I found this scarf by fashion designer Giorgio di Sant’Angelo at the recent Vintage Fashion Expo in Los Angeles. The colors grabbed me as did the graphic design. I was familiar with the name Sant’Angelo but really knew nothing about the designer or his work.
Sant’Angelo was an American fashion designer born in Italy who was “discovered” by Diana Vreeland. His story is full of interesting twists and turns, and he was a major influence on the trajectory of fashion. He is known for his very colorful designs with a bohemian and free-flowing quality. Some highlights of his background include an apprenticeship with Pablo Picasso at age nineteen, an internship at Walt Disney animation studios, and his foray into fashion as a jewelry designer.
In the mid 1960’s in New York, Sant’Angelo was creating jewelry out of lucite – a unique and unappreciated material at the time. His designs caught the eye of stylists at Vogue. Diana Vreeland was so smitten with them that she featured Sant’Angelo’s pieces on the cover of Vogue and championed him in the industry. This led to close ties within the fashion world and the beginning of his career as a stylist.
Sant d’Angelo created many iconic and memorable images as a stylist – some of the most notable came from the fashion shoot in 1968 with Veruschka for Vogue. Legend has it Sant d’Angelo went to the desert with the model and a small crew with no actual designer clothes, only fabrics and various materials that he draped and tied around Veruschka. The shoot also featured chunky organic jewelry made by the designer on the spot out of rocks and minerals tied with rope. It was a startling and revolutionary fashion spread at the time – ushering in the 1970’s boho-hippie-gypset trend that is still going strong.
Sant d’Angelo was then fully flung into fashion – presenting his first show in 1969. His fashions were completely new at the time – Sant’Angelo was the first to mine so-called ethnic influences into his romantic creations. Borrowing embroidery, prints, and embellishments from cultures such as Native Americans, gypsies, and Asian dress, Sant’Angelo translated them into his patchwork peasant dresses, fringed caftans and kaleidoscopic bohemian textiles. The designer loved color and print but he also sought to give women a sense of freedom in dressing – emphasizing loose and flowing fabrics, staying away from anything restrictive or uncomfortable.
Sant d’Angelo’s acclaim grew and in 1970 he was awarded the prestigious Coty Award for fashion. As his career progressed, Sant d’Angelo became increasingly interested in experimenting with new fabric technology, stretch fabrics, and knitwear which became a signature.
His fashions are now in the archives of The Met Costume Institute, The Fashion Institute of Technology, and are coveted among vintage collectors. The first museum retrospective of Sant d’Angelo’s work was presented in 2012 by The Phoenix Art Museum.
I had to include the image above from Vogue’s cover shoot by Patrick Demarchelier in 1990. It was and is such an iconic photograph – and featured tops by Giorgio Sant’Angelo. A true document of a specific time in fashion and American culture.