted nightclubber of the early 1980s might have been surprised to find him, a decade later, presiding over the salon atmosphere of his shoeshop-cum-antiques emporium in London. Patrick Cox grew up, but also went beyond the image of the shoemaker with "street credibility," designing for Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, et al. He survived the designer decade of the 1980s and emerged in the early 1990s with his ability to wittily reinterpret traditional styling, still constantly in tune with contemporary fashion.
Cox's fascination with the British fashion scene brought him to London, rather than the obvious footwear design centers of Italy. He enrolled at Cordwainers College, Hackney, London to study, but soon found college life was less rewarding than meeting and making contacts within the London club world. His involvement with the music and fashion scene brought him the chance to design for Vivienne Westwood's first solo collection, whilst he was still at college. "I used to shop at Westwood's quite a lot and my flatmate David was her assistant," he recalled. "Six weeks before the show someone realized nothing had been done about shoes and David suggested that I could probably help…. My gold platform shoes with large knots went down a treat. Everyone noticed them—you couldn't miss them really—and my other commissions have followed from there."
Indeed they did: in no time at all he was designing shoes to accompany the collections of the young English designers who were then flavor of the month on the international fashion circuit. Cox shod the feet to fit the willful perversities of Bodymap, the calculated eccentricity of John Galliano, and the ladies-who-lunch chic of Alistair Blair.
Cox went on to design his own label collections with such delightfully named styles as Chain Reaction, Rasta, and Crucifix Court. These were typical, hard-edged classic women's silhouettes given the Cox treatment—chain mesh, silk fringes and crucifixes suspended from the heels. Witty and amusing as these styles were, they had limited appeal and Cox would not have attained his current prominence had he not sought a larger audience.
The launch of his own London shop in 1991 gave Cox the opportunity to show his collections as a whole, displaying the brash alongside the sophisticated. His audience soon came from both the devotees of the off-the-wall fashion experimentation of King's Road and the classic chic of the Sloane Square debutante. Cleverly, his shop was geographically situated between the two.
Selling shoes alongside antiques was a novelty that appealed to the press and boosted Cox's profile. There was something delightful in the presentation of shoes balanced on the arms of Louis XVI gilt chairs or popping out of the drawers of beautiful old dressers. The shoes gained an aura of respectability; a sense of belonging to some tradition, which perfectly complemented Cox's reinterpretation of classic themes. No longer was there a typical Cox customer; they were the young and not so young. Cox took great delight when elderly ladies appreciated his more subtle styling; his women's shoes even rivaled those of Manolo Blahnik in their sophistication—a calculated move.
In contrast, the development his men's footwear was less obvious. Cox has always loved traditional English styling, and commented: "I believe that British men's shoes are the best in the world, so mine are just an evolution from those classic ideas." This evolution kept him close to the spirit of British footwear, if not to the colorways. He reproduced the weight and proportions of the styles whilst exaggerating the soles and fastenings.
Cox is the shoe designer who admits there is little you can do with shoes. The very nature of footwear imposes constraints upon the designer, where there are fewer problems for the clothing designer. Cox sees shoes as more architectural than clothes; a free standing form with an inside and out. Yet these restrictions do not stop him producing fresh contemporary styles which still work within the perceived framework of what a classic silhouette should be.
During the second half of the 1990s, Cox was at a crossroads. He had lost some of the cachet associated with his Wannabe brand, but did not, as a self-financed company, have the resources to step to the next level and compete with other luxury goods brands. His margins were low compared to other companies and he spent a high nine percent of sales on advertising. He continued to enhance his footwear line; in spring/summer 1997, for example, he added a jelly boot to his colorful jelly wedges and sandals. Meanwhile, he entered the apparel market, introducing a small clothing line for men and women in 1995. By fall 1999 his London runway show featured items such as $363 neoprene pants and a $295 black cotton-and-rubber-ribbed sweater. His entry into apparel has been credited with moving men's clothing away from the staid elegance associated with French designers to a funkier tailored look. The women's apparel is brightly colored with a fun, comfortable sensibility.
The designer also extended distribution in the mid-to late 1990s by opening stores and boutiques throughout Europe, North America, and Asia, including an 800-square-foot section at the Tokyo department store Isetan that carried his whole line of footwear, apparel, and accessories. He also opened a Tokyo office to work more closely with his Japanese licensees, as well as a New York showroom. The latter closed; many observers believe he moved into the U.S. market too quickly.
As of 1999 the designer's wholly owned business, Patrick Cox International, had annual turnover of £19 million ($30 million), earned not only from his flagship footwear line but from apparel, jewelry, bags, and ties. (The Wannabe loafer is not the trendsetter it was, but still accounted for about half of Cox's shoe sales in the late 1990s.) That same year, Cox was widely criticized for a two-page spread in the glossy men's magazine FHM, showing the feet of a man who appeared to have hung himself. Critics called the suicide-themed depiction "tasteless."
