Wednesday, 12 October 2011

New York's Young Design Scene┃Abracadabra Boutique (1967)


A fantastic fashion editorial, originally published in August of 1967, introducing upcoming design talent from New York's fashion and art students, and also featuring amazing use of infrared photography by Barry Kaplan. All of the designs were available exclusively from Abracadabra, Marcia Weinraub's recently opened boutique on East 60th Street. The stars and stripes outfit in the third photograph has been a particular favourite of mine for many years. I had previously seen it used as a 1960s design reference in a couple of fashion source books, however, there was never any credit given to the designer or photographer, so I couldn't believe my luck when I purchased this issue of LIFE a few months ago, it's great to be able to finally put a name to both. Apparently, in reality (without the use of infrared film) the outfit is actually a patriotic red, white and blue! Everyone included in this article had great potential, and having studied fashion and worked in the industry myself, I would like to think that they all went on to have successful careers. 

I was intrigued enough to do some further research and know what became of them after it was was published, but of the seven designers featured, only one significantly active fashion lead emerged, that being Barbara Hodes, a graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York, former girlfriend of Lou Reed and a regular face at The Factory and Max's Kansas City in the 1960s and 1970s, who also sold her work through Paraphernalia and several other boutiques in the city during this period. She has continued to work in the industry, currently designs a contemporary knitwear line for women under the Bibelot label which she founded in 1999, and runs NYC Private Shopping Tours. As for the others, perhaps they changed their surnames over time through marriage or for some other reason, which makes it difficult to track them down, or it's probable that they may have moved away from fashion entirely to concentrate on other areas within design. I think that Karen Sebiri (quite possibly the daughter of Celia Sebiri - prominent Coty Award winning  jewellery designer) may have changed direction and also pursued a career in jewellery design instead, and that Paula Ayers moved to Sonoma to pursue a BA in Environmental Studies at Sonoma State, and eventually co-organized the First West Coast Eco-Feminist Conference. As of yet, I have no further information on the other designers, Terry Berman, Leilani Abreu, Susanne Les, and Stan Weaver or the photographer Barry Kaplan. 


Canary lips, chalk-white skin, flaming hair - is this really what's happening, baby? Not quite. The clothes are designed to be worn by young people under 21, but the colours are something else. They are the doing of an inventive photographer, himself equally young, who achieved his bizarre effect by using infrared film. As if seen under the madly shifting lights of a discotheque, red turns to yellow, blacks to red, blues to purple and reality to fantasy. Fledgling fashionmakers some not yet out of school, are responsible for the designs shown here. Produced by their creators on a one-of-a-kind basis, they are sold at a New York boutique called Abracadabra.

Skimpy knit dresses $50, designed by Leilani Abreu, worn with Dynel wigs by Tovar.

Velvet (the kind that's used for upholstery) makes a formal-style knicker suit ($75) designed by Terry Berman, who had just finished her first year at Tobé-Coburn.


Star and stripes outfit ($40) designed by art student Karen Sebiri.


  Zippered nylon suit ($90) by Barbara Hodes.


Short shift of clashing stripes with one bare shoulder, has a diagonally cut-off hemline, designed by Susanne Les, a student at Parsons School of Design. 


Button trimmed dress ($70) by art student Karen Sebiri.


Suspendered overall ($70) worn with a ruffle-trimmed satin blouse and antique silver buttons designed by Paula Ayers, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology Design School.

Mini wedding dress of white organdy ($200) designed by Stan Weaver, a graduate of Parsons School of Design.

All content scanned and transcribed by Sweet Jane from LIFE Magazine, August 1967. All photographs by Barry Kaplan. Read a recent Q&A with Barbara Hodes about her NYC Shopping tours and more. And you'll find a fantastic interview with Victor Bockris author of Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story by Tobe Damit over on Loud Alien Noize. Here, you'll find The West Coast Ecofeminist Conference website. View some of my previous New York Fashion posts from 1967, New York - Fashions Golden CityStars & Garters at The Electric Circus - New York's East Village 1967 and also Betsey Johnson for ParaphernaliaAnd finally, the downstairs is packed and the groupies are all dressed up. Upstairs the New York Dolls are kickin' it out &  looking tough Down at Max's Kansas City.


  1. All completely brilliant and droolworthy (and it pains me that I will probably never own any of them...) xx

  2. Wow, such great images!! Something about that infrared... ! Love it.

  3. Amazing, they look so modern!!