Cox announced his first fragrance line for men and women, "High," in partnership with Paris-based IFF in 2000. It debuted at the upscale British department store Harvey Nichols before being introduced into Asian markets. The scent typifies the Cox image: fun, addictive, and "of the moment."
updated by KarenRaugust
"Cox, Patrick." Contemporary Fashion. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/cox-patrick
"Cox, Patrick." Contemporary Fashion. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/cox-patrick
Born: Gibraltar, Spain, 1960. Education: Studied design at St. Martin's School of Art, London. Career: Graduation collection, Les Incroyables, sold to Brown's; freelance designer, establishing John Galliano fashion house, London, from 1984; designer for haute couture and ready-to-wear at Givenchy 1995-96; designer for haute couture and ready-to-wear at Christian Dior, from 1996; opened own shop in Bergdorf Goodman store, 1997; licensed fur line, 1998; opened shop in Saks Fifth Avenue, 2000; launched watch collection, 2001. Exhibitions: John Galliano at Dior, [retrospective], Design Museum of London, 2001-02. Awards: British Designer of Year award 1986, 1994, 1995; Bath Costume Museum Dress of the Year award, 1987; Telva award, Spain, 1995; International Fashion Group, Master of Fashion, 1997; Designer of the Year, Council of Fashion of America, 1998. Address: 60 Rue d'Avron, 75020 Paris, France. Website: www.dior.com.
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Experimental and innovative, John Galliano has become internationally renowned as one of Britain's most exciting designers, acclaimed from the start for his brilliance in cut and magpie-like ability to take inspiration from diverse sources to create a completely new look. Although his clothes are often difficult to understand when on the hanger—with collars that seem to be bows or halter necks that actually fit over the shoulders—they are frequently ahead of the current fashion trends and eventually filter down the clothing chain to the High Street, as well as being picked up by other designers. A favorite among fashion aficionados, Galliano was spotted as soon as his first student collection was completed and has continued to develop since, despite repeated problems with backers who have hampered his career.
As part of a new breed of avant-garde British designers, Galliano led the way in the mid-1980s with his historically influenced designs. This fascination for period detail and adaptation of traditional styles into highly contemporary pieces has continued throughout his work. Studying surviving garments in museums to learn about construction methods and different ways to cut and drape fabric to create new shapes inspired his innovative 18th-century Incroyables collection for his degree showing. He suffused this knowledge with other diverse influences to produce collections always exciting and different. His great belief in the necessity to push fashion forward by learning from the past—coupled with his skill at balancing his designs with modern ideals—has earned him the reputation of a prodigy.
Every outfit is thought out to the last detail, producing a series of completely accessorized looks as Galliano constantly strives for perfection. His love of bias cut gives added fluidity to the asymmetrical hemlines of many of his designs, with a taste of 18th-century dandyism thrown in, always with a surprise twist—often in his use of fabric, another area where Galliano loves to experiment and challenge. In one collection, he presented Napoleon-style jackets in bright neoprene, in another, devoré velvet bias-cut dresses clinging to the body, giving the element of sexiness that pervades his work. His love of shock gave us the camped-up glamour of his "underwear as outerwear," with satin knickers worn with feathered bras and leather caps, tapping the trend for drag in the London clubs.
With Galliano's Girl and, perhaps to an even greater extent, the largely denim and Lycra-based line Galliano Genes, the designer demonstrated his ability to redefine existing subcultures to develop clothes for the younger, funkier sisters of his mainline buyers. Produced at a cheaper cost by using less exclusive fabrics, these designs are nonetheless inventive. Three-way jackets can be worn with attached waistcoats outside or inside, and there are other basic items more commercially viable, confronting occasional claims from his critics that his work is too avant-garde and less popular than other European names.
The sheer breadth of vision in Galliano's designs, which frequently rethink form and shape, and the great inventiveness of his cut have surely ensured his reputation as one of the best of British designers. The research he does before forming a collection—bringing together influences and details from the French Revolution to Afghan bankers to Paul Poiret—and his experimentation with fabrics demonstrate his dedication to pushing fashion and dress forward, yielding excitement and surprise in every collection.
Galliano stunned the fashion world in 1995 when he was named designer for Givenchy and became the first British designer appointed to lead an established French fashion house. In addition to designing for both haute couture and ready-to-wear at Givenchy, Galliano continued to show designs under his own label. By October 1996, the LVMH group moved Galliano to its crown jewel and appointed Galliano designer for haute couture and ready-to-wear collections at Christian Dior. Critics questioned whether Galliano's maverick reputation would appeal to Dior's established clientéle, but the designer arrived with the energy to shake up the haute couture world, which was showing signs of losing the interest, and sales, of its customers. In his spring/summer 1997 collection, Galliano took classic Dior themes and spun them together with exotic African Masai tribal forms to create silk evening dresses accented with colorful beaded choker necklaces. The collection presented a younger image yet remained glamorous and refined, definitely worthy of the Dior name.
Galliano's collections have never failed to enchant, or shock, audiences. Each has expressed a theme complete with historic personalities and forces that have inspired Galliano's creations for the season. Edwardian elegance, the surrealist movement, the Soviet or Red Guard, the movie The Matrix, or classic English sportsmen have all been at play in Galliano collections. His push for a more contemporary, sexier image has proven at times to be a difficult and frightening change at Dior.
In addition to his extravagant romanticism and love of the bias-cut gown, Galliano still retained much of his British bad boy flair. He drew public ire when the homeless theme in his spring 2000 collection included models in newspapers carrying empty liquor bottles and, in the following year's spring collection, when runway models were accompanied by blared vulgar lyrics offering women for sale. Even his critics acknowledge Galliano has brought excitement and fun to haute couture, and customer interest may be his best vindication—by 2001 Dior sales had doubled since the arrival of Galliano four years earlier. The ever-inventive Galliano will continue to hold the fashion world's attention and certainly keep it guessing for years to come.
updated by Janette GoffDixon
"Galliano, John." Contemporary Fashion. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/galliano-john
"Galliano, John." Contemporary Fashion. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/galliano-